An organization is sometimes like an island, especially in times of high unemployment. Getting voted off the island is easy to see as a death sentence. Adapting to island life involves both the pleasure and the constraints that come with it. One of those constraints is the possibility of being denied access to some parts of the island if you are deemed different enough to not fit into an island sub-culture.

Organizations are by nature built on many hierarchical divisions, but some of the most interesting divisions are visible in the social networks that people build out of routine work and social relationships. Networks grow up around expertise, those who have it and those who seek it. Networks form around the urge to innovate, and the desire to wield power in decision-making. Mentoring is a network activity, as is sharing the latest observations of corporate behavior around the cafeteria table.

In the age of global business deals, the workplace as island has been hard to maintain. Instead many a sales or service employee experiences something akin to speed dating - the feeling that you have to make the best connection you can out of whoever you are paired with at the moment. These relationships have great instrumental value, but little of the island experience of being a part of a tight circle.

The best work environments blend both experiences: membership in a team of close confidants, and opportunities to work with and learn from diverse others outside your circle. Network analysis is a structured survey process that helps people see the dimensions of their social relationships at work. In doing so it is possible to address the need for greater support on one side, and greater opportunity for learning and exposure to new ways of doing things on the other.

Contact Michael if you would like to know more about how network analysis can help your organization improve its next restructuring, understand who is socially positioned for succession, how cliques are derailing diversity outreach, and who is likely positioned to heal the pitched battle that sometimes appears between innovators and experts.