Community Metrics, Combining wikis and forums, Truth about expertise databases, Optimization challenge

22-Aug-07 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Question of the Week

A question about evaluating communities of practice led to subsequent posts by Bill Ives and James Robertson. Here is a follow-up question about community metrics tracking.

Q: Are you able to automate the collection of this data?

A: We used UBB.threads for our threaded discussion forums. Data was generated on the server on which it ran, and we mined this data monthly.

Collection of the data was automated, but production of the monthly reports involved manual effort. We worked to further automate report production, and moved more of it to lower-cost resources.

A question about how to survey community leaders also received additional replies.

Q: I would like your input on questions to ask our community leaders in preparation for our conference.

A: Here are additional answers from two thought leaders on communities of practice, John Smith and Richard McDermott.

From John D. Smith: “I would suggest an open-ended question along the lines of: ‘During the past year or so, what has been the most useful or inspiring thing for you as a community leader?’ We’re in the midst of a ‘dissertation fest’ in CPsquare, where Tony Burgess of Company Command used more elaborate means to find the ‘becoming stories’ of Company Command leaders. He got very useful answers, it seems to me.”

From Richard McDermott: “There are several ways to approach this. The simplest would, of course, be to ask for examples of value. I like to think of these as stories with numbers. The numbers do two things: 1) they can be impressive 2) they help calibrate the value of communities and their potential role. (See the articles listed below for more on measurement.) Whatever else you do, this is probably good to include.

An interesting, alternate approach would be to send out a survey to community leaders and/or members. I recently served as the Subject Matter Expert for a global study of community impact (the largest, we think, that has been done). Either using our survey or a customized version, you could assess: 1) the health of communities 2) factors that contribute to community impact on individual and organizational performance. I suspect that this would be consistent with our findings, but there could be some interesting twists for your organization.

With this approach leaders could walk into the conference with the results of the assessment of the health and value of their communities (as seen by community members). This could give you a bit of grit to work with in the conference and might make it more than a conceptual discussion of issues and ideas for action.

We are currently writing an article on the results of our study, but it will probably be a few months before I have a draft. Here are two relevant articles:

  • Measuring the impact of communities: How to draw meaning from measures of communities of practice — Building communities of practice seems like a smart way to encourage collaboration across organizational lines. But what happens when you need to show proof that the communities are working and are worth the investment? In this article, Richard McDermott, community of practice expert, explains how to make sense of a chain of community activities, outcomes and value in the language of the business. Includes a community of practice measurement framework, a case study from Shell, and a set of sample assessment interview questions.
  • Building healthy communities — Richard McDermott presents the results of an in-depth study into the key factors behind the successes — and failures — of communities of practice.

KM Blog of the Week

DARnet — Distributed Action Research with communities of practice and social objects — by Andy Roberts

Combining Wikis and forums

Zbigniew from Wiki Wednesday has some interesting ideas about combining wikis and forums. A bit mad, but very interesting!

For example, the suggestion to allow some wiki functionality in the middle of threaded discussions, which to me seems like a license to rewrite history, except that there would be revision control over the various versions of a conversation.

I don’t warm to the prospect of ever having to take part in such a consensus, in fact I’m strangely attached to the notion of leaving archived conversations to stand where they took place but it strikes me this technique could become a useful part of the workflow in a close working team or managed community.

KM Link of the Week

A question about developing a database to track all employees in a specific area of expertise was further explored by the Montague Institute. The full article was available only to members.

The truth about expertise databases

The concept of a central repository for employee expertise is certainly appealing. In today’s far-flung global organizations, where the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand has accomplished, an expertise repository can eliminate duplicate effort, help the organization respond to opportunities, and reduce time delays. At least, that’s the theory. But the reality is often different.

In this article, we summarize a recent thread on a knowledge management discussion list. Our comments about the responses are in blue text. Then we describe some other approaches and discuss our own experience.

KM Book of the Week

Knowledge Management: An optimization challenge by Leonardo Mora

Leonardo Mora revises the concept of Knowledge Management by stepping back into the definition of knowledge. The result, a new simple concept and framework is brought forward to better understand what knowledge management actually is, and expose a technical solution that can be built to harness this concept (knowledge). Then he explains how his knowledge theory goes hand in hand with something known as “Systems Thinking” and “the learning organization” where you tap a different type of leadership to bring people into sharing their knowledge. Mora explains the complexities of dealing with huge amounts of information and how companies can better implement knowledge management from his own experiences.

Table of Contents (click “Preview” under the book image)

  • Why the human factor does invalidate KM?
  • Chapter 1: What is at the heart of the problem?
  • Chapter 2: The solution
  • Chapter 3: The Learning Organization and The 7 learning disabilities
  • Chapter 4: Technological platform solution
  • Chapter 5: Migrating from A to B
  • The way forward
  • Repositories — Map
  • Knowledge in Organizations