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Making Invisible Work Visible: Using Social Network Analysis to Support Strategic Collaboration By Rob Cross, Stephen P. Borgatti and Andrew Parker Research Motivation • Informal networks are becoming more important as organizations become less hierarchical • Informal networks can promote organizational flexibility, innovation, and efficiency • A variety of factors can cause these informal networks to break-down, such as formal network structures, work processes, geographic dispersion, human resource management, leadership style, and culture. Data • Consortium of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies • 40 informal networks from 23 different organizations Use of Social Networks • Social Network Analysis can supplement traditional organizational diagrams in understanding the networks that are important within an organization • SNA is a useful tool for assessing and intervening at critical points in informal networks Surveys • The best way to begin a social network analysis is to conduct surveys • 10-15 minute questionnaires on information and knowledge flows between members of the group • Each member of the group is asked about the relationships they have with other members of the group An Example of SNA • An information sharing network is revealed to have 2 separate sub-groups • These groups had developed due to common interests • Members acting as bottle-necks • To fix this, the manager started a series of whitepapers written by one member of each group, implemented projects that required the two units to work together, and added new communication forums Result of Intervention Effect of Intervention • Began to sell more work that integrated the two group’s expertise • Allowed for differentiation of their consultancy from other firms Collaboration across Functional Boundaries • In order to develop a network in which each unit understood what other units did enough to combine appropriate resources, the authors constructed a table of the percentages of collaborative relationships Collaborate Table Strategic Benefit • One of the most important aspects of SNA is that not all relationships should be developed • Time required to develop relationships is a scarce resource • Therefore, one of the most important decisions is which relationships are strategically the most important to develop Hierarchies • One of the most important boundaries to informal networks is the traditional hierarchy within organization • The authors studied 62 executives of an organization with 9 top executives • This can be useful to discover potential biases from top executives Diagram SNA After Strategic Change Initiatives • The authors studied a firm that was combining smaller groups into one larger global network • The firm wanted members of different groups to work together better in this new strategic structure • Three tightly-knit social groups remained despite the restructuring • One division between groups was based on politics, the other two on geographic separation Diagram Results of the SNA • Partner informed managers of the problem • Made more of an effort to integrate across groups • Started a skill-profiling system and a virtual environment • Face-to-face meetings were conducted to help members of different groups meet each other • Several steps were taken to bridge the political problem Informal Networks: The Company Behind the Chart By David Krackhardt and Jeffrey R. Hanson Types of Networks • Advice Network- can uncover political conflicts and failures at strategic objectives • Trust network- can reveal the causes of nonroutine problems • Communication network- can identify gap in information flow, the inefficient use of resources, or the failure to generate new ideas Steps to Analyzing Informal Networks • Step 1: Conduct a survey • Step 2: Cross-checking the Answers • Step 3:Processing the Information with a SNA program Sample Survey Question • Whom do you talk to every day? • Whom do you go to for help or advice at least once a week? • With one day of training, whose job could you step into? • Whom would you recruit to support a proposal of yours that could be unpopular? • Whom would you trust to keep in confidence your concerns about a work-related issue? Differences between Types of Networks • Often different types of networks can cause success or failure of strategic proposal • Sometimes, a person can be an expert but not trusted • Employees would then rely on this person for technical advice but not trust them personally. Quality not Quantity • The quality of communication is what is important, not the quantity of communication • Nonhierarchical organizations in which communication occurs regardless of level are often more profitable • Two-way communication and encouragement of communication can be more important than sending out more communications from higher levels of a hierarchy • The most important factor is fit with strategic goals Network Holes • Imploded Relationships: groups do not speak to people outside of their group • Irregular Communication Patterns: employees only speak with those outside of their group • Fragile Structures: employees only speak to their group and 1 other group • Holes in the Network: places where you would expect relationships but don’t find them • Bow Ties: many are dependent on one employee not on each other. Questions? Thank you.