Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CoPs - building to formality

I just had a great chat with a couple of blokes from an international mining company (they're Aussies, a place near and dear to my heart) who are building their community effort as we speak. For several years as the mining industry consolidated and rode economic slow downs with cost cutting measures, these gentleman have fostered an "informal infrastructure" for their communities (they call them forums). Now that the industry is experiencing a huge upturn (fueled by demand for iron and coal in China, among other things), the company is struggling to meet capacity because of talent shortages and repercussions from previous downsizings. So, they are primed to evolve their informal infrastructure into something more structured and focused. We talked for nearly 2 hours about how to position communities, where to have the community center of excellence "sit" in the organization, and how to focus their efforts for maximum gain. Sounded like they were primed for success as the company has invested in an operational excellence group that reports to the CEO - a wonderful place to establish core community processes and tools.

The struggle, of course, is how to reconcile new, more formal CoP processes with the current methods of working that many like and enjoy. We talked about doing an assessment of key stakeholders and specific communities to discover the best of the current program as well as gaps that need to be filled. Additionally, they have an opportunity to link communities to the talent management issues (finding expertise, linking it together, identifying and embedding best practices, and improving personal networks) and growth needs (bring best practices to bear anywhere, anytime with greater efficiency if people are connected and content is appropriately collected). I think they need to focus on creating a few formal communities where it makes sense according to these two drivers and continue to support those informal groups that wish to keep operating.

One interesting question they had that I would like to get an answer to as well - are there any studies/metrics on how participation in CoPs affects retention of individuals inside an organization? APQCs study on CoPs last year asked study participants to survey their CoP members on their perceptions of value of the community. We had about 800 respondents, mainly from the best practice organizations we studied, so the results are very positive. I wrote an article that will come out in the March KM W0rld issue on the results of this - some of the info is below. However, we didn't get a clean look at how participation affects retention - anyone have anything out there?
  • 93% said their CoP has a clear, compelling business value proposition for participation,
  • 84% said their CoP has a senior sponsor,
  • 88% said business/line management supports the time spent on CoP activities,
  • 88% said business/line management recognizes the value of CoP output, and
  • 70% said their CoP has a communication strategy to promote outputs and results of CoP to outside stakeholders


Anonymous said...

While I'm unaware of a specific study on whether CoPs affect retention, I have an anecdote to share.

When I worked at IBM there was a CoP for culture and change management. This community was extremely active with over 400 members. When IBM reduce the number of employees many were members of this CoP. The CoP survived and interestingly kept in contact with many ex-IBMers who were once members. These people were keen to keep in contact with the CoP but didn't want anything to do with IBM.

I think this shows the strength of identity associated with a successful CoP. It also provides a strategy to keep contact with past employees and therefore not loosing their knowledge entirely as they walk out the door.

Jeevan Kamble said...

Shawn / Ron,
Interesting to know the sense of Community building has reached to mining industry as well!
As Ron was saying about his 2 hours of talk, Please can you brief on HOW they tend to achieve a formal CoP on the way.
Shawn, Great to know about IBM community participation, what according to you should be the best 5 reasons to see such great active participation. How you achieved it?
The other interesting point to know about ex-IBMers collaboration and live activity?