Informal Networks LO7519

Mon, 20 May 1996 08:38:36 -0700 (PDT)

I have an intriguing thought I would like your help with. While recently
attending a conference, where we discussed various organizational approaches
in business, the topic of informal work networks was raised. Informal
networks are those working relations that are built from experiences
employees gain over time. They learn who to depend on for information and
direction, for ideas, for support, and for contrary oppositions. These
networks are not foreign to any of us. We use them almost daily and often
use them instead of our current "team" environment. Some organizations have
mapped out these networks and concluded that they should be supported,
perhaps formally.

That is what caught my attention. Could these informal networks be made the
formal organizations? Instead of taking the traditional approach of
assembling a team comprising representatives from the various constituencies
involved with the project, could you formalize an existing network?

The organizations who have mapped out their networks, once the project had
been in operation, quickly identified those individuals who were the key to
success. In almost every case, a few key individuals provided most of the
links to knowledge, reference material, and experience. They served as a
hub. These individuals required management's support in the form of
development, incentives, and opportunities for growth. Interestingly, that
was management's only role in the network.

So the questions I have been trying to address are: During the inception of
a project, when a team is brought together, would it be best for them to do
an analysis of their network and document it as the project team? Should
this team then form the formal organization for that project (virtually if
not by name)? Haven't we been operating this way all along but not accepting
that others, outside the formal organizations, have supplied the critical
links to information and ideas? What processes are used to formalize such a
network? And lastly, are there documented cases of this being used in
businesses today (advantages, disadvantages)?


David Reed Imagination is stronger than
H R Strategy Development knowledge, dreams are more
(206)655-3245 M/S 11-40 powerful than facts, and hope always triumphs over experience



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