62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Insightful and practical,
This review is from: The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations (Hardcover)
The Hidden Power of Social Networks provides the most complete treatment of the subject of applying the understanding of social networks to organizations as you will find. It includes the insights from the many, many cases that the authors facilitated and it provides insight into the methodology itself. As such, it is a good book for both executives who have had inklings that there is something useful for them in all this "social network" hype, and for HR/organizational development specialists and consultants who want to understand the nuts and bolts of the method.
In recent years we saw (and I read) half a dozen books on the emerging science of networks (Linked, Six Degrees of Separation; from the management consulting Nexus, Living Networks); the language of The Tipping Point tipped into the vernacular; and social networking sites (LinkedIn™, tribe.net, Spoke, VisualPath) climbed the "hype cycle" by promising value in gaining access to powerful people just three degrees away. The jury is still out on the latter, but the genie is out of the bottle: organizations and individuals are making the shift to an understanding that social networks shape our lives and our work, and that we can learn how to identify, assess, and manage these networks.
This book is the first fully practical, actionable work on social network analysis in organizations. Cross and Parker are among a handful of professionals who have worked deeply in organizations to analyze existing social networks, position these networks within the context of the strategy, culture, and promise of organizations and recommend specific, positive steps that can alter the dynamics of the networks that exist.
For example, one of the themes explored is that of central connectors: people who, by virtue of their relationships with people in different organizations serve as boundary spanners (moving information and context from one group to another) or bottlenecks (impeding the flow of information and context). The authors develop the reader's understanding of this phenomenon by presenting the concepts of social network mapping, how the analysis of a network reveals the central connectors, the impact of these people on an organization, and, finally, the actions a manager can take to either (1) acknowledge and recognize these people or (2) shift the work patterns to alleviate the bottlenecks.
All the network maps in the book are from real cases - and they are universal as well. You'll not have a difficult time recognizing your own organization (or those you've worked with) in most of these examples. The "before and after" maps are illuminating and inspiring. The descriptions of the methodology are straightforward and useful. I'll say it again: this book is actionable, for both senior managers who want to understand and support networked organizational dynamics and for consultants (internal and external) who want a practical guidebook that establishes the standard for the practice of social network analysis.
Full disclosure: I am a practicing consultant who uses social network analysis in my work. When I first heard Rob Cross talk about social network analysis at an Institute for Knowledge Management workshop in Santa Fe four years ago, I knew that this was work that I needed to do in my organization. I had the good fortune to work with Rob and Andrew Parker on several projects, and to learn the method described in this book from them. I inherited, through their teaching and mentoring, the enthusiasm for bringing stunning insights to managers about their organizations as revealed in an analysis of their networks, and a strong sense of the ethics and responsibility in managing analysis projects. I've been waiting almost a year for this book to come out so that I can share it with my clients.