Originally posted August 28, 2018
Q: There is interest in establishing a Bay Area KM interest group. I attended one of these a year ago and it didn’t go anywhere. We had 4–5 people show up, the majority of which were consultants who were all trying to pitch the one poor soul who was a new KM manager for a company. Not a very productive gathering, which is likely why no follow-up ever occurred.
Based on that, I was wondering if you have any wisdom to share about how to make these face-to-face gatherings more productive, and less of a feeding frenzy for the consultants.
A: My advice for making a local KM community work:
- Join the Local KM Community Leaders group. Talk to leaders of other local communities about how they launched and sustained theirs. I suggest Kate Pugh for Boston, Connie Crosby for Toronto, and John Hovell for DC.
- Don’t try to do too much or get everyone to attend. A small, regular informal gathering may be sufficient.
- Don’t get too formal. One local KM community had a good run, but its formal elected offices and board of directors may have made it seem like more work than it was worth to sustain.
- Be clear about your intent. If you don’t want it to be a sales pitch event, state that explicitly.
- Don’t replicate what already exists. For example, an online discussion and monthly presentation are already available in the SIKM Leaders Community. Focus on what makes sense locally and that is unique.
Here are two examples from the Midwest KM Community.
- In Detroit, there are five or six of us who meet for lunch once a month. I send out an email to the others, we pick a date and place, and we meet for an hour or so.
- We hold an annual one-day in-person symposium that has been hosted in Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland. See the Midwest KM Community for details.
To get started, you should connect with all possible members. Here are some ways to do so:
- Post in the SIKM Leaders Community to invite people to reply if they are interested. Follow up with everyone who responds.
- Personally invite everyone you know of in the area. Ask them to forward your message to others they know.
- Each time you talk to one possible member, ask them who else they know (or know of) who could also be invited. Follow up with each of them, asking each one for additional names.
- Ask me to help. I am connected to many KM people in LinkedIn, and I can share their details.
- Post in other communities, LinkedIn groups, and Facebook groups. Post in LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Once your community is up and running, keep it going. Do the following:
- Solicit suggestions and do your best to implement them.
- Follow through and don’t drop the ball. Communicate regularly, including reminder messages and requests for ideas, leadership help, and other volunteers.
- Try things out, experiment, iterate, and evolve. If what you do is working, keep doing it. If not, try something else.
Here are some possible formats for meetings:
- Every month, or other month, meet at the site of one of the members for two hours and focus on a specific topic, or conduct a peer assist for the host organization. For example, discuss the different KM jobs, roles, organization structures, and reporting relationships of those attending, and compare job descriptions. Rotate the site each time so that all members have a chance to host, and let the host choose the topic for the discussion or peer assist.
- Meet at a fixed location that is centrally located for optimal travel for the members. Have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, with either a formal discussion on a previously agreed topic, or an informal conversation.
- Tie the meetings to other events, such as discussing the most recent SIKM Leaders Community call, planning for an upcoming major KM conference such as APQC or KMWorld, or reviewing the highlights of a recent conference.
- Run the meetings as a BarCamp or Unconference. See 10 Tips for Successful Face-to-Face Meetings.
- Run the meetings as a World Cafe or a Knowledge Cafe.