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organizational network analysis

Page history last edited by Jay Cross 16 years, 6 months ago

Social Network Analysis



A quick primer on Social Network Analysis


The Craft of Connection by Tim Laseter and Rob Cross

An excellent article on communities of practice is large enterprise. Haliburton, Whirlpool, Chevron and others.

"Organizational network analysis is helping companies share knowledge worldwide, one natural broker at a time.

Ask business executives about operations strategy and they will tend to discuss structural decisions: when to consider outsourcing, where to locate plants, and how to increase standardization through modular design. But if you query the same executives about their most pressing issues, their list will probably center on people: improving recruiting, investing in management development, increasing collaboration within organizations, and other challenges of managing the growing population of knowledge workers.

For help with their “hard” decisions about inanimate objects, executives have a range of techniques involving rigorous quantification: make/buy analysis, site selection studies, and engineering cost analysis. For decisions that involve the “soft stuff” about people, most managers are left to rely on more visceral techniques — judgment and habitual leadership style. Naturally, hard numbers don’t, in themselves, make a decision inherently more effective. But even though people are far more complex than the most complicated factory design, companies can still be more rigorous in their methods for managing human communication.

Consider the variety of informal “communities of practice” found in most companies (and often across company boundaries), formed by people who collaborate to share best practices around a common vocation (or passion). Six Sigma “black belts” reach out to one another for help with complex statistical analyses. Field technicians share experiences and help one another troubleshoot initially intractable problems. Researchers tap other experts across the globe for specialized knowledge in developing new products. IT specialists collaborate to make disparate systems robust and complementary.

These communities rarely show up on organization charts; in the past, few were formally recognized by executive leadership. But that is changing now, as a growing number of large companies recognize and invest in these nebulous entities. In recent years, communities of practice have flourished in companies as diverse as Whirlpool (appliance manufacturer), Sanofi-Aventis (health-care conglomerate), Chevron (oil company), Caterpillar (heavy equipment manufacturer), and Halliburton (engineering and oil-field services provider). Each of these companies deliberately designed and implemented a set of informal connections among people who were geographically or organizationally distant, but who had something in common to talk about."

This is the social network of Unworkshop2. The connectors are Skype contacts with one another. We also read one another's blogs, talk a little during our bi-weeklly sessions, and sometimes post to the wiki. This is the start of a community but it hasn't reached critical mass.


Organizational network analysis x-rays the inner workings of an organization, a powerful means of making invisible patterns of information flow and collaboration in strategically important groups visible. Network analysis can benefit organizations in many ways:

• Supporting partnerships and alliances can tell executives whether appropriate points of connectivity exist across organizations and whether governance is restricting collaboration.

• Ensuring strategy execution allows executives to determine if the appropriate cross-functional or departmental collaborations are occurring to support strategic objectives.

• Collaboration and decision making in top leadership networks help assess connections within a top leadership team and also reveal how information is entering and leaving this group.

• Integrating networks across core processes or expertise provides a diagnostic assessment of information and knowledge flow both within and across functions critical to a core process.

• Promoting innovation can be accomplished by assessing how a group is integrating its expertise and the effectiveness with which it is drawing on the expertise of others within and outside an organization.

• Ensuring integration postmerger or large-scale change.


Social Network Analysis presentation

This is a link to the archives on Training Outsourcing - a presentation on SNA was given on 6/12/06:



Patti Hutchinson


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