Cultural Sweetspots & COP Pilots

I happened to revisit an article that appeared in Workforce Management titled Building Business Value through Communities Of Practice . It covers some of the fundamentals to remember when we attempt to set up COPs.

Quoting from the article:
If you are looking to grow the use of collaboration and communities of practice, here are some tips:

  • Start with a clear area of business need.
  • Start small.
  • Don’t just get management buy-in. Recruit their involvement
  • Define clear goals and metrics.
  • Ensure that the initiative ties in to existing projects.
  • Allocate a budget and support resources.
  • Understand and respect informal employee initiatives already under way. Offer support, but do not kill.
  • Build a team of the right people committed to success.
  • Celebrate contributions.
  • Build on small successes.
  • Be prepared to adjust the plan in response to what you learn.”
While almost all of these bullet points are straightforward one of areas where there are hidden challenges is “Understand and respect informal employee initiatives already under way. Offer support, but do not kill.“. The idea of doing a small pilot before embarking on an enterprise wide rollout of communities has always been recommended. However, the challenge lies in identifying the right group to try the pilot with. What are the options that organizations have to do this effectively?

  • Most of them try to seed new communities and try to build them. This invariably involves “trying” to bring people together which by itself is in contention with the fundamental philosophy of communities wherein people get together because they share a passion for a specific domain. These pilot are difficult to pull off. Most of the time is spent in building “shared understanding” and trust for meaningful exchanges to happen.
  • The other option is to identify “cultural sweetspots” where informal knowledge exchange is already happening to some extent. Identifying these existing networks of exchange and then “nurturing”(By providing facilitation,legitimacy,funds etc.,) them makes a lot more sense. The pilot stands a better chance of succeding in this case. However, in huge organizations it would still be a challenge to identify existing communities. Doing a SNA is an option. But would the cost of doing a SNA be justified just to run a pilot? Most pilots in this case is based on the gut feel of executives. Are there more formal ways to identify the right unit to do a collaboration/KM pilot?

3 thoughts on “Cultural Sweetspots & COP Pilots

  1. Thanks for the link to the Building Business Value with CoPs paper. I’m currently working on a paper with a similar title.BTW does your blog title “Organic KM” refer to Dave Snowden’s work of the same title?

  2. ShawnThe title of my blog was inspired by the success “grassroots” level KM initiatives within the organization I work for.I have also been thinking of top-down, intentional communities set up by the organization as “inorganic”.This too has influenced why I call this blog Organic KM.

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