This morning I had a conversation with Mark Bennett about Anecdote’s CoP Health Check service. The health check focusses on elements of Etienne Wenger’s CoP model which includes executive sponsorship. The conversation with Mark highlighted how the issue of executive sponsorship needs to be addressed at numerous levels.
There might be a business line sponsor such as the Chief Engineer who is very interested in the business results delivered by the CoP and the value proposition of having people spend time on CoP activities. These sponsors take an active interest in the CoP and its activities.
You might have a champion high up in the organisation (the CEO or another C-level position) who gives the CoP its ‘license to operate’ and who might use the CoP as part of a strategic imperative such as creating a more collaborative organisation. These are great sponsors to cultivate and to communicate success stories to.
There might also be a third type of sponsor. One that is easy to overlook in the normal course of events but who becomes critical when times are tough and money is tight. This sponsor is the person in charge of the business unit that pays the wages of the CoP support staff and who funds the technology used by the CoP. This form of sponsor is the one coming to the fore given the current economic climate. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting till the axe is ready to fall before engaging with this sponsor group and ensuring they can see how the CoP initiative is adding value. If you haven’t been engaging these sponsors, yesterday would be a good time to start.