The grapevine has now come into its own by gaining a true identify and validation as a serious business tool that can, according to an article by Stephen Garcia, Ph.D. and Greg Wallace, retain and develop employees as well as identify emerging leaders and even define a business. A study by Garcia adds innovation to the mix and that it is the number one global growth strategy. This business tool is organizational network. It is through these networks that problems get solved, decisions are made and personal support is garnered. In other words states the article, “It is through these connections that the real work often happens.” This newly acquired sophistication has come as a result of restructuring resulting “in organizations with fewer hierarchical levels and more permeable functional and organizational boundaries”, according to Rob Cross a professor at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. As with any tool, a business must understand how to use it.
Enter Organizational Network Analysis (ONA). The analysis process, on the surface, appears to be fairly simple.
Step One: Identify business objectives.
Step Two: Define your project scope.
Step Three: Collect data.
Step Four: Process the collected data via new software specifically for ONA such as UNINET, Pajek, SYNAPP, InFlow, Socilyzer, DNA-7 and others.
But, of course, there are pitfalls to consider. For example, one of the ways suggested to collect data is to monitor historical email traffic. This could lead to privacy issues. In addition, emails may lack useful data, and surveys to gather data cannot be anonymous. If you are using the data to identify emerging leaders, some executives may be too removed from knowing those with potential outside the executive suite. Others may only look at those like themselves or never poke their heads beyond the OBN (Old Boys Network). However, a network analysis can help identify some issues. Here’s how.