Informal Networks LO7535

John O'Neill (
Wed, 22 May 96 16:23:47 +1000

Replying to LO7519 --

"The Fifth Generation Management" by Charles Savage presents a methodology for mapping these informal networks using "netmap" techniques. Savage's book is in two parts. The first part describes the problems a multi-functional organisation is encountering, the second part investigates the requirements for supporting informal networks. Well worth reading.

It can be argued that groupware products including Lotus Notes and email support informal networks. However, it is very difficulty to explicitly "pick-out" these informal networks and formalise them (yes, this does identify a future requirement for groupware systems).

The soft systems analysis work of Checkland's provides an analysis technique for identifying the informal networks in an organisation, and the personal relationships between people. The major feature of this work is the warning that we cannot rely on our formalised structures, people are required to deal with the unexpected, and they create informal networks to enable this to happen.

Finally, the most effective demonstration of the importance of informal networks is when the employees of an organisation "work to rule", that is, do all work by the formal mechanisms. In most organisations, productivity suffers a tremendous drop.

John O'Neill
DSTO C3 Research Centre, Australia

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