Getting the balance right between CoP leadership behaviours and delegated activities

I’m finding that some Communities of Practice (CoPs) at work are lacking leadership even though they have a community leader.

This is a broad statement, and there can be many reasons for this, but in this post I want to focus on one particular reason.

This has happened on several CoPs where the team leader has appointed their personal assistant or a nominated team member to set up a CoP…or the team leader has borrowed a person from another team leader as they like how they designed their CoP.
NOTE: Personally I would be inspired by CoPs with active and frequent conversation, over a well designed website.

The reason for their approach is that the community leader is technically proficient at designing and using the CoPs. The problem is that this person is not a Subject Matter Expert (SME), and does not have the interest, passion or time to facilitate the community in a non-technical way.

Facilitation is not just technical design/support, part of it is monitoring how people use

John’s observations at work also reflect my experiences. Getting the balance right between CoP leadership and technical facilitation skills can be difficult to get right in one person. Unfortunately, in some online communities or communities that involve some element of online or computer mediated communication it can be difficult to separate out the technical facilitation entirely.

In a past role, to help deal with this issue I came up with a model that divided the world into CoP leadership behaviours (and skills) that were non-negotiable and other activities that could be delegated. This was designed to make it clear to CoP leaders what exactly was expected of them by us and also their community. It also allowed me to design appropriate systems, policies and training to support them.

However, I’m not going to give you a dot point list – these leadership behaviours and delegated activities were designed specifically for that situation, based on feedback, surveys and other analysis of the CoPs in that organisation. In another organisation, these leadership behaviours and delegated activities would be different.

Incidentally, John’s point that he “would be inspired by CoPs with active and frequent conversation, over a well designed website.” was an issue that came up during our investigation. It was critical that we could tell that story based on feedback from community members as part of the process of refocusing CoP activities where they actually counted, rather than simply our (educated) opinion.

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