Originally posted 20-Apr-23

Stan Garfield

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This begins the fourth series on knowledge management in special libraries and information centers, structured around Five Cs: Capture, Curate, Connect, Collaborate, and Create. This four-part series is about the fourth C: Collaborate.

Collaboration is interacting with peers and colleagues to exchange ideas, share experiences, work together on projects, and solve problems. Work teams, project teams, and communities need consistent ways to share their knowledge, coordinate their activities, and communicate with one another. Providing standard collaboration processes and tools ensures users will not have to learn new ones frequently.

Use Cases

The words collaborate, collaboration, and collaborative are often used without much detail about what is meant. Here are use cases for collaboration to answer the question, “When you say collaborate, what exactly do you want to do?” along with examples for each one.

COLLABORATION: Communicate, Obtain, Locate, Learn, Assist, Build, Offer, Resolve, Ask, Transfer, Innovate, Onboard, Network

Communicate: Inform the organization about your activities, plans, and progress. Interact with colleagues. Solicit input, feedback, and advice. Relax, refresh, relieve tension, and laugh.

  • “I will be the project manager for the conversion effort.”
  • “Here is the statement of work for the project plan.”
  • “I’m looking for feedback on the plan.”
  • Schedule a group dinner at an upcoming conference.

Obtain: Gain assistance from others. Find out what others are doing. Retrieve information. Receive answers to questions.

  • “I can use some help in setting up the meeting room for our monthly meeting.”
  • “How are all of you dealing with the upcoming software migration?”
  • Reuse a proposal from the document library.
  • “Here is a link to a presentation you can use.”

Locate: Find subject matter experts. Find documents, references, sites, official methods, lessons learned, and proven practices. Find needed resources.

  • “I’m looking for a network security specialist to join a new project.”
  • “Does anyone have a tool I can use for social network analysis?”
  • Look in the community threaded discussion archives to find a relevant solution.

Learn: Master a subject. Deepen expertise in a specialty. Keep current on the latest news in a topic.

  • Participate in a training event.
  • Attend a community call featuring a presentation on a topic of interest.
  • Read a community newsletter for the most recent updates.

Assist: Respond to a request. Respond to a request for information, proposal, or support. Submit a proposal. Deliver a product, project, or service. Provide advice, guidance, and thought leadership.

  • “The attached document provides the answer to your question.”
  • Offer to get on a call to help solve a problem.
  • Develop a grant proposal based on content from a knowledge repository.
  • Deliver a service as part of a team.
  • “Based on my experience, I suggest that you follow the steps outlined in the document linked to below.”

Build: Develop and deliver thought leadership in the form of advice, writing, presentations, audio recordings, or videos. Write a document or create a presentation. Record a podcast or a video. Create and deliver a product or service.

  • Publish a white paper on a new methodology you helped develop.
  • “I am sharing the tweet transcript of my notes from last week’s conference.”
  • “Here is the recording of today’s community call.”
  • Collaborate to create a new service.

Offer: Answer questions. Provide points of view, proven practices, lessons learned, examples, or official methods. Get assigned to a project. Lead an effort. Praise, recognize, and thank colleagues.

  • “I experienced that same bug and discovered this workaround.”
  • “My view is slightly different, based on my time working in South America.”
  • “I am a user experience designer available to join a project immediately.”
  • Serve as project manager for an initiative.
  • “I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the discussion. Your insights were most valuable in helping me decide what to do next.”

Resolve: Identify issues. Solve problems. Fix something that is broken.

  • Work with others to create a list of important issues.
  • Provide a peer assist to solve a problem faced by a community member.
  • “We fixed the bug that prevented search from returning recent results.”

Ask: Pose questions. Request advice. Submit a query or request.

  • “What is the best way to record a podcast?”
  • “How have you been able to convince senior leaders to provide funding?”
  • “I need help in migrating to a new platform.”

Transfer: Transmit knowledge. Share links, insights, lessons learned, tips, tricks, and techniques. Contribute reusable content. Submit documents.

  • Lead a training session.
  • “I am posting a link to an article I recently published.”
  • “I will present the new methodology on this month’s community call.”
  • “The project artifacts are now available in the document repository.”

Innovate: Develop new and better ways of doing things. Solicit ideas. Manage the innovation process. Improve existing products, services, processes, and tools. Invent new products, services, processes, and tools.

  • Work with others to improve the service desk call handling process.
  • “What features should be part of the new platform?”
  • Conduct an innovation challenge using threaded discussions, community calls, and a wiki.
  • “Please review the list of suggestions and vote on the top three.”
  • Participate in a task force chartered to develop a new service to replace an old one.

Onboard: Induct new hires or team members into the organization. Get oriented as a new hire or team member. Orient new users.

  • Offer help to people who have just joined the organization.
  • Attend an event where experiences are shared with new team members.
  • “Please sign up to help present at next month’s new user orientation session.”

Network: Connect to others with similar interests. Work together as part of a team. Connect multiple organizations to deliver services as one.

  • Invite a community member whose posts have been helpful to meet up for a chat.
  • “I am looking for volunteers to work on the annual meeting.”
  • Pull together members from different parts of the organization to deliver services.

Knowledge management programs typically include multiple modes of collaboration. Three of these are working in teams, participating in communities, and working out loud. In Part 2 of this series, I discuss collaborating in teams.

The Five Cs of KM

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Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/