This learning report presents the lessons from an evidence review and case study work undertaken by McKinsey Hospital Institute.

Download Effective networks for improvement.

The review drew on the literature and empirical evidence about effective networks to describe the component parts of a successful improvement network.

While the review found no ‘one size fits all’ formula for successful network design, it did identify five core features of effective networks. These are:

  • common purpose
  • cooperative structure
  • critical mass
  • collective intelligence
  • community building.



These features are interdependent, and interact to give a network energy and momentum. They ensure a clear direction, credibility and increased scale and reach, while enhancing knowledge, encouraging innovation and creating meaningful relationships. All five features are mutually reinforcing, and their combined effect enables quality improvement, learning and change to happen.

Together they can be represented diagrammatically as the 5C wheel – a comprehensive framework for developing a network that can also serve as a diagnostic tool.

This report will help those who want to use networks as a mechanism for change, and guide improvement leaders to ensure their networks are designed and run in line with what works best.