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How to run a Community of Practices (COP)

Patterns and anti-pattern on COPs

Community of Practices

What is it ?

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.

Its purpose

  • Connect people / break silos
  • Consolidate the collective knowledge
  • Improve quality
  • Spread knowledge
  • Standardize practices in the organization
  • Share practices
  • Build new skills / learn together
  • Build a learning organization
  • Solve problems by using the collective intelligence

Who ?

  • 1 leader / facilitator
    • Keep it alive
    • Organize the events
    • Motivate people
  • 1 core of people / Volunteers
    • To participate and contribute
In fact in Community of Practice you can observe 3 types of participants :
src :
  • Takers : self-focused and put their own interests ahead of others’ needs. They try to gain as much as possible from their interactions while contributing as little as they can in return.
  • Matchers : like to preserve an equal balance of giving and taking.
    • Their mindset is: “If you take from me, I’ll take from you. If you give to me, I’ll give to you.”
  • Givers : are others-focused, and tend to provide support to others with no strings attached.
    • They ask themselves, “How can I add value for this person? What can I contribute?”

Communication is key

  • Create the buzz around you community
    • Make it viral
  • Choose the right channels
  • Be consistent in your communications
    • Brand it internally

Examples of Events of a COP

  • Organize Brown Bag sessions
    • 1 speaker on a dedicated topic
    • Spread/Share knowledge
    • Everyone can share a few minutes on 1 topic
    • Solve problems by using Collective Intelligence
  • Xtrems format : learn collaboratively


There are some key steps when introducing a COP. This kind of initiative can be associate to a change process :
  • Define the goals of the community
    • Do it collaboratively with those who see the needs to create one
  • Sell the idea internally
    • Find sponsors
  • Initiate a backlog
  • Kick-off the community
  • Run your first events
  • Introduce Continuous Improvement process
    • Gather feedback regularly
    • Organize retrospective
    • Check regularly if you meet the goals you defined

How to bootstrap yours ?

Here is the facilitation format I use to help organizations bootstrap their own COP.
During a 2 hours workshop you can invite motivated people on the topic you want to create a COP about (examples : software development, UX, Agile, Analysts, Project Managers, ...).
The goal of the workshop : Co-construct a first version of a community vision.
I use a divergent / convergent format with individual / collective reflection times.

1) Vision / Importance

You need to be sure that everyone agrees and is aligned on the Vision and why the community is important at this stage.

2) How / Measures

3) Impact (on what / who)

4) Resources

5) Force Field Analysis (Optional)

Anticipate what could support the Community Vision and what could slow it down.

6) Choose a name

Naming is always important so choose it all together as well.
At this moment you can also elect a leader for the Community.

COP Canva

You can then format the outcome of the workshop into a Canva that you can display everywhere like the one below :
Craft cop vision

Success criteria

From my experience here are some key success criteria for your COPs :
  • Co-construction is key
    • Involve people from the beginning (Vision)
    • Collaboratively refine your backlog
  • Have 1 and only 1 leader
    • I have already seen COPs with several leaders
      • On the paper I like the idea : no Single Point Of Failure, load is split
    • But I have never seen it worked so I prefer to recommend to have only 1 leader
  • A leader with dedicated time on it
    • Lead / facilitate a COP takes time
    • It must not be a Nice To Have activity
    • Must be part of the person's job
  • Leader needs to be coached at the beginning
    • Often on the skills
    • How to federate and involve people
  • Transparency everywhere on everything
    • Every events should be public
    • Measures of the progress as well
    • Keep a log of everything
    • Publish event minutes and contents on a dedicated platform (Slack, Wiki, ...)
  • Have a strong sponsorship
    • From the management
    • Gather resources
    • Not a nice to have activity for people
    • Need to be convinced that it's a way to evolve as an organization
  • Use different event(s) format(s)
    • Vary the pleasures
  • Autonomy
    • Autonomy means clear responsibility as well
    • Have a clear boundary on what can be done within the COP / clear vision
      • Examples : create standards for programming in the organization
  • Involve people
    • Create a safe place for people (without judgement)
    • The key to involve them
    • No need to be an expert to share. It's by sharing that you will become an expert.
  • Reflect regularly on the community
    • Do it with a survey (self assessment) based on the outcomes expected from the Vision
    • Organize retrospectives
    • You can use the self assessment questions below (I recommend to adapt them regarding your own COP vision)

Community Health check

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