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How might we create a successful and sustainable community using Yammer?
This challenging, complex question should be asked before the creation of any Yammer community, or Yammer network for that matter, yet it’s often overlooked or, more worryingly, knowingly ignored...
You can use a simple ‘Community Canvas’ tool - designed for Yammer success and, most importantly, sustainability - as a way to help leaders tackle this question and co-create the best possible conditions and experiences for community members to thrive in.
Why does sustainability matter?
Often, I see people kick off Yammer communities without truly thinking about how to make the community successful and sustainable. It’s a complex and very human-focused challenge (as opposed to a complicated, technology/platform focused challenge) so it makes sense that people avoid it!
Why does it matter? Because not tackling this question often leads to the classic ‘dazzle then fizzle’ scenario. You know the one, it goes something like this:
This scenario can and should be avoided!
Designing for success and sustainability with the Community Canvas
First up, let me say that this is not a ‘Pete Johns’ or ‘The NRMA’ invention. The Community Canvas we use is an adapted version of the Minimum Viable Community template developed by the team at community-canvas.org. It looks like this:
Using this simple tool, you can help the people who really ‘own’ community success understand their roles, obligations and opportunities. In a single discussion session using this tool, you can help community leaders take ownership of creating and sustaining engaging experiences. You can help them unpack what success looks like and see how they can deliver it in a sustainable way.
Resource: Yammer Community Canvas
Running a Community Canvas Session
Firstly, and it seems pretty obvious really, you need to work out who the Community Leader and the Community Admin for the proposed community are. At The NRMA we define these people in the following way:
- Community Leader: The Community Leader takes overall responsibility for driving engagement within the community. They will be the ultimate decision maker on any contentious matters. They’ll champion activity within the community, role-model the community principles and encourage others to be active and engage.
- Community Admin: The Community Admin will be the first port of call for community members with questions/problems. The Admin will ensure the community experience plan is actioned on an ongoing basis, as well as acting as an ‘engager’ in the community by bringing others into conversations and role-modelling desired behaviours.
It’s important to note these people will already exist in the analogue environment. These are not new roles. Existing people currently fulfil them, but they might not know it yet!
Get to know the existing analogue community and, using the Leader and Admin definitions above, see who play these roles in the community already. These people need to be the Yammer Community Leader and Admin too because the Yammer/digital community should be an extension of the non-Yammer/analogue community, not a completely new thing altogether.
Once you have sourced your Leader and Admin, run the Community Canvas session with them by following these steps:
- Put the Community Canvas up on screen / print the Canvas and stick it on the wall
- Work through each section one-by-one, asking simple questions to lead the conversation
- Write down and get agreement on responses in each box of the canvas (TIP: Less is more – this should be a simple, clear and easy to use document detailing your baseline community activities. Don’t turn it into yet another bureaucratic tome!)
- Use the document as the basis for everything you do from then onwards
That’s it. Seriously. Simple right?
Want some ideas for questions to ask to get the creative juices flowing? Well you are in luck! Here are some questions to get you started:
The Community Canvas should also be used to hold yourselves accountable and to recalibrate in the future if the community feels like it’s going off track or is changing significantly.
The real value in a Community Canvas session
At The NRMA we’ve had great success using the Community Canvas tool to help community leaders understand:
- The purpose of their community and how analogue and digital activity can support this
- Their role in creating the right conditions for their community to flourish
- How they can adapt existing analogue and non-ESN-based activity to be more inclusive thanks to Yammer
- How Yammer gives them new opportunities to engage people in different and more effective ways
By running the Community Canvas session before the creation of a Yammer community, we’re seeing a significantly improved understanding of the value that Yammer can offer when it’s used intentionally and consistently. We’re seeing people start their Yammer journey with clarity of purpose and comfort in uncertainty, two factors that really enable ownership and sustainability.
“The Community Canvas session helped me better understand my role as a Yammer community leader. It’s not about directing or controlling the conversation, it’s about facilitating connection, opening up conversation and creating a safe-space where people feel comfortable sharing information. That’s where the magic happens.” Scott Doyle, Senior Sales Call Centre Manager, The NRMA
The most important thing it has done is this: it simplifies a complex conversation.
Instead of focusing on technology and functionality, the Community Canvas helps people better understand the community and start creating the right experiences to help it flourish right from the get-go.
"There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about." Margaret J. Wheatley
I'm Pete Johns, the Digital Employee Experience Manager at The NRMA. I'm an organisational culture and employee experience geek, fascinated by how teams can leverage digital thinking to work together more effectively and get great work done thanks to more purposeful collaboration. Above all else, even though digital is my jam, I'm here to help organisations put people, not technology, at the heart of everything they do.