November 4, 2008

I recently attended the Learning Innovation Network conference in New York city. The conference is a joint venture between Jeanne Meister and the folks over at the Human Capital Institute. The event was hosted by Merrill Lynch.

I was invited to present on my experiences with Communities of Practice at HDS as part of a panel with Tracy Dodd from CA. Together we talked about our experiences with communities and the tools we use to support them. I noted that the folks at CA are using SharePoint 2007 to connect their communities.

The coolest part of the conference was the demo of how Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America) uses mobile learning. Merrill Lynch’s application MoBull (great name!) pushes content to their employee’s Blackberries. Read more about the application at CLO Magazine.

Overall I learned a lot. Having never attended a ‘learning and development’ event it was interesting to see how companies can focus on developing their people. I was even more struck by the 70:20:10 rule. I’ll be posting more on that soon.


CLO Magazine

June 19, 2008

Jeanne Meister at CLO Magazine was looking for experiences on Communities of Practice. Our VP of Academy was nice enough to connect the two of us and the resulting conversation was this article on Communities of Practice in the Workplace.

The article mentions that I’m working on a Community of Practice starter kit. Jeff Maaks now at PragmaticPS and I have been discussing it for some time, so now I guess we have to actually do it!

Boston KM Forum

May 20, 2008

On May 15th, Lynda Moulton of the Boston KM Forum asked me to present on my experiences and journey as I continue to build a KM program at HDS. I focused on how we set about building our first community of practice, a time line for the program and some future goals.

For me, it wasn’t a typical presentation where I speak and there’s no feedback. Since it was a small group and a small room it lead to some great discussion. As I would share my experiences, others would share theirs as well and I took away more as a result!

You can read about what other’s took away:
Knowledge Jolt by Jack Vinson
A Matter of Degree by Sadalit Van Buren
Sims Learning Connection by Ray Sims
I also met David Hobbie author of Caselines, who had some good suggestions for getting funding and support for my KM program.

Many thanks to all who attended and participated in the event, and my apologies for the late start.

Update on Communities of Practice

October 26, 2007

Our first community of practice is now about 10 months old and has about 65 listed members. Our monthly virtual meetings on Webex and conference call average about 20 members and there is a core of 4 members that help to make it work. This CoP is made up of members from Europe, Australia, Asia and North America and from functional groups like Professional Services, Product Management, Product Support, Marketing, Pre-Sales Support and Advanced Consulting. As a group they produce a small amount of IP that can be directly associated with the CoP, averaging a quality IP asset once every two months.

My second CoP is five months old and has 36 listed members, of which an average of 12 attend the monthly Webex and conference calls. This CoP is unique in that 3 employees of a partner company participate regularly to share information. There is a core group of three members that work to make the meetings interesting and lively. This CoP also has regular participation from our Training / Academy group. IP asset output has been limited in this group, averaging about a quality document every three months.

The third CoP is also five months old and has 38 listed members. Attendance at the monthly meetings for this group has been the lowest of the three at 8-10 members per call. Getting attendance from the various functional groups has been a challenge. Though the meetings have had surprisingly detailed and open discussions, more so than the other two CoPs. IP asset output is also a quality document every three months.

Lastly the SharePoint User Group (4th CoP) lists 52 members. This is an entirely virtual group with only an email d-list as the means of communication. I intend to move this to a Forum style group once I am able to secure the right platform. Questions posted to the group usually are answered in less than 30 mins if someone knows the answer. The issue here is SharePoint is new to almost everyone, so there are few true gurus in the group. Membership is also across functional groups and geographies. Once I get enough time and learn more about each member I intend to host a quarterly or bi-monthly user group call. We will be using SharePoint 2007 in the upcoming months and I’m sure that will spur a lot of questions, without immediate answers.

I am reminded about my earlier analogy that CoPs are like snow flakes, no two are alike. Here at HDS we have three CoPs aligned to strategic company goals and one aligned to internal support. Each consists of members in similar functional groups, have similar job descriptions and similar goals, but the “personality” of each CoP is quite different. Feedback on the CoPs from the members and their managers has been positive. There is still much more I think we can accomplish in each group, I am just out of bandwidth to drive more output. Though I’ve found in general that quality output takes time regardless of CoP. CoP participation and contribution must compete with other priorities of its members so I’ve found that it takes three months for any worthwhile guide or content to be completed.

Community Council

September 28, 2007

Its a lot of work pulling together a community of practice. Lots of time is spent communicating with the community members to get them excited about the CoP and contributing to it. Also you have to spend some time tracking some basic metrics on the CoP, keeping up with membership and setting the topics for our monthly meetings.

For my most mature CoP I have decided to implement a Community Council to help bring together the various pieces of the community. The council consists of 4 current CoP members who have been very active in the community. My initial take on the responsibilities for the council are:

1. Actively getting the word out and inviting new members
2. Setting of the monthly meeting agenda
3. Host a meeting from time to time
4. Help with maintaining the CoP SharePoint site
5. Set direction and goals for the CoP
6. 6-month commitment as a council member

I am curious if any of you use or have used in the past a similar structure to help build a CoP.

Sharepoint User Group

August 3, 2007

This past week I launched an HDS SharePoint User group. The idea is to bring together all of the HDS Sharepoint administrators and see if we could learn from each other. Right now I’m in the process of trying to get each user to introduce themselves and list the Sharepoint site they are responsible for. The group also includes some of the IT folks who are responsible for administering and designing the sharepoint sites.

My goals in trying to build this group are to:
1. Provide an avenue for HDS team site admins to get help and questions answered
2. Begin to develop some requirements for SP 2007
3. Have the SP admins demo their sites so we can all learn/see what other groups are doing and ‘steal’ some ideas

I didn’t call this a SharePoint Community of Practice, as most people are familiar with the concept of a user group around a specific application. And I don’t expect that the group will be creating any new IP. I’m also trying a different method of performing introductions through email rather than at a formal meeting. Its also my first try at building a group that doesn’t have a management mandate. So the direction and time commitment will vary widely.

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.