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Re: Value of CoP's and key performance indicators

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  • Dori Digenti
    Claire, ... I m going to go out on a limb here and say that if we are really, really moving toward a networked economy, we are going to have to develop new
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 7, 2000
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      Claire,

      You said:

      One thing is that within Unilever there quite often is a need to show the value
      of CoPs. In some areas we have succeeded in identifying key performance
      indicators (KPI's), but it is often very difficult. What has worked for us is
      to make a clear distinction between internal value that the community is
      delivering to its members (you can just have a survey on how useful they feel
      it is etc) and external value that the community is delivering to the company,
      preferably in terms of $$$. It is the latter that is very difficult. You can
      think about KPI's like number of best practices transfered, or a target of
      replication of certain items should be 0, but to really get that down to $$$ is
      very hard. So do any of you have some good advice on how to do that?
      Linking into that is, how are you communicating the existence and outcomes of
      your CoP to higher management and the rest of the organisation in the first
      place?


      I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if we are really, really moving toward a networked economy, we are going to have to develop new measures of performance. What I mean is that, in speaking of developing what we (speaking here of the collaborative learning network) have called a "collaborative mindset", there is a point where knowledge exchange & creation works through mechanisms that are not measureable.

       In fact, I believe that building communities requires a new mindset: we can't just plop them into the old structures and say, "ok, now we have communities too, and we'll just stick them in the equation, and see what the bottom line does." I don't believe it's that linear at all. I see discussions of ROIs of community, etc., and I'm not saying there's no vailidity, but I am saying that if communities are going to take root in corporate cultures, not just be another fad, then there needs to be a fundamental change in mindset. So, my feeling is that those of us working with communities need to be change agents, understand change processes, and educate about communities in the context of a change process.

      This is easy for me to say as an external; I realize that building communities internally, one must deal with the existing structure and mindsets. Part of the communication to senior management is through those "conversations in the hallway," where a successful company example (like a Cisco, Shell, etc.) is mentioned as a model of how these new ways of learning through community are used. I dont' think it's helpful to intentionally "educate" senior managers; that's asking them to expose their learning anxiety and generally doesn't work.

      What do others think?
      Dori Digenti
      Learning Mastery
      12 Cranberry Lane
      Amherst, MA 01002
      Tel. 413-256-1120
      Fax. 603-994-8683
      Email: digenti@...

      Learning Mastery website:
      Collaborative Learning Network website:

    • John D. Smith
      Claire and Dori and all, One caution I would advance is that we not try to quantify, much less automate, things we don t feel we know how to talk about very
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 7, 2000
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        Claire and Dori and all,
         
        One caution I would advance is that we not try to quantify, much less automate, things we don't feel we know how to talk about very well.  What are the tacit rules about measuring value?  How have those rules been applied to other innovations (aside from communities of practice)?  To what extent can the ways people talk about value within a community be translated into the outside value you talk about.
         
        Reflecting on a point that Richard McDermott made at a Colorado knowledge management roundtable meeting a few weeks ago, it seems to me that who is asking for a measure is very significant.  Is "the spirit of measurement" aimed at giving the benefit of the doubt to innovation and experimentation or to conservation and stability?  As I recall, he advocated (among other things) stirring up a conversation about value, or becoming conversant with the local language.  (Now if he'd just get his nose out of that book he's working on, we'd hear from him on this list... :-)
         
        Is the person asking for measures and justification close (organizationally and culturally) to the community in question or not?  In some organizations I've been looking at recently, it's people who have a job title like "program manager" who are close enough to be interested and understand CoP issues but who at the same time have a breadth of responsibility that's broad enough (in time and in activity) to be a true sponsor.  Measures that would make sense to a program manager might be quite different than those that make sense a couple of corporate levels up.  (A couple of levels up it's not CoPs as a separate initiative, but some kind of KM initiative as a whole, that's being evaluated.)
         
        I guess I'm getting at some of the issues that Dori raises, though I don't think I'd go so far in saying that things can't be measured.  But I certainly do agree that valuing communities of practice can imply some shifts in the way value is assessed within an organization.  Consider, for example, the economic logic of abandoning "slash-and-burn" agriculture in favor of "enclose and cultivate" agriculture.  Pretty big and complex change.
         
        John
        --*
        --* John D. Smith | 503.963.8229 | 2025 SE Elliott Ave., Portland OR 97214-5339
        --* http://www.teleport.com/~smithjd  ICQ: 72789757 cell: 503-975-7799
        --* "Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival."  -- W. Edwards Deming
      • claire-de neree
        Hey Dori, John and others, Thanks for your comments. I agree and disagree with what you said at the same time. I think you are right in that the organisation
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 8, 2000
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          Hey Dori, John and others,

          Thanks for your comments. I agree and disagree with what you said at the same
          time.
          I think you are right in that the organisation requires a new mindset when
          building communities. And, a colleague of me once made a very useful comment,
          'measuring value per definition does not add value'. And I think he is totally
          right. Of course I know that there are many areas in the organisation that are
          at least as vague in the value they add as communities, but yet since they are
          more established nobody doubts whether they have value.

          But I think that's exactly the point, communities are not established yet and
          in order to get it established we do need to go through a change process, like
          Dori mentioned.
          One of the crucial parts in getting it established is to convince people that
          they add value. Once we have done it, we can then move away from that
          discussion.
          Surely our senior managers can also appreciate that not everything is
          measurable straight away, and their point of view is really along the lines
          that the arguments we come up with to show that CoPs add value have to
          withstand the power of logic. So if I want I could introduce some pretty
          croocket but logical arguments. At the same time, the less croocket and the
          more precise in terms of $$$ the better it is. You mention Shell, I know that
          Shell has quite an advanced system to measure the value of their CoPs in $$$!
          And, to be honest I think it is not an unfair request. We are investing money
          in these CoPs, we are using them in strategic areas, so it is important to
          assess whether they are delivering what we want them to deliver. And let's be
          straight, CoPs have the potential of costing a lot of money and not delivering
          much value to the company. Also from a diagnostic point of view it is important
          to see if we need to change anything in the CoPs to have them fullfill their
          promise.

          What do you think?

          Claire



          -----Original Message-----
          From: Dori Digenti [SMTP:digenti@...]
          Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2000 3:27 PM
          To: com-prac@egroups.com
          Subject: [cp] Re: Value of CoP's and key performance indicators

          Claire,

          You said:


          One thing is that within Unilever there quite often is a need to show the value
          of CoPs. In some areas we have succeeded in identifying key performance
          indicators (KPI's), but it is often very difficult. What has worked for us is
          to make a clear distinction between internal value that the community is
          delivering to its members (you can just have a survey on how useful they feel
          it is etc) and external value that the community is delivering to the company,
          preferably in terms of $$$. It is the latter that is very difficult. You can
          think about KPI's like number of best practices transfered, or a target of
          replication of certain items should be 0, but to really get that down to $$$ is
          very hard. So do any of you have some good advice on how to do that?
          Linking into that is, how are you communicating the existence and outcomes of
          your CoP to higher management and the rest of the organisation in the first
          place?



          I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if we are really, really moving
          toward a networked economy, we are going to have to develop new measures of
          performance. What I mean is that, in speaking of developing what we (speaking
          here of the collaborative learning network) have called a "collaborative
          mindset", there is a point where knowledge exchange & creation works through
          mechanisms that are not measureable.

          In fact, I believe that building communities requires a new mindset: we can't
          just plop them into the old structures and say, "ok, now we have communities
          too, and we'll just stick them in the equation, and see what the bottom line
          does." I don't believe it's that linear at all. I see discussions of ROIs of
          community, etc., and I'm not saying there's no vailidity, but I am saying that
          if communities are going to take root in corporate cultures, not just be
          another fad, then there needs to be a fundamental change in mindset. So, my
          feeling is that those of us working with communities need to be change agents,
          understand change processes, and educate about communities in the context of a
          change process.

          This is easy for me to say as an external; I realize that building communities
          internally, one must deal with the existing structure and mindsets. Part of the
          communication to senior management is through those "conversations in the
          hallway," where a successful company example (like a Cisco, Shell, etc.) is
          mentioned as a model of how these new ways of learning through community are
          used. I dont' think it's helpful to intentionally "educate" senior managers;
          that's asking them to expose their learning anxiety and generally doesn't work.

          What do others think?

          Dori Digenti
          Learning Mastery
          12 Cranberry Lane
          Amherst, MA 01002
          Tel. 413-256-1120
          Fax. 603-994-8683
          Email: digenti@...

          Learning Mastery website:
          http://www.learnmaster.com
          Collaborative Learning Network website:
          http://www.collaborative-learning.org
        • Heath Row
          ... Not to be a definitional curmudgeon -- and if this distinction won t be useful in the longrun, I vow to keep my mouth shut -- but I don t think that
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 11, 2000
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            > Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 07:24:57 -0400
            > From: "Nan Shastry" <shastry1@...>
            >
            >The value that comes from building communities is one that is often
            >noticeable only in the long-term. Communities offer immediately:
            >
            >- a place to organize materials (that may be disorganized in larger
            >companies) such as links, presentations, manuals, FAQs, Best Practices,
            >lessons learned and other key information
            >- a place to foster discussion and communication between people who
            >otherwise may not have the time or the inclination to speak with each other
            >or in larger companies, simply cannot find each other. There is a value in
            >this sharing of information because (hopefully) with knowledge and
            >information transfer, you are avoiding past mistakes and improving current
            >processes.
            >- an area for managers (or leaders) to judge the popularity of some product
            >or process within the company or concerns surrounding it that they might not
            >have otherwise heard
            >- an area for sales departments to get the latest information immediately,
            >and if accessed over LANs and dialup or RAS - an opportunity to receive
            >immediate "technical information" from participants if necessary

            Not to be a definitional curmudgeon -- and if this distinction won't
            be useful in the longrun, I vow to keep my mouth shut -- but I don't
            think that "communities" offer the above.

            I think intranets and extranets do. Or community *platforms*. But not
            the communities... The communities might start to *use* the above --
            they may be attracted to the tools and the space in which to work --
            but I think it's extremely important not to confuse the technology
            infrastructures that might (or might not) support, empower, and
            nurture communities of practice with the communities themselves.

            This is one of my bugaboos: mistaking platform for people. I'd focus
            less on the features of the technology and more on the people and
            productivity.

            My 2 cents,
            Heath


            Heath Row | Social Capitalist | Fast Company
            77 N. Washington St. | third floor | Boston, MA 02114
            Vox: 617-973-0358 | http://www.fastcompany.com

            Company of Friends http://www.fastcompany.com/cof
            Community@Work Summit http://www.fastcompany.com/summit

            Save paper. Please don't print this email.
          • John D. Smith
            I agree with Heath on the platform/community confusion. Another thing that I ve gotten confused (with undesirable consequences) is: confusing community
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 11, 2000
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              I agree with Heath on the platform/community confusion. Another thing that
              I've gotten confused (with undesirable consequences) is: confusing community
              MEETINGS with "the community." A community of practice is more than just a
              regular meeting.

              This ties back to the question of assessing value (of the community itself
              and of the support resources provided to the community on the community's
              contribution). If we just assess the platform, or the meeting, or that one
              facet that's easiest to assess because it's salient (e.g., our facilitation
              services), we may miss key outcomes and therefore the big pay-offs. So it's
              a challenge to see, let alone summarize or assess, a multi-dimensonal,
              emergent, community.

              John

              --*
              --* John D. Smith | 503.963.8229 | 2025 SE Elliott Ave., Portland OR
              97214-5339
              --* http://www.teleport.com/~smithjd ICQ: 72789757 cell: 503-975-7799
              --* "Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival." -- W. Edwards
              Deming
            • Jon Sidoli
              Message 6 of 7 , Sep 11, 2000
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                <This is one of my bugaboos: mistaking platform for people. I'd focus
                <less on the features of the technology and more on the people and
                <productivity.

                I am not defending technology over people, but aren't architectures
                inseparable from community formation.
                eg
                a "neighborhood" is much more powerfully defined in a urban setting than a
                sprawling suburban edge city.

                the essence of this group would not exist without e-mail.

                Jon Sidoli
                Knovus Communications
              • Nan Shastry
                I think there is the mistaken assumption here that I somehow was indicating the value of the technology over the value of the people. That s interesting .. but
                Message 7 of 7 , Sep 13, 2000
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                  I think there is the mistaken assumption here that I somehow was
                  indicating the value of the technology over the value of the people.
                  That's interesting .. but erroneous. Technological infrastructure
                  must exist to support the functions of the community and more
                  importantly, to provide the framework for capturing learnings.

                  The access to key individuals IS important because these are
                  not "message groups" or random gatherings, but very specific areas
                  with very specific functions. The value (which is the issue we were
                  discussing) and ROI or justification can only be tied into tangible
                  business aims.

                  As idealistic as it would be to have wonderful communites of people
                  sharing information, gathering and creating - that is not the reality
                  in business. Business needs justification for income invested in any
                  project and I was merely providing ways to tie in the expense of
                  maintaining a community to the end result. People are important and
                  culture is another can of worms altogether. Trying to encourage use
                  of the communities in my opinion is the larger problem. People have
                  long standing work habits that are not necessarily easily changed
                  just because a community exists that may interest them.

                  Nan








                  --- In com-prac@egroups.com, "Jon Sidoli" <jonm2m@h...> wrote:
                  > <This is one of my bugaboos: mistaking platform for people. I'd
                  focus
                  > <less on the features of the technology and more on the people and
                  > <productivity.
                  >
                  > I am not defending technology over people, but aren't architectures
                  > inseparable from community formation.
                  > eg
                  > a "neighborhood" is much more powerfully defined in a urban setting
                  than a
                  > sprawling suburban edge city.
                  >
                  > the essence of this group would not exist without e-mail.
                  >
                  > Jon Sidoli
                  > Knovus Communications
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