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Thursday, April 29, 2010

community of practice

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Knowledge Management - Keys to Successful Communities of Practice (Networks)
By Chris Collison
community of practice

How can I make my community practice truly effective?

How do I prevent my network becomes "notwork"?

Community practice (networks) lie at the heart of knowledge management in most successful organizations. They are a source of informal knowledge exchange. Usually, the community through a series of steps that they have developed. This article, taken from fieldbook knowledge management bestseller by the author, identify the key steps involved in creating and maintaining a successful community of practice, providing practical guidance and tips for every part of the life cycle.

Guide below is taken from the book "Learning to Fly - Practical knowledge management from leading and learning organizations" (Chris collison and Geoff Parcell), and set to launch a number of steps, energy and maintain a community of practice (networks) within the organization.

1. Plan
Assemble a list of potential participants. Use the directions - asking individuals if they can recommend someone else in the organization who should participate. Consider the broader membership to introduce diversity. Is your network benefits from having members NOT closely associated with your domain of interest - to bring a different perspective?

2. Decide: go / no-go
Check for duplication or overlap with other networks / groups, verifying the network needs and to make clear to go / no-go decision.
Will realistic scope, or subject area is too vast for a single network? Take some soundings from potential members and consider splitting to form two or more sub-networks where appropriate.


3. Start-up workshop held face to face
Ensure that this includes social activities to build relationships and trust. If most interactions are possible through e-mail or phone, it is important to build relationships face to face.

4. The draft charter "" collective
Develop a charter "simple", which may include:

* Reason and network coverage,
* Key roles (facilitator, sponsor etc.),
* Expectations in terms of people's time commitments (that members need help in securing "air cover" from their manager?)
* Code "of conduct" - how members will work together, and the key processes / tools,
* Feeling of "what looks like a success", and any appropriate KPIs. (But avoid over-burdening the network with the steps in the early stages of growth)

5. Consider a tool to support
Check the available tools and their distribution in all members, especially for networks that cross organizational boundaries.

6. Appoint a facilitator
Network Facilitator responsibilities, some of which, in practice, can share with others in the network, may include:

organize the meeting * network / teleconference;
* Maintain network distribution lists;
* Own and ensure maintenance of shared information / knowledge resources;
* Monitoring the effectiveness of the network, and stimulate and encourage members of the network when appropriate;
* Acting as a focal point for networking, both internally and for people outside the network

Note - the network does not need an expert facilitator "subject". Far more important is the ability of people to involve and include others, and worked behind the scenes to keep the network "on the boil".

7. Set your e-mail distribution list and send an e-mail launched
Establish an e-mail distribution list for your network comprising the potential membership names identified. This should facilitate further communication.
Network facilitator should be identified as the owner of this, and can add or remove people from their own distribution.
Send e-mail early to start a dialogue.

Building momentum

8. Seed the discussion with some questions
Forming behavior by asking questions on behalf of members with specific needs (having a member do it myself if possible).
In the early stages is important for the response. Facilitators must be ready to pick up the phone and press for answers behind the scenes.

9. Publicize the network
What's in your organization's communications media? Can you write a short news article in the internal or external magazine which describes the relevant network and its purpose?

10. Quick win Ads
When you get answers to questions, or the transfer of ideas between members, celebrate and make sure that everyone knows

11. Monitor the activities ...
Monitors forum for discussion / Q & A effectiveness:

* Frequency of contributions,
* Frequency response.
* The number of unanswered questions
* For a larger network - the number of joiners / graduates

12. Maintaining connectivity
Schedule regular teleconferences, summarizing success, develop a list of "frequently asked questions" and shared team space / website.

Renew commitment

13. Fix membership
For large networks, send an e-mail to existing members reminding them to tell you if they want removed from the list. Better to have a small group of committed members, from the larger group with variable commitment.

14. Hold face-to-face meetings
Consider an annual face to face meeting to renew relationships and introduce new members

15. Remain focused on business issues
Continue to ask the questions and answers - to publish more success stories.

16. Review performance
How do the network connection with the performance contract, mission, KPIs? Is there still regular examples of success stories?

17. Test of commitment
Do not be afraid to threaten to "turn off" the network and test the response of members. People will soon object if they strongly believe in it!

Is it time to "sunset" of your community? Or to reinvent it?
Consider Options
Decide for the future:

* Continue?
* Celebrate & close?
* Redefine the delivery / scope?
* For those into the sub-network?


Launching and supporting successful communites of practice is one of the most effective way to maintain your investment in knowledge management. It takes thought and effort to start, but with the right people, and the steps mentioned above, they can bring KM to life in every organization.

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