Social Network Analysis and Change Management

In #msloc455 I’ve been engaged learning how social network analysis (#SNA) can be used not just to examine the flow of knowledge and information across a network, but actually leveraged to drive a change initiative.  Rob Cross and his colleagues have researched and outlined a specific application of social network analysis that is of great interest to me. Cross has studied how leaders can leverage the insights of social network analysis to identify opinion leaders who can help engage and drive others in a change effort. Cross identifies multiple roles (Connector, Expert, Broker, Energizer, and Resister) that provide insight into the different ways that leaders can leverage people in a change effort.  Connectors (those who support many team members in different ways), for example, can help create alignment through their informal leadership and trusted opinions. Brokers, with their ties that bridge organizational boundaries, can help address the need for adjustments that take place during a change initiative. Resisters, who can stall momentum and deenergize colleagues, can be brought on board and engaged to aid change initiatives. The problems that modern organizations face are complex and interconnected, and therefore not easily managed by a strictly top-down management approach. Leaders who can understand and leverage the insights that come from social network analysis can expand their organization’s capacity to manage change.

I am facing a substantial process and systems change within my function, and from my reading of Cross, I know that I can in theory use social network analysis to identify key players to assist in this upcoming change initiative. I have been asked to lead the change management efforts associated with this process implementation, and I have begun to assemble network data to help me understand who the key players are that will be able to facilitate the change. In a diagram I have started building, several key players can be identified as influencers, based on the number of people that turn to them for advice. The diagram illustrates the results of a very simple survey that asked associates to identify those to whom they most frequently turned when they wanted to learn something or had a problem they couldn’t solve. Some individuals, like the function managers, naturally appeared in positions of influence. The network diagram also identified individuals who were unexpectedly revealed to be influential. I’m looking forward to writing more about this over the next several weeks.

Reference:

Cross, R., Ernst, C., & Pasmore, B. (2013). A bridge too far? How boundary spanning networks drive organizational change and effectiveness. Organizational Dynamics, 42(2), 81–91.

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