The largest organizational issues associated with conducting a social network analysis are the culture and the organizational goals and strategy. If the culture is one where people are overworked, are not trusted nor empowered, and do not understand the corporate strategy, then the SNA will not give accurate results. If people do not feel trusted or do not understand why/how the data will be used, they will either not take the survey or they will coordinate their answers to ensure they all look positive in the outcome. If the organization is not clear on how the SNA is tied to the corporate strategy, including organizational change, employees will not give it the focus it deserves.
If the culture is negative and not empowering, then management has a larger issue. If management does not understand the impact culture has on the organization and they conduct an SNA, not only will the data be inaccurate, but it will lead to poor choices. Management and its inability to understand culture and what it means to the success of the organization, has a significant impact on conducting a social network analysis.
How do you effectively conduct the SNA? My recommendation is that SNA should not be conducted independently without a culture assessment. This means not only understanding the state of the culture, but consulting on ways to change the culture, and how culture impacts effectiveness. Conducting an SNA with a culture analysis can help with the following:
- Communicating to employees that management is concerned about the culture and they want to understand it more.
- Shows a positive step in starting to enable trust with employees.
- Is part of a broader change management process.
- Allows the discussion to also focus on culture, leadership, and how these impact communication and collaboration patterns throughout the organization.
SNA in and of itself is not the answer. Its part of a broader change management process.