Social Networks; Getting Started in KM; CoP Pitfalls

12–Apr-06 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Books

The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations — by Robert L Cross and Andrew Parker

That organizational charts rarely describe functional hierarchy is obvious to any employee who’s ever tried to adhere to one. Instead, survival often depends on incorporating oneself into unofficial social networks that allow one to gain access to necessary information and to collaborate with the colleagues who can actually get things done. In this dense but useful volume, Cross and Parker — both consultants with IBM’s Knowledge and Organizational Performance Forum — give readers insight into how such unofficial networks form and function. They also share their methodology for rendering these basically unseen networks visible to managers.

By literally mapping information flow and collaboration patterns among the people who make up a department or firm, they can pinpoint individual bottlenecks, essential employees and those who have been pushed to the periphery or whose expertise is underutilized. Their analysis enables managers to adapt their strategies to exploit and support these now visible networks and improve overall productivity. Rather than using their book as a forum to garner new consulting business — with a ‘kids don’t try this at home’ approach — they encourage readers to pursue network analysis at their own organizations by arming them with step-by-step instructions through two appendixes.

The authors present their material in the nitty-gritty style of an evening business course, with lots of charts and examples. They take their mission of arming managers with a substantive strategic tool very seriously. In this way, theirs is unlike many management books that are high on concept and lacking in application-Cross and Parker provide a guide that is directly applicable to improving the functionality of any organization.

KM Links

Getting Started in Knowledge Management — published by the National Electronic Library for Health (of the National Health Service in the UK) — includes:

  • I’m new to KM — where do I start?
  • How do I…? KM tips, tools and techniques

KM Questions

Q: I writing a paper on how to form a CoP and avoid the pitfalls. I’ve read “Cultivating CoPs” by Wenger et al. but would love to chat with anyone who’s “been there and done that” to include in the paper. I’ve got “book answers” to some of these questions but I’d love to hear from someone who’s done it and isn’t afraid to expose the warts.

A: I suggest that you join one or more of these dozen community management communities and post your questions there to get the benefit of the experience of the members. (When this was originally posted, the following communities could have been used:

  • Com-prac: An online forum on Communities of Practice — This forum is mainly for practitioners. Drafts, working papers, links, and a contacts directory other goodies are shared here for us to use.
  • Com-prac-study — less active and focuses on research and scholarship related to communities of practice.
  • CPsquare — The community of practice on communities of practice.)

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager

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