Often, we have organizations coming to us to assist them in becoming less hierarchical, and to find the informal influencers who are not visible in the org chart, nor to top management. Not this case!

Scale-for-Growth Challenge: How to Build Structure in a Flat Organization

In this case, we found ourselves with the opposite goal:

For quite some time, the old way of working functioned well for this extremely flat and informal tech agency. They not only collaborated on work projects but also had plenty of social and hobby clubs open for everyone! At its core, they believed that a day with all work and no hobbies makes for a dull day. This generated great connectivity in their organization.

The problem was that this way of social bonding was not scalable. It made sense for the 71% of the workforce based out of HQ. It also worked for the two offices in the same country, where there was a direct train connection to HQ.

It did not, however, make sense for the other 20%, i.e. the people who were working from another country or even continent. And as the company was growing, it needed to attract more amazing talent from beyond the borders of their home country.

On top of that, the COVID pandemic and work-from-home orders disrupted social gatherings among the 71%. Instead of meeting for meals or karaoke in the office, they were relegated to Slack chats and making do online. As the organization was expanding, employees were beginning to speak up that they felt their company culture was hurting and connectivity amongst colleagues was on the decline.

To combat the repercussions of remote work & a growing workforce, a project team was tasked with mapping how their company was working. They were interested in a people-first approach, specifically the #ThreePercent of their organization that impacts the perceptions of up to 90% of an organization. Therefore, network analysis was the preferred method, and Innovisor was the preferred wingman.

The Six Blocker of Change Success

Innovisor has identified the #SixChangeBlockers, which you must mitigate if you want to win the change (learn more about this in our white paper on change blockers). The results pointed to two change blockers that needed special attention: network fragmentation and alignment.

Network Fragmentation

As a result of the pandemic, organizations are becoming more disconnected.  Due to the increasing digitalization and hybrid nature of many work environments, loneliness and disconnection in informal networks are prevailing. The reduction of in-person, office-based interactions means employees are more likely to have contact only with their closest colleagues. There is strong evidence, as ‘The Lost Generation’ suggests, that ‘first-wave’ COVID joiners are less integrated into their organization’s network, compared with their counterparts that joined from the ‘second-wave’ onwards.

This company could not escape the same fate! Their informal networks were heavily fragmented.  In line with Innovisor research, those who joined during the first COVID wave were less integrated into the networks, compared to those who joined after. However, the major cause of concern was that there was a steep decline in integration for those with a tenure of 15 + years. Combining the network and perception data, we saw that this highly tenured group (relative to the age of the company) felt like outsiders in a company that they had felt a strong part of, pre-scaling and pre-COVID.


To target the most fragmented groups, Innovisor recommended the creation of a ‘Buddy Program’- a pairing of highly tenured (15+ years with the company) with the ‘first-wave’ COVID joiners. This intervention focused on building upon the connectivity of their existing networks while providing an opportunity for new relationships for individuals that wouldn’t normally interact.


In addition to the fragmented networks, over half of the company felt they didn’t know what was going on in the organization. It turned out that the social and hobby clubs, now largely canceled due to COVID rules, had been crucial to the dissemination and understanding of the current happenings and developments in the firm. This was of great concern to the project team, as the company was preparing for expanding the workforce.


The 3% influencers were generally more positive than the rest of the organization. Whereas over 50% of the organization felt they didn’t feel they knew what was going on in the organization, the 3% of influencers were actually in the know.

However, the one stand-out with the influencers was that 60% of them did not agree their professional growth was well-supported at the organization. Based on this feedback, the project team provided coaching to the 3% influencers to assist their professional growth.

This early engagement had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the influencers, building trust and turning them into insiders. As the company rolled out its growth plan and accompanying changes to work streams, it kept the influencers up to date on what was going on in the company, which was then disseminated organically throughout the rest of the organization via informal networks.


Do you also want to have insights into your informal network in order to be responsive to changes faced by the company – no matter the size or magnitude of the change?

Know your #ThreePercentRule!

Not yet convinced? Learn more about the #ThreePercentRule via this animation or check out more cases

Convinced? Reach out to the Innovisor employees you are already connected to, or just contact us here.

Author: Hannah O'Connor

Case written by

Hannah O’Connor

Connect directly with Hannah via one of her social platforms

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