Inside Knowledge Magazine /Knowledge Management Magazine Archive
Volume 10 Issue 9
It has been some time since Inside Knowledge took the spotlight to communities of practice (CoPs), but this month, we’re shining the light very closely on this aspect of knowledge management (KM) with two excellent reports, one from Dr Richard McDermott and the other from Jerry Ash.
It used to be believed that CoPs were delicate flowers that needed to be carefully nurtured by their own members – and shielded from the heavy hand of management. Staff would be active contributors, helping their colleagues and freely sharing knowledge, just as long as there were not too many senior managers nosing around, checking up and imposing targets.
That may still, indeed, be the prevailing view, but thoughts are changing and the latest thinking is fully reflected in this month’s issue.
Most exciting, perhaps, is our cover feature from CoPs specialist McDermott in which he reveals the first fruits of his three-year research project into a number of communities around the world and across different sectors. The story he tells is quite nuanced, but will be invaluable for everyone involved in KM.
On the one hand, he says, CoPs are not anarchist organisations – they don’t just grow and thrive on their own, contrary to the early conventional wisdom. But they do need careful management attention in order for organisations to flourish as a result of their activity. That means choosing leaders carefully and granting them the time and resources to nurture their communities.
But management does need to take an interest and to ensure that communities remain focused on organisational goals – and senior managers still need to give members the space in which they can feel free to ask what might be regarded as stupid questions of their peers.
Jerry’s report provides a perfect accompaniment to McDermott’s work, examining CoPs management in practice with his in-depth case study on Fluor, the engineering and services company well-known for its pioneering work in KM.
I hope you don’t just enjoy the two articles (and the rest of the magazine, of course), but derive much valuable knowledge yourself.
Feature: KM gurus
The guru or wise man has held a special fascination for different cultures throughout history. Stories picture seekers of knowledge fording rivers and ascending perilous mountains in a bid to find the one person who can provide the wisdom they seek. Today, those seekers of knowledge might attend a conference, read a blog or even drop their favoured guru an e-mail.
Case study: The Australian Defence Force
The TARDIS holds the key to knowledge productivity at the Australian Defence Force despite an unusually high rate of staff turnover.
Case report: Fluor
Fluor is a serial award-winner for its knowledge-management systems. Jerry Ash examines the strategy that has made Fluor such a famous name in KM.
Cover story: 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.
Last word: Highlighting the best
Sorting the useful information from the rubbish on the internet is an everyday challenge. Can social-networking sites, such as Clipmarks, help? By Jan Wyllie.
EI cover feature: Federated records management
Federated records management promises to help organisations manage a bigger volume of records than ever across a range of source applications. By Jessica Twentyman.
Knowledgeworks: Slipping up
When a KM programme has been completed, it still requires ongoing leadership to keep it from slipping up, says Jerry Ash.
The knowledge: Sam Marshall
With his understanding of the technical and cultural impediments to collaboration, Sam Marshalls ambition is to purge organisations of the systems and processes that erode the enthusiasm we have for our work.
Opinion: Practically speaking
Widgets, gadgets, badges and blidgets. What are they and what can they do for you? By Lynda Rathbone
Book review: Coaching the Team at Work
Coaching has, in many respects, come to be regarded as a universal panacea to many organisational challenges. But how much do we know about how coaching works and to what extent it can impact on organisational improvement and learning?
The Gurteen perspective: Just do it!
Have you ever read any of the many self-help books that tell you that if you wish to succeed or get something done you should just start doing it? One of my favourite quotes on this matter is from author Julie Cameron where she says, leap and the net will appear. Ive come to believe this is true.
Thought leader: Ten mistakes transformational leaders make
Why did presidential candidate Al Gore fail so badly in 2000, yet become a big hit in 2006? Simple he failed to understand the language of leadership during the election and committed ten common leadership mistakes.