What comes to mind when you think of networking and building relationships? For me, I think about going to events – PMI events, conferences and parties. In many cases, these are enjoyable activities and I often learn about new people as well. Your external network is valuable for many reasons, including giving you new perspectives and opportunities.
In your current role, your internal network is even more important. For project managers and IT professionals, there are three great reasons to build an internal network:
- Productivity. When you are well connected with people in other departments, you know who to call to get work moving along.
- Strategic Alignment. Getting stuck in the IT silo is damaging because you can lose track of the ultimate goals of the organization. Regular conversations with people in other groups help you to stay connected to the pulse of the organization.
- Opportunities. Whether you are seeking a promotion for yourself or curious about the state of the organization, a robust internal network is one of the best ways to hear about new roles.
In truth, building and sustaining a network of relationships is a major undertaking. Delivering results, attending events and developing a good reputation are difficult. Fortunately, you can get started by using the four-week internal networking plan.
Tip: Did you just join a new organization? You need to act fast – learn how to onboard yourself in 5 days. Don’t be one of those people who simply waits for an assignment.
Week 1: Get the Big Picture
To set the stage for building an internal network, it makes sense to start with the big picture. Here are two approaches you use to get the big picture of your organization’s results and goals:
- Read the annual report. Every public company and many other organizations publish an annual report where they describe their business, financial results and other data. Read this document and look for trends. For example, are revenues and profits growing over time?
- Read executive biographies. The quality of your organization’s leadership is important. As a project manager or IT specialist, you may not directly interact with senior leaders very often. However, you can learn a great deal by reading biographies. For example, look at how long the leaders have been with the company and what assignments they have had.
The above strategies are valuable even if you have been at your organization for years. Make a note to review the above points annually (or every six months).
Week 2: Understand Your Work Unit
Your work unit or department will be your daily reality. Given that reality, it makes sense to learn about the people you work with. In a week, work on understanding the following points:
- Manager’s tenure. How long has the manager been with the department and the company?
- Team growth. Learn whether the team has increased or stayed the same over the past year. Team size change signals workload and growth expectations.
- One coffee meeting. Take at least one colleague to coffee – even asking them to join you on a coffee run is great.
These points will give you a better sense of your unit and where it stands in the organization.
Week 3: Understand Your Division
Assuming you are based in a large organization, your unit likely reports up to a larger unit. For example, the Project Management Office may report to the Chief Information Officer (CIO). In that case, you would want to understand the other units that report to the CIO.
- Review Organization Chart. These documents are a goldmine of information. In many cases, you can find them on an intranet. Some employee directories show an individual’s manager so you can build your own chart with a directory.
- Look for an intranet or publications. Reports, townhall PowerPoint decks and messages from executives are helpful resources. Take at least 20-30 minutes to see what you can find.
- Introduce yourself. Now for the moment of truth – contact someone else in the division and introduce yourself. You can simply say that you’re looking to understand other groups and their priorities. Many people will agree to a brief phone conversation.
Week 4: Go Broad
The previous three weeks help you to understand your organization and some of the people closest to you, organizationally speaking. Now it is time to go broad. Here are my recommendations for who to connect with next:
- Sales. Without sales, your organization will collapse. Look up one sales professional at your organization and introduce yourself. If your company has retail operations or branches, visit the nearest branch and introduce yourself. If you work on IT and projects, this will give you a new perspective on your work.
- Finance. Accountants and financial professionals track performance and results for the organization as a whole. For the non-finance types, financial reports and Excel data is difficult to understand. As you introduce yourself, go in seeking to learn.
Note: Avoid visiting finance at the end of the year, end of the month and other traditionally busy periods.
- Security and building management. For many of us, building management staff are invisible. Remember that these are the people who keep the building safe, secure and clean. The next time you arrive, take a few minutes and introduce yourself to the security guard in the morning.
As you use the above strategies, you will slowly start to build your internal network. In the comments section below, share your experience with building an internal network.
For more brilliant insights, check out Bruce’s website: Project Management Hacks