Centre of Excellence.

BSA Solutions

An extract from the 60 tools available in...
Section 3: Understanding culture
The tools in this section will help you understand the current culture of your organisation or community, so that you can lay the foundation for an effective change process.

Tool # 3.3 Network Mapping

• Diagram which describes what's really happening!
• Accommodates the informal and unofficial relationships.
• Illustrates the range, frequency and quality of individuals' contacts.


The objective is to represent the relationship between you and the people (internally and externally) you deal with. To understand how an organisation/community works, you need to understand its informal structure: this is how an organisation/community really functions.

This tool is based on work by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman, Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will, (HarperBusiness, 1994).

We have discovered that the formal organisational chart found in reports and on the office wall is not a reliable indicator of how things get done in most organisations/communities. The informal structure, which represents the real relationships and connections, is more powerful than any formal structure.

Most people know who to contact within the organisation/community to get things done - even though he/she may not hold an important position in the formal structure.

This explains why changes in organisation/community structures are often not very effective as they do not recognise the informal structure (the changes can actually disrupt operation of the informal structure and thus adversely affect the organisation/community as a whole).

Before any formal structural changes are made, the informal structure should be identified. Sometimes all that is required to ensure synchronicity is to alter the formal elements to be more representative of the informal.

One group we worked with seemed to have a problem with IT. When we used network mapping with the senior management group (which included the IT manager), all the other senior managers left the IT manager off their network charts. No wonder there was a problem!

Most network maps will resemble wagon wheels. Here are some examples of different types of network maps:

• a personal assistant will have a very busy wagon wheel as the role requires communication with many people

• organisations/communities that are very hierarchical with many rigid chains of command will tend to have busy wagon wheels: managers need to have many contacts to know what is going on elsewhere in the organisation

• a manager who is having problems with his/her staff and avoiding confrontation will have a wagon wheel that seems lopsided: it will be tilted away from his/her staff.

This tool also provides a reliable way to check whether staff members have the appropriate amount of contact with various stakeholders. For example, a sales manager should have frequent and varied contact with important clients or customers.

Perhaps an organisation/community focuses too much on a small number of clients in the same industry (so, what will happen if this industry has bad times?)

On the table below, list all people with whom you have contact, both inside and outside your organisation, and indicate their position level relative to yours. Within the organisation, list those people who are inside your division/unit separately from those who are outside your division but still inside the organisation/community.

Then, on the other side of the table, list people with whom you have contact but who are outside your organisation/community, such as clients, customers, suppliers or sub-contractors.

Now draw lines showing frequency of dealings between you and your contacts: the greater the frequency, the thicker the line. Add arrows to indicate the direction of power. You can also add extra dimensions:

• describe the quality of communication by placing a number on each communication line:

• 1 = poor, 2 = OK, 3 = good

• describe the friendship links by placing a sign on the communication line: - = negative, 0 = neutral, + = friend

Formal organisational chart

The diagram above is an example of a formal organisational structure. It shows the traditional hierarchical organisational chart with staff positioned by title.

The contrasting diagram on the following page is the result of a network mapping exercise and shows an organisational network that illustrates a very different web of connections and influence.

Based on the network mapping exercise (communications, collaboration and so on), Whelan has a high management position in the formal structure, but he is not as important in the informal structure.

On the other hand, Fitzpatrick, a technical specialist, has little management responsibility, but he has direct access to the top manager (Mews) and has links with almost everyone else in the organisation. Therefore Fitzpatrick is a very influential and important person within the organisation, despite his lack of formal title.

How the office really works!

Sources: Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman 1994, Bob Dick 1997, Jack Welch et al 2005, Eugenia Levenson 2006

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