Networking is an important concept in communications management. It is important to understand the relationships between people who are communicating and to realize that the more people communicate the more complex the communications become.
Any network is composed of nodes and links between the nodes. Using the network model can make understanding some aspects of communications much easier. This method of analysis is also useful in measuring the effectiveness of meetings. A meeting can be observed, and the communications between individuals can be recorded as simple lines between them. The more lines of communication there are connecting individuals at the meeting, the more freely communication is taking place. When there are only a few lines, it is an indication of the inhibitions of individuals in the meeting. A good meeting would show lines between each individual in the meeting and every other individual in the meeting.
A circular network shows communications in a circle (Figure 6-5). Communications in this network require some communications to pass through another communication node before reaching the intended receiver. As the circle becomes larger, there are more intervening nodes between the sender and the receiver.
The chain network is commonly referred to as the chain of command. To move a message from one end to the other of this network requires that the message pass through all of the intervening nodes. This is the slowest and most error-prone method of communicating, since each time the message is transferred, there is a good chance that some of the information will be lost or changed (see Figure 6-6).
Figure 6-5. Network communications circle.
Figure 6-6. Network communications chain.
There is a game that is played in communications seminars to illustrate this. A short article from the local newspaper is given to one person to read. That person is then asked to leave the room with another person and accurately retell the story (without looking at the article). The second person tells the story again, in private, to the third person, and this continues until the fifth person is told the story. When this is completed the fifth person is asked to tell the story to the rest of the class. The original article is then read to the class. The two stories will be quite different. The difficulties in communicating using normal chain of command communications are clear.
The wheel network centralizes communications and gives great power to the individual at the center (Figure 6-7). The saying goes that ''he who controls the information controls the world.'' All communications go through the center, and only the center gives information to the other nodes in the network.
The network diagram in Figure 6-8 illustrates the free and open communications model. Each node in the network is able to communicate with every other node in the network.
Figure 6-7. Network communications wheel.
Figure 6-8. Network communications circle: Free and open communications.
This means that information that any member has can be communicated to any other member of the network.
This network model does not come without problems. This type of communication is difficult to control because of all the possible connections. As the number of participants increases, the number of communication links increases.
The number of communication links can actually be calculated by the formula:
For example, if there are five persons on a project team and it is necessary for them to communicate with each other, how many communications channels are there?
Channels = [5 X (5 — 1)]/2 Channels = 20/2 Channels = 10
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