Sunday, February 27, 2011

Communities of Practice Leading Perspectives

Knowledge Now is a world class collaboration and CoP program in the United States Air Force. I was recently speaking at a global conference with the Air Commander from USAF where he discussed their Knowledge Now, program.

The program is full of stories of how people have collaborated on the ground to save time, money, resources and lives.

The initial projects was to integrate three existing knowledge sets:

1.) Lessons learned from across the Air Force
2.) The Air Force Deskbook, an annually validated set of processes and procedures, along with forms, key words and references
3.) A Smart Web based training program

The Director of the Center of Excellence for KM and Collaboration at the US Department of Defnse is Randy Adkins and "our collaboration and CoPS have thrived because of our over 300,00 plus people are accomplishing the mission and creating a knowledge market that we have clearly defined - collaborating, sharing, posting information in your communities is vital to our mission. This can help save lives."

Since the launch, over 16,000 active Communities of Practice (CoPs) are flourishing, with strong participation across the ranks, over 100,000 visitors viewing over 12 million pages a month, with 10,000 new users per month, more than 575,000 users since the program's launch and is not the largest implementation and most successful CoP environment in the Federal Government.

Lessons Learned

Randy shared some of the key lessons learned in their early days were:

1.) Identify the business purpose or value - be clear and compelling.
2.) Security and sharing are not compatible - better to be open than closed and trust your people.
3.) Organizational culture grows and is enhanced through collaboration.
4.) Experienced human support is critical for sustainability.

Key Seeding Strategies

1.) Work with the willing, not the wounded or the dead!
2.) Engage C level and middle management stakeholders - if they are not role modelling - few will follow!
3.) Focus on ensuring validated content add values.
4.) Include expert profiling and people search features that connect the right people FAST.

If I knew what I know now, seeding these are number ones:

1.) Focusing on creating a nurturing and sharing obsessed culture is critical
2.) Be creative about the metrics and have fun with them
3.) Make everything incredibly easy and simple to use -- avoid feature creep!

Invest in sustaining marketing and communication strategies and constantly engage the managers in the learning process, especially middle management as if they are not pumped - no one is going anywhere fast.

Creating a sense of urgency will require the most senior executives engaged and seeding messages around faster faster faster and seeding ongoing incentives and recognitions.

Sustaining the dialogue will be critical for operational success.

Perhaps is most important message shared and that we like to hear is: Engage with the best and the brightest in Adoption and Change programs at the seeding stage, they know how to influence the technology design, and get things up running effectively, and won't get dragged into technical perfection.

Our firm specializes in collaboration, innovation and next generation models. We just finished writing a strong leading practices book on CoPs and this can be found at:

We just finished doing some of the most innovative CoP and Customer Excellence planning at RIM, as noted at the IBM Lotus Sphere events held in Florida, and most recently in Toronto.

We were generously recognized by Rex Lee, Director of eCollaboration at RIM, our client who ensured Helix had the opportunity to do the global strategy for their collaboration and CoP programs. We were in a fortunate position as IBM allowed us to be subcontracted under them and do the work as RIM asked for us, putting aside their internal best talent to allow Helix and our secret sauce and methods take the lead.

RIM's program is now one of the most innovative collaboration and CoP environment's scaling rapidly worlwide, why everyone is asking us now.

Three key reasons we say are:

1.) RIM's leadership had the vision and empowered their people to engage and hire the best.
2.) RIM's center of excellence vision (full time resources) were embedded to sustain the program from the get go and are now approaching over 8 FT resources, plus certifying in each line of business collaboration advisors to get the embedded behaviors in the culture, something we knew was critical as we are also specialists in organizational transformation. This does not include the technical, architecture and other support resources.
3.) We seeded all the human performance systems to be aligned - these projects are not about technology and we see too often IT executives making the wrong decision as they get enamored with the tech.

Helix has the depth in tech in both the IBM Lotus Collaboration and Microsoft solutions - but distinguishes us is are three key factors:

1.) We lead with business value and case for action - client messaging as the foundation - we get the vision right first.
2.) We ensure stakeholder engagement = skin in the game in the seeding processes.
3.) We use agile iterative design and scrumming tactics to engage the organization culture to own vs do to them.
4.) We know the most important filter is "finding the right experts - so investing in profiling and incentives here - is number one!

So to achieve a winning Collaboration solution like AFKN or RIM, contact us.

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