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It continues from episode 31(ish) & in this episode we talk about building communities of practice. Watch the video & if you can’t be bothered to do that, there’s also a audio version on the podcast, subscribe to the Delivery Manager Daily here
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I’ll stick to the practicalities here in the post, to set up a CoP;
Here’s what I would do;
- Ensure you’re free to do this. In effect seek executive buy in.
- Create some form of vision/case-for-change & articulate that. It’ll probably be a slide deck & represent your ‘manifesto’ as a group of CoPs
- Flesh out each COP you’ll need for whatever discipline, (architecture, cloud, governance, Ops, ways of working, VMO) & you’ll need at least one person to be at the heart of each of those CoPs. This should look like some kind of spider diagram, you can use tools like Miro or whatever you like to use, Coggle.it is pretty good
- You’ll probably need a sharepoint site, with each CoP having in affect, a ‘digital front door’ telling everyone what that particular CoP is about, what they are responsible for, basically, how to engage with the CoP, where to find information within that CoP etc. Someone from each CoP should be the lead & be responsible for anything to do with the communicating of that CoP & provide support subsequently.
- You’ll need to publicise these groups of people, you can use Yammer! If appropriate in the organisation which in my opinion is still a great & massively under-used tool. Great for appetite whetting & kick starting conversation, also a good way to get sentiment & use the analytics built in for future engagement measurement
- Diarise some events, such like nominations for people to be a part of a CoP they are passionate about. Chair/board events (where you may want to talk about what problems you’re tackling for that month & why), retro’s, drop in Lean Coffee sessions, that type of thing. You probably need periodic CoP get togethers too. You’ll be good if you can get people physically together, that accelerates this whole thing generally. You should publish those get togethers, photos, videos, talking heads. Post them on Yammer & create a FOMO environment.
- Each CoP needs a ‘brand’. Not necessarily anything too in depth, but a look & feel in keeping with whatever that CoP is about. Each CoP will also need a name. DO NOT under-estimate this. It sounds soft and fluffy & waste of time but actually represents a key component of setting up successful multiple CoP landscapes
- Think about the mechanics for each CoP. There needs to be a single source of truth for that knowledge, there needs to be a mechanism for signposting that knowledge, there needs to be a ToR on how to engage with that CoP. All of this is collateral you’ll need to create.
Aside: if I use my DM’s as an example of a community of practice & what that means:- if you want to know about delivery approaches, project problem solving, Agile, or project delivery you can come into our CoP. I will be able to signpost you to multi-format mixed media collateral suitable for all different audience types, I’ll be able to answer specific questions about these things and/or provide you with an SME who could. I could give you an idea of collectively what we’re about & the impact we’ve had on the organisation AND what we do as a community & how we do it. We information-radiate outwards through Lunch & Learns, Podcasts, physical get-togethers & town-halls, project showcases. We demonstrate how we contribute to the external community & others who do similar, so we can validate our knowledge & technical chops in effect, validating why we’re a CoP in the first place. Finally, we can ingest people into our CoP if they want to be one of us. We finally provide turnkey accelerators, in effect set patterns of working to increase the mean likelihood of success in a project. These are Agile in-a-box type things.
You need to build some messaging, a toolbox of the things you’ll need to establish the CoP’s & a consistent tone of voice. Although each CoP should be free to have its own capability nuanced identity, the CoP’s should exist as a collective of high performing units.
- Set up an ADO (Assume you will use ADO) project, with a dashboard. (for performance & tracking metrics). Add each community of practice stakeholder to an Agile configured project/team & build a backlog of problems per capability, as ‘epics’.
- Use a survey or get together to pick & prioritise these problems & challenges
- Nominate someone as a CoP quasi Scrum person to put these into sprints, & have your CoP get togethers swarm around this to give you direction. You can then use ADO’s reporting tools to help with measurement, tracking & give you something to communicate in terms of progress & outcomes.
- Do quarterly experiential retrospectives, focusing on broad outcomes & value-add rather than too detailed specifics. Use that as PR, lighthouse wins, & help keep momentum up by providing a story-led narrative executive summary type of ‘we heard this > we then did this > this was the outcome’ type thing. You should always link back to a reason for your existence.