I’m finding that some Communities of Practice (CoPs) at work are lacking leadership even though they have a community leader.
This is a broad statement, and there can be many reasons for this, but in this post I want to focus on one particular reason.
This has happened on several CoPs where the team leader has appointed their personal assistant or a nominated team member to set up a CoP…or the team leader has borrowed a person from another team leader as they like how they designed their CoP.
NOTE: Personally I would be inspired by CoPs with active and frequent conversation, over a well designed website.
The reason for their approach is that the community leader is technically proficient at designing and using the CoPs. The problem is that this person is not a Subject Matter Expert (SME), and does not have the interest, passion or time to facilitate the community in a non-technical way.
Facilitation is not just technical design/support, part of it is monitoring how people use the community and encouraging things, and re-purposing others…I briefly listed Facilitator’s duties at the end of my post, Community of Practice for Facilitators : pilot, adoption and participation.
My point here, is that CoPs need a breadth of facilitator’s, the head facilitator being the Community Leader.
It’s important to have the technical facilitator to cover the technical parts, but most important is the SME. Or rather whoever the community leader is must have a group of facilitators that handle different aspects of a CoP…technical, SME, etc…
Really, if it was an offline CoP then you would not need the technical facilitator at all.
I have realised for a while that this has been happening, and as the global facilitator I have picked up the pieces, but now that we have lots of CoPs, I’m finding I don’t have time, and I should be “training the trainer” anyway. That’s why I’m currently working on a facilitators workshop, which I’ve always intended to do, but never got the time. I communicate and support to facilitators in the Facilitators CoP, but I need a good real-time focused presentation and conversation to make this stick.
What tipped me over to blog these thoughts?
As a global facilitator I subscribe to all blogs and forums in all CoPs, and I stress that this is important for facilitators to do in their CoPs. This way you have total awareness of the activity, and you can encourage and re-purpose behaviours.
As global facilitator I eaves drop on the activity in all CoPs, but I never interfere, instead I congratulate/assist/recommend to the facilitator of that CoP with some action to take, as it’s not my place to talk to their members.
In one particular CoP we crowdsourced ideas into one forum, and from those 500 ideas we created 10 forums to house them all.
I don’t really agree with the next step, but it was decided that the heavy contributors on a topic were then nominated to be in charge of that forum.
- liase with the lead on bringing some of those ideas into fruition
- keep the forum going as general conversations about that topic
To my surprise they are doing OK, but could be going better if each forum had a person who volunteered themselves, something Samuel Driessen agreed with, but I can’t remember where he left that comment.
Anyway, I have noticed that in one of the forums called “Collaboration”, the person put in charge of that forum was also the project manager for our Office Communicator deployment (instant messaging/conferencing). He posted a new forum topic called “Office Communicator Tip of the week”…which yes, sounds like a blog post.
And in the last couple of months he has posted replies to that forum topic to publish new tips. In essence, he’s using one forum thread as a blog, where each new post is a reply to the forum topic.
I’m glad he’s participating, but his enthusiasm can be channeled to the right tool for the job. In the future that forum thread will be a needle in a haystack, it will be a thread with 50 replies. Instead he could have his own place using a blog, where the whole blog is about his topic, rather than be buried as one of many topics in a forum. The blog will have more presence, it can be furnished around his topic, and he will be more recognised…he and his know-how become a destination.
My point though is that there is no-one to notice and harness this, as that CoP only has a technical facilitator who is not looking out for this sort of thing. The CoP instead needs a SME or a leader who cares about the CoP and it’s members.