The Three Power Roles in the Human Network
Hubs are directly connected to many people. Like a router in an infrastructure network, the human hub has a many-to-many relationship with others in the organization. Information comes in from multiple sources to the hub, and he or she shares it with many. Hubs communicate constantly: tell something to a hub, and soon the entire organization will know about it.
In Figure 1, Karen is a hub. Despite having no direct reports (the managers in this organization are Kuldeep, Jorgen, and Bian), she has more connections than anyone else. She links directly to eight people: Jim, Jorgen, Kuldeep, Fiona, Bian, Archana, Michael and Mei-Xing.
Hubs like Karen are invaluable to CIOs. CIOs can use them to spread the word quickly about an important event, new process, change in strategy or procedure. This is important. Most CIOs think that if theyve talked about the message at an all-hands meeting and posted it on the intranet, thats sufficient. However, with all of the data people receive (which, according to the University of California at San Diego, is 33.79 gigabytes per person per day), the critical information often gets lost in the shuffle. Sending information through hubs helps make the message stick since people trust hubs and tend to remember what they have to say. Using hubs will help CIOs ensure that critical information doesnt get lost.
However, hubs also embody risk. It can be as bad as when a router goes down: without a hub, communication and information flow can grind to a halt. Thats why its important for CIOs to identify hubs and build redundancy into their organizations. With redundancy, if a hub hits the lottery and retires to Bali, customers dont suffer from the loss of the hubs knowledge.
Another challenge, of course, occurs when hubs are bitter. If they start talking critically about the CIO, that message will be heard and valued by people in the organization. To prevent hubs from feeding the rumor mill in the wrong way, wise CIOs keep them close: check in with them, listen to their concerns and make sure that they feel appreciated.
Gatekeepers hold the keys to specific areas of an organization, groups of people and bodies of knowledge. In Figure 1, Bian is a gatekeeper. Harry, Kwame and Aisha all work through Bian to access the knowledge they need from the rest of the organization. If Bian were to go away, these three individuals would be completely cut off from everyone else.
Gatekeepers like Bian are the firewalls of the human network: They must be accessed in order to send or receive certain information, and they must allow the request to reach its destination. Gatekeepers can be intense obstacles or tremendous supporters. They are critically important to CIOs because they:
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.