As more of our social and work life moves online there is a growing demand for community managers. Betrand Duperrin discusses the differences between community managers and organizational managers (in English & in French), stating that “Sometimes you need a community manager. Sometimes a manager is enough…”
I’ve discussed The Community Manager before and others have shared their experiences in the role of community manager. From our collective experience to date, it is obvious that online community management is much more art than science. It’s like herding cats. Bertrand makes the specific differentiation between communities and work groups or teams. Communities need a soft guiding hand and more of a master of ceremonies than a directive manager.
Online communities are networks. Any group “work” is co-operative and non-directive. Keeping it going requires a facilitative community manager, or what Bertrand calls an animator (a very accurate term in French). Communities exemplify complexity, with fuzzy boundaries, shifting cultures and autonomous members.
Online work team environments do not and cannot have this level of complexity or work would not get done in the manner that those paying for it would like. The work may be complicated but there are rules, boundaries and processes. Work groups need managers who can direct activities in order to achieve goals. This type of work is collaborative.
Community management is not organizational management. Co-operation is not collaboration. Co-operation requires free will on the part of all participants. It’s messy and complex.
This raises some questions:
What happens if the dominant model of how we organize work moves toward a network model and away from a market model?
What would that mean for how we structure our workplaces?
If most of our jobs are directive or reactive in nature, will our work skills help us in co-operative networked environments?