Thursday, August 26, 2004

Continuing on community activities

My community, that is the KM community that I administer has a mix of several different types of people. There are Kmers, Six sigma folks, quality folks and the like. As you can imagine getting the whole community involved is almost impossible. And because these are all people from different companies their goal for being part of my community is simply this. Keep us posted on up and coming things and challenge our minds by inviting people to speak who don't necessarily agree on everything or who are forward thinking.
So what I do is look for speakers in different areas. One time we had John Biedry from Servicemaster talking about their six sigma initiative. Another time we got a group of banking individuals together just so they could share problems and barriers they were having at banks with regards to KM. Last month, Tom Davenport spoke about managing knowledge-intensive processes. So, I don't look for all 468 members to constantly participate every month. But I usually get at least 50-60.
Are the calls effective? Although I have no formal gauge I know that these people come back every month for the call. If it did not bring any value to them I can assure you they would not come back. We are all too busy these days to attend conference calls with no value.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Community Activities

OK, so we talked about the roles of leaders and members so today I will talk activities. Now, I know a few of you are reading this blog so I want to see some input from you all on activities within ya'll's community. Yes, its "y'all" I am officially Texan you know:-))

The primary goal of any community is typically to get people together. So it seems like a face to face meeting might be a good start. That's not always possible if you are bringing together a global community but you are still attempting to get people together even if its virtually. These days it seems even when we are in the same vicinity most people still prefer to communicate virtually. I never got that. I would much rather go and meet people and get to know them rather than e-mail them constantly. I know of people who work in cubes across each other and send e-mails to one another instead of lifting their heads and talking.

Oh well! back to point. The first meeting should preferably be a face to face one. All the research we have done supports that argument. Face to face meetings build trust. When we communicate face to face we get a ton of physical cues that tell us if we can trust someone or not. Once people have gotten together face to face, virtual communications become much easier and more productive.

So sticking to the topic of trust for a moment, if there is one single issue that bars communication its trust. Therefore in your community efforts should be made to build trust immediately. There are several ways of doing this. Face to face of course is one. If that's not possible try to create an informal environment where people can express themselves. Something like a profile. A profile should have both formal and informal components so that people can identify with one another. Trust is built just as effectively when someone knows you are an expert in airplane design as when someone finds out that you share with them a passion for skiing. After all if you share the same passion you must have more things in common. Besides having a "human" side makes one more accessible.
Another approach to building trust is to have the first meeting focused on writing "community norms." Some communities actually write their "constitution." Personally I think that's a bit much but who am I judge. In communities one size certainly does not fit all. The community norms or guidelines consist of items such as response times, respect, low tolerance for either dominance or non-participation, how often you all want to meet, where, how and when, etc.
The next natural activity would be roles and accomplishments. Usually there is a natural leader. That's most likely the person who put the community together in the first place. If that's not the case then elect a leader. Decide on other roles such as a rotating admin role, a subject matter expert role, an executive sponsor if necessary.
Where accomplishments are concerned you want to agree as a community to what you want your outcomes to be. The outcomes must benefit both the employee and the organization. Depending upon how much time you spend in your community really think through what you want your outcomes to be? We all learn continuously. Even if you are an expert on a topic, you may feel at first that you are "giving" all the time. Be patient! As the community catches up with you, you will have a set of peers that you will find invaluable to run ideas against, to vet your solutions, to give you opinions, etc.
Sometimes community participation may be entirely social. You just like to hang with these people. That's great. However, if its a "work" community you will need to eventually show some professional growth or your manager may frown upon your social activity.
We'll continue tomorrow on some other community activities. I hope I hear from some of ya'll on activities you conduct within your communities.