Community Performance …

Bruce Tuckman’s team development model has been around, and has been more or less the acceptable theory for team development in organizations. It seems to be founded on sound logic. However, the question I am considering here is not whether this is valid or not, but assuming that it is a valid model, can this model be applied to the communities that we are seeing coming up in our business environment, and communities that we are encouraging as KM practitioners.

I would think, to a certain extent, the model should be applicable to communities as well. After all, we are still the same set of human beings that we were when Bruce Tuckman developed the model. There are, of course, a few differences.

Firstly, the model refers to an ordained leader in the forming stage of the team. However, in a community, the word leader is basically an anathema, because the basic idea of the communty is a group of people who are peers in the professional space. But, once the comunity has been formed, it develops its own patterns, with a core set of people who tend to participate more in the conversation, and a larger group who are content listening in on the conversation. This is the same as in teams, as well in conference-calls. So, in a way, people have their profiles getting developed over a period of time, based on their participation. There is a school of thought that maybe this classification should be formalized in the community, but I believe this would defeat the entire purpose. Sure, the community needs to be pushed along from time to time (something I like to call “constructive intervention”), and this responsibility typically goes to the people in the community who have a high participation profile, but I think this is more because they are the people who are speaking up, rather than any other reason.

In fact, I believe that this constructive intervention is something which is the test of the team. This would show the basic nature of the community, essentially about whether the community is all about participation in a genuine form, or whether the team is hinging on a handful of individuals to run it. The latter probably needs to move to the 5th stage: Adjourning.

Which brings up the question … Who should indulge in this constructive intervention? I think this, to a large part, must be the responsibility of the KM team. Basically, that there should be some organizational prodding which should move the community forward. While a lot of practitioners look at this as anathema considering the supposed self-forming nature of communities, there is also the paradox of communities, that while they are autonomous, they need direction from the organization (to make sure they are not pulling in the wrong direction), as well as to ensure the communities leverage on the momentum which would typically be generated at the forming stage.


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