Monday, 6 January 2014


Two types of business networks


Here's a useful Boston Square for differentiating between two of the main types of business networks.  There are of course many other types - the Virtual teams, the purely social networks, and the Communities of Interest.

However two of the main types we come across in Knowledge Management terms are the Community of Practice, and the Delivery Network or Community of Purpose.

The Community of Practice is the relatively informal, voluntary-membership, knowledge-sharing network of people working in the same area of practice (hence the name) who use each other as a resource to help do their own job better.

The Community of Purpose, or Delivery Network, is the more formal, funded, fixed-membership network of people who are contracted to deliver something of benefit to the business.

What the Boston Square emphasises is that these are the only two of the four possibilities that work.

If a Network is not contracted to deliver something of benefit to the business, then it should not be formal. There is no need for fixed membership, performance contracts, annual reports etc if the network is a CoP - this would be complete overkill. A CoP can exist on a minimum level of formality - a Charter, a facilitator, maybe a business case.

If a Network is contracted to deliver something of benefit to the business, then it should not be informal. If the business holds the network accountable for delivery of a result (a step-change in performance, for example), then there needs to be the required level of formality to enable this to happen. The network will need a sponsor, a leader, a defined set of members, a cash budget, a time budget for the defined set of members, annual reporting, and so on.

So if you find yourself in "formal" space but with no need to deliver a collective result, then relax the formality and become a CoP.

If you find yourself in Informal space, but the business expects you to deliver, then ramp up the formality and become a Delivery Network.


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