5 Tips for Engaging Knowledge Sharing Sessions

By Cherie Wagner, Business Analyst, Reliant, an NRG Energy Company

December of 2010 is when Reliant (an NRG company) embarked on a journey of building a Business Analysis Community of Practice. Armed with the promise of improved quality and alignment with A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide), we began having "knowledge sharing sessions" once a month.

Based on learning and hindsight, here are some tips on starting up knowledge sharing sessions in your organization.

1. "Reminders are memorable." It's great to secure time on the calendar with standing sessions. This establishes a rhythm and expectations, and allows everyone to plan. But it can also lead to apathy when there is something more interesting or pressing to do. 

So go ahead and setup the standing session with its generic description and room reservation. Be sure to also send a reminder a few business days before each session with a summary including the facilitator, an interesting anecdote about the topic, and the strategic and therefore immediate value of the session.

2. "Go with the flow." Initiate your knowledge sharing track with a trendy topic that the organization is buzzing about, and a facilitator to whom people are attracted. Over time, you will develop a roadmap of topics that will be truly transformative. In the near term, getting people to the table and addressing immediate organizational concerns will garner your sessions the participation and support they need to water and feed the Community.

3. "Interaction or death." If people are not involved, they will not return, and more importantly they won't become active participants in the Practice of Community building. This is true even of those who would rather be involved silently. 

Breakout groups, typing into the presentation everyone is looking at, allowing participation via a webinar/conference call, sharing how it went applying last month's technique, asking brain teasers at the beginning of the session to get the analysis juices flowing, tossing chocolates into the air providing obvious benefits...these are just a few of the infinite number of engaging activities you will add to your session toolbox.

4. "Trickle Down or Up? Both!" While it is true that any one of us can invite our analysis colleagues to chat about lessons learned, at some point you will wish you also had the support and encouragement of the management matrix (and vice versa). Participation is a constituent element of creating a Community, and the active support of leaders with titles and/or influence is the difference between a Community of a few committed individuals and a Community of Practice executing a systematic training and professional development strategy.

5. "Success-o-meter." It's important to do a reality check and make sure the knowledge sharing is having the desired effect. Surveys, interviews with participants/managers/leaders, and formal tracking to specific metrics are just a few examples. Try one or all, but make sure to keep your eye on the prize. If the Community is not working on "Practice makes perfect", current supporters may switch their focus to something that has become more relevant.