The Community Manager

In re-building the training function, we’ve recommended a move from content delivery to Connecting & Communicating. One role that will likely gain importance is that of Community Manager. As the electric media become embedded in our lives, we will all be constantly connected to many communities. Some of these will overlap.

The role of community manager in an organization will be to manage  organizational communities of practice, communities of interest and have an understanding of some of the other communities that touch each of us. In his Valence Theory of Organizations, Mark Federman identifiedseveral specific forms of valence relationships that are enacted by two or more people when they come together to do almost anything; these are economic, social-psychological, identity, knowledge, and ecological.

Effective collaboration brings all of these aspects into consideration. The communities we belong to address some or all of these valances. Workplace-related communities often address only the knowledge and economic aspects but as human beings we need more.

Because digital media are so easily reproduced and appropriated there are few walls between our online communities. Even our offline communities are getting digitally captured, by someone. Look at how difficult it is to maintain a clear line between LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. Even though many of us use the former for business and the latter for more personal communications, few are able to maintain two distinct groups of contacts. These lines will continue to blur (e.g. Twitter) and our online identities will be a composite of activities in several communities / teams / groups / networks.

The effective community manager will be less of a manager and more a well-connected node in many networks of importance to the organization. David Wilkins takes this a step further and says that the entire business should be run as a community:

It’s not about customer communities or workplace communties.  It’s about recognizing and fostering connections, and enabling information flow and information capture from multiple constituents.

If you can incorporate the best of eLearning; Human Performance Technology; Organizational Development; Knowledge Management; Communications and a touch of Marketing, then you may have the makings of a Community Manager. It seems like a pretty exciting place to be for the near future.

16 Responses to “The Community Manager”

  1. David Wilkins

    Thanks for the shout out Harold. I love this line in your post: “Look at how difficult it is to maintain a clear line between LinkedIn and Facebook contacts.” Never a truer word was spoken. Jane Bozarth and I were just discussing this yesterday on Twitter (irony… ; ). I made the point that I never made that separation between personal and professional that you refer to. My Facebook account is now this hodge podge of high school friends, work acquaintances, professional contacts, clients, prospects, and even industry analysts. Needless to say, it’s a complete mess… ; ) My professional colleagues don’t necessarily want to hear about my diet milestones, and my friends could probably care less about my latest blog posts. And clients are probably not all that interested in my Libertarian political leanings… Did I mention it was a mess?

    But I guess that’s the point at some level. I’m one of those people who lives at the intersection. I work for Mzinga, but I maintain a lot of external relationships – some with customers, some with industry thought leaders like you and Jay, some with clients and prospects… That’s the reality of knowledge workers — boundaries are blurry and people connect wherever the information trail leads them. Increasingly, corporate “walls” are turning into New England-style stone walls that provide as much value as places for neighbors to meet and connect as they do in demarcating boundaries of “ownership.”

    Reply
  2. Harold Jarche

    I like that picture – low stone walls that serve to delineate areas but also are places to meet and converse “over the fence”.

    Reply
  3. Jon Husband

    But I guess that’s the point at some level. I’m one of those people who lives at the intersection. I work for Mzinga, but I maintain a lot of external relationships – some with customers, some with industry thought leaders like you and Jay, some with clients and prospects… That’s the reality of knowledge workers — boundaries are blurry and people connect wherever the information trail leads them.

    This is the key … perhaps it’s real that business and peoples’ lives have never been as separated as “management science” seemed to want to make them ?

    Perhaps the quest for hyper-efficiency has never come to terms with the notion that people (aka human beings) are involved ?

    Reply
  4. Jon Husband

    Is the role “Community Manager” or something like “Community Coach & Moderator” .. or am I being pedantic ? Should we assume a liberal / modern definition of the word “manager” ?

    Reply
  5. Harold Jarche

    Let’s be really liberal with the term, Jon. I’m not too attached to the term as much as the concept. Coach or moderator is more accurate. Whatever works for the organization is fine with me.

    Reply
  6. Dan Pontefract

    I think there may be a few roles actually. As we transform the ‘training department’ into a ‘connecting & communicating’ hub, the former LMS Administrator(s) may in fact become Community Managers, but others within the org (like a sage on the stage trainer) may become a ‘Connection Coach’, or a ‘Collaboration Consultant’, or a ‘Community Captain’, etc.

    We need to rethink all roles, not just the Community Manager. (although I know you are not stating this Harold – just furthering the transition notion)

    Reply
  7. Harold Jarche

    Agreed, Dan; just as when we re-tooled to an industrial economy, there will be many new roles in the workplace and some that become redundant.

    Reply

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