The Shadow Knows

Connect The People

Network mappers start by surveying a company's employees to get answers to a handful of crucial questions. The basic one: Who do you go to for information about what's going on? Questions may also address the frequency of interaction or differentiate between requests for information and requests for influence. Using answers, mappers draw diagrams that graphically show who is connected to whom.

The maps, while superficially little more than collections of dots connected by lines, reveal important information about the employees who are your real nodes of influence and information. By looking at the number and location of the connections between people, you can also highlight individuals or groups who have become partially isolated from the rest of the network. These fragments hamper efficiency by creating bottlenecks if they're getting information but not passing it on, Krebs says.

Once you've identified problem areas, you can deal with them by changing communications systems, such as upgrading e-mail systems or altering the chain of command. You can also change the processes you use to communicate, for instance, setting aside time for company retreats. Often, you can even modify the official organization. After her epiphany about the shadow organization at her firm, Johnson created a new title: account planner. She fills the position with people she's identified as shadow mentors to help new employees find their way. Network tinkerers also get results by relocating employees to bring them into the loop.

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Shadow Knows.

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