Wednesday 27 January 2010

Communities from the bottom up - Johnny's story

Johnny’s story

Johnny is a refinery engineer, based in the UK. He was a very early adopter of Knowledge Management, and extremely enthusiastic about the business potential of KM and shared learning. Johnny's personal drive and enthusiasm have been instrumental in setting up and maintaining a major community of practice. Here is his story of how the community started.

"If you take the whole spectrum of where I was in communities of practice; the role I have now, of operations coordinator, grew from the KM launch meeting, where 2 or 3 people met, and decided we would stick together through thick and thin, and would keep others in touch with what we were doing. We sort of formalised it, and every 10 or 11 weeks we would get on the phone and have a conference call, and we called ourselves the "Continuous Improvement Forum", because we needed a name. We needed to say we were flying under this flag. I dont suppose you really need that, but we felt that we did.

"We attracted more people to that phone call, and it spread around the world, because we had a member on the western seaboard of the US, we had people offshore on rigs - that was a challenge, with the satellite phones. I was in the UK, and we had someone in Germany join us. So every 10 or 11 weeks we would get this conference going at night, and because we were talking to someone in the US, I would be here at 7 o'clock at night on a conference call.

"We would talk about what each of us was doing in our organisation around any subject - competence, procedurals, process upset reporting - how we were handling different things. And that attracted the attention of the then head of operations in upstream, and he sat in on one of our calls one night, He thought this was so great - what we were trying to do here. And we were going through this whole process of trying to get some legitimacy to what we were doing. We called ourselves "Operational Excellence" because that is what we were pursuing; we were pursuing some kind of excellence, and we were all in operations, so we called it Ops Excellence. So we become the Operations Excellence forum".

"Just to back up a step, the community started off by attracting about 80 people who wanted to be involved in operations excellence across the company. We ran a couple of workshops to tell them what we thought operations was about, and all the facets and all the tools. We then gave them what we called the Ops Excellence Portal - a website that would be a common area to gather information and put news stories in, and it all revolved around a self-assessment process we asked business units to do.

"So we had all these tools, but without the people to work it, it would never have flown. So we ran the workshops, and we attracted volunteers; people who wanted to be there and wanted to be called Ops Excellence champions for their business unit. We did one in America and one in the UK, attended by roughly 40 and 40. So that was the community start.

"We then said "this is the operations community, and I will moderate and look after that community from a central point". We created the community distribution list, so that everyone was in contact with everyone else, and could easily lift that off. The community then started to grow, because these people went back to the work place, and they were infected by the ops excellence bug. Like a virus they began to slowly but surely to infect other people, with the stories, success stories that were happening. The possibilities of making change, and being involved in that change, were tremendous.

"So they community grew from September 2000 to the present day (this story was told in 2003), where it sits at just over 260 people. That is pure organic growth. I have never been to anyone and said "you need to join this community". I have never put anyone on the community who did not want to be part of it. Everyone has asked to be a member of this.

"I guess the next stage would be to bring the whole community together at some point. That would be a massive undertaking, and it may have to happen in two lots, but I believe we need to get the community back in, because they are telling their individual stories back into the portal, but its great to have a face to face and actually meet. So I think full circle for me would be to bring these people back together, and be face to face, and tell their stories, and the energy and power that's in a room when you get people like that together, is terrific".

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