Social Network Analysis


Organizational or social networks involve the invisible relationships between people, information/knowledge processors, groups, organizations, computers, and other entities. These relationships represent a vast interconnected web of informal channels through which work and information flow. It is through these relationships that people connect with other people and content in their daily activities. A map of these relationships may look nothing like the formal hierarchy of the organizational chart.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) sometimes referred to as Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) involves the mapping and measurement of the relationships and flows between people and other entities. SNA provides a mathematical and visual representation of the social fabric underpinning the complex of interdependencies. Traditional statistical analyses of networks are based on the assumption that people’s behavior is independent of who they know. Since this is not a valid assumption, SNA has developed a set of unique statistics (including centrality, density, cohesion, etc.) applicable to interdependent complex human systems.

Companies use SNA to understand and address a wide range of business and management challenges.

  • How well is knowledge and information from one group being communicated and shared with another?
  • Who are my local experts?
  • How can management best use the informal network to spread important messages?
  • Can decision making be improved across leadership teams?
  • Is information and knowledge being distributed efficiently or are there bottlenecks?
  • Where do these bottlenecks occur?
  • Which individuals are most likely to be exposed to new/fresh ideas?
  • How well are new ideas, products, and technologies being adopted and integrated?
  • Are mentors creating relationships between employees and other mentors?
  • How can we monitor the effects of our efforts/changes in leadership development? New employee orientation and assimilation? Retention? Diversity?
  • What would happen if a person or a connection/interaction were moved or removed?
  • How and where can I create an intervention to reinforce or change the pattern of knowledge flow?
  • What is the best way to share knowledge and information between groups?
  • Is there a person nearing retirement whose knowledge and contributions are key to the company and should be captured or passed along?
  • Which firms are better prospects for alliances because of their connection to other important industry players?

Connection and collaboration among people in a network are critical to individual performance, satisfaction, innovation, and organization effectiveness. SNA enables businesses to impact the intangible aspects of informal networks. Improved business outcomes are possible by measuring, visualizing, and adjusting the structure of interpersonal connections and interdependencies between people, groups and organizations.

A few concepts key to the measurement and visualization of networks include:

  • Centrality - Central people have more influence, receive better performance reviews, and are happier in their job within their network than less central people.
  • Density - A dense group involves a high level of interconnectedness among the people of the group. Density between groups is also measureable.
  • Cohesion - How closely people are tied is a measure of cohesion. The average number of steps or links between a person and the other members of a group is represented by cohesion.
  • Brokerage - A broker is a person who controls the flow of information to other unconnected people.
  • Subgroups - A clique is a subgroup with interconnections to each other. A network with non-interacting cliques is not considered a well integrated one.


Manage the invisible network of relationships between people

critical to effective leadership and knowledge flow.

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