Archive for February, 2011

Can passion and commitment compete with restructure?

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I had a meeting last week, well more of a get together of community facilitators fromCommitment across my organisation.  We had lots to talk about mainly around the migration of communities for the CoP platform to the up coming Knowledge Hub.

And all of this happening at the same time the public sector is going through huge restructures and potentially 500,00 job losses.

Everyone realised that many of the key communities, not just the ones led by us but many led by Local Authorities where at risk due to many reasons, such as programmes being cut, loss of key facilitators to the organisation or the core active members may no longer have jobs in the area work.

But even with all the upheaval, you can really see the passion of the facilitators.

And even if things change they still want to be part of the community and where possible pass the baton onto someone else.

For those communities that maybe nearing the end of it’s lifecycle we suggested four ideas of what could happen to them

  • Close the community
  • Close the community and leave a legacy
  • Merge with another community
  • Transfer the ownership of the community

For the ones that will be staying I hope they continue to be successful.

Talking of success.  We have just started our second CoP of the Year award which went down really well last year.

Where we celebrate success in 3 categories

  • Innovation and creativity – Demonstrating an innovative and creative use for a CoP or innovation and creativity within a CoP
  • Efficiency through collaboration – A CoP that has led to specific time and cost savings for its members and their organisations (can include the host/facilitator’s organisation)
  • Effective facilitation team – Demonstrates effective and successful management of a community of practice by a team of facilitators

Last year we even had an article written about it by Headstar

And just as a reminder to me about how important it has been to celebrate success and to see the passion that the facilitators have.  I noticed this on the wall behind one of my colleagues. 

From Communities and Knowledge

Before we started CoP of the Year we had an internal monthly ToP of the CoP award scheme where a small trophy would be passed around the organisation.  We used to get phones call before the end of the month from facilitators wanting to know if they had won. And this led onto the CoP of the Year award.

But I do remember someone saying that Communities of Practice have a habit of surviving organisational restructures.

And on a last note talking about passion my colleague Charlotte is upping sticks and moving down under and after 3 or 4 attempts of interviewing her about being a Community Facilitator and failing due to all the arm waving

Charlotte summed it up by saying

As a facilitator of CoPs I’ve seen the power of nurturing a network. I’ve seen that it’s not about pumping out comms, but taking a step back. Helping the community connect with members and knowledge that they didn’t know were there.

I have learnt a lot. I write more; I’ve started blogging; I use twitter.@charliegirlhay I have built up skills that I can now (hopefully) apply in any future role.

As a member, the CoPs have enabled me to connect with a wider network of people online. Offline, being a member of the CoP has been a great way to break the ice particularly at events.

What else? I have learnt so much about the complex world of local government through the eyes, ears and discussions of other members. I have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. I have learnt that successes can be big or small.

So if you’re in need of a great Community Facilitator there’s one going spare in a few weeks time in Australia


Can online communities be used for knowledge retention?

February 22, 2011 2 comments

Given the austerity measure starting to take place across the UK public sector – 500Extracting knowledge,000 posts in five years – those charged with maintaining services need to take action now on capturing the knowledge of those who will be lost in the cuts. If they do not, as has been seen with many previous “restructures” in the sector, former employees may need to be brought back on at expensive consultancy rates to provide advice and counsel.

So could online communities be used in supporting the knowledge capture and transfer in the future?

I suppose the answer is Yes but it needs to be part of something bigger.  My feeling when it comes knowledge sharing and transfer within organizations is that there is still a focus on

  • Technology,
  • Process and
  • People. 

Bring in some technology and everything works.  But we all know this is not the case.

APQC’s research document on Retaining Valuable Knowledge: Proactive Strategies to Deal with a Shifting Work Force conducted with the Oil and Gas industry found that the best way to retain valuable knowledge in the face of attrition or downsizing is to build and sustain systemic KM approaches; one of theses approaches is establishing communities of practice.  Companies like Chevron Texaco, Schlumberger, and ExxonMobil have improved their efficiency by institutionalising a knowledge-sharing culture through communities of practice

“By helping to build these communities, we are not only realising huge improvements in business processes and performance, but also providing employees with greater access to one of the most valuable learning resources: interaction with peers,” said Michael Behounek, director of knowledge management at Halliburton.

Schlumberger have designed their knowledge ecology around collaborative working, with a knowledge retention and transition strategy integrated into to their ways of working.  Schlumberger Hub (“The Hub”) is an intranet and Internet enterprise information portal that provides employees and customers uniform access to information, providing access to:

  • knowledge repositories,
  • project management and collaboration spaces,
  • real-time news a help desk, and
  • Support for multiple internal and external audiences through threaded discussions, community repositories, and collaboration technology.

A key feature of the Schlumberger Hub is the seamless view it provides to the end user, whether it is an employee or a customer. All information is stored in one repository, and the portal posts only the appropriate information for each customer type.

So technology can be part of the solution but as with Schlumberger is need to be part of something bigger, the

  • People,
  • Process and
  • Technology

And there are many examples of the people and process techniques such as the Knowledge Exchange that we use but there are many more.

Also in the APQC report it suggested vendors such as Oracle have labelled a technology solution to the issue of Knowledge Loss as Enterprise 2.0 – a combination of content management, enterprise search, and portal technology, linking with 2.0 tools such as wikis and blogs.

We have done some great groundwork on some of these with Communities of Practice for Public Service

And with the upcoming Knowledge Hub we will be hitting all the areas that Oracle mention and a lot more.

So maybe there is a chance for the sector to hold onto its knowledge.  I just hope that we are not too late, and that by using the simple things to start the process the technology can support it in the future.

What does an online community facilitator actually do?

February 14, 2011 3 comments

This is a question that gets asked a lot.  For all those that are facilitating a Community of Practice you know that it is hard work.  And that you have to be slightly mad to do it.

And for those bosses out there please realise the amount of effort that goes into to facilitating a community, and that they need support and help.  Because is very rare that you can chuck a junior member of staff into facilitating a community and for it to work. 

A colleague of mine Erica Hurley suggested that for a Healthy Community the facilitator will spend their time in this break down

  • Logistics 10 %
  • Facilitation 20%
  • Networking members 40%
  • Network Stakeholders 30%

Anyway back to what we actually do.  There’s load of examples out there.  But I though I would start with Dion Hinchcliffe’s Community Manager image the Jack of all trades.

From Communities and Knowledge

Then there’s one of my previous post about Tom Humbarger and the importance of Community Facilitation.  Tom describes what action he would take

During the time of my involvement, active community management and consisted of:

  • delivery of bi-weekly email update newsletters
  • production of monthly webcasts
  • active blog posting and blogger outreach
  • uploading of fresh content each week
  • continual promotion of the community in various forums through guerrilla marketing
  • ongoing brainstorming and strategizing with respect to improving the community experience
  • priming of discussion forums, and
  • ongoing communications with individual community members

And Dawn Foster in her Blog Online Community Managers: What Do They Do?

Mentioned that the day-to-day responsibilities of a community manager contain an interesting mix of tactical tasks and strategic planning for most community managers, and the work usually falls into four areas:

Facilitation. Community managers spend a large amount of time sifting through discussions in the community to make sure that people are getting answers to questions and helping to make sure that the right people are being pulled into conversations.

Content. As a community manager, I have created various types of content in the form of blog posts, new discussion topics, tweets, videos and more to help make sure that the community members have the information that they need to be productive members of the community.

Evangelism. Unless you want to have a community of one (or a very small number of people), getting out and talking about the community to get people interested is part of the role of community manager.

Evolution. Topics of conversation change, software changes, and people change, which all requires changes to your online community. This is the strategic piece where you get to think about what the community should look like in one year or five years and make changes to the community to make sure that you achieve your goals for the community.

And of course few of the great members of the Facilitators Community (Login required)

Started a list which included

  • granting access.
  • inviting contacts to join
  • promotion of the community
  • promotion events
  • running hot seats
  • managing hot topics
  • running competitions
  • writing round ups
  • extracting and analyse cop statistics
  • Looking after notice boards
  • Welcoming and introduction

I’m hoping I’ve got most of theses covered in the CoP Trumps Game  

So I would say all of these are right and we do much more, which is not seen on the surface. 

And to finish of I’ll let Sue on the Web’s quote on twitter explain the life of a Community Facilitator

A Community / Facilitator Manager is part detective, part sociologist, part bouncer, part concierge, part tough guy/woman, part big softie


Has your Online Community got a cold?

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

6/365Everyone seems to be going down with a cold at the moment where I work. 

But what happens when your community gets a cold?  What are the symptoms and what are the remedies?

Symptom – No participation or activity e.g. No new documents, links, discussion threads, announcements or news posted

Remedy – Post new content, requesting feedback and comments to elicit new conversation.  Remind people to set alerts for the site. Talk to members to find out what people are working on and ask people what they would like to see on it.

Symptom – Activity by only a few people

Remedy – Call or email members who haven’t participated for a while; find out why they haven’t been participating. Use those conversations to elicit new content and encourage contribution. Also be sure that the people who are not contributing understand how to use the tools. Never assume that tools are “intuitive” to everyone, or that everyone understands how to use them.

Symptom – People use email instead of posting questions and discussions on the CoP

Remedy The email habit is a hard one to break. If the goal of the community is to capture all the relevant discussions for future use, then the community facilitator needs to take a strong stand with members.

One way to do this is to make a public statement that no questions sent by individual email will be answered, but that questions posted to the community will always be answered in set time. Another approach is to respond to all email questions by asking the requestor to post the question in the forum.

Symptom – Sudden drop in discussions where there was previous activity.

Remedy – If there was a lot of active discussion and then it quickly dies out. Review the postings for potential “flaming”.  Edit the discussion threads to remove inappropriate comments (and state that you have done so). Speak with the people who have posted and clarify the norms for participation of the community.

Symptom – Another community is focused on the same topic

Remedy – If the members of the other community are current or previous members of your community, talk to them about why the community isn’t meeting their needs. If they do want to take a specific focus, then be sure that you have set up cross-linkages to the other community sites, and are referring people back and forth as needed.  Or even look to merge with the other community or communities.

Based on the work of Patti Anklam

Finding your role in a community of practice.

February 2, 2011 2 comments

question markA while ago I was inspired by Patrick Lambe’s Personal Knowledge Management: a DIY Guide to Knowledge Management questionnaire about finding out how you share knowledge.  Are you a Collector, Connector, Communicator, Creator, Critic or Consumer.

So from this idea I thought about how this could be used when looking at Communites of Practice

With the vibrancy of a community of practice (CoP) emanating from the people who make it up. The initial commitment and enthusiasm comes from those who serve in the various capacities of support to the CoP. The rest of the community follows their lead and depends upon their contributions for infrastructure and activity. 

Your answers to the questions below will help you identify the role or roles that you could play in a community of practice.

1. A community of practice has been suggested to you. Do you…?

a) think you could promote the community when you’re out and about

b) know who the ‘movers and shakers’ within the relevant field are

c) think you would benefit from being part of a community

d) feel you have a lot of knowledge to share about a particular subject

e) know lots of potential members who you can invite to join the community

f) have lots of ideas to share with the group

2. When deciding the purpose of the community, do you…?

a) make sure that the purpose reflects the wider work area

b) want to know what the key communications messages are, so you can promote the idea

c) want it to help you in your day-to-day work

d) want it to bring experts together

e) want to encourage the sharing of ideas, experience and know-how

f) just want to be kept in the loop at this stage about the direction in which the community might take – it’s important to you, but you want to see the outcome before direct involvement `

3. How do you prefer to communicate?

a) One-to-one, wide-ranging conversations

b) One-to-many interactions, with you taking the lead

c) Find somebody willing to give you advice

d) Professional discussions with other experts

e) Knowing who knows what, re-using information, connecting people

f) Finding information when somebody asks you

4. A question is asked to the community. Do you…?

a) provide a strategic overview that will assist in the answering of the question?

b) know where to go to get relevant sources of information

c) have some experience to share which may be helpful

d) respond with the latest information and know-how

e) know who to contact to get the right information/response

f) try your hardest to answer, particularly when responses aren’t forthcoming.

5. When it comes to contributing to the community, I expect to:

a) not contribute a great deal but, when I do, provide overall context on issues arising out of community discussions

b) share documents (for example: guidance, good practice, reports) with the community

c) dip in, ask questions, and keep up to date with the community’s activities

d) share the latest guidance and practice

e) engage people on the topic, building trust and rapport between members to get the discussion going

f) provide the ‘hot’ topics in my area of work

6. What are your expectations from the community?

a) It will assist me in influencing colleagues and stakeholders about the work area

b) It will assist in meeting my operational targets

c) It will help me to learn from others and bring value to my work

d) I would benefit from using the community as a place to test out new ideas and practice

e) It will engage members and fulfil the community purpose

f) It will keep me up-to-date in my area of work  

Now add up your scores to identify your dominant community role. A higher score means a higher predisposition towards this role.

Mostly As – the sponsor

A sponsor nurtures and provides top-level recognition for the community, thereby encouraging community growth and commitment of resources. As a sponsor, you can link the CoP to specific programs and projects, and pave the way for community success. A community sponsor believes in the value of knowledge sharing, and promotes participation in community activities.

Mostly Bs – the leader

A community leader provides the overall guidance, management, and the personal qualities needed to build and maintain the community. They provide day-to-day support, while serving as an active, contributing member. The leader plays an integral role in the community’s success by energising the sharing process and providing continual nourishment for the community.

Mostly Cs – the member

Community Members must possess a strong desire to collaborate and share knowledge. They take active ownership in the community by participating in its events and activities. They not only form the natural boundary of the practice or expertise, but also drive the level of commitment and growth of the community.

Mostly Ds – the subject matter expert

Subject matter experts are approachability, collaborative, and cooperative. They serve as the keepers of the community’s knowledge and practice, and play a key role in sharing tacit knowledge with the members.

Mostly Es – the facilitator

Facilitators network and connect community members by encouraging participation, facilitating and seeding discussions, and by keeping events and community activities engaging and vibrant. Trustworthiness and the ability to be a team player are central to assuring the credibility and reputation of the facilitator.

Mostly Fs – the core team member

The core team member is instrumental in establishing effective interaction for the community. They play a role in the working group that initially performs start-up activities, like planning. The core team member is knowledgeable and experienced in the area of work, and can advise the group of good practices in the work area.

What Next?

What can you do with this insight into your preferred role?

  • It should give you a clearer idea of your dominant role, and the behaviors that can strengthen that role. The more you reinforce it, the more value you’ll be in a knowledge-based team.
  • It should show you how to identify other people in your group who can play valuable roles within a community of practice
  • It should help you to identify gaps in your own abilities as well as in your group’s, and give some clue to what new behaviours and competencies will fill those gaps – in yourself or others.
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