Friday, August 20, 2004

Role of community members

We talked about the role of community leader(s) so now lets talk a little bit about the role of community members. Community members have the responsibility of being participative. It's nice to have someone do all the work for you and for all the information to be pushed to you. But if you truly want to be part of a live community and you want your group to last forever then everyone has to bear the load. Kinda like marriage! The more you work together the longer you last. At least that's how I think marriage is supposed to work!
Members can take on assistant leadership roles, such as finding speakers, taking the pulse of the community on hot topics, getting someone to sponsor a night out for the community. Whatever you sphere of influence may be use it in some way to benefit the community if you can.
Another very important participative behavior is that of providing expertise, advice, mentoring, or information. A community comes together because people want to learn from one another. All members must give and take almost equally. In fact if you have a weakness of some sort, your community is a good place to overcome that weakness. And it does not have to do with the topic itself. If you have difficulty speaking in public then volunteer to speak in your community gatherings. Your community should be a safe haven for you to practice.
So lesson for the day, communities are about sharing and participating. Hope you are doing that in your community.
Adios for the weekend!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Role of a community leader

Lets talk today about one of the critical elements of a community. It's a leader. Typically when communities form they do so because there is one or a small group of individuals who are extremely passionate about something. It could be cars, drugs (the good kind), airplanes, engines, or nail polish. It doesn't matter. Having a passionate leader can make or break a community. I have truly come to believe that most of us are just plain lazy. We are interested in stuff but we tend to participate only if someone else does the heavy lifting and we reap the benefits of someone else's hard work. In comes the community leader. The leader will at first bear the whole burden. Arranging meetings, finding speakers, deciding on discussion topics, taking notes, disseminating notes, checking schedules, etc. Once the community has stabilized a bit, the community should take on most of the roles. There should be someone in charge of meetings, a sub group that determines topics of interest, someone else who works with venues, etc. At all points in time you want to constantly ask yourself. Are these activities worth it? Is what I am getting out of this community worth the time I am putting into it. If the answer is yes, you are in the right community. If the answer is no, you are looking at the community experience as something else you have to do and maybe you want to reconsider your membership. This latter point is unfortunately easier said than done. Sometimes you are required to be part of a community. If you are a graphic designer and you are not part of a graphic design community there is no telling what new technology and shortcuts you could be missing out on.
Ah, we digress. The community leader. The primary role that a community leader should play is that of social bee. He/she should be the person everyone knows and that knows everyone in return. When you talk to someone in your organization and you say John Doe is our community leader, the person you are speaking with should recognize the name and smile and say good things about them. A community is all about networking, about getting people together and making sure the experience is a positive one. Who wants to be part of a community that makes you feel bad when you leave. Life's too short for that.
A community leader also brings accountability to a community. Especially within an organization where all of us have goals, the leader should encourage the community in such a direction so as to help meet the member's professional goals. That's a win win for the organization and for community members. Another critical requirement for a community leader is tenure. I know I will have some criticism about that. New hires can be very knowledgeable in their fields, be extremely passionate and be good community leaders. True. That all can happen and I am sure it does.
However, in most organizations if you don't have tenure then you don't have the social bee ability. You don't know people and people don't know you. And if they don't know you and can't trust you then how can you form and sustain a community.
We have seen examples of two kinds of leadership. The single passionate leader as well as team leadership. Guess which one lasts longer! That's right! Team leadership. When you have a leader with a passion and everyone else is just a recipient then when the leader leaves, the community dies. It happens to whole organizations sometimes, so why not to small communities.
This little write-up gives you some specifics on community roles.
If you want to access more information like this please register on my site at Click on Register Here in upper right hand corner of screen, provide information and viola you are in. You never know, your organization may be a member and you may have access to all the research on the site. Got comments!!!!!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Assessing the health of communities

So far we have covered some grounds on communities and I have provided some links that will help you get started (in my earlier posts).
Say for instance that you decided to go looking around in the organization for existing communities and you realize that several exist in different forms. One of the first things you can chose to do is to measure their effectiveness. The key elements in a CoP assessment are alignment to the business, leadership, and structure. Read more about assessing communities of practice on our site.
An effectiveness assessment of communities should also be conducted once your communities are in place and have had some time to form and gel together. Remember communities are living organisms. If they are not evolving and changing with the member's and the organization's needs then they are most likely dying. If they are, let them go.