Understanding the efficiency of your teams

Social Network Analysis provides a method to understans the efficiency of your teams. It is both a theoretical perspective and a method to understand human behaviour. Jacob Moreno, is regarded as the father of Social Network Analysis. Although he was not the first researcher who studied the relationships between pairs of people, he was the first person to visualize the networks in which human beings are embedded to understand, predict and describe the influence of these networks on human behaviour.
Moreno used dots and lines to draw sociograms or visualizations of the networks. In one of the first studies he used a sociogram to understand the behaviour of babies (see figure 1).

                                               Figure 1

He used this sociogram (figure 1) to show that a type of hierarchy exists between babies. Some of the babies are situated on lower levels because they were not recognized by any other babies, while other babies are ranked higher due to the fact that they were recognized by more babies. In another study he looked at a football team to understand their behaviour (see figure 2).

                                               Figure 2
The red lines indicate the likes and the black ones the dislikes. Moreno urged the players to indicate whom they liked, and whom they did not like.  He used this sociogram (figure 2) to explain why the team might find it difficult to play as a team.  The full back (top middle, figure 2) received dislikes from four other people, indicating that they might find it difficult to play as a team. The centre (centre of figure 2) received seven likes, indicating that he might be able to captain the team because both forwards and backs liked him. This information is not available to organizations and coaches although the impact of these underlying social networks might have devastating influences on the outcomes of team sports and organizations.
I would like to explore the likes and dislikes of the current Springbok team (2012).  I think a sociogram might provide information to explain why the team does not perform. And I have certain ideas about my reasons for making this statement. Ruan Pienaar (current scrumhalf) was booed three or four seasons ago off the field (as flyhalf) by a pavilion of South African rugby supporters who knew that Morné Steyn had a better kicking track record. I think it might have been a terrible experience walkin off the field under such pressure. I also think that Ruan Pienaar might have very strong negative feelings towards Morné, don’t you agree? I have seen him kicking good balls away before he would pass it to Morné. And I have also seen him passing those balls when he played next to another flyhalf.  I have also seen him passing very bad balls to Morné – as if he needs to prove that Morné does not belong in the team. Therefore I think he will do anything in his power not to boost Morné Steyn’s performance on the field – even if the Springbok’s have to loose the game. And to my astonishment Morné was dropped from the team playing on 29 September on Loftus, Morné’s home grounds. To me it seems like the perfect punishment – out of Ruan’s perspective.  When I was still teaching, my friend and the 1st team hockey coach could not understand why her team lost a game they already had in the pocket. The Monday the girls told me why. The one wing refused to pass balls to the striker because she dared to look at her boyfriend!   This same scenario can be found in organizations as well. If I don’t like you, I will not do anything to help you to outperform me.  Problem is that the performance of the whole team relies often on the quality of a relationship between two players.  Therefore SocialNetwork Analysis might provide an effective tool to understand why teams underperform.

Social Network Analysis is not a new method or methodology, it has developed over a period of 80 years in a powerful tool to understand and predict human behaviour. It is just under-utilised to understand human behavior.

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