By: Carolyn Clinton, Program Design & Development Manager, Tuck School of Business Posted: Oct 8th, 2014

Tuck Executive Education partners with companies to address unique challenges they face. As part of a learning initiative with a custom client, Tuck Professors Pino Audia and Adam Kleinbaum designed, administered, and analyzed a network survey completed by over 1,000 directors and managers at the company. The respondents identified the managers, directors, and vice presidents they most regularly interfaced with in carrying out their role at the organization to generate survey data that showed how they saw their own network and how others perceived them. Summary data was used in faculty-led sessions to help participants understand the informal roles people play in organizations and to think what their results say about the roles they play. Representative examples they discussed include:

Participating executives explored the power of building relationships across divisions, functions, and levels and the benefits of different types of networks. For example,

  • Sparse networks are useful for efficiently gathering and disseminating information
  • Dense networks are useful for effectively coordinating work in a cohesive group


This is powerful learning for leaders of an organization that is committed to innovation. For example, someone with a large and sparse network is more likely to see innovation opportunities across the organization and promote the possibilities. These “superconnectors.” have networks that are

  • Large, in the sense that many other people cite them as contacts
  • Sparse, in the sense that they are connected to people in disparate parts of the organization, who are not otherwise linked to each other
  • Integrative, in the sense that they bring together contacts across divisional boundaries


When it comes to execution, someone with a dense network may be more likely to have the kind of deep relationships needed to bring together people and resources needed to implement the idea.

In addition to sharing individual reports with program participants, network survey data can be used by human resources professionals to understand and improve collaboration across the organization, foster a “one-company” mindset, and leverage the strengths of different divisions and departments to drive innovation. Are functions or departments that are expected to work together well-connected through the networks of their members? Are individual high performers under- or overestimating their networks? A social network survey can help the organization:

  • Map which parts of the organization are isolated
  • Identify where breaking down silos may improve collaboration
  • Identify high-potentials who are powerful but not part of the formal power structure
  • Identify superconnectors
  • Promote and move around those who are good at networking to build a stronger organization
  • Map where women and minorities are isolated in order to strengthen diversity and inclusion
  • Identify mentors for key hires from outside the organization


Social network analysis can help break down silos by measuring individual networks and how they link disparate units. Aggregate data can provide division heads and functional heads with a way to assess alignment of individual networks to the needs of their unit and guide corrective actions; this is especially important for functions or divisions that are expected to work together to maximize effectiveness.

If you are interested in working with us on a social network analysis initiative, some key steps include the following:

  • Conduct an organizational assessment to get alignment on desired outcomes, participants to be included in the analysis, and an understanding of interdependence among units.
  • Collect and analyze network data, using either survey data or electronic communication data, such as e-mail or instant messaging
  • Produce reports at both the individual and organizational level
  • Design and deliver leadership development sessions focused on the analysis
  • Help create follow-up interventions

Let us know if you would like more information about using this powerful tool for leveraging the strengths of your organization in new ways. Tuck Executive Education welcomes the opportunity to partner with you to make it happen.

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