Communication network is the diagram which visualizes the system of information flow through different channels. It is a technique used for planning and scheduling of the system of communication. Network shows in simple way the interrelationship to various activities constituting a project or a program. It minimizes the total time and total cost of sending messages from the sender to the receiver of messages. Network develops a disciplined and systematic approach in planning and scheduling the activities. Communication network is applied for research and development; market penetration programs; traffic flow patterns; long-range planning and development of staffing plans; organization of big conferences, public works etc. It helps the management to be dynamic and interdependent. It develops a disciplined and systematic approach in planning and implementing communication channels. It helps to set inter related channels of communication within short span of time. It minimizes communication delays, interruptions and conflicts as the communication process is systematically planned. Communication network may be formal and informal.
Formal Networks are typically vertical, follow the authority chain and are limited to task-related communications. Formal small group networks are of three types, viz. the chain, wheel and all channels. The formal communication network shows the follow of information that follows the official chain of command. It shows that information may have downward flow, upward flow and horizontal flow. Formal communication network show how information is supposed to flow in the organization.
The formal communication network may be in the following two ways on the basis of the nature and structure of the organization:
Highly Structured and Formal Style of Communication:
There are three forms of communication network which fit into this form of organizational structure and management style and they are:
The wheel pattern of formal communication:
In this pattern of communication, there is a central authority at the center that receives and transmits message to five sub-ordinate levels. So in the wheel pattern of communication system, there are total six levels – one central level and five subordinates’ levels. This Pattern of communication system applicable in those organizations where there is a highly structured and authoritarian organization set up, where one central and dominating authority directs and manages all subordinate level from a central position and there is no communication among the subordinate levels . The wheel relies upon the leader who acts as the central conduct for the entire group’s communication.
The Chain Pattern of Formal Communication:
In the chain pattern of formal communication, messages flow only along the scalar chain of command. There is no horizontal and inter functional communication at middle and lower levels. The communication flow is normal and suffers from inflexibility. The chain rigidly follows the formal chain of command. The chain patterns of communication with a six level hierarchical structure.
‘Y’ Pattern of Formal Communication:
In this pattern of formal communication, the central level is located fairly high in the management hierarchy and holds the key position in monitoring and operating the communication chain.
Unstructured, Democratic and Participative Style of Communication or all channel Communication:
Communication Network can be arranged in the circular pattern. The communication pattern reveals an unstructured type of organizational style. The management is participated and democratic, people at all levels being involved in the management process. All channel or circular pattern of communication permits all group members to actively communicate with each other.
Informal Network usually known as grapevine which is free to move in any direction skips authority levels and is likely to satisfy group members and social needs as it facilitates task accomplishments. The informal communication network carries information along the organization’s unofficial lines of activity and power. The informal communication takes the form of grapevine. The grapevine is an important source of information in most organizations.
The informal pattern of communication tends to treat the lines of informal grouping which would set the core skeleton of such communication network.
(1) Hierarchical (Nodal) trend pattern of communication,
(2) Gossip pattern of informal communication,
(3) Random net or probability pattern of informal communication.