Why do Communities of Practice Fail?

How often do we start something with fervor but neglect to monitor the progress or even feel baffled when the project fails? We have built up a few Communities of Practice (CoP) like TiQuality and other technical communities. But how well are we doing? Getting up close with Bas Vodde, creator of LeSS framework during the Agile Tour 2015 brought us some insights on how we can improve our CoPs.

Why do CoPs fail? Here are some reasons cited by Bas:

  1. Telling members “it’s okay to join the community”
    No, it is not enough to tell teams it’s okay. In most organisations, members are used to valuing the time spent on product development above everything else, creating the mindset that only work matters. So change the way you get people to join, say “We want you to join the CoP!”Break the habit of people feeling that are only going to be evaluated by their work and appreciate their curiosity to keep learning. Encouragement, not coercion is key to make it work.
  2. No facilitator, no direction
    You might want to assign a community leader or facilitator for the interest group. More often than not, it is the initiator of the interest group. They are the ones who get the CoP rolling by “seeding”. For instance, he or she plants the seed by sending an email every week to gather members together. Discussions start and eventually communities get creative and run on their own. Importantly, the facilitator or leader is not a decision-making role but simply brings people of the same passion together.
  3. Facilities, facilities, facilities
    If we want to win in a war, we need to make sure that we got our equipment right. Similarly, we need to ensure we are equipped with enough facilities for the communities to actually work. Are there creative structures in place for teams to propose new communities, a budget to invest and develop interest?

    At Titansoft, starting a CoP is easy. This year, we also recognised the need to invest more to create the environment needed to encourage CoPs. So good news, your CoP is fully subsidised if it is within the stipulated budget! 

  4. Help, CoP on life support
    Well, in the words of Bas, if the community needs to die then let it die. We did have a few CoPs about JavaScript or ReactJS that pique the interest of our Titaners but slowly meetings became less frequent and meetups just ended.Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily! It depends on the topic or scope of the interest group. If there is no need or the objective of the interest group has been achieved, there is no need to keep them artificially alive.

So if you are in a CoP, let’s look back  with an Agile mindset to limit waste and invest in what is valuable for us!

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