After a twelve-year run at The Community Roundtable, I am transitioning to a new venture reflective of the work I want to pursue more closely at this time. TheCR will remain and do much of the same work it always has. Its value is more vital than ever – and needed as more of the world discovers the need for a different management approach. Its services to help professionals learn and adapt are well-positioned to serve the growing demand. It is, however, time for me to pursue a new challenge.
In 2009 I had the ambitious goal to document the value of community and community management. Twelve years of State of Community Management research has largely addressed that objective. The research started by capturing qualitative practices and, over time, transitioned to collecting quantitative metrics, eventually identifying benchmarks of management maturity. With operational benchmarks, we worked to refine measurement standards and to translate those into financial value.
As we learned to measure communities in financial terms, I felt like we largely accomplished what I had set out to in 2009. This success is best exemplified in the work Heather Ausmus and I did in 2017 to accurately project growth using community ROI. The bulk of the giant hairball had been unraveled. There is still much work to do, but its focus is scaled services and communications, work that is better and ably left to those who remain on TheCR team, led by Jim Storer.
I believe that community management is the future of all management. Community management professionals are using networked governance to generate immense value without hierarchical and centralized control. I believe it is the future of organizational governance – governance that is more equitable, inclusive, and adaptive.
My primary interest has always been oriented around how community governance can transform work. Over the last decade, much of the advisory work I have done was collaborating on strategies for internal employee communities. It is thrilling when people shift their mental models and grasp that organizational performance improves dramatically by removing control and anxiety. By cultivating engagement and trust, organizations can divest much of their governance and oversight infrastructure, improving both their bottom line and their employees’ work experience.
Although a minority of organizations benefit from community-centric cultures today, there are enough to know it is possible. The COVID pandemic dramatically changed executives’ priorities around building culture digitally and moved community programs from a nice-to-have to a must-have for many organizations. While that shift may change as in-person gatherings become safe again, the appreciation of how digital communities can support and reinforce behavior and cultural objectives has forever changed.
I am drawn to the opportunity to help people find joy and a playful sense of possibility in their work. I want to be a part of transforming how work works and, in doing so, help people feel whole, valued, and secure. I want to be involved in this next big audacious challenge – and I see potential everywhere. More than anything, I want to collaborate with leaders who are as excited as I am to explore and invest in possibility.
Recently a client, as if he understood this implicitly, demonstrated this shift in leadership. Instead of the traditional perspective of setting a goal, planning out a budget, and communicating goals, he offered an exciting and challenging invitation to the team. Engaged and with what Benjamin Zander, author of The Art of Possibility, calls ‘bright eyes,’ he asked the group, “What if we could do this?” In a few words, he invited the group to imagine what might be possible and help him define it – instead of telling them what to do. The difference was both tiny and transformative.
I want to work with more leaders like him – individuals who invite collaboration and shared ownership, find fun and joy in their work and inspire others to engage.
Introducing Engaged Organizations
Enter Engaged Organizations. My goal with this new venture is to cultivate joyful and engaging cultures with clients who care and are invested in making a meaningful difference. A big part of that work is adapting governance models for possibility and emergence. Most of all I want to work with teams to navigate the messy path to sustainable culture change by empowering individuals. That type of advisory work is a different kind of business from the scaled services of TheCR and better suited to a different model.
My other interest is exploring how to use and apply what I have learned in commercial organizations in the government, educational, and policy sectors. Many of these public institutions are philosophically democratic but constrained by traditional governance structures, built for a different age. Using digital platforms, these public institutions can engage, connect, and collaborate with individuals at a scale and in a way never before possible. There is so much potential to create stronger civic connection and engagement – and it is desperately needed.
I will be forever grateful for my years at TheCR: the network of amazing peers and partners, the trust others placed in me, the things I was able to learn thanks to that trust, and most of all for the relationships and community TheCR allowed me to cultivate. Maybe it is telling that there are far more people to thank than I can mention here – because so many people played a part in making TheCR what it is. I want to thank Jim, who embarked on this adventure with me and helped me grow it to where it is today – I could not have done it without him.
I am immensely proud of what we all accomplished together. We demonstrated how a community of practice combined with research creates a juggernaut of innovation and advocacy. We collectively know so much more than when we started. Through it all, I have made life-long friends. It’s been an incredible journey.
I am excited to explore this next phase. Engaged Organizations is a work in progress but I am looking forward to working to make work better. As always, I will continue writing and ‘learning out loud’ – if you would like to stay in touch, get updates, or have a project to discuss, please reach out!