From The Art Of Community by O'Reilly (http://www.artofcommunityonline.org) by Jono Bacon
Like any process, structure, governance, or other agreed method of working, workflow should always be subject to change. Your workflow and the tools that are crystallized in it should always reflect the optimal way in which your community can work. If the tools become too complex and too laborious, you should consider adjusting your workflow, and possibly your tools as well.
One of the most useful lessons that I have learned in my community work is that you should regularly reassess everything: your workflow, processes, governance, and anything else. A community is built on a set of rapidly changing people, needs, and requirements. Regular reassessment is important to ensure that your workflow is matching the day-to-day work of your community.
I recommend that you set this regularity now. The length of time before reassessments is really up to you and your needs, although I would make sure to do a reassessment at least once a year.
Gathering Structured Feedback
When performing your reassessment, your aim is to find solid feedback about the good and bad aspects of your current workflow. The real value that you should be seeking is constructive, objective feedback from those who really dig into the workflow. Those community members who are using the workflow day in and day out will have the most valuable feedback for you.
Before you consider changing any aspects of your workflow, you should gather an extensive level of feedback and use it to identify correlations in aspects that work and don’t work. A useful technique for getting good feedback is to produce an online survey. There are a number of free survey sites that enable you to produce a set of questions and have anyone fill in the survey. Many surveys also allow you to choose between invitation-only responders and a free-for-all public survey. This is an important decision when running the survey. There are benefits and disadvantages to both. For open public surveys, there is always a risk of getting a lot of inexperienced feedback that is not particularly useful, and this noise can skew the results.
On the other hand, public surveys feel more community-spirited: they are open and accessible, and anyone can participate. Invitation-only surveys allow you to choose who responds, and if you choose wisely (read: not just people who will give you good feedback), you can get some great objective and practical results. On the flip side, invitation-only surveys feel closed, cliquey, and restrictive.
I recommend you do both. Start out with an invitation-only survey with at least 10 respondents. When you have this feedback gathered, open the survey up to anyone. Keep the public survey open for a set period of time (a month is a good figure), and promote the survey in places where your community reads and resides. You can then use both sets of results to draw conclusions. I would recommend that you put more faith in the invitation-only survey results, as they come from your key community members, but the public survey will undoubtedly uncover some useful results.
When you have performed your surveys, you should schedule some meetings with your community to discuss the results, propose solutions, and share more experiences. As with normal meetings, these meetings should be very focused on driving to a conclusion: finding solutions to the problems.
Building effective workflows is complex. It involves a combination of understanding people, technology, and usability. As is a common theme throughout this book, you should look to simplicity as your inspiration. At every step of the way you need to ask questions. Is this more complicated than it needs to be? Is this the most effective way of doing this? Is my community going to be able to follow this workflow every day and not get frustrated?
Although we covered a range of concepts in this chapter, don’t push yourself too hard, either. Experience and learning from your successes and mistakes is all part and parcel of being a great community leader. Some of the concepts in this chapter will take a little while to settle into your flow.
We are now going to move on to an essential part of leading a community: getting people fired up! We have some great structure in place so far. Now it’s time to assemble an army....