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Assessing the health of a community of practice using net promoter score

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —February 3, 2009
Filed in Collaboration

It’s a simple idea: if you have more promoters than detractors you can expect your business to thrive. This is the basis of the Net Promoter Score, a metric to give you a sense of how well your business is going.

When I first learnt about this single-question metric I was sceptical but then I had a coffee with Jon Smiles who had just finished a role with Orica (Australian chemical and mining services company). Jon told me how they used Net Promoter Score to transform their business unit’s culture. Every three months they would survey and calculate their NPS and this would get everyone thinking about how they could make the place more attractive and compelling to their staff so they would not hesitate to recommend their company to colleagues and friends. By having a single score they didn’t fall into the typical survey trap of thinking the results directed them towards a particular solution. Instead they were encouraged to use their own judgement and local smarts to develop initiatives. Imagine what they could have done if they combined this approach with using business narrative.

So I thought, “hey, I could use this to assess the health of communities of practice.” But I will need to ask the typical Net Promoter Score questions from two perspectives:

  • How likely is it that you would recommend the Acme Community of Practice to a colleague?
  • How likely is it that your manager would recommend the Acme Community of Practice to their staff?

So last week I asked 17 members of a CoP I’m working with these two questions and here are the results.

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The NPS for the members was 35%.

The NPS for what the members thought of how likely the managers would recommend the community was -53%. You can see that there is plenty of work to be done getting the managers on board. Our approach in building this community was to get it done under the radar and get some runs on the board. We’ve done that now so our next step is to tell our stories to the mid level managers and above.

Calculating the Net Promoter Score

Here is how you calculate NPS.

Count the number of respondents who scored 9 or 10. These are your promoters

Work out the percentage of promoters in the whole group.

Count the number of respondents who scored 0 through to 6. These are your detractors.

Work out the percentage of detractors in the whole group.

Subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters to calculate your Net Promoter Score.

According to Fredrick Reichheld (2003) the median NPS from over 130,000 surveys across a range of industries is 28%. Yet some of the best businesses have NPS of 70% or more.

It’s hard to say that 35% is a good score for this CoP but it would be good for other communities to do a similar activity and see if we can compare. Just from experience of working with lots of different CoPs I would say this group is highly motivated and engaged. Whether we can compare NPS scores between CoPs is not a necessity. Most importantly this will give the leaders of this CoP a way to sample the mood of their community and inspire them to try new and interesting activities.

Reichheld, F. F. (2003). “The one number your need to grow.” Harvard Business Review 81(12): 46-54.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

3 Responses to “Assessing the health of a community of practice using net promoter score”

  1. Joitske Says:

    I really like the simplicity of having 2 good questions! Great. I wonder though about knowing where the community is creating value at other levels- inspiring members, teams for instance. Or is that subsumed in the 2 questions?

  2. Shawn Callahan Says:

    I think that narrative techniques would be well suited to discovering where value is being created. But that doesn’t mean other metrics should not be taken. Our CoP health check uses a set of questions that delves into member behaviour and outcomes. These two questions, however, provide a good overall perspective.

  3. Mick Leyden Says:

    Hi Shawn,
    I was just pointed to this post and I love the idea, I have been throwing around a similar (although slightly more long winded) idea myself.
    I think a simple score could give an interesting insight that can help community managers to target research within a community. Here is a post I wrote with my thoughts on the topic yesterday.

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