An effective network organization knows when to quit

January 12, 2015 | 2 min read

Dorine Peters-van Dommelen is interim director real estate at Emergis, the mental healh services organization (GGZ) in Zeeland, the Netherlands. In 2014, she took a Masterclass Network Organisations. “Every day, I work in a network organization of housing corporation, council and healthcare. With the transition healthcare and government are going through, we work together more closely than ever.”

Emergis owns different types of property in Zeeland for mental healthcare. Centers for daycare and day treatment; long and short term clinics for clients; residences with and without 24-hour care for groups and individuals and buildings for work placement companies. Dorine Peters: “Because we in the Netherlands wants people to stay at home longer, housing corporations and council work increasingly closer with healthcare. The better we can give our clients a place in society, the higher the social return. At one of our work placement companies, we quantified this in an SROI-analysis (social return on investment). Every euro invested, results in a social return of 2.25 euro: by providing a place for clients in a work placement company, the costs decline related to nuisance to neighbors and housing corporations and alcohol and drugs related incidents.”

Communication, result, leadership

The network organization is the future, believes Dorine, but she also says: “Working together is now new, but in daily work we can see how complicated it is. This mainly relates to three points. First, communication: we have to be able to formulate our objectives, but also the targets we want to achieve and keep each other focused. The second point is that all parties see the value of the cooperation, for each other and their own organization. And lastly, leadership styles matter.”

Earlier in the year, Dorine took a Leadership Masterclass at TIAS and finds a lot of benefit in the combination of both programs. “A network organization by definition is very diverse. That helps us get along, but is complicated to manage. Group members who think differently can cause conflict. That is scary, but very interesting and can be quite constructive to get ahead. It demands a different style of management. The old hierarchic style is no longer relevant.”

Stop endless talks

Network organizations are a new field of research. “I took this course because I wanted to know the latest developments and TIAS has not let me down yet. The most important lesson I have learned with regard to network organizations is: Determine when a network organization is required, but know when to stop, too. Sometimes it seems we organize for the sake of organizing. We endlessly talk to achieve consensus, the Dutch ‘polderen’. However, the question we should continue to ask ourselves is whether a network organization is still relevant for the problem we are working on. Sometimes it is not and a simple project is sufficient. Keep in mind, you only set up a proper network organization when your own organization cannot reach the goal on its own. Is the network organization no longer efficient? Than quit and work together in a different form. There is no shame in breaking up and continuing separately. A lot can be learned from that.”


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