Also called: Learning Communities, Knowledge Networks, Learning networks, Professional Networks, Collaborative Learning Groups, Knowledge Sharing Groups, Expert Networks, Knowledge Communities, Knowledge Circles, Knowledge Sharing Circles, Knowledge Sharing Networks, Thematic groups, and Tech clubs
See also: Agile Teams
Relevant metrics: Number of CoP members, Frequency of CoP meetings, Quality of CoP discussions, Level of CoP engagement, and Impact of CoP initiatives
What is Communities of Practice (CoPs)?
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are groups of people who share a common interest in a particular subject, topic, or area of expertise. CoPs are typically formed around a shared purpose, such as product management or user experience, and are often composed of members from different organizations, backgrounds, and disciplines. CoPs are typically self-organized and self-directed, and members are expected to contribute to the group’s collective knowledge and expertise.
CoPs are often used to facilitate collaboration, knowledge sharing, and problem solving, and can be used to develop new ideas, products, and services. CoPs can also be used to create a sense of community and foster relationships between members.
Where did the concept of Communities of Practice (CoPs) come from?
Communities of Practice (CoPs) is a term that was first coined by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in 1991. It is a concept that has been used to describe how people learn and share knowledge within a particular group or organization. CoPs are based on the idea that knowledge is created and shared through social interaction and collaboration.
The concept of CoPs has been used to explain how people learn and share knowledge in a variety of contexts, including professional, educational, and organizational settings. CoPs are seen as a way to foster collaboration and learning among members of a particular group or organization. They are also seen as a way to create a sense of community and belonging among members of a particular group or organization.
The theory behind Communities of Practise
The theory of Communities of Practice (CoP) was first introduced by sociologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s. The theory provides a framework for understanding how people learn and develop expertise in a particular field or domain.
The key idea behind the theory is that people learn through social participation in communities where they engage in shared activities and experiences. According to Lave and Wenger, communities of practice have three main elements:
- Domain of practice. This refers to the area of expertise or focus of the community, such as software development, project management, or customer service.
- Community. This refers to the group of individuals who share an interest in the domain of practice and engage in regular, collaborative activities aimed at improving their skills and knowledge.
- Practice. This refers to the shared activities, experiences, and knowledge that members of the community engage in and use to develop their expertise in the domain of practice.
The theory of CoP suggests that individuals can learn and develop expertise more effectively through their participation in a community of practice, as opposed to learning in isolation. In a CoP, individuals are able to draw on the collective knowledge and experience of the group, receive feedback and support, and learn from one another through joint problem-solving and collaboration.
A Powerful Tool for Professional Development
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are an effective way to foster professional development and collaboration among members of a particular field. CoPs are groups of people who share a common interest or profession and come together to share knowledge, experiences, and resources. They are typically formed around a specific topic or area of expertise, and members are encouraged to actively participate in the group’s activities.
CoPs are beneficial for a variety of reasons. They provide a platform for members to exchange ideas, discuss challenges, and develop solutions. They also create a sense of community and belonging, which can be especially helpful for those who are new to a field or profession. Additionally, CoPs can help members stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in their field, as well as provide access to valuable resources and contacts.
Types of CoPs
CoPs come in many forms, including professional and social. Professional CoPs are typically focused on a specific industry or profession and are a great way to stay up to date on the latest trends and developments in the field. Social CoPs are more informal and are often focused on a shared hobby or interest.
There are several different types of CoPs, including:
- Professional CoPs. These are typically formed around a particular profession or industry, such as accounting, engineering, or healthcare.
- Technology CoPs. These are typically formed around a particular technology, such as software development, web design, or data science.
- Interest-Based CoPs. These are typically formed around a particular interest or hobby, such as photography, cooking, or gardening.
- Geographic CoPs. These are typically formed around a particular geographic area, such as a city, state, or country.
In the context of Agile, groups of individuals who share a common interest or goal and engage in regular, collaborative activities aimed at improving their skills and knowledge in a specific area. Here are some common types of CoPs in the Agile context:
- Agile Coaching Community of Practice. This type of CoP focuses on improving the skills and knowledge of Agile coaches. Members exchange best practices and provide support to one another in their coaching efforts.
- Scrum Master Community of Practice. This type of CoP is specifically for Scrum Masters, who help teams adopt and follow the Scrum framework. Members share their experiences and collaborate on ways to overcome common challenges faced by Scrum teams.
- Product Owner Community of Practice. This type of CoP is for Product Owners, who are responsible for defining the product backlog and ensuring the team is building the right product. Members share best practices for creating and prioritizing product backlogs, as well as for effectively communicating with the development team.
- Agile Development Community of Practice. This type of CoP focuses on the day-to-day practices of Agile development teams. Members share best practices for writing code, testing, and continuous delivery.
- Agile Testing Community of Practice. This type of CoP is focused on testing within the Agile context. Members share best practices for testing within an Agile framework, as well as for incorporating testing into the development process.
The key is that members come together to share their experiences, knowledge, and skills in a specific area in order to continuously improve.
Key principles of Communities of Practise
A CoP can provide its members with opportunities for social learning, collaboration, and continuous improvement, which can lead to the development of their skills and knowledge in a specific domain of practice. These basic principles of a CoP create a supportive and collaborative environment where individuals can learn and grow together:
- Shared domain of interest. Members of a CoP share a common interest or goal related to a specific domain of practice, such as software development, project management, or customer service.
- Social learning. Members of a CoP learn from one another through their participation in collaborative activities, such as workshops, presentations, or roundtable discussions.
- Joint enterprise. Members of a CoP work together towards a common goal, such as improving their skills and knowledge in a specific area.
- Mutual engagement. Members of a CoP engage in regular, ongoing activities aimed at advancing their shared interests and goals.
- Collective repertoire. Members of a CoP develop a collective repertoire of knowledge, skills, and practices that they can draw on to achieve their goals.
- Reflective practice. Members of a CoP engage in reflective practice, which involves evaluating their own experiences and learning from one another.
- Continuous improvement. Members of a CoP are committed to continuous improvement, both as individuals and as a community.
Upholding these principles is important for running an effective Community of Practice (CoP) for several reasons:
- Encourages learning. By focusing on social learning and reflective practice, CoPs provide opportunities for members to learn from one another and continuously improve their skills and knowledge in a specific domain of practice.
- Supports collaboration. By promoting joint enterprise and mutual engagement, CoPs encourage members to work together towards a common goal, which can lead to the development of collective knowledge and practices that benefit the entire community.
- Fosters a sense of community. The principles of a CoP help to build a sense of community among members, which can increase their motivation and engagement in the community.
- Promotes continuous improvement. By encouraging continuous improvement, CoPs ensure that members are continuously developing their skills and knowledge in a specific area, which can lead to better performance and improved outcomes.
- Increases the impact of the community. By focusing on the development of a collective repertoire of knowledge and skills, CoPs can have a greater impact in the domain of practice, which can benefit both the members of the community and the organization as a whole.
By adhering to the principles above, CoPs can provide a supportive and collaborative environment for members to develop their skills and knowledge, and achieve their goals. This can lead to better outcomes, increased performance, and a more effective community overall.
Establishing a Community of Practise, step by step
Creating a CoP is relatively straightforward. Here are the key steps to follow when setting up a CoP presented in a sequential manner. You may skip steps or alternate the sequence to fit your needs:
- Define the purpose and focus. The first step is to define the purpose and focus of the CoP. This involves determining the domain of practice, identifying the specific area of interest or need that the CoP will address, and defining the goals and objectives of the community.
- Identify potential members. Once the purpose and focus of the CoP have been established, the next step is to identify potential members. This involves identifying individuals who are interested in the domain of practice, have relevant experience or expertise, and are committed to participating in the community.
- Establish a leadership team. A leadership team is responsible for setting the direction, organizing activities, and maintaining the community. The leadership team should include individuals who have a strong understanding of the domain of practice and are committed to the success of the CoP.
- Develop a communication plan. A communication plan is essential for keeping members informed and engaged. This can include regular newsletters, email updates, or a dedicated discussion forum.
- Plan and organize activities. The CoP should have a regular schedule of activities, such as workshops, presentations, or roundtable discussions. These activities should be focused on sharing knowledge and best practices, solving problems, and building relationships among members.
- Encourage participation. Encouraging participation is key to the success of the CoP. This can include recognizing and rewarding members who contribute to the community, encouraging members to take on leadership roles, and creating opportunities for members to collaborate and share their expertise.
- Evaluate and refine. Regularly evaluating the CoP and making refinements as needed is important for ensuring its continued success. This can involve gathering feedback from members, measuring the impact of activities, and making changes to improve the CoP.
Obtaining executive sponsorship
Obtaining executive sponsorship can be crucial for keeping a Community of Practice (CoP) alive. Executive sponsorship provides the CoP with the resources and support it needs to be effective, and helps to ensure that the goals of the community align with the goals of the organization.
Obtaining executive sponsorship can be crucial for keeping a Community of Practice (CoP) alive.
It can also help to increase the visibility of the CoP, which can increase its impact and encourage more participation from potential members. Having an executive sponsor who is committed to the success of the CoP can help to ensure that the community is taken seriously, that its goals and objectives are understood and supported, and that it has the resources it needs to be successful.
On the practical side, executive sponsorship can provide the CoP with access to other resources, such as funding for events, access to training and development opportunities, and support in promoting the community to others within the organization.
While obtaining executive sponsorship is not essential for running a CoP, it is highly recommended as it can greatly increase the chances of success and impact of the community.
Maintaining engagement among members is critical for the success and sustainability of a Community of Practice (CoP). Here are some strategies that can be used to maintain engagement:
- Provide opportunities for collaboration. Encourage members to collaborate on projects, share knowledge and best practices, and provide feedback and support to each other.
- Foster a sense of community. Create a supportive and inclusive environment where members feel valued and connected to one another. This can involve regular check-ins, virtual or in-person events, and opportunities for members to get to know each other.
- Encourage active participation. Encourage members to actively participate in the community by sharing their knowledge, asking questions, and contributing to discussions and events.
- Keep content relevant and up-to-date. Regularly review and update the content, resources, and knowledge shared within the community to ensure that it remains relevant and up-to-date.
- Celebrate successes. Recognize and celebrate the achievements of members and the community as a whole to reinforce the value of their involvement.
- Provide support and resources. Offer support and resources, such as access to experts, training, and tools, to help members develop their skills and knowledge.
- Continuously evaluate and improve. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the community, solicit feedback from members, and make changes as needed to improve the experience and outcomes for members.
Seek to create a supportive and engaging environment for members, which can help to maintain and increase engagement over time. Maintaining engagement is key to ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of the community.
Establishing guidelines for Communties of Practise
Establishing guidelines for a Community of Practice (CoP) is an important step in ensuring its success and sustainability. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a framework for the community, to ensure that its activities and objectives align with the goals of the organization, and to create a sense of structure and accountability for the members.
To establish guidelines for a CoP, you can start by involving members in the process of developing the guidelines. This can involve holding workshops or roundtable discussions to gather input and feedback from members, and to ensure that the guidelines reflect the collective interests and goals of the community.
The following are some of the key components that you may consider including in the guidelines for a CoP:
- Mission statement. A clear and concise statement of the purpose and goals of the community.
- Membership criteria. Guidelines for who can join the community, such as the level of expertise or experience required, and the process for joining.
- Code of conduct. Rules and expectations for how members should interact and engage with one another, such as respect for others and maintaining confidentiality.
- Communication and collaboration tools. Guidelines for the use of technology and communication tools, such as online forums, video conferencing, or email, to support collaboration and communication among members.
- Meetings and events. Guidelines for how often the community should meet, and what types of activities or events should be organized, such as workshops, presentations, or roundtable discussions.
- Decision-making process. A process for making decisions collectively, such as by consensus, vote, or through a designated leader.
Once the guidelines have been developed, you can use various artifacts to communicate and enforce them, such as a community charter or a code of conduct document.
To make sure that the community adheres to the guidelines, it is important to provide ongoing support and reinforcement. This can include regular reminders and communications about the guidelines, as well as recognizing and addressing any violations of the guidelines in a timely and respectful manner.
To reflect on the guidelines over time, it is important to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the community and to solicit feedback from members. This can involve conducting surveys or focus groups to gather input and feedback, and to identify areas for improvement. Based on this feedback, the guidelines can be revised and updated as needed to better support the goals and needs of the community.
By establishing guidelines for a CoP, you can create a structured and supportive environment for members to collaborate, learn, and achieve their goals, which can lead to better outcomes and a more successful and sustainable community.
Servant leadership and Communities of Practise
Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy that prioritizes the needs and development of others, and focuses on serving others as the primary means of achieving success and making a positive impact. CoPs, on the other hand, are communities of individuals who share a common interest and come together to learn from one another, share knowledge and expertise, and collaborate on projects.
The principles of servant leadership and CoPs are interconnected in several ways. For example, servant leaders view themselves as facilitators and enablers of others, and seek to build relationships and networks with others to increase their impact and influence. CoPs provide an ideal platform for servant leaders to achieve these goals, as they bring people together to collaborate, share knowledge, and build relationships.
Using Communities of Practice for impact and influence
Communities of Practice (CoPs) can help servant leaders achieve more influence and impact by providing several benefits:
- Sharing of knowledge and expertise. Servant leaders can use CoPs to share their knowledge and expertise with others, building their reputation as a thought leader and helping to increase their influence within the organization.
- Building relationships. CoPs provide opportunities for servant leaders to build relationships and networks with others in their field, which can help to expand their reach and increase their impact.
- Fostering collaboration. Servant leaders can use CoPs to bring people together and facilitate collaboration, which can help to break down silos, increase innovation, and achieve better outcomes.
- Developing new skills. CoPs can provide opportunities for servant leaders to learn from others and develop new skills, which can help to increase their effectiveness and impact.
- Encouraging growth. Servant leaders can use CoPs to encourage and support the growth and development of others, which can help to build their reputation as a supportive and effective leader.
By leveraging the power of CoPs, servant leaders can achieve more influence and impact within their organizations and communities. The focus on collaboration, relationship-building, and continuous learning and development is in line with the principles of servant leadership, making CoPs a valuable tool for servant leaders looking to achieve greater impact and influence.
Why chose Communities of Practise over other forms of training?
Communities of Practice (CoPs) can be seen as superior to other forms of training for several reasons:
- Collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. CoPs provide opportunities for members to collaborate and learn from each other, which can lead to more effective and efficient problem-solving and knowledge transfer.
- Relevance and applicability. CoPs are focused on specific domains or topics, and members are able to apply their learning directly to their work, which can lead to more relevant and practical learning experiences.
- Sustainability. CoPs are ongoing and self-sustaining communities, which allows for ongoing learning and development over time. This is in contrast to traditional training programs, which typically have a defined start and end date.
- Engagement and motivation. CoPs can provide a supportive and engaging environment for learning, which can increase motivation and engagement among members.
However, it is important to note that CoPs are not the only form of training and development available, and there are several alternatives to consider:
- Formal training programs. These can include traditional classroom-style training, online courses, and workshops.
- Mentorship programs. These involve pairing individuals with more experienced peers or mentors to provide guidance and support for learning and development.
- Job shadowing and secondments. These involve temporarily assigning individuals to different roles or projects within an organization to gain new skills and experiences.
- Conferences and professional development events. These events provide opportunities for individuals to learn from experts and network with others in their field.
Ultimately, the choice of training or development method will depend on the specific goals and needs of the individual or organization. CoPs can be a valuable and effective form of training and development, but it is important to consider all options and choose the approach that best meets the needs of the situation.
Challenges of Implementing Communities of Practice (CoPs)
- Finding the Right People. Identifying the right people to join a CoP can be a challenge, as it requires finding individuals who have the right skills, knowledge, and experience to contribute to the group.
- Establishing a Common Goal. Establishing a common goal for the CoP is essential for its success, as it will help to ensure that all members are working towards the same objectives.
- Developing a Structure. Developing a structure for the CoP is important, as it will help to ensure that the group is organized and efficient.
- Maintaining Engagement. Maintaining engagement among members of the CoP can be difficult, as it requires finding ways to keep members interested and motivated.
- Managing Conflict. Managing conflict among members of the CoP is essential, as it can lead to a breakdown in communication and collaboration.
- Establishing Trust. Establishing trust among members of the CoP is key, as it will help to ensure that members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions.
What is the purpose of the CoP?
Hint The purpose of the CoP is to provide a platform for members to share knowledge, experiences, and best practices related to a particular topic or field.
What are the goals of the CoP?
Hint The goals of the CoP are to foster collaboration, build relationships, and promote learning and growth among members.
Who are the members of the CoP?
Hint The members of the CoP are individuals who have an interest in the topic or field of the CoP.
What are the benefits of joining the CoP?
Hint The benefits of joining the CoP include access to resources, networking opportunities, and the ability to share knowledge and experiences with other members.
What are the expectations of the CoP?
Hint The expectations of the CoP are that members will actively participate in discussions, share resources, and provide feedback and support to other members.
How will the CoP be managed and maintained?
Hint The CoP will be managed and maintained by a designated leader or team of leaders who will be responsible for setting goals, organizing activities, and monitoring progress.
What resources are available to support the CoP?
Hint Resources available to support the CoP include online forums, webinars, and other digital tools.
How will the CoP measure success?
Hint The CoP will measure success by tracking the number of members, the level of engagement, and the quality of the content shared.
How will the CoP ensure that members are engaged and active?
Hint The CoP will ensure that members are engaged and active by providing incentives for participation, such as recognition and rewards.
How will the CoP ensure that members are learning and growing?
Hint The CoP will ensure that members are learning and growing by providing educational opportunities, such as workshops and seminars.
You might also be interested in reading up on:
- Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William Snyder (2002)
- Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity by Etienne Wenger (1998)
- Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991)
- The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid (2000)
- Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love by Roman Pichler (2011)
- Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland (2014)
- The Agile Samurai: How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software by Jonathan Rasmusson (2010)
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