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How to run a Community of Practices (COP)
Patterns and anti-pattern on COPs
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.
- 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
- 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 : https://www.lemonade.com/blog/psychology-givers-takers-matchers-2/
- 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?”
- Create the buzz around you community
- Make it viral
- Choose the right channels
- Be consistent in your communications
- Brand it internally
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
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.
You need to be sure that everyone agrees and is aligned on the Vision and why the community is important at this stage.
Anticipate what could support the Community Vision and what could slow it down.
Naming is always important so choose it all together as well.
At this moment you can also elect a leader for the Community.
You can then format the outcome of the workshop into a Canva that you can display everywhere like the one below :
Craft cop vision
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 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)
Download the cards