Improving knowledge sharing: Leading practices applied to a distributed program management community

Elena Victoria Iancu*, Remko Helms, Knut Grahlmann, Frank Harmsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Article in proceedingAcademicpeer-review


With increasing globalization, organizations have to cope with the management of knowledge in geographically distributed environments. In such a distributed setting, collaboration is challenging because of the geographic distance and different time zones, but also because of cultural distances between team members. This research provides valuable insights into the knowledge sharing and collaboration of Communities of Practice in an internationally distributed environment. The goal of this research is twofold. First, it analyzes the challenges in setting up and running such a community in its early stages of development. Secondly, it investigates how existing leading community management practices can be applied to overcome these challenges in order to support knowledge sharing and practitioners' engagement. The approach undergone in this study was canonical action research, conducted over a seven months period in an online Program Management Community of Practice set up of a global consultancy organization. This community was recently set up and the organization's intention was to take the community to the next stage of its development by increasing participation and engagement. The research set up entailed that the main researcher actively took part in further developing this community by studying the situation at hand, interviewing stakeholders and reviewing related literature. Based on these techniques, the researcher and the organization decided on the most suitable set of interventions that would deliver the desired results. The researcher critically reflected on these interventions as well as on their outcome. Results show that the most important challenges experienced by practitioners are the motivation to use the community as a knowledge source - as an alternative to personal networks and external sources, the time that needs to be invested and the means of interaction between members. During the process of implementing the selected interventions, the community evolved towards the next stage in its development cycle and the statistics regarding participation in the online community registered upward trends. The main contribution of this research is that, compared to previous studies, it provides a deeper understanding on setting up and managing distributed communities of practice. Furthermore, the study presents a systematic approach on how to improve knowledge sharing in a geographically dispersed community in its early stages of development. The main limitation of this study is the restricted degree of generalization that can be applied to the results, which is a direct consequence of the explorative nature of this research. Another limitation is the relatively short time span of the research process, which meant that not all the effects generated by the interventions could be considered in the results.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 13th European Conference on Knowledge Management, ECKM 2012
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event13th European Conference on Knowledge Management - Cartagena, Spain
Duration: 6 Sept 20127 Sept 2012
Conference number: 13

Publication series

SeriesProceedings of the European Conference on Knowledge Management, ECKM


Conference13th European Conference on Knowledge Management
Abbreviated titleECKM 2012


  • Communities of practice
  • Geographical dispersion
  • Knowledge management


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving knowledge sharing: Leading practices applied to a distributed program management community'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this