Saturday, May 31, 2008

Measuring Collaboration

Your company does not need to be very large before it starts grappling with two significant problems that plague the knowledge economy:
  1. How to maintain and improve effective teamwork between people that are often separated by geography or time.
  2. How to share timely and useful information across the organization, reusing existing knowledge and channeling emerging experience.
Photo Credit: PMThink! Blog
Technology Helps

Fortunately, Web 2.0 technologies and emerging communication practices are helping slow the growth of these corporate tumors. However, it takes more than just technology to reverse the trends. Effective design, initial content seeding and proactive facilitation are critical factors for re-firing in the innovation engine.

Is it working? There's only one way to know... metrics.

Measuring for Success

A successful community generally has two hallmarks: a high level of interaction between the participants, and a growing body of valuable content. That's a wonderful end-state, but how do we assess the current state of collaboration? Here are some criteria critical to success:
  • Discovery - How easy is it for others to see what your community is currently doing or intends to do?
  • Participation - How easy is it for others to contribute to the community?
  • Promotion - How do you help others connect with your community and stay informed?
  • Production - How valuable are the contributions of the community?
Of course, you can replace "communities" with "team" if it fits better with your model. Here are some questions you might use to evaluate these aspects further:


  1. Do you have a central community info portal?
  2. Is your portal web accessible?
  3. Can your portal be viewed by anyone?
  4. Is the purpose and identity of the community clearly stated?
  5. Is the current activity of the community visible or obvious?
  6. Is it clear who is facilitating the community?
  7. Is it clear who is involved in the community?
  8. Is it easy to explore the content of the community?
  9. Is significant content emphasized and accessible?
  1. Is it obvious how someone would start a discussion with the community?
  2. Is it obvious how someone would join a discussion in the community?
  3. Is it obvious how someone would stay informed on news and activity?
  4. Is it clear on how to gain the basic knowledge that would help someone engage?
  5. Is the tone and language welcoming to potential participants?
  6. Do you monitor community interaction levels and trends?
  1. Is your community linked to other important areas visited by potential participants?
  2. Do you have a process to identify and follow up with visitors to your community?
  3. Do you have a published communication channel for your community?
  4. Do you monitor and manage subscriptions to your communication channel?
  1. Is it clear how the community provides value in the larger context?
  2. Do you monitor content usage?
  3. Is there an obvious way to submit feedback and suggestions?
  4. Do you have a process for canvassing or interviewing your stakeholders?
  5. Do you have a process for implementing continuous improvement?
Jump the Hurdle

Armed with the right questions, make it a priority to put in place measurements that demonstrate how you can benefit from your efforts to empower collaboration.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Knowledge Factory

SECI Model at Fuji Xerox - from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

A Model for Learning

When researching knowledge management and organizational learning you're bound to come across the SECI model and the work of the Nonaka and Takeuchi. Appreciating the value of tacit knowledge (carried in people's minds) and explicit knowledge (codified or articulated) is paramount for the knowledge based industries.

The authors of the SECI model emphasize that as valuable as the knowledge assets may be, the process of creating knowledge and how it is transformed is where the real potential lies. Simply managing existing knowledge is not enough.

The Heart of the Machine

Intuitively we know that human talent is the critical success factor in hi-tech and other knowledge based contexts. Creativity and innovation are primarily human functions and are hard to systematize but are essential for ongoing success.

Additionally, the picture below demonstrates how all significant knowledge transformation, and ultimately it's conversion to business revenue, is primarily a human function. In fact, I would suggest that the individual human mind is the core, the engine of the knowledge to value transformation process. Effective teamwork and collaboration accelerate and amplify this individual capability, but the processing is still ultimately individual.

Empowered for Value

Is your organization designed to optimize the knowledge to value transformation? Or are most of your energies centered around managing your existing knowledge assets? Perhaps it's time to put the fuel back in the real engine.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Why Wiki? Part 4 - Publish As You Write, Together!

What looks like a doc, sounds like a doc, but doesn't behave like a doc? It's a Google Doc! Google Docs, along with similar offerings from other web based vendors, is an innovative collaboration environment that behaves a lot more like a Wiki than a traditional document management system.

Mike Riversdale captures this eloquently in his post, "Google Docs ... so what - the ONE reason why you should care"

Wikis live by understanding the connectivity of their environment and the innate desire of 'words' to love all and be loved by all. In the future there will be no difference between a Google Doc and a wiki page ... in fact, it may be so close already it's just a matter of semantics and opinion.

Collapsing the Publishing Process

One of the dynamics of a Wiki is that whatever you create is immediately, or very quickly, published. This means that knowledge can be communicated as quickly as it is captured, significantly outpacing the change in knowledge demand.

To appreciate how dramatic this effect is, consider this example: I recently collaborated with a partner using a Google Docs Spreadsheet. Not only could we see each other's presence on-line and chat using the collaboration window, I could see exactly what cell his cursor was on as he moved around in the spreadsheet, and we could simultaneously update the sheet, immediately seeing all the changes!

Everyone in the Pool

This effect is amplified, by the openness of the environment. Not only does everyone get to see things right away, they get to play! Depending on permissions, like the example above, they can all contribute and increase the value of the knowledge we are sharing.

Staying Out of the Danger Zone

This capability has a downside as well. Having a managed create, review, edit and publish process has its merits. In situations where communication delivery has high impact, it is imperative to balance the risks of misinformation versus the immediacy of publication. However, even in these situations, valuable knowledge assembled in Wikis can be quickly harvested, accelerating the formal processes for delivering sensitive or critical communication.

Image Credit: Wikinomics Blog - Wiki collaboration leads to happiness