Our Communities of Practice at work are currently in the development stage. As we learn the software and develop guides we are also piloting lots of various communities to learn about structure, and human dynamics. There has been no effort to generate interest…it’s all word of mouth across our many global offices…I suppose all this stuff is in vogue at the moment.
When we are ready to officially release an email will go out to nearly 8,000 people, but before that time comes we want to be ready.
To tell you the truth I can’t wait till that time, as we can move on to the next phase of “community consulting”, that is, supporting and facilitating leaders of each community.
In fact I think we have piloted too many communities that we can support and guide, as we are too busy developing, so it’s important we jump on this soon before the water gets cold for some people.
I think the deployment of our CoPs is a mix of a KM demand and supply strategy. At a macro level it’s about sharing knowledge in general, getting around hierarchies by allowing people to form cross-functional groups. I see *some* of the CoPs we already have as a breeding ground or testing area for the worthiness of future business units.
Actually CoPs are a perfect example of an enterprise 2.0 attitude of failure for free type experimenting. They can be used as a feasibility sandpit on whether the company should get into a new a area of business. This can be done by senior managers to get a pulse on the issue from the knowledgeworkers; or a CoP can be created by knowledgeworkers as a way to demonstrate the feasibility and worthiness of their proposal for a new area of business.
The CoP can attract relevant people together, and the exchange from all levels of people can help with the decision. This can be done from a crowdsourcing angle, a project team, or just a regular bottom-up CoP that may attract and generate interest.
Anyway, the KM Demand strategy is more at the micro-level. When we consult with a team who create a new CoP we help them with their needs analysis, and make sure they read some literature we provide about CoP concepts and facilitating.
NOTE: Supply-based KM (predictability KM) can also relate to capture, codify, and information into a structured database; over the demand-style KM (adaptable/sense-making KM) which is more about creation than shelving, where efforts are more involved in creating conditions for people to share amongst each other, and successful transfer of know-how.
This is the plan of the next phase:
- an image of a public space (a commons) where you hover over icons and learn about communities and their features eg. people gathered around a table is a forum, a guy on a soap box is a blogger, etc…
- some icons have links to different places for information (as listed in the sections following below)
- we thought a homepage is important for people to visit to understand and orient themselves
- we will link to this homepage from the Intranet, and via the directory page (see below)
- it will also have a blog that is re-syndicated from the Information Desk Community (see below)
- a one pager glossy PDF on communities, benefits and features
- the idea is an overview of the homepage in more of a takeway style, and selling the benefits
- I guess in between a product information sheet and a promotion flyer
- A link to this PDF will be on the homepage
Information Desk community
- A link to this is via the homepage and via the directory page (see below)
- A one stop shop with a communications blog, communal tips blog, and various forums.
- This is where we will also store our help guides (in PDF and a wiki soon), FAQ, and a issues and suggestions wiki
- I’m hoping people can help out each other…I’m going to experiment by not answering questions right away, in order to see if others will
- I also want to showcase some icons of featured bloggers and communities, I may even blog about some great blog posts and hot forum discussions
- A link to this is via the homepage and via the directory page (see below)
- This is a more advanced community to learn, guide and share experiences on facilitating and leading communities (the obvious members are people who facilitate/lead their own communities)
- A lot of this will be about cultivating, adoption, participation, gardening, sustaining, promotion, etc…
- I really hope to see members conversing, and helping out each other…I’m sure I’m gonna learn a lot as well
- We have various forums, a communications blog, and communal tips blogs, and people can create their own blogs
- A directory of all our communities (browse or search)
- Unfortunately we don’t have an aggregator of latest content from all communities (a kind of pulse of the organisation)
- We have the Facilitators community for perpetual guidance, but I also plan to prepare a bunch of presentation as a kind of Facilitators boot camp.
- Facilitating isn’t just about helping people to use the tools, it’s also about interpersonal skills, re-purposing current email habits, and work routines
- Really it’s about change, but from the inside-out (rather than telling people the big picture of change, it’s about focusing on the self benefit of re-purposing current methods in different ways)
- Maybe I’ll also do some Lunch and Learn sessions with general users, kind of like an outreach version of content in our Information Desk
- Besides supporting and monitoring global communities, I will also continue with the help of a support team to create communities
- Pre-creation process people fill out a request guide (here we ask questions like: who will your members be, what will your first 5 blogs posts be, what types of blogs and forums will you have, what topics will you talk about, is the community about shared learning, or to help a team coordinate and communicate, Who will be leading, and running the community…)
- During this creation process is consultation on the dynamics and food for thought for each individual community
- At this stage I also give the potential community leader a conceptual guide on what it really means to lead a community
- Once I create the community, I give the community leader a Facilitators Reference guide to the next steps to take, with excerpts from various help guides (my idea is to educate them as much as possible, and to make known that communities are not tools, they are about activity and interaction between people.)
- My quote is “Communities are conversations”
- This is what I’m looking forward to the most (the more anthropology/ethnography side of it)
- I will be monitoring each community and consulting
- As I mentioned earlier it’s important I follow-up on communities and guide them through their growth stage
- Things we may find here are the leader is not really being a role-model by participating, the community is too big where someone people want to splinter off into a new community, it needs more regular activity to keep it fresh, polls, competitions/theme weeks, are members being heard and do they have enough permissions to do things, champions may need to blog storm (hand holding) by sitting with members and help them create blog posts till they get the hang of it, etc…
- my recent discovery of spidergrams will be the tool of choice for community orientation, health checks and aspirations
- I’m going to need to train IT and a few key support champions via some presentations
- They can also learn via the Information desk and Facilitator community
This started as a second job at work, but it’s getting so viral that soon I will be full-time (hopefully), as the workload is getting too much…which is a positive sign for CoPs as a demanded tool for social productivity.
At the moment we have me (half a person), and a techie (on demand), which is not going to be a viable support model. Part of successful release and adoption is “support”; at the moment it’s like I’m famous and don’t have time for everyone, people are not getting help quick enough, this leads to a bad experience which is not due to the product, but due to lack of support.
Any metrics we are gonna take later on has got to include that adoption may be lower than it ought to be, therefore overall participation may be lower than it has to be, due to low support.
My message to others out there is if you want to do this right or take it seriously, you need a dedicated team of at least a couple of people.
I will stress it’s not about IT offering the software and that’s it…communities will fail…whereas social networks may be a different matter (I’m not sure yet).
It must be a line of business, where a dedicated person supports the software, but equally important is someone to help facilitate communities get off the ground correctly and be successful. We need to take time to help people use the technology to augment the needs of their unique situation. A lot of this is about group dynamics, rather than technology.
Our project about deploying CoPs is not done once they are deployed, it’s not *just* about getting them operating in a risk free, secure and homogeneous way, and then walking away.
Instead, from a KM perspective our project is about helping people use technology to do work, helping them be socially productive, helping them connect to people with like interests, helping them surf their worklife complexities, augmenting their ability to do tasks, helping them be aware and learn…
People are unique, situations and contexts are unique, so our consultation is unique. We are not the factory line here, it’s not a one size fits all context. Communities are enabling and are more about effectiveness than efficiency.