5 Steps of Building Communities of Practice
A community of practice is essential to business success. Learn how to establish your own corporate learning through building communities of practice.
Ideas are what makes the business world go round. Companies spend a lot of time, money, and effort to generate ideas and spread them. In more than two and a half decades, this knowledge sharing framework is becoming a SoP for all companies – the community of practice.
It radically enhanced the exchange of knowledge and more importantly, it can be used by any company, from manufacturers to banks, government agencies, small businesses and multinational companies including yours.
Why You Should Start Building Communities of Practice
There are several advantages to establishing a community of practice in your business.
It will help your team share new strategies, open new business opportunities, share best practices and find solutions to challenges the company face.
It also allows every member to expand their knowledge base and share their insights and expertise in order to boost productivity.
3 Rules for Establishing an Effective Community of Practice
With so much at stake, building communities of practice requires your proper consideration. Remember that the community is organic and ruled by the needs and interests of its members.
Thus, it has to be flexible and dynamic. Here are three rules to consider to ensure the effectivity of your group:
Establish Membership Requirements
It’s best to set ground rules on who can join the community. Members should be active practitioners in their field in order to contribute valuable and relevant knowledge.
After all, they can’t share what they know nothing about. Determine a profile for your typical member and design a selection or approval system that’s transparent and fair.
Have Your Own Space
This group needs one to one interactions among its members in a welcoming, safe, and productive environment. Your community’s meeting space can either be physical, virtual or both.
What is important is that the CoP’s space allows for members to relax, build trust, and helps them focus.
The best communities are those where members can share their own experiences – the mistakes they made, what they learned from it, how they resolved problems, and their successes.
It’s a good idea to codify this information and make it available to members, especially for those who will be joining in the future.
Decide on what platform can be used to document this information, how to save and share it, and how to curate information that others will be adding.
5 Steps in Building Communities of Practice that Will Help Your Company Grow
The best thing about corporate communities of practice is how they transcend different types of business.
CoPs can thrive in online or offline settings, making them perfect for both typical corporate set up and companies with remote teams.
Follow these steps if you want to build your own CoP:
Have a Clear Goal and Strategy
The first thing you need to do is to determine your community’s objective or goal. What do you hope to achieve by sharing knowledge? Is it to improve a specific group or to enhance your training or marketing strategies?
Establishing a clear goal will make it easier for you to plot out your strategy. It will also let members know what their responsibilities are, what’s expected of them, and what they can do to achieve the group’s goal.
Once you have a clear goal in mind, it’s time to set up your infrastructure or strategy.
Develop a charter that explains the group’s strategy, the ways members will communicate, when and where meetings will be held, and how these sessions will be conducted.
Organise Regular Meetings and Select an Effective Moderator
It goes without saying that all community members should meet regularly, regardless of whether this meeting will take place online or offline. This will help establish trust and make members feel comfortable with each other.
After all, your knowledge will resonate more if people know something about you. It will also allow for more effective sharing of ideas and opinions.
Of course, you’ll need someone to take control of the meetings and discussions. Have your community select an efficient moderator. This person will also act as a liaison between the community and management.
The moderator can be handpicked or voted in by members. What’s important is that this individual should be reliable, adept at discussing a large array of topics and is respected or appreciated by the group.
3. Select the Right Project Management Software and Social Media Platforms
The diversity of your community members means you’ll require a solid project management software. It can serve as your community’s virtual headquarters. It keeps members organised even when they’re working remotely.
There are several good software to choose from, like Asana, TeamWorkPM, and Basecamp. Use them to assign tasks to members, share documents, check project deadlines, and keep up with the community calendar.
You also need to decide on a social media platform where community members can keep in touch easily. LinkedIn, Facebook, online forums, and Twitter are priceless tools for CoPs.
Having members use these platforms will make it more convenient for them to share notes, videos, and images, as well as develop innovative ideas that may suddenly come during their social media splurge.
Provide Resources and Support to New Communities
Your community of practice will have a greater chance of succeeding if it has access to the proper resources and receives adequate support.
Companies should extend whatever assistance their corporate learning community demands, including apps, tools, and financial backing.
Helping CoPs is necessary, particularly during its infant stages, if you want them to achieve their primary objectives.
After all, the company will benefit from the success of the community via the training and development strategies and solutions that it will develop.
Conduct in-house Surveys Regularly to Identify Areas of Improvement
Companies should conduct regular surveys to identify the weaknesses or issues that the community of practice has to work on. Respondents should include a host of employees from different departments and company hierarchy.
Community members can use the insights and feedback provided as a gauge on what topics are the most critical and require immediate attention.
It will also help them in allotting the necessary resources as well as devising a plan on how to push forward.
Go Forward With Your Communities of Practice
Regardless of how big your company is, or whether it’s based online or you have a remote team, a corporate community of practice will provide you a mechanism to keep harnessing the tacit knowledge of your workforce.
The collective knowledge and expertise can easily help you in detecting and resolving issues beyond your radar.
A clearly defined goal, support from the management, and access to invaluable tools are just some of the steps to build an effective community.
If you want to dig deeper, take our organisational mastery scorecard to know more about the aspects of your company growth you need to cover.