It all started with Euan Semple’s insightful post on knowledge ecologies (not economies or markets). It resonated with me so much that I celebrated Euan’s post by reviewing each point through the eyes of a Community of Practice facilitator. Prior to this I touched on one point called "follow the energy", which is what the spirit of social business design or enterprise 2.0 is all about.
A few notable points in the discussion:
One of the key concepts which links with any ecological approach is co-evolution. As things interact with other things patterns form and you can never reverse. Its a radical break from engineering or idealistic (define where you want to be and close the gap) approaches as it managers in the “present now”
- Dave Snowden (comment 13)
Co-evolution is a very different word and approach than "control" and "targets"; which are quite synonymous with the usual approach to management.
I got the word "community" expunged from any tools we bought!
- Euan Semple
I agree with Euan here. Our software at work is called "Communities" as are many other vendors. This can be too narrow or misleading as lots of our so called "Communities" are not that at all, but instead work spaces, task spaces, etc…see here.
I don’t want to dwell on this next point too much here as I’ve posted about it before (see I don’t create communities, I create online spaces!).
Actually maybe Dave Snowden’s words once again hit the mark:
“If a community has value it will form and the technology now allows that"
This does not imply "leaderless", but it does imply that a thing will form if the need, and willingness to see that need arises. In other words, you have an uphill battle if you are trying to create, force or control an online community into being.
So what do I mean by an online community or shared interest/purpose group space?
I think the "Community Roundtable" do a good job on their "Community Management Fundamentals" presentation:
- A common interest or context
- A sense of shared purpose and fate
- A common set of needs
I’m not going to get into the difference between online Communities of Practice (CoPs) and teams or work groups, so check out these links below for that information. Yes, some CoPs may end up doing a task, and teams may do CoP-like stuff like sharing interest news and discussion that may be unrelated to tasks…but there is a defining difference when you compare the primary activity, their purpose, aims and expectations.
Here’s those links:
But I will highlight Bertrand Duperrin’s pithy comparison where he says "Communities exchange to learn, workgroups exchange to execute"…here’s more:
Communities are places where practices, knowledge, information are exchanged and has not to be confused with workgroups which are operational entities…
Groups know what they have to do, to deliver, and that’s why they exist. Groups exist because they have operational purposes.
Communities exchange to learn, groups exchange to execute (even if there a learning dimension in the background routine).
The group is a manager’s responsibility, the manager being responsible for objective’s achievement. Communties can be handled by external people who is an expert, a skilled communicator while groups only react to hierarchical hierarchy (even if expertise matters in the background).
I think they are both groups; one being a community-type group, and the other a work-type group.
Boris puts it another way:
“…we “exist” as a community, but we “achieve” as a team
Each of us “exists” within a multitude of communities with which we associate – with differing levels of interest. However, to actually achieve a specific aim/goal, we need to tap into a subset of that group to create a “team” to help us achieve that.
I can’t help myself to just go on a bit more on this, as when I read back on this, Kaye Vivian really compares it nicely:
…any “community” formed for the purpose of creating a content resource is not a true community.
I don’t think communities have “mission critical” expectations. Organizations do.
…true communities form around a common interest in a topic Their purpose is not to create content…the content is a by-product of how the members interact in exploring their common interest.
CoPs don’t usually involve doing a task or deliverable, but the real key word in Kaye’s statement is the word "expectations".
Kaye’s part about CoPs not being about creating content could be challenged I suppose, but I feel too academic trying to go further in the demarcation, who really cares in the end about making it a black and white world. In the end CoPs are more volunteer based, and don’t usually involve deliverables. Nancy White has more on CoP orientations.
Community Manager or Community Facilitator (Lead) or host
As usual I’ve posted lots without evening coming yet to the purpose of this post, which was inspired by Luis’s post, and based on something I said in the G+ discussion:
At work we don’t use the term community manager we instead use the term community facilitator. The term community manager may be more appropriate if you have a thriving CoP and you spend a lot of time administering it, but at work this is not always the case, instead most of our CoPs require a host to facilitate and generate activity. Anyway that’s why we use the term "facilitator", as it’s the dominant skill required when CoPs begin….there’s really not much to manage at the start
We need to both manage and lead, they co-exist.
Yes, even though online CoPs are not usually about tasks, deliverables, targets, expectations, there is still an element of "managing"
But in the end you have to choose a word, and I choose "facilitate" as that’s more the primary function when it comes to online CoPs.
Imagine you had an external brand community. A lot of work would be monitoring, answering questions, maintenance, gardening, support…all the managing stuff. But it also involves leadership (and facilitation) as you listen to people, bring out the best in people, co-create, foster new directions, play host, role-model, educate, riff off the emergence.
Anyway I run internal communities where the contributions aren’t as great as external brand communities. In our communities-especially in the growth stage-leadership/facilitation is key in generating activity and a community spirit. I like how Andrew Gent says:
Chris Corrigan has more on this:
…it is not enough to schedule a party, hire a caterer, and send out invitations. Once the event begins, you must play host: introduce people so no one feels left out, make sure they circulate, suggest activities… t’s not enough to invite people to the party, you need to play host and get people talking and generating activities.
A facilitator is like a party planner, or a wedding organizer, running around taking care of details, scripting the event and staying outside of the experience.
A party host, by contrast, is inside the experience, invested in the outcome, bringing energy to conversations, not only form, and both affecting and being affected by the experience.
People will find managing much easier (not to say we are necessarily good at it) as that’s what we have done all our lives, we manage our life, situations, we have control over things…as Dave mentioned above, we have a target and work to close the gap. We so easily go into managing mode as that’s what we know; but leadership is something that is more intentional, learned, experiential; rather than automatic.
Why I mostly use the term "facilitator" or "leader" in relation to our online CoPs is because this is a skill most people don’t have in a deep way; it’s something special (usually drawn from experience, rather than learnt at business school) to be able to lead, bring the best out in others, actively listen, counsel, correlate, steward, and harness; rather than control (whether it’s controlling for a targeted outcome, or just for the sake of it). I make it my job at work to educate people in facilitating, as they are already wired to manage. And when it comes to online CoPs (even more so in the growth stage) facilitating is a more valuable skill than managing (but I stress we need both skills, all I’m saying is I’m paying more attention to developing skills in facilitation).
And to reiterate the start of this post, the whole premise of communities leads to facilitating anyway, as most of what they are about is people coming together to celebrate a shared interest…it’s not so much about tasks and deliverables. And no, you can’t manage people to share just like you would manage them for contexts like deliverables. People share because they want to, because they feel connected and engaged with others, so our job is to nurture this particular drive and desire.
If you would like to know more about nurturing participation, see my post, Presentation : Participation in Communities of Practice (here’s a link to the presentation)
For a deeper look I have a collection of links on the role of a community manager/facilitator/lead, see my post, The field of community management
For more about leadership and management check out…
The upshot, in my view, is that asking if leadership or management is more important is like asking “what is more important, your heart or your brain?” Both are equally essential and if there isn’t a connection between the two, you are in big trouble!
- Bob Sutton (…and more)
To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial.” And in one of his most famous lines, he added, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.
- Warren Bennis
It’s funny when you look back as the original meaning of management it seems more close to leadership and facilitation ie. developing a relationship, understanding it and nurturing it, treating with respect and co-purpose. I guess depending on the activity the juggling of managing an activity is still there, but I think if we devote a lot of time to the above descriptions about relationship, then the managing part falls more into place.
Dave Snowden bought it’s original meaning to my attention:
Manege comes from the Italian Maneggiare meaning to handle and train horses and it’s one of the origins of the word manage in English
We are not about to control and manage a horse are we; we instead need interpersonal skills; we have to befriend it, form a relationship, have respect…all the qualities of facilitation and leadership.
Partners, Leaderless, Community-ship
If we look at employee engagement, happiness, purpose, well being, and their intrinsic motivations, we can certainly borrow some practices from the way we lead and facilitate online communities into our work teams…Peter Drucker thinks so:
…“employees” have to be managed as “partners”—and it is the definition of a partnership that all partners are equal. It is also the definition of a partnership that partners cannot be ordered. They have to be persuaded…
Henry Mitzberg is also on this meme of organisations borrowing approaches from communities (not turning them into communities, as they are not, but instead borrowing skills from running communities and fostering happy workers). In fact he speaks beyond leadership, in favour of community-ship:
…show me a leader and I will show you all kinds of followers and that is not the kind of organizations that we want…we need to put more emphasis on what I prefer to call, there is no word for it but I use the word ‘community-ship’, which is the idea that corporations and other organizations, when they function well, are communities. People care for each other, they worry about each other, they work for each other and they work for the institution and they feel pride in the institution.
As is Margaret Wheatley:
…the first task of a leader is to make sure the organization knows itself.
There is so much that an organization needs to know about itself. But it needs to know it; it doesn’t ever respond to being told what it is or what it’s supposed to do
And once again Dave Snowden:
Training leadership crews rather than leaders may be one way to build more resilience into organisations…Ultimately the role of the leader is to create sufficient coherence to allow progress to be made; to be seen as an enabler of good decision making, not always to be the decision maker.
Naturalistic, joint sensemaking and co-evolution
Dave Snowden hones in on perhaps the management 2.0 approach:
In the idealistic approach, the leaders of an organization set out an ideal future state that they wish to achieve, identify the gap between the ideal and their perception of the present, and seek to close it. This is common not only to process-based theory but also to practice that follows the general heading of the “learning organization”. Naturalistic approaches, by contrast, seek to understand a sufficiency of the present in order to act to stimulate evolution of the system. Once such stimulation is made, monitoring of emergent patterns becomes a critical activity so that desired patterns can be supported and undesired patterns disrupted. The organization thus evolves to a future that was unknowable in advance, but is more contextually appropriate when discovered.
Chris Rodgers also talks about the perspective of naturalistic organisations:
Outcomes, in the form of the sense that is made and the use that this is put to, are co-created by those in the conversation. These can’t be handed down by leaders – or by anyone else for that matter. From this perspective, a leader’s task is to actively engage in the joint sensemaking process
Let’s not leave out Stephen Billing:
The challenge is “How can I influence the constraints and power relationships so that different (hopefully more desirable) patterns of social interaction emerge.”…as a manager you can only influence your organisation from within your own local interaction with others. So you must pay attention to your own interaction, observe what results and adjust as you go along.