Jean-Claude Monney, Global KM Lead for Microsoft Services and Louis-Pierre Guillaume, Knowledge Manager at Schneider Electric, gave ample evidence of the major role communities play in each of their organizations in a joint talk at KM World in Washington DC on November 7. Both companies see the strategic value of communities, and have comprehensive management, support and measurement structures in place to ensure not only community vitality, but business impact.
Schneider Electric is a global specialist in energy management and efficiency technologies with 25B Euro revenue and 160,000 employees. The company has 130 communities with combined 24,000 members and 150 community leaders - 33 of those communities have been voted as very active. Schneider Electric put in place a comprehensive program a few years ago - called Communities@Work, it provides a framework that includes communities working with charters, supported by a collaborative work environment that’s animated by active community leaders, and aligned to common strategic vision provided by a business sponsor. Communities at Schneider fit within an overall landscape of knowledge management that include other methods - such as after action reviews and formal transfer of practices and mentoring programs.
For communities - a return on engagement
Schneider Electric looks at the value of communities in terms of a ‘return on engagement’ not ‘return on investment’ model, according to Guillaume. They look at various indicators of basic community health, such as adoption and participation using platform measurements and community event attendance. They also use the NetPromoter model to assess engagement and use a simple survey to gauge satisfaction. Finally they also invest in publishing and promoting success stories and inspiring anecdotes to underscore the impact of the community model. What is clear as well is that employees are tapping into the power of community networks to galvanize expertise and resources for business opportunity. In one example, a community member catalyzed a response to a customer proposal for a mobile electric substation tapping into far flung expertise and market insight across the company. In another case, community engagement was crucial to the bringing the right resources and expertise together to win a large health care project.
Schneider Electric’s program further ingrains practice and community excellence by inviting all 24,000 community members to vote and recognize the most high functioning, high value communities. Thirty-three communities were acknowledged in 2013 for their level of member satisfaction and robustness - which allows smaller communities to be recognized for value and impact.
Communities - building a cycle between tacit and explicit knowledge
Knowledge management is strategic, says Jean-Claude Monney, the Global KM Lead for Microsoft Services because it’s the effective leverage of innovation. For Microsoft, Monney says, knowledge sharing, improvements and reuse drives efficiency, innovation, predictability and quality, in turn driving customer satisfaction. Many people confuse innovation with invention, but he sees innovation in collaboration.
Monney sees community of practice at the center of new ways for companies to obtain increased returns on intangible assets, to create value, and to lead. At over 21,000 employees, Microsoft Services is the largest division within the company. Eighteen thousand of those employees are members of communities from over 100 countries. The services division previously had over 100 communities, but they have recently focused it down to 70 communities of practice in four domains - technical, architecture, industry and business (i.e., risk management, delivery management). Over 1000 of the members are designated subject matter experts and an increasing number of members are joining from other parts of the company.
A key to the success of communities at Microsoft is the re-alignment of the company’s performance management system. According to Monney, the company used to have a five point rating scale that would result in workers competing with one other. At Steve Ballmer’s direction a few years ago, the company shifted it’s approach to a new, three-tiered assessment model that looks to evaluate the individual’s own impact, how the individual has demonstrated sharing knowledge to increase impact, and how the individual has shown that they’ve reused knowledge to increase impact.
A remarkable feature of organizational maturity in their approach is the commitment to community facilitation and leadership. There are seven full-time employees who function as community directors, driving the overall program, with 70 community leads that have community management a component of their job.
They’ve also developed a community health index to evaluate community membership growth, interactivity such as content sharing, rating and message posting, responsiveness and liveliness. Like Schneider Electric, the Microsoft approach seeks out and acknowledges community performance. They have a twice yearly collaboration and community award, with 150 submissions or stories submitted. The award is a team award and has to be a customer story, calling out how many communities they engaged with, what IP they used. A reviewing team selects ten top stories with three teams finally awarded on stage with the CTO at an employee event.
Leadership and culture shifts
Strategic leadership that shifted culture also played a significant role in the depth of community success. The CEO at Schneider Electric, Jean Pascal Tricoire, in 2012 prompted a question to all employees via a community "What if Schneider knew what Schneider knows?", essentially to foster awareness and dialogue on the need to increase knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the need to move across organizational silos. According to Guillaume, communities became one of the top strategic initiatives for the company. This past year an additional 30 communities were established to help drive collaboration in business critical areas for the company. Like the performance management change initiated by Steve Ballmer at Microsoft the leadership actions at Schneider Electric invoked significant culture adaptions.
In a review I did of Mark McDonald's book The Social Organization a couple of years ago, I said understanding how to derive repeatable business value from collaborative community is an important senior management skill to master. Both Microsoft and Schneider Electric exhibit real mastery in this important new management capability.