A few of us at IISC have been talking recently about network governance – trying to gather what we’ve learned about what kinds of governance structures have worked with networks. It’s sparked a lot of questions – and I had the great fortune of meeting with the amazing Jessica Lipnack recently to ask her advice about what she would suggest. For those who don’t know Jessica, she and her husband Jeff Stamps have been working with and studying networks for over 30 years and have literally written the book (actually the BOOKS) on networks and working with virtual teams over these many years.
So I went to Jessica (over a great lunch) and explained that I’m working with a globally dispersed group – and asked her advice, asking, “what kind of governance structure would you suggest we consider for this kind of work.” Her response, elegant and simple as always, was to pay special attention to two things – and to do everything possible to get those right.
First, she suggested that we work hard to understand the kinds of decisions that would need to be made – and to create the simplest possible structure to make those kinds of decisions – nothing more. And second, she said that we should strive for as close to full transparency as we can achieve. To share information about how the money is being spent, how staff time (if any) is being used, notes from all meetings, etc.
I’ve been wondering as well whether the kind of governance needed depends on the kind of network (as described by Plastrik and Taylor). Is the governance structure needed for a network that allows for easy flow of information (a connection network) different from what’s needed for a network that aligns people to develop and spread an identity (an alignment network) and different again from what’s needed for a network that fosters joint action (a production network)? What else affects the kind of governance needed?
In “The Networked Nonprofit,” the new book by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine about running nonprofit organizations using a network approach, they describe nonprofit boards learning how to share information online, joining a public online social network, creating an open invitation to board meetings, posting draft agendas online, training board members in social media and network weaving, meeting somewhere new, and sharing information and data.
What’s your experience? What have you learned about network governance? Is there other advice you’d add to what Jessica suggested?