11.4.4 Case Studies/ Examples

Situational Analysis: 1
The IBM Institute for knowledge-based organisations conducted a Social Network Analysis of executives in the exploration and production division of a large petroleum organisation. The role of the division was quite challenging in terms of organisational Knowledge Management because it was in the midst of implementing a distributed technology to help knowledge transfer across drilling initiatives. Company managers were interested in assessing the group’s ability to create and share knowledge. They also used SNA tool to provide the organisation with graphical representations (networks profile) to identify the real social structures in their corporate environment rather than the planned communication structures (i.e. organisational charts). These representations (networks views) can then be used by managers to better address innovation problems related with corporate communication culture (quality of communication, frequency of communication, etc). IBM institute experts were asked to conduct an SNA of information flow among 20 executives within this division2.

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  • As can be seen from Diagram 1 and Diagram 2 the analysis revealed a surprising contrast between the division’s formal and informal structure. Social Network Analysis identified the mid-level managers that were critical (in terms of information flow) within the whole group.
  • The most surprising result came from the very central role that Cols played in terms of overall information flow within the group. Moreover, Cols is the only point of contact between members of the production division and the rest of the network.
  • A further analysis with this group revealed that, over time, Cole’s reputation for strong expertise and quick responsiveness had resulted in his becoming the most critical information source. The large number of information requests he received and the many projects in which he was involved in grew so excessively that it not only caused him stress but also to behave like a bottleneck slowing the group down.
  • From Diagram 2 it is apparent that the most-senior person (Jones) was one of the most peripheral in the informational network. Further analysis indicated that Jones had become too removed from the group and his lack of responsiveness when serious meetings needed to be held was one of the reasons for holding the network back.


1 www.trainmor-knowmore.eu
Rob Cross, Andrew Parker und Stephen P. Borgatti. (2002)
  ‘A bird’s eye view: Using social network analysis to improve knowledge creation and sharing’