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Organizational network analysis helps with knowledge management

A new technique that might be useful for large law departments is organizational network analysis (ONA), also known as social network analysis (See my posts of Dec. 19, 2005 on top business concepts; and Aug. 2, 2006 on what we don’t know.). One company developed its organizational network analysis by asking each person to estimate the typical amount of time save per month as a result of resources, information and help received from coworkers.

A thoughtful article on ONA in MIT Sloan Mgt. Rev., Summer 2006 at 31 by Salvatore Parise, Rob Cross and Thomas H. Davenport, offers ideas for how law departments can use ONA to reduce the loss of knowledge when a veteran lawyer leaves (See my posts of June 12, 2005 and Oct. 18, 2006 on this knowledge loss.). The issue of knowledge loss is not just about specific expertise walking out the door and also about a group’s collective ability to get work done.

Departing lawyers leave with much more than what they know; they also remove whom they know and who knows them and their contribution to a knowledge network. Some lawyers are “central connectors,” the hubs of a network of knowledge. Others are “brokers” who help integrate law departments that have a silo structure.