If you ask Project Managers if they are familiar with PERT and CPM, what answer do you expect? …If someone says “no” you will be surprised. Network analysis is integral part of project management and all MBAs study it in Operations Research.
Unfortunately its application to employees is not very common in field of HR. Application of network analysis to human relations is social network analysis. It is useful tool to study group dynamics.
The social network is a theoretical construct useful in the social sciences to study relationships between individuals, groups, organizations, or even entire societies. These relationships can be put in form of network diagrams. The network can then be analysed in terms of connections (i.e. kind of relationship between two individuals called tie), distribution (ex. centrality, bridge, distance, density etc.) and segmentation (ex. formation of cliques, social circles, clustering coefficient etc.)
If ties between groups are very strong ex. cliques, then over a period of time, they tend to think alike, as they work/play/live together. There is danger of “group think”… any deviance from group think is not welcome. Innovations are unlikely to happen in such groups, since group think reduces diversity of ideas.
Weak ties are relationship between different groups, which unlike strong ties, are not used frequently. Since ties are weak, there is little pressure to conform to norms, in fact such ties lead to diversity to ideas, as they bring together disparate modes of thought. Such ties which lead to diversity of ideas and low on conformance are ideal for innovations.
Organisational Development specialist can also use social network analysis for other purpose also like bringing about change, identifying communication channels, mergers and acquisitions etc.