BooksCurrent AffairsFamily/CommunicationPeopleAugust 22, 20130How Does Stuff Get Done Around Here?

Just as we all thought...who's connected to whom and how they interact is key to an organizations success.

As many of you know, I wrote a book called Grow­ing Great Employ­ees a few years back.  One chap­ter focus­es on how to get new peo­ple start­ed well in your orga­ni­za­tion. I pro­posed that, in gen­er­al, peo­ple want three ques­tions answered when they start a new job: Who do I need to know?,  How do things get done around here?, and What’s expect­ed of me?

Not long ago a client of mine turned me on to an arti­cle pub­lished a few years ago in Busi­ness Week about the (then) emerg­ing dis­ci­pline of Social Net­work Analy­sis. I got very intrigued, and con­tin­ued to research the subject.

Social Net­work Analy­sis (SNA) is “the map­ping and mea­sur­ing of rela­tion­ships and flows between peo­ple, groups, orga­ni­za­tions, com­put­ers, URLs, and oth­er con­nect­ed information/knowledge enti­ties. The nodes in the net­work are the peo­ple and groups, while the links show rela­tion­ships or flows between the nodes.”  I got that def­i­n­i­tion from the web­site of, a com­pa­ny that’s been doing SNA and pro­vid­ing SNA soft­ware to clients for 15 years.

I find this both fas­ci­nat­ing and use­ful: SNA is a way of mak­ing vis­i­ble the answer to two of those three core ques­tions —   “Who do I need to know?” and “How does stuff get done around here?

SNA pro­vides crit­i­cal insights into how infor­ma­tion flows (and doesn’t); who is at the core of net­works of peo­ple and who’s at the periph­ery; where there are silos and where inter­ac­tion hap­pens freely. If used well, it can help com­pa­nies take best advan­tage of the employ­ees who are “exam­plars” – those to whom oth­ers turn for advice, knowl­edge, insights.  It can also help orga­ni­za­tions see “block­ages” in work and infor­ma­tion flow, and focus more use­ful­ly on how to get things unstuck.

This isn’t new – many of these con­cepts are at the core of Seth Godin’s lat­est books, for instance, and has a big client list – but I love the idea that this way of visu­al­iz­ing orga­ni­za­tions is becom­ing more wide­spread.  It’s yet anoth­er indi­ca­tion to me that what has his­tor­i­cal­ly been thought of as “the soft stuff” in orga­ni­za­tions is final­ly get­ting rec­og­nized as key to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and profit.

SNA demon­strates, in a very clear and 21st cen­tu­ry way, that peo­ple real­ly are our most impor­tant resource.

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