Critical Analysis and Reflection Essay Example

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Informal Networking in Organizations – Critical Analysis and a Personal Reflection

An organization is not merely an institution consisting of buildings and other assets. It consists of people, in the form of employees and customers who with their social capital and ability to network, determine the real value of the concerned organization. “The magic of the network analysis was being able to find and then address connectivity issues as appropriate for different people, not just ratchet up expectations for everyone” (Unknown, cited in Cross and Parker, 2004:69). The article “The People Who Make Organizations Go – or Stop” by Rob Cross and Laurence Prusak (2002) deals precisely with this topic. This essay is a brief critical analysis of the article, followed by a short personal reflection on the aspects I found agreeable and disagreeable with respect to the article in my workplace.

The article basically discusses the how informal social networks operate in workplaces; each individual is different and their very nature makes them interact in various ways with their colleagues at their workplace. While the formal workplace has a typical hierarchy with specific protocols on how to interact and communicate, the informal relationships vary vastly, depending on the cultural background, workplace culture and the individuals themselves. However, this does not mean that the informal relationships are unimportant; to the contrary, better communication and interaction at the informal level may help a more coherent relationship at the formal level. Cross and Prusak (2002) observe, “Social networks can be powerful political tools…to use their connections to discredit business initiatives they dislike or to support proposal they favour” (p. 105).

Having underlined its importance, the authors go on to say that the potential of this informal social network can be tapped to the advantage of corporates by identifying four types of key operators who can make or break the efficiency of the work place. They are given appropriate names by the nature of their interactions with fellow staff as follows: 1) central connectors 2) boundary spanners 3) information brokers and lastly 4) peripheral specialists (Cross and Prusak 2002:106). They explain the role of the people under each category and elucidate the same with charts that map the relationships of the staff in various roles.

The ‘central connector’ for example, is “the central information source for almost everyone in the network” (Cross and Prusak 2002:106) while the ‘boundary spanners’ serve as the nurturers of “connections mainly with people outside the informal network” (109); ‘information brokers’ on the other hand, function as the connectors between “the various subnetworks in the company” (110) and the ‘peripheral specialists’ are frequently the “experts” who “possess specific kinds of information or technical knowledge” (111). The article explains with examples from the surveys conducted in various companies and research on how informal networks work and also points the shortcomings of relying too much on any one role to keep the work place moving. For example, the article accurately points out how even though the ‘central connectors’ role are powerful and can significantly improve the workplace output, “bottlenecks occur because the central connectors’ jobs have grown too big for them, and they are struggling to keep up” (Cross and Prusak 2002:109).

Personally I am able to relate to the different roles mentioned in the article, even though the workplace today has changed drastically from the time of this article’s publication. As a client service executive in a fairly large advertising company, I think I fit in the role of ‘peripheral specialist’ sometimes and that of an ‘boundary spanner’ sometimes; the first one because, I can exactly understand the requirements of my client and what they would approve and also because I hardly spend more than a few hours at the premises of the advertising company that I work for, and I hardly have the time to forge closer relationships within my own company; I call myself a part boundary spanner because, frequently, I can identify who to approach, to help solve specific kinds of tasks in various departments, at the informal level, before a problem surfaces.

However, Cross and Prusak (2002) have not considered the role of modern technologies like internet and internet in the article and there is no mention of the type of communication used in the informal social networking. Today, social networking sites like the facebook, Linkedin, twitter and WhatsApp are powerful and instantaneous modes of communication and networking and have transformed the way people exchange information and communicate with each other. Hence, in my opinion, while this article may offer a good introduction to studying informal social networks in workplaces, it does not address the transformed scenario at the workplace in the current era of modern technological innovations.


Cross, Rob and Parker, Andrew (2004) “Chapter 5 – Pinpointing the Problem. Understanding how individuals affect a network” in The Hidden Power of Social Networks – Understanding how Work really gets done in Organizations. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts. Pp. 69-75.

Cross, Rob and Prusak, Laurence (2002) “The People Who Make Organizations Go – or Stop” in Harvard Business Review June (2002). Pp. 104-112.