5 communities to transform your organisation

This article is not a tribute to the benefits of collaboration or an effigy of the collaborative approach. It is an alternative vision of what we call “transversality”, or the intangible lines that need to exist and be reinforced between different boxes in a company’s organisation chart.

Recently a new client with a strong culture based on years of experience and an international presence asked us the following question:

We have around 2,000 independent communities within our group. Content and knowledge are shared in an arbitrary, uncontrolled way in huge quantities and between many employees across 50 countries. Given the unchecked nature of these communities, do we have a lot of ground to make up to ensure our 2020 transformation plan is successful?

First of all, I’d like to diverge, just for a moment, to admire this reflection on the need to “make up ground”. Fed up with talking about optimisations, reductions, savings and austerity, the question is the same but the phrasing more positive. We are describing the same concept but focusing on the value it creates. We make up time, treasury, commitment and other classic performance indicators. We don’t always have to optimise by doing more with less, but also by doing more with the same. Framed like this, the question is likely to generate fresh, unhabitual responses.

Now let’s try and answer the question:

What is a community?

It is a group of people who share:

  • Common interests and strategic and/or operational objectives
  • Valuable results for each member (projects, information, knowledge, content, support)
  • Shared, collaborative practices
  • A sense of belonging and peer recognition
  • Values and rules
  • Mutual support
  • Recognition of individual and collective commitment
  • Capacity to evolve and learn

There are 5 main types of community that add value for your company. They can involve employees, clients, users and, more generally, anyone internal or external to your organisation. They can be open (anyone can join) or closed (restricted access, invitation-only).

  1. Expertise: share content and regulations to transmit expertise and upgrade the skills of community members
  2. Work/ Project: create documents, resolve problems, accelerate projects, collect feedback & advice, co-create, brainstorm, deepen understanding and prioritise
  3. Team/ management: share information, monitor and assist decision-making – this kind of community “optimize the organization chart” and make it more fluid
  4. Leadership: group of high-impact influencers or talents dedicated to implementing actions, building tools, providing assistance, serving the future of the organisation and its transformation
  5. Communication: group dedicated to collecting and sharing information, that could take the form of an open FAQ forum

What is a “value-adding” community? What are the results and benefits?

Each of these 5 types of community can be run online, via phone or video conferences and physical meetings, every day, once a week, month, quarter or even year. A community is characterised by the constant nature of the interactions between members and the value these interactions generate.

A community should not duplicate the work of decision-making structures within the organisation, but rather coordinate with them and other communities. It should create intelligence and efficiency where traditional formats fail. Difficult to access the right information at the right moment? Unanswered questions? Limited alignment between managers and their teams? Blocking point in a project or strategy? Complex collaboration between subsidiaries or with the group? A community is an “augmented” moment that accelerates change and makes habitual barriers – like withholding information and power struggles – disappear long enough to unanimously reach a given objective.

How does this affect your transformation?

 Case #1: your transformation plan includes a section on new working methods.

Part of your report will end up directly with HR and other teams dedicated to new ways of working, if these aren’t the very people who ordered your report. Think about developing leadership and communication communities to drive key topics.

 Case #2: your transformation plan doesn’t have a section on new working methods.

Many of the projects for your transformation may well still affect different job roles, expertise, units, countries or even change the entire context for certain operations.

As well as leadership and communication (the basics), think about creating project or expertise communities to work more efficiently. 

 Case #3: your company doesn’t have a transformation plan.

The previous recommendations still apply – you don’t need a transformation plan to ask these questions. Team communities have an intrinsic value to effectively manage sharing information, schedules and other references documents that require extensive coordination.

Yes, the recommendations are cumulative. Ideally, you should carry out all 3 steps regardless of your situation!