New Communities Launched!

June 29, 2007

Well over the past few weeks I’ve been working to contact and communicate to about 40 different people what a Community of Practice (CoP) is and why they would want to be a part of one. We recently launched two new CoPs aligned to our lines of business. One in mid-June the other on Tuesday this week. Attendance to both calls was pretty good about 16 people attended each call from all three main Geos (APAC, Americas, EMEA) and they were from across our technical functional groups.

Now we have 3 CoPs running for each of which I act as the Community Coordinator. The goals for all three groups are the same: To capture knowledge and best practices and share that with other HDS colleagues.

The 1st CoP has been running the longest at 6 months. We have had 6 meetings and attendance varies between 10 and 12 people across GEOs and functional groups. At our last meeting I asked how the the members thought the calls were going. And the response was all positive though everyone was awfully quiet. If anyone has ideas on how to jump start the conversation on a conference call I would appreciate any insights. It seems to take people at least 10-15 mins to warm up before they start discussing.

Also I recently read a great white paper on Evolving Communities of Practice by Patricia Gongla and Christine Rizzuto who studied CoPs at IBM Global Services after the communities were active for about 5 years. I was pleased to see that all communities are not the same, have different rates of growth and different levels of participation. From the reading I now characterize CoPs as snow flakes. No two snow flakes are alike, hence no two CoPs are alike. I was also able to get in touch with one of the authors Christine Rizzuto, who consultants with companies and non-profits on setting up CoPs. Christine was a wealth of information and I will be sure to try to learn as much from her as I can.


Communities of Practice – Top Down vs Bottom Up

June 5, 2007

Recently I attended an online event put on by Corporate University Exchange. The topic was Communities of Practice as done by the folks at Caterpillar. The presenter was Paul Walliker, who runs the Caterpillar University and also oversees the Caterpillar Communities of Practice. Paul was gracious enough to answer some of my questions after the presentation.

What I found interesting is that the Caterpillar communities have no direction from on high. Caterpillar’s communities are self starting, almost entirely virtual and include employees as well as dealers and other non-Caterpillar folks. They exist to serve themselves and help their fellow community members and have varying degrees of active participants vs lurkers. They form because the individual members think that there is a need for one. I think he said there were about 5000 communities at Caterpillar.

At HDS, we’ve taken a much different way of developing a community of practice. We have started out with one, and will soon have two more. Thus far our community participation takes the form of monthly conference calls to share and we also use email. The areas for communities to focus on were selected based on business directives for the company. This is not to say that these areas are unimportant to the community members, quite the contrary.

CoPs have been at Caterpillar for sometime, and most of their 300,000 plus employees are a part of at least one. HDS by comparison is around 3000 employees and communities of practice are very VERY new to us. However, both companies have similar expectations for their communities, to help their fellow employee, share information and encourage use and reuse of knowledge, ultimately to make the company more successful.

I am curious how you selected your communities? Top Down or Bottom Up? And if there is a place for both corporate directed communities and individual initiated communities at the same company?


June 5, 2007

I was shocked when I saw the news last week. Dave Roberson had left HDS! I am very disappointed to see that Dave decided to leave HDS. I think one of Dave’s greatest strengths was his accessibility. He actually responded to email with meaningful comments and questions, he actively sought out employees to let him know what HDS could do better. The one and only time I met Dave our conversation was easy and open. I think his efforts to open up communication channels to HDS employees was very positive for the company. While I understand that Dave, like anyone else at any company, must look out for his/her own career, it is unfortunate that he couldn’t continue his 26 year career at HDS just a little longer. However, the storage industry is very small and it would not surprise me if he returns in some way. I wish him the best in his new role at HP.