Skills sharing, collaboration, and cross-silo communication can be difficult in matrix organizations where common business practices may be shared across multiple business units. Organizations that strive for continuous improvement in these practices need a mechanism to identify, track and circulate the latest industry trends, techniques and tools. Additionally, this mechanism should support consistent management, and development, of common skills across the organization.
To meet this need, and as a precursor to [book Agile Business Management], organizations can utilize informal ‘Communities of Practice’ (CoP), which can be defined as: “A group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”
CoP’s usually span across departments, have members distributed throughout an organization and are informal, self-organizing, & self-regulating. In a business context, common CoP’s include; operational expertise, project management, information management, business quality, or risk management.
A famous example of a community of practice within an organization is that which developed around the Xerox customer service representatives who repaired the machines in the field. The Xerox reps began exchanging tips and tricks over informal meetings over breakfast or lunch and eventually, Xerox saw the value of these interactions and created the Eureka project to allow these interactions to be shared across the global network of representatives. The Eureka database has been estimated to have saved the corporation $100 million."
The objectives of a CoP will vary over time but are generally to:
Membership of a CoP should be open to all business areas with an interest in the business practice. To be effective, CoP’s should actively seek out and welcome any business areas that have similar interests, goals, or objectives.
While it depends on the context of the organisation, most CoP’s that I have run are hour-long, monthly, physical meetings. If an organisation has distributed teams, teleconferencing should be made available for remote members.
To keep each CoP meeting running smoothly, I usually set up a standing agenda which outlines 5 main sections to each meeting;
All members are expected to share their expertise, and any documents or other resources they have which they think will be useful to all members.
The responsibility of CoP Chair should rotate between members each meeting. This shares responsibility, reduces conflict, and encourages full participation from all members. The chair is responsible for:
If you have created your own Community of Practice or have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Please subscribe and become a member to access the entire Business Agility Library without restriction.