Medicen Speed Networking in 2011 at Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. (c) 2011 Daniel Rodet (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Does Social Network Analysis Simply Show You Work Levels at Work?

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Art Kleiner has an interesting piece about Professor Karen Stephenson, the guru of social network analysis, entitled “The Quantum Theory of Trust“. It’s part of the same strategy+business series where he profiled Elliott Jaques’s requisite organization and felt fair pay work, which I’ve mentioned before. His work is always interesting and you may want to check out the rest of Kleiner’s writings on business.

The article on Stephenson is fascinating in itself, but what I would like to draw your attention to is the case study he describes and the three diagrams. (Look, to understand the rest of this, you’re going to have to read the article and look at the diagrams, so go do that first.) I wonder what a RO-analysis of the top would have looked like. I am going to hypothesize a bit about this situation, recognizing that I have no data other than the case study to work with, and would have to test this to develop a theory.

Companies, she says, can exert far greater control over their competitiveness and their future than most researchers have ever thought possible, by putting the right people in the right places and fostering new opportunities for them to talk with each other.

It is interesting that Stan is the one who is best suited to be CEO but not the one initially chosen. Stan socializes with the rest more than the others do; he’s the social glue between disparate groups. He also is the career advisor for more others than anyone else. These lead me to think (along with the general statement that he didn’t stand out much) that he is what Jim Collins called the “Level 5 Leader” in Good to Great. Since he doesn’t approach the CEO for advice, I hypothesize that he is a Stratum above him in capability.

Diane is probably perfectly suited for her job but may be in the same Stratum as the CEO. Because she had no social interaction with the people, I guess that she would make a poor CEO. Gut feeling that is not developed.

Joe may be indeed one Stratum beneath the current CEO, besides being personally charming.

The CEO is probably in the same Stratum as Diane, one above Joe, and one below Stan. It is interesting that he gives career advice and socializes exclusively with Joe. Which may also mean that he is two strata above Joe, one above Diane, but equal to Stan.

What I wonder is whether you could come to similar conclusions using just an diagnosis using Elliott Jaques’s Requisite Organization. Stephenson’s work provides more details about why things would work, and seems to be more robust. I’m looking for the overlaps, the areas where the two can synthesize into one. Even though I know that learning happens in the white spaces, the overlap is where I’m going to find interesting things.

I’m also curious about how social network analysis reveals knowledge markets. I theorize that knowledge sharing occurs between peers in trustful environments. I know that between engineers, recurrent knowledge sharing only happens when all parties believe that they are peers. Knowledge brokers can be higher or outside the system. Knowledge users can be lower but are often not in a position to buy. Which makes me curious as to whether strong knowledge markets inside a company occur within one of what Requisite Organization’s work levels or stratum, where all participants (or most) have Time Spans of Discretion (TSoD) that fall within the same Stratum.

See also the eLearning interview with Karen Stephenson.

Image Credit: Medicen Speed Networking in 2011 at Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. (c) 2011 Daniel Rodet (“Copyleft”) (CC BY 3.0). Via Wikimedia Commons.

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Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

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