Organisational Change Management Volume 2

11. Social Network Analysis

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(importance of informal networks in an organisation)

. Organisational charts will not help us understand the informal social networks and how they evolved and work.

. Organisational structures with responsibility and accountability boundaries exist as they are efficient structures for executing and implementing strategy. Unfortunately, they create a silo focus that works against cross-divisional collaboration which can inhibit innovation. On the other hand, there are informal communications via the social networks that exists in organisations.

. Need to find ways to cultivate and productively exploit the social networks. Most social networks involve organically in organisations, and unless theys are managed, they can inhibit innovation. These networks need facilitators, who understand the complicated web of interpersonal relationships, so that the exchange of information occurs effectively and innovation is encouraged.

. The growing field of social network analysis assumes that everyone is interdependent. It has a mathematical and macromolecular chemistry background to explain the ineffable forces of human interaction within an organisation, especially those forces that cannot be captured in the formal structures, but which, nevertheless, implicitly govern the fate of every organisation. It provides a kind of pattern of recognition that makes sense of the complex relationships among people, such as bottlenecks, essential points in the system, the nodes, etc

. This involves the quantum theory of trust and collective cognitive capability of organisations

"...Trust is the utility through which this (tacit) knowledge flows...

Karen Stephenson, 2003

. There is a strong link between trust and learning

"...the act of re-connecting and talking with a trusted colleague generally triggers a resurgence of mutual memory, opening the gates to fresh learning and invention..."

Karen Stephenson, 2003

. High trust organisations have an enormous competitive advantage over more rule/ regulation-orientated organisations, because the cost of doing business increases with the introduction and administration of more rules/regulations

. The organisation chart basically shows the formal rules. But the ropes of the organisation, how it actually works, is the human network. This means looking at organisations as if they were tribes; decisions are regarded as being similar to chemical reactions, ie the form and substance of talk in an organisation is as palpably influential on performance as a magnetic field is on a cluster of fine metal filings!!!! This means organisations can exert far greater control over competitiveness and their future by putting the right people in the right places and fostering new opportunities by networking (talking to each other).

. Starts with a conventional organisational chart that shows the existing hierarchy. This is then over-laid by 6 core layers of human networks that are influential within the organisation and each has its own informal network of people exchanging conversations, such as

i) work network (day-to-day contacts at work, ie with whom people exchange information as part of the daily work routine?)

ii) social network (people who spend their time together outside work, ie with whom do people check, both inside and outside the organisation, to find out what is going on?)

iii) career guidance or strategic network (people who turn to others for career guidance and advice about the future)

iv) innovators' network (with whom do people collaborate or kick around new ideas?)

v) established experts network (to whom do people turn for expertise or advice?)

vi) learning network (with whom do people aim to work in order to improve existing processes and methods?)

. Like transparencies in a medical textbook, the organisational network diagrams reveal the circulation of information. The insight about the different types of networks can be gathered in various ways, such as surveys, direct observation, tracking Emails, reading minutes of meetings, etc).

. There are 3 kinds of network nodes, ie hubs, pulsetakers and gatekeepers

i) Hubs ‐ those people who are gathering and sharing points for critical information. Hubs are the main communication channel and are characterised by a high level of trust, ie people know what to expect from them, their calls are returned, they attend key meetings, they convey news. They receive information from everywhere and share it with all.

ii) Pulsetakers - they have carefully cultivated relationships that allow them to monitor the ongoing health and direction of the organisation.

iii) Gatekeepers - theyare information bottlenecks, controlling the flow of contact to a particular part of the organisation and that therefore makes them indispensable

. So the effectiveness and power of an individual depends not just on his or her position in the hierarchy but on the person's place in a variety of intertwined networks. Furthermore, analysis of network nodes indicates how to intervene far more effectively and improve the organisation by modifying the roles of individuals based on their ability as networkers. It has been found that the best staff are those who bridge different sub-groups in an organisation

. A typical social network analysis covers and tracks:

- the number of links among individuals in any of these networks

- the frequency with which people communicate

- the relative significance of the communication and number of people through whom a message passes.

. These maps of informal networks show how the network itself has an intelligence, more than the sum of its parts and beyond the cognition of any one individual. This dynamic situation can be described as a sort of double-helix system, with hierarchy and networks continually influencing each other, and ideally co-evolving over time to become more effective

. Most organisations do not remain static. These networks are organic and continually changing. Furthermore, the path from one network to another is not predictable and can be influenced

. This concept is linked with the growing awareness that ideas and trends spread in a non-linear fashion, with the make-up of human contact being the most important factor.

. The 2 most important criteria for people choosing to work with others are likeability and competence. Likeability or personal feeling is more important than evaluations of competence. If someone is strongly disliked, it's almost irrelevant whether or not he/she is competent. Furthermore, people like to work with others who are similar, ie

- people you are familiar with

- people who reciprocate positive feelings about you

- people who are inherently attractive even in appearance or personality

"...when similar people choose to work together: their similar values, ways of thinking and communication styles help projects work smoothly and quickly. Benefits also result when we work with people who aren't necessarily similar or familiar to us When you launch into a task with those you already know, you don't waste a lot of time figuring out what is expected from them or explaining what you mean every time you say something. We also like to work with people who seem to like us. This can produce a virtual circle in which everyone is more open to new ideas, more willing to help, and more trusting..."

Tiziana Casciaro et al, 2005

On the other hand, there is the potential for "group-think" that can result in a limited range of perspectives being developed and the missed chance of integrating fresh perspectives that new players can bring.

As an aside: Al Qaeda demonstrates the power of informal networks when fighting the US army - which has a formal, hierarchical, structured organization!!!!!!

(sources: Karen Stephenson, 2003; Tiziana Casciaro et al, 2005; Graig Rispen, 2006; Luke Collins, 2006a; Adam Kleinbaum, et al, 2008)

 

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