Every business, regardless of size, has a formal power structure. This formal structure is typically depicted by an org chart. The higher someone sits on the org chart the greater his or her power.
The people at or near the top of the org chart have the power to make policy, to make decisions, to advance ideas, to spend money, and more.
What many business owners and executives do not know or do not want to admit is that every business, regardless of size, also has an informal power structure. Although the people in this informal structure do not have the powers mentioned above they do have the power to influence how groups of employees large and small respond to them.
These people are informal leaders. They are often referred to as connectors. They can influence whether or not decisions made by those with formal power are accepted. They can influence whether or not change desired by those with formal power actually happens. They can influence the results produced by teams even when they're not the team leaders. They usually have the most accurate picture of organizational culture and organizational health.
Some of these people know they have power, but many do not. Regardless, it's in the best interest of every business to identify these connectors, learn from them, and enlist their power and influence for the benefit of the business.
Connectors achieve their status in the informal power structure simply by being who they are naturally. They are usually friendly, positive, helpful and charismatic. They are easily trusted by others.
Since connectors are leaders, intentionally or unintentionally, their potential is great. Their influence is even greater if they happen to be a part of the formal power structure as well. A connector who is strongly aligned with the purpose and values of the business, and is part of the formal power structure has the greatest amount of influence in any organization.
The easiest way to quickly identify these connectors is through social network analysis (SNA). Once they are identified further analysis will reveal very useful information that the people who occupy positions in the formal power structure can put to good use.
The real benefit to any business comes from using the information learned during the social network analysis process to develop strategies and systems for improvement.
If you're interested in taking advantage of social network analysis and the benefits it can bring to your business or organization, there are sources out there that can help. Although most of the methods and applications for this type of analysis are used for research in the academic world there are business applications as well.
Some SNA consultants do their work by observation. Others use a survey method.
My favorite uses a combination of proprietary technology and thoroughly reviewed methods for acquiring and interpreting data quickly. This method is elegant in its simplicity and amazing in its accuracy.
If you're curious about social network analysis and how it can be a benefit to you, crank up your favorite search engine and do some research.