Sometimes it may seem that the relevant part of knowledge management (or plain old management) is design and strategy. OK, so it’s crucial, but it’s not enough: the core of it all, the differential, is still in people management. Understanding, dealing with, managing their motivations. Your team, your partners, you name it. And also, those especially pesky ones who did work with you, but no longer do.
You may remember we have a running problem with an ex-moderator. The conflict had got ugly, really ugly. Ahead of a scheduled showdown, we gave the thing another thinking. His attack was all too too plainly an angry person trying to hurt us and clutching at any straw that looked solid… and he knew he had no chance to force our hand on the issues he was raising. It looked like the real issue was not on the table. So we tried mediated negotiation instead of formal legal notifications. And it surfaced that he didn’t care about any alleged breach of his rights: he cared for his name and legacy.
He was sore and hurt because his user profile in the forums now sported the visible stigma of the banned, after a couple of years of what he perceived as good hard work for the community.
We agreed to remove that formal stigma and he dropped every other demand. The mediator hopes we may it time be reconciled; it may happen. The agreement is coming into force today.
It was simply a monumental case of ruffled feathers. And it is also a pristine example of the awesome emotional investment that collaborators make in communities of practice.
It’s also a reminder that that kind of powerful involvement, which can lead volunteers to do incredible feats for the community and achieve so much good, doesn’t happen in a vacuum or manage itself. It has to be allowed, fostered, nurtured… and managed at every step, including disengagement, or it will go awry. If it is lacking, the CoP won’t fly. If it’s not managed… you risk trouble.
We put a lot of stress on that, but this one had skipped the radar. I keep learning, I do.
(Post updated to skip some inmaterial detail and add some more reflections).