Example Community of Practice charters

Every community of practice should have a charter, but what does a good charter look like?

Image from wikimedia commons

One of the main success factors for a community of practice is a charter.

A charter is a definitional/governance document, created by the community members, which describes what the community is for, and how it will work. Often a draft is created by the community core team, or by the people present at the community launch event, and that draft is then refined over time through discussion within the community.

The community charter usually contains the following elements:

  • Community Purpose – what the community is for; it’s high level aims and vision, and business case if appropriate 
  • Objectives – what the community is trying to achieve in concrete terms; things that you can measure
  • Scope – which areas of practice knowledge are in scope, and which are not
  • Processes – the ways in which the community will operate in order to share, use and co-create knowledge
  • Tools – the technologies the community plans to use 
  • Roles – who does what (names of the community leader, sponsor, core team etc)
  • Principles and Behaviours – which underpin the community.
Let’s look at some charter for real communities of practice, and see what they cover. My favorite is the third one.
The Community Charter for the PMI Agile Community of Practice contains the following elements:

  • Vision of Who We Are (a community of highly accountable project professionals, improving skills, expanding minds, and continuously raising the day-to-day effectiveness and professional satisfaction of project teams across the world.)
  • Mission (To equip PMI Members with Agile skills and knowledge)
  • Values
  • Goals & Objectives
    • Resources
    • Committed from our sponsor
  • Expected from community stakeholders 
  • Roles
  • Working/Operating Agreements
I like the way resources has been split out, and I like the way “values” and “operating agreements” are differentiated.

The Wisconsin Heart health community charter is a 9-page document containing the following sections:

  • Overview
  • Justification
  • Scope
    • Vision (Wisconsinites living with healthy hearts)
    • Mission (To improve cardiac health related outcomes across Wisconsin – especially a reduction in hypertension – through the advancement of best practices, establishment of strong organizational relationships, and the mutual activities of community of practice members)
    • Goals
  • High level requirements
  • Major Deliverables
  • Participation
    • Benefits
    • Norms
    • Ground Rules
  • Assumptions
  • Constraints
  • Risks
  • Roles and Responsibilities 
  • Facilitator

For me, this is just a little too long, and many of the sections which could be single sentences, are paragraphs instead. However it is certainly a very well though through charter, and there are several charters out there that use a similar template.

The Restraint Reduction Network community of practice

Without using a formal template, the page linked above defines

  • The Vision of the community (We are a community seeking to equip one another to reduce restrictive interventions through using person-centred, proactive, preventative and therapeutic strategies)
  • The Mission (We share and discuss resources, tools, policies, research and personal experiences to encourage and inspire one another as we seek to improve quality of life for those at risk of restraint and the people who interact with them on a daily basis)
  • The tools the community uses,
  • and a really nice “Rules of Engagement” Graphic linked below.

I think I like this charter best because it is concise and straightforward, and the Rules of Engagement poster is inspiring, simple, and can be printed and posted on a wall as a reminder of the way the community works.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Pendulum swings in KM, and how to avoid them

The problem with Dualism in KM is that it leads to pendulum swings in terms of focus. Here is how to avoid this.

Image form wikimedia commons

There can be quite a lot of Dualism in KM – seeing KM in terms of two mutually exclusive opposites which require a choice. Examples might be

  • A strategy of Connecting (connecting people) vs a Strategy of Collecting (collecting content)
  • KM introduction from the Top-down, or Bottom up
  • KM all about People, or KM is all about Technology
  • A focus on Conversation, or a focus on Content
  • Optimisation for for search or optimisation for browse?

Of course this Dualism is wrong, its always a case of “both/and” rather than “either/or”, and the trouble with Dualism is that when you choose one alternative you neglect the other. Over time, you realise you are missing something and switch your attention to the “opposite pole”.

As a result, KM can suffer from pendulum swings.

To give you an example, one company for many years had a KM approach focused almost entirely on Communities of Practice. After a series of project overruns, they  introduced a framework for project KM, which had a fantastic impact on results.

Over the subsequent years this approach became taken for granted – seen as “embedded”. The high level champion left, and was replaced by a lower level champion, who was replaced again by someone even lower, and gradually attention and governance slipped. The framework began to be ignored, new management came in, and said “project KM doesn’t work – lets put our attention on Communities of Practice instead”.

And so the pendulum swang, with a frequency of a decade.

Maybe in 5 more years there will be a series of project overspends, the spotlight will turn again onto project KM, and the pendulum will begin it’s back-stroke.

How do you guard against this? How do you ensure that KM is given an even-handed and consistent treatment?

A clue comes from a comment from John Donahue on one of my blog posts. John says

I’ve been working with US Army KM programs for some time and even with this structure (of strategic teams) there’s a tendency for KM to slip into IT/Portal management. Fortunately this strategic level guidance allows units to self-assess, and “adjust fire” as they’d say. I don’t believe Army KM would have been so successful without this formalized structure to keep the program on track.

The formalised  strategic guidance – KM Governance – stops the KM pendulum swinging towards IT and Portals. And certainly the company I mentioned above doesn’t have the strategic level guidance.

If you want to avoid the pendulum of fashion when it comes to KM, then you need to set up, and maintain, the strategic level governance that can keep it on the straight and narrow.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

If you outsource knowledge work to contractors, make sure they have KM in place

If you outsource knowledge work, make sure the contract requires the contractor to have KM in place. 

A few years ago I was running a multi-day lessons capture event with a company that had recently commissioned construction of a large production plant.

 Here’s a story that the client project manager told at the event.

“This plant was based on a similar plant built by the same contractor, and on that previous plant they had made a big construction error – in one of the emergency release lines, they had put a non-return valve in backwards. Had there been an emergency, this could have been a disaster. We spotted the error, fixed the valve, and we discussed it, together with other lessons, with the contractor at the end-of-project lessons capture session.  

So this time, when I was walking the lines, I thought ‘shall I bother to check that valve? Surely they would not have put it in the wrong way round again? But I thought – better safe than sorry – and blow me down, it was the wrong way round again!”

Disaster averted for a second time, but what’s the moral of the story?

The moral is that when we outsource work (to a contractor, or to an outsource provider) we are also outsourcing the knowledge of how to do the work. We  expect the contractor or the provider to bring the knowledge needed to deliver the work properly.

And when we outsource the knowledge, we outsource the management of the knowledge as well. We expect the contractor or provider to learn – to constantly improve their knowledge – to never repeat mistakes.

So what went wrong on this case? Who was to fault?

Obviously the contractor was at fault; they should have had a proper KM system in place, with closed-loop lesson-learning, which eliminated repeat mistakes. And there is nothing worse for a contractor than having a client with a better KM system than you – who knows your repeat mistakes before you do!

However the client was equally at fault. They assumed that “Surely they would not have put it in the wrong way round again? Surely they would have learned?”.

But this was an assumption. There was nothing in the contract that stipulated a KM system, and no audit of the contractors learning ability. The client just assumed, and we all know what Assume makes!

The moral of this tale is that if you outsource major work, you also outsource the knowledge needed to do the work, and you need to outsource the management of that knowledge as well. Therefore make sure that your contractor has a top-notch, independently audited and verified, KM and learning system, with the sort of closed-loop learning that eliminates repeat mistakes.

Make sure this “effective KM” is stipulated in the contract.  require your contractor to demonstrate an effective KM approach, compliant with ISO 30401:2018.

And its still worth walking the lines and checking as well – just in case!

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Fully embedded KM is when people can’t get away with not doing it

Knowledge Management is fully embedded when refusing to do it is not an option.

He'll never get away with itLet me give you an analogy, from the world of Safety. A couple of years ago I was conducting knowledge management exercises at a gas plant in the Niger Delta.

In places like this, safety is a huge consideration; both personal safety (keeping individuals safe in a hazardous environment), and process safety (keeping the environment from becoming even more hazardous).

For example, it was mandatory to wear a hard hat and safety boots when on site, no matter how uncomfortable these might be in the African sun.

One of the engineers was giving me a tour of the plant, and we were on a high walkway when he spotted a worker who had climbed a tall tower and was sitting at the top, resting in the sun, without his hat and boots on. Immediately the engineer stopped the tour, and ordered this guy to put his safety equipment back on and report to his foreman about the break of safety regulations.

It did not matter that the worker was safe, and that nothing was about to fall on his head or his feet – it was that such behaviour – such a breach of the safety policy – was not permitted. One small breach for the sake of resting in the sun could lead to a larger breach, and then to something dangerous. There was zero tolerance, and everyone was involved in reporting breaches. Even out of sight on a tall tower it was not allowed, and anyone (like my engineer) who spotted it would take action. If this worker could get away with avoiding the safety rules, then others would know, and would copy, and soon there would be a reduction in safety discipline, and accidents would happen.

Now, if we truly want Knowledge Management to be embedded, then we will eventually need a similar attitude.

Imagine if lesson-learning were truly embedded in the project lifecycle for example.  Imagine that the leadership of your organisation had realised the cost of repeat mistakes and rework, and had made it clear in their Knowledge Management policy that they expected every project to identify, document and share lessons and knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the organisation.

Then imagine what would happen if people could get away without doing it.

As soon as one project manager realised that they could skip lesson-learning with no sanction, then the others would also realise, and would copy, and soon there would be a reduction in learning discipline, and repeat mistakes and rework would creep back in. This breach of the Knowledge Management policy, this neglect of lesson learning, could cost the organisation millions of dollars and put other projects at risk. It should not be permitted.

If you are serious about Knowledge Management, and if you want it fully embedded in your organisational practices and your organisational culture, then you need to aim, eventually, for a time when people cannot get away with not doing it.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The problem with half-way governance for KM

KM Governance on its own is like a half-built bridge. It gets you nowhere.

Half built bridge
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © David Lally – geograph.org.uk/p/2266263

KM governance is a crucial part of KM, and much of the new ISO KM standard deals with issues of governance, such as leadership, support, and the creation of a KM Policy. However governance on its own is not enough, you have to go farther and tell people exactly how to fulfill the expectations set by the governance system. Let me give you an example.

I was working with a major company, doing an assessment of their knowledge management capability.

One of the things we always check for is Governance of Knowledge Management – whether people know what they are expected to be doing in KM terms, whether they have the resources to do it, and whether the incentive system is aligned with KM expectations (i.e. are they disincetivised, and could they get away without doing KM, and still avoid getting into trouble).  These are all elements within the ISO KM standard.

I was reviewing the alignment of project management and KM within this organisation, and particularly the habit of capturing knowledge from projects.

“Yes”, they said. “We are expected to capture knowledge. It says so in our project guidelines”.

When I checked they were absolutely correct, there was a line in there about “all projects will document lessons learned from their activity”. However there was no guidance on HOW to do this.  As a result, there were a variety of approaches, the most common being for the project manager to jot some things down in a spreadsheet, and file it in the project files.

As regular readers now, this is far from being an effective lesson-capture process, and the lessons were sketchy, inconsistent, poor quality, and very hard to retrieve.

So the company had gone halfway towards having a KM policy for projects (albeit a sketchy one, hidden within the project management guidelines), but had not gone all the way in defining what actually needed to happen, not on quality-controlling the content, nor on ensuring that the lessons could be and would be re-used.

Governance is crucial, but needs to be accompanied by well-defined processes, roles and technology if it is to fully span the KM gap.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

"You are obligated to ask" – Elon Musk’s email

Even in the most progressive organisations, sometimes the boss needs to drive a “culture of asking.” Here is how Elon Musk did it.

Image from wikimedia commons

Musk’s email is quoted here, and seems to have been sent in response to a dissatisfaction with default communication and knowledge sharing habits at Tesla.

There are 6 things I want to point out regarding this email, which I have highlighted in the text of the email

below.

  1. Musk is setting the expectation for lateral communication and knowledge flow, rather than the vertical communication seen in many other organisations (which I describe as knowledge hedge-hopping).
  2. He makes his expectation very clear, and backs it up by spelling out the consequences (“Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company”).
  3. He places this expectation in the context of problem-solving and asking for help (“Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company”). Musk is looking to drive a culture of “open asking”.
  4. He makes this expectation very eplicit. It is not a request, it is an obligation.
  5. He separates out this behaviour of problem-driven asking from “random chit-chat”, and sees it as key to competitiveness.
  6. He recognises that the default “hedge-hopper KM” behaviour is driven by a natural human tendencies which needs to be “fought” in support of the corporate good.
Here is the email quoted in the link above (the text in bold below was highlighted by me, not by Elon Musk)

Subject: Communication Within Tesla 

There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company. 

Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding. 

Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility. 

One final point is that managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept. 

Thanks, Elon

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What’s the reporting line for KM in the organisation?

When you are setting up a KM function, where should it report?  Here are some statistics about the most common reporting set-ups.

The statistics are drawn from all respondents to our 2014 and 2017 global KM surveys. Any any multiple responses from the same company have been removed from the dataset, leaving 503 responses.

The results can be seen above.

The main conclusion is that there is no single common reporting line for KM.
  • The most popular reporting line (20% of respondents) is for KM to report directy to senior management. 
  • The second most common response (16%) was “Other” – indicating that there are a vast number of reporting lines for KM
  • Third was Operations (12%)
  • Then IT (9%)
  • Then Strategy (7%)
Then there are a whole number of other options.

I tried cross-correlating these with the scores for “KM satisfaction” but there was no correlation – almost all the reporting lines were associated with a satisfaction rating of between 2.5 and 3 out of 5.

Respondents in the “Other” category include
  • Health and Wellbeing Division 
  • Knowledge which is different than L&D 
  • Different departments, depending on Business Unit 
  • Information Technology + Business transformation program 
  • Services coordination 
  • Finance 
  • Corporate Services 
  • Dual: COO and Firmwide 
  • Managing Partner – Legal 
  • Knowledge and Information Services 
  • Fire & Incident Management 
  •  Corporate 
  • Naac 
  • Executive Committee 
  • Dirección de Estudios 
  • Management and Coordination 
  • Corporate communications and Knowledge management 
  • Finance 
  • Audience in the CoP Meetings 
  • CEO 
  • Each Division has its own KM team and report to the director of division 
  • Customer Support 
  • Research Analytics and Knowledge 
  • enabling the delivery of products and services to customers through long term strategy, planning, and infrastructure delivery. 
  • Sport Science and Medicine Director 
  • Customer services entral Services – Information Management 
  • Innovation and academic development 
  • KM 
  • Business Systems 
  • Business Services 
  • Business Development & Wider Knowledge function 
  • Quality and Operation department 
  • Distributed model – embedded within organizations 
  • Technical Services 
  • Corporate University
  • each department has its own KM strategy 
  • Management Development Department 
  • Private offices group (ministerial) 
  • Client Experience (formerly learning and development) 
  • Combination of several departments 
  • Directly to the Portfolio Management, 
  • KM and strategic projects team 
  • Corporate Resources 
  • all part-time and from diverse departments. 
  • Planning and evaluation 
  •  Secretariat Office of the Deputy 
  • Multiple projects flowing up to the Program Manager 
  • No clear ownership – is integrated into our business, not even named up as KM 
  • My organisation is within IT. However, we have way more mature KM organization lead by an Ex. Dir. which is part of the manufacturing division. R&D is also starting something more formally. 
  • Education Research 
  • Business Excellence 
  • Safety 
  • HSE…. Portfolio Division 
  • Future Business Enablement 
  • Policy analysis & Research 
  • Professional Services and Technical Support 
  • The name of my function is Technical Excellence and it is a corporate function. 
  • It could be classed as Business Improvement,  Separate reporting line, Strategy. Performance 
  • Policy 
  • there is no KM role as such for the company as a whole – we report to the CLO 
  • Consumer 
  • Market Insights and Business Intelligence teams 
  • HR and Engineering dept/division 
  • Strategy, innovation and risk management 
  • Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning 
  • Science Group 
  • Perfomance 
  • Planning and Evaluation 
  • Management 
  • Administration 
  • Technical planning and projects 
  • volunteers and strategy 
  • Corporate Resources 
  • Education and quality 
  • Institutional partnerships 
  • Corporate Services 
  • Capability and Service Managemnt 
  • I answer to the Service Line Leader 
  • Supply Chain 
  • Customer operations director 
  • Corporate Development

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Knowledge Management in the corporate Code of Conduct – Example

One powerful enabler for Knowledge Management is a clear statement from senior management. Here is an example.

Medco Energi is a publicly listed Indonesian oil and gas company, founded in 1980. Winners of a MAKE award in 2007, they have had a KM program in place for many years, led and supported by my Knoco Indonesia colleague, Sapta.

Medco Energi has done something quite unusual in terms of Knowledge Management Governance, which is to put Knowledge Management within their “Good Corporate Guidelines and Code of Conduct”  document, dated 2014. 

Within the Code of Conduct we can find the following:

Knowledge Management Knowledge management is a set of proactive activities with the aim of supporting the organization in developing, integrating, disseminating and implementing its knowledge. 

Knowledge management is a continuous process to understand the organization’s need for knowledge, the location of knowledge, as well as the process for improving knowledge. The goal of knowledge management is to increase the organization’s ability to perform its key processes effectively.  

Knowledge management requires commitment to advance the organization’s effectiveness, in addition to improve opportunities for its members. 

Thie current focus seems to be on sharing knowledge externally, as the code of conduct goes on to demonstrate, with the following guidelines on external knowledge sharing:

Participation in Lecturing, Training, Radio and Television Broadcast 
MedcoEnergi encourages its employee to give lectures or participate in training or radio and television broadcasts. However, prior to engaging in such activity, employee must obtain the approval of his/ her Line Director if he/she use document and information relating to MedcoEnergi. The employee is permitted to receive remuneration from such activity. If an employee acts as a representative of MedcoEnergi, he/she then must report any received remuneration to his/her direct supervisor for further deliberation.  

Publishing of Articles or Books 
Every employee is permitted to publish articles in journals, daily newspapers, magazines, or other print media and/or publish reports and/or books without affecting the working time. Any profit from and copyright of publications that is not related to MedcoEnergi shall remain the property of the employee. In the case of writing, where the employee uses documents relating to MedcoEnergi, he/she must obtain the approval of his/her Line Director prior to publishing the article and the copyright of the published article or book shall become the property of MedcoEnergi.

Even with this purely external focus, it is still good to see KM as a significant Code of Conduct item.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Expectation, metrics, rewards, support – the KM Governance quartet

Four elements make up Knowledge Management Governance. Expectations, metrics, rewards and support.

Governance is often the missing element in Knowledge Management, and although it is one of the four legs on the KM table, it is the one that gets least attention.  This is partly because governance is not easy, and partly because there is no clear published model for KM governance.

Governance represents the things that the organisation does, and the management of the organisation does, that drive the KM behaviours and adoption of the KM Framework. We see four elements to governance – expectations, metrics, rewards and support.

Knowledge Management Expectations.

The first thing management needs to do in terms of governance is to set the expectations for KM. This requires a set of clear corporate expectations for how knowledge will be managed in the organization, including accountabilities for the ownership of key knowledge areas, and the definition of corporate KM standards, KM principles and KM policies. These documents should tell everyone what is expected of them in Knowledge Management terms.

Different departments can then add to these expectations, and individuals with KM roles will have KM expectations written into their job description (see examples here).  Within a project, the expectations are set by the Knowledge Management Plan.  Expectations may also be set using the competency framework.

If there are no clear expectations, nobody will know what they should be doing in KM terms.

Knowledge Management Metrics.

If standards and expectations have been set, then the organisation needs to measure against these expectations. For example, if the corporate expectation is that every project will conduct a lesson learned session, and every knowledge topic has an owner, then you should measure whether this is happening.
There are other types of KM metric as well – see these blog posts for more discussion.

If there are no metrics, then nobody will know what people are actually doing in KM.

KM rewards and recognition.

If you are measuring people’s performance against the expectations, then this needs to be linked to rewards and recognition. If people do what they are expected to, this should be reflected in their rewards. If they don’t do what is expected, then there should be a sanction. See these blog posts for a wider discussion of incentives.

If there are no links between metrics and reward/recognition, then nobody will care about the metrics. Particularly important are the sanctions for not doing KM. If people can dodge their expectations and get away with it, then this sends a strong message that the expectations are actually options, and not expectations at all.

Knowledge Management support

It is unfair to set expectations, measure people against them, and then reward people based on these measures, unless you make the expectations achievable in the first place. Therefore you need to set up the systems, the training, the coaching, reference materials and so on, that make it possible for people to meet their expectations.

If there is no support, then you have set up an unfair system which people will resent.

Together, the quartet of Expectations, Metrics, Reward/recognition and Support form the basis of an effective Knowledge Management governance system.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

What the NASA CKO said about KM policies

Knowledge Management policies are still rare, and opinion on them is divided. Here is what the CKO of NASA said about the topic.

Image from Wikimedia commons

Knowledge Management policies are coming.

When the ISO KM standard is in place, next year or the year after, a KM policy becomes a requirement under the standard. This requirement is not unique to KM – all the ISO Management System standards reauire a policy. After all – can an organisation be said to have adopted a management system if there is no policy?

However many people are resistant to KM policies. “Added beauracracy” they say. “We have a strategy – we don’t need a policy” they say. “We are getting by OK without one” they say.

The NASA CKO, Ed Hoffman (now retired from NASA) used to be similarly sceptical, but is now a big convert. Here is what he says on the matter.

“A policy sends a number of messages.

First, it declares that we, as an organization, recognize what’s important.

Second, it identifies a community of people who are held accountable for taking action.

Third, a policy indicates that the organization and its leaders want to make sure things are done the right way. It sets a course without being overly prescriptive.

Fourth, excellent organizations make a practice of communicating what they really stand for”.

This is hard to argue with really. The policy is “a statement of what we really stand for”, and if you don’t have a policy for KM, do you really stand behind the topic?

The NASA KM policy is not a top-down mandate but establishes a federated approach for governance of knowledge.  As the CKO says

“Each center and mission directorate will develop its own strategy, with the understanding that knowledge will be shared across the agency to the greatest extent possible. The policy unifies these efforts.

I am optimistic that the knowledge policy represents a significant step toward helping NASA achieve its potential as a learning organization. We have built a community that shares a commitment to sustaining NASA’s knowledge resources, and we have charted a course toward greater integration across the agency.  

If you have been doing Knowledge Management for a few years – if you feel that KM is becoming embedded in the organisation, but needs greater integration and greater commitment – then your next step is probably to craft a Knowledge Management Policy

View Original Source Here.