cover image The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations

The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations

Andrew Parker, Robert L. Cross. Harvard Business School Press, $39.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-59139-270-5

That organizational charts rarely describe functional hierarchy is obvious to any employee who's ever tried to adhere to one. Instead, survival often depends on incorporating oneself into unofficial social networks that allow one to gain access to necessary information and to collaborate with the colleagues who can actually get things done. In this dense but useful volume, Cross and Parker-both consultants with IBM's Knowledge and Organizational Performance Forum-give readers insight into how such unofficial networks form and function. They also share their methodology for rendering these basically unseen networks visible to managers. By literally mapping information flow and collaboration patterns among the people who make up a department or firm, they can pinpoint individual bottlenecks, essential employees and those who have been pushed to the periphery or whose expertise is underutilized. Their analysis enables managers to adapt their strategies to exploit and support these now visible networks and improve overall productivity. Rather than using their book as a forum to garner new consulting business-with a 'kids don't try this at home' approach-they encourage readers to pursue network analysis at their own organizations by arming them with step-by-step instructions through two appendixes. The authors present their material in the nitty-gritty style of an evening business course, with lots of charts and examples. They take their mission of arming managers with a substantive strategic tool very seriously. In this way, theirs is unlike many management books that are high on concept and lacking in application-Cross and Parker provide a guide that is directly applicable to improving the functionality of any organization.