SWOOP Video Blog 2 – Yammer Groups

The second in our SWOOP Video Blog Series:

Slide 1

Hi there, I’m Laurence Lock Lee, the co-founder and chief scientist at Swoop Analytics

In this second episode of Swoop Benchmarking insights we are drilling down to the Yammer Group level. Groups are where the real collaborative action happens.

As Yammer Groups can be started by anyone in the organisation, they quickly build up to hundreds, if not thousands in some organisations. Looking at activity levels alone we will see that the majority of groups do not sustain consistent activity, while a much smaller proportion look to be really thriving.

As useful as activity levels and membership size are, as we have suggested before, they are crude measures which can mask true relationship centred collaboration performance being achieved.

In this session we provide insights into how organisations can compare and benchmark their internal groups.

Slide 2

There is no shortage of literature and advice on how to build a successful on-line community or group. The universal advice for the first step is to identify the purpose. A well articulated purpose statement will identify what success would look like for this group or community.

What we do know from our experience to date is that there are a variety of purposes that online groups are formed. IBM has conducted a detailed analysis of their internal enterprise social networking system, looking to see if the usage logs could delineate the different types of groups being formed. What they found was five well delineated types of groups. {IBM classification from years of IBM experience  http://perer.org/papers/adamPerer-CHI2012.pdf }

The identified groups types were:

  1. Communities of Practice. CoPs are the centerpiece of knowledge sharing programs. Their purpose is to build capability in selected disciplines. They will usually be public groups. For example, a retail enterprise may form a CoP for all aspects of establishing and running a new retail outlet. The community would be used to share experiences on the way to converging to a suite of ‘best practices, that they would aim to implement across the organisation.
  2. Team/Process. This category covers task specific project teams or alternatively providing a shared space for a business process or function. In most cases these groups will be closed or private.
  3. Groups formed for sharing ideas and hopefully generating new value from innovations. It is best to think about such groups in two stages, being exploration and exploitation. The network needs to be large and diverse, to uncover the most opportunities. However, the exploit stage requires smaller, more focused teams to ensure a successful innovation
  4. The Expert / Help type group is what many of us see as the technical forums we might go to externally to get technical help. For novices, the answers are more than likely available in previously answered questions. In essence, they would be characterised by many questions posted, for a selected few to answer.
  5. Finally, the social (non-work) groups are sometimes frowned on; but in practice they are risk free places for staff to learn and experience online networking, so they do play an important part in the groups portfolio.

 Slide 3

This table summarizes the purposes and therefore value that can accrue from the different group types. Some important points that can be taken from this are:

  • Formally managed documents are important for some group types like CoPs and Teams, but less so for others, where archival search may be sufficient
  • Likewise with cohesive relationships, which are critical for teams say, but less so for Expert/Help groups for instance.
  • Large isn’t always good. For idea sharing the bigger and more diverse, the better. For teams, research has show that once we get past about 20 members, productivity decreases (https://www.getflow.com/blog/optimal-team-size-workplace-productivity)

 Slide 4

More than 80 years of academic research on performance of networks could be reduced to an argument between the value of Open and diverse networks versus closed, cohesive networks. This graphic was developed by Professor Ron Burt from the University of Chicago Business School, who is best known for his research on brokerage in open networks. However, Burt now concedes in his book on Brokerage and Closure in 2005, that value is maximised when diversity and closure are balanced.

It is therefore this framework that we are using for assessing and benchmarking Yammer Groups.

Slide 5

For pragmatic reasons we are using group size as a proxy for diversity, with the assumption that the larger the group, the more likely the more diverse the membership will be. For cohesion, we measure the average 2-way connections/member, using the assumption that if members have many reciprocated relationships inside the group, then the group is likely to be more cohesive.

This plot shows a typical pattern we find. The bubble size is based on group activities, so as you can see, activity is an important measure. But the positioning on the network performance chart can be quite differentiated by their respective diversity and cohesion measures.

The pattern shown is also consistent with what we see in our prior network survey results, which essentially shows that it is difficult not to see diversity and cohesion as a trade-off; so the ideal maximum performance in the top right corner, is in fact just that, an ideal.

Side 6

Now if we overlay what we see as ideal ‘goal states’ for the different types of groups that can be formed, it is possible to assess more accurately how a group is performing.

For example, a community of practice should have moderate to high cohesion and a group size commensurate with the ‘practice’ being developed.

The red region is showing where high performing teams would be located. High performing teams are differentiated by their levels of cohesion. Group size and even relative activity levels are poor indicators for a group formed as a team. If your group aims to be a shared ideas space, but you find yourself characterised as a strong team, then you are clearly in danger of “group think”.

Likewise you can infer a goal space for the Expert/Help group type.

If you are an ideas sharing group you have an extra measure of monitoring the number of exploitation teams that have been launched from ideas qualified in your group.

For the group leaders, who start in the bottom left, and many who are still there, it becomes an exercise in re-thinking your group type and purpose and then deciding the most appropriate actions for moving your group into the chosen goal space.

For some this may be growing broader participation, if you are expert help group; or building deeper relationships if you are a community of practice or functional team.

Slide 7

So in summing up:

Groups come in different shapes and sizes, where simple activity levels and membership size are insufficient for assessing success or otherwise.

Gaining critical mass for a group is important. Research has shown that critical mass needs to also include things like the diversity in the membership and the modes used to generate productive outputs.

{http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/connect/CSCW_10/docs/p71.pdf}

The Diversity vs Cohesion network performance matrix provides a more sophisticated means for groups to assess their performance, than simple activity and membership level measures.

Once group leaders develop clarity around their form and purpose, the network performance framework can be used to provide them with more precise and actionable directions for success

Slide 8

We have now covered benchmarking externally at the Enterprise level and now internally at the group level.

Naturally the next level is to look and compare the members inside successful groups.

Thank you for your attention and we look forward to having you at our next episode.

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