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Setting Up Successful Communities of Practice: An Experience Report


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How we set up successful CoPs at IHS - POs, SMs, and QA

Published in: Engineering

Setting Up Successful Communities of Practice: An Experience Report

  2. 2. DEFINITIONS – COMMON UNDERSTANDING • Community (noun) - com·mu·ni·ty • a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. • a similarity or identity. • Practice (noun) – prac·tice • the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use. • repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it. • Practice (verb) • perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency. • carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.
  3. 3. COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE Cognitive anthropologists Lave and Wenger define it as a group of people who -- share a passion for something they do -- learn how to do it better -- interact regularly
  4. 4. EXAMPLES OF COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE • Research areas by Lave and Wenger included studying learning among • Yucatan midwives • Tailors in Liberia • Insurance claims processors • These groups exhibited common paradigms of sharing, learning, and growth
  5. 5. A MODERN-DAY EXAMPLE OF A COP: XEROX • Xerox repairmen in the field used to informally exchange tips and tricks on common problems • Communication usually done over lunch and informal meetings • Eureka database created to keep track of these tips and tricks • Savings due to the Eureka database: over $100 MM USD
  6. 6. CHARACTERISTICS OF A SUCCESSFUL COP • Domain (e.g. agile) • Community (e.g. ScrumMasters) • Practice (the practical aspect of the application of the knowledge and sharing the learnings)
  7. 7. SO, WHY SET UP A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE? • Share • Learn • Grow • Teach • Enrich • Mentor
  8. 8. BENEFITS OF COP • Organic organizational growth • Higher productivity • Happier employees • Cost savings • Sharing of key knowledge and technologies • Unexpected and fruitful collaboration • Empathy and shared emotions, leading to stronger employee bonding that transcends normal, business-as-usual interactions • Smoother and easier onboarding of new employees • A safe environment within which one can learn without judgment and contribute without fear • Employee empowerment and engagement • Ownership through involvement • Innovation through broader collection of ideas
  10. 10. CURRENT COPS AT IHS CoP  ScrumMasters Product Owners/Managers Quality Assurance Developers Established July 2013 Coming soon (relaunch) 03/2015 April 2014 April 2014 Frequency Every 2-3 weeks Monthly Fortnightly Fortnightly Member Count Approx. 90 Approx. 40 (already signed- up) Approx. 12 (expanding quickly) Approx. 12 (expanding quickly) Topics Covered Kanban, collaboration, open forum, planning, estimation, Rally demos Q&A, crossover with SMCoP QA signoff, test case design, demos, integration and security testing Data analytics/cloud, major platforms, web frameworks
  11. 11. STEP 1 – IDENTIFY THE COP • Need: Identify the Community to be created • Challenges: • Most colleagues very new to or not exposed to agile • Dispersed teams and colleagues • Very large organization with varying reporting hierarchies and groups • Overcome by: • Strong backing of executive sponsor • Bureaucracy/red-tape cleared quickly • Already buzz around the company around agile • Qualified colleagues eager to join/make a difference (we already had some CSMs)
  12. 12. STEP 2 – IDENTIFY THE STAKEHOLDERS • Need: Figure out who the stakeholders are (influencing; removing roadblocks) • Challenges: • Resources and time are not free • Understand and respect the time commitments of all involved • Early game – only promises; trying to get something for nothing • Very large PD&D group spread all over the world • Overcome by: • A willingness on the part of supportive management to encourage this experimentation • Strong networking • Interest coming from the grassroots • Many stakeholders already were (somewhat to quite) knowledgeable regarding agile
  13. 13. STEP 3 – EDUCATE THE STAKEHOLDERS • Need: Full disclosure to the stakeholders on what’s coming and what’s needed • Challenges: • Potential negative response post-disclosure • Overcome by: • Being able to demonstrate the value of CoPs • Being upfront and honest about the effort • Promise to start small and fail quickly and cheaply
  14. 14. STEP 4 – IDENTIFY THE MEMBERS • Need: Figure out the participants in the CoP • Challenges: • Need to identify qualified candidates • Should also be willing to participate and evangelize • Should be willing to devote time from work to do this • No real (perceived) gains – mostly notional in nature • Overcome by: • Getting recommendations from the main stakeholders • Network across teams and groups to pick out start contributors • Spread the message as much as possible to attract the top talent
  15. 15. STEP 5 – GET EXECUTIVE SPONSOR BUY-IN • Need: Get full and unconditional support of the chief sponsor of the effort • Challenges: None, as they already were on-board
  16. 16. STEP 6 – CREATE THE CHARTER/MANIFESTO • Need: Get the charter/manifesto together • Challenges: • Can’t be too specific • Can’t tie yourself down to any specific methodology or a rigid structure/hierarchy • Overcome by: • Keeping the overall purpose and mission a bit flexible • Being totally open about the exact nature and purpose of the CoP – so no twisting/bending needed • Check-in with the Sponsors to ensure the charter/manifesto was in keeping with their vision
  17. 17. STEP 7 – SET UP THE WEBSITE/SOCIAL SITE • Need: Set up a website for storing documents/artifacts and to collaborate • Challenges: • No ESN existed at the time • SharePoint has easy-to-use templates to create a basic site, but not built for collaboration • Need to keep material fresh and relevant • Overcome by: • Leveraging a SharePoint expert to set up the initial site and get training on admin/maintenance work • Encouraging collaboration beyond just the site and bleeding into local(ized) meetings • Recent rollout of Jive (ESN) has helped things tremendously
  18. 18. STEP 8 – SOLICIT MEMBERS AND GENERATE BUZZ • Need: Get a strong awareness of this movement going, plus ensure identified members are invited and that they’re committed, as well • Challenges: • Highly dispersed teams • VERY busy colleagues tied down by releases, bugs, production issues – typical software demands • Overcome by: • Getting stakeholders to talk about this effort via email; in meetings; in the intranet as blogs etc. • Once the buzz set in, reaching out to the members and set up group meetings • Explaining the purpose, charter, goals, and any other useful information • Following-up and saying they’ll hear back soon
  19. 19. STEP 9 – LAUNCH THE COMMUNITY • Need: Final step in the main process: LAUNCH! • Challenges: • Finding a suitable time for all (remember, we have global participants) • Has to be done right to instill confidence and to gain credibility and support • Has to be the right length – not too long or too short • Has to demonstrate immediate value or immediate potential • Overcome by: • Coming up with a quick consensus on the date/time (majority wins – can’t please everyone) • Maximum length has been 1 hour (with the odd exception) • Bringing in an expert from within or outside of the company for a talk • Having them talk specifically about the value of such communities • Have the expert speak to their direct experience and provide examples of previous success
  20. 20. STEP 10 – SUSTAIN THE COMMUNITY • Need: Sustain the effort now that things have started • Challenges: • HOW? • Overcome by: • Engaging informally and formally via internal social media or website • Holding regular sessions (WebEx and teleconference) and recording them • Uploading the recordings and related artifacts and send out follow-up email promptly • Asking for what’s needed/what’s missing/how to improve/deliver on needs and requirements
  21. 21. STEP 11 – SUCCEED! • After 2-3 months, request feedback on the Community • Make changes gradually • Point out the changes being made if appropriate to satisfy those requesting them • List successes and bring to the attention of the stakeholders and executive sponsor • Invite stakeholders and executive sponsor to ALL sessions (let them decide if they wish to attend) • Publish periodic executive summaries in newsletter format, easy to read, short, relevant and interesting. Include links, graphics, and resources • New Enterprise Social Network, based on Jive, is really making a lot of difference! • The Agile Investigation Groups that we created (SIGs) did some very nice work in areas such as Commitment-Based vs. Velocity-Based planning and scaling agile etc. They have been quite influential
  22. 22. CURRENT CHALLENGES & NEXT STEPS • Current challenges: • Getting new members interested right away • Different levels of maturity and knowledge and interest • Getting many more people to contribute • Bringing in awareness of the latest industry trends • Next steps: • Leverage the ESN a lot more • Create local “guilds” • Create more special investigation groups
  23. 23. FURTHER SUCCESS • Helped set up a CoP for QA – it’s going really well • Helping set up a CoP for Product Owners • Assisting also with a CoP for SCM (Source Code Management)
  24. 24. TESTIMONIALS Project Manager: I look forward to these meetings; I know that when we had a sub-team that researched and presented, it was great. The recordings are great to have. ScrumMaster: I don't just like it, I LOVE it! Sr. Mgr. PD&D: I really like the community! Sr. Mgr. PD&D: I think this is great idea to share knowledge in a discussion form to achieve better efficiency. Sr. Software Engg./ScrumMaster PD&D: I love the idea of the community! Dir. R&D: I find the community very vibrant...For the sessions, I like the variety, where we go sometimes from open questions to full presentations
  25. 25. Q&A/SOURCES • Sources: • Wikipedia (Communities of Practice/Lave and Wenger) • Contact: •