Communication Networks : Types of Communication Networks

Meaning of Network:

A network is a group of people who develop and maintain contact to exchange information usually about shared interest. ‘Griffin’ defines communication networks as the pattern through which the members of a group communicate. In organizations, any message is to be exchanged between the centre and the departments and the persons involved in such exchange of information constitute a pattern, which is known as a communication network. When communicating follows the formal structure, it forms the formal network. Therefore, a communication network may be defined as a set of channels within an organization through which the members of a group communicate. Below a symbolic network showed for better understanding:

Symbolic Network of Communication:

Types of Communication Networks:

Communication networks in an organization can be designed in a variety of ways.

  1. Chain Networks
  2. Circle Networks
  3. Wheel Networks
  4. Y Networks
  5. Star Networks
  6. Com-con Networks

Chain Networks:

The chain is a simple hierarchical network, where one person interacts only with one other person of the group and information flows more evenly among the member. Example, if it is upward communication, two subordinates (A and E) report to the supervisors (B and D) respectively. The two supervisors in turn report to the top supervisor ( C ). The prominent feature of the chain network is the greatest at the top of the chain and the bottom level officers have the least power to exercise. The authority structure is decentralized in this network as no one member is able to communicate directly with all the other members. 

Circle Networks:

The circle network is where communication is initiated by either side of a group member. It is something like lateral communication without a let who communicates with each other. The circle all members of the group to communicate with either of two adjacent members both others. The circle is also a decentralized form of network with no members able to communicate with all the other members.

Wheel Networks:

A wheel network is structured with a leader who sits at the communications hub. One message must be sent through this central leader. The central leader is alone the decision maker. He is a man in the network who receives all information. The other members of the group are completely dependent on the leader for information. So wheel network is the most centralized network.

Y Networks:

The Y network is a slightly modified firm of the chain network. It is the symbolic pattern of the staff specialists who interact with a line manager. So there are two equal top level members are A (staff specialist) and C (line officer) being equal members interact with E (another line manager).

Star Network: 

Star network is frequently found in voluntary informal groups. This is a democratic type of network where every member of the group can participate equally in the communication of a message with any other members. The most striking feature of the star network is that it allows a free flow of information among all group members. In contrast to the wheel network, it is the most centralized network. 

Com-con Networks:

Finally, com-con network is also found to operate. This network has some if the characteristics of both the star and the wheel networks. Any members of this network can communicate with any other member as in the star network. Only difference is that one member sits in the centre of the network as in the wheel and he is considered the leader of the group.

So far productivity is concerned; the centralized network tends to perform its tasks with greatest efficiency and accuracy when the task is relatively simple routine type. For example, wheel appears to be the best network in a task oriented environment. This network work best because one centralized leader can efficiently coordinate the flow of information among the other group members who are actually performing the jobs. But for a complicated and non-routine job where innovations are needed, strategic planning is more important; the centralized network is helpless there simply because of its restricted and limited scope of developing new ideas. In these situations, networks having creativity and innovativeness will prove more efficient and successful provided they are decentralized. The star network is the best example to work efficiently in such a situation.

Selection of Networks:

Managers should recognize the effects of these networks on group and organizational performance and try to structure their networks appropriately. But there is no one best way to structure networks appropriately. The effectiveness of the various networks varies, depending on which criteria are considered. There are at least six potential criteria: decision quality, decision speed, message distortion, satisfaction, network centralization, and information overload. When you choose a particular communication network, you will need first to identify the most critical criteria for your purpose and thereafter to explore the alternative networks for one that best meets these criteria.

An Overview of Communication Network:

Criterion  Type of Network   
Decision qualityDepending on leaderDepending on leaderDepending on leaderModerateHighHigh
Decision speedSlowModerateFastModerateSlowDepends on situation
DistortionHighModerateModerateModerate/ highLowLow/ Moderate
SatisfactionHigh at top Low at bottomHigh at centre low at endsHigh inside Low outsideModerateHighHigh
CentralizationModerateHighVery highLowVery LowModerate
Info OverloadModerateHigh at centre Moderate at endsVery high at centre Moderate outsideModerateModerateModerate

Internal Networks:

A network suggests that it may be formed within an organization. When it is formed with the staff members of the same organization, it is called an internal network.

External Networks:

A network formed not with the members of the same organization but with the members of several other organizations is called an external network. Normally, an external network is formed around some external interests.