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Transcript
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.