I mentioned on Twitter the other day that teams at my work don’t have web 2.0 type online team spaces, but Communities of Practice do. So what happens is that teams are using our CoP tools…and then of course these online team spaces are referred to as CoPs, which is a mistake, as the technology does not define the group dynamics (CoPs are usually naturally emerging groups about learning/sharing, whereas teams are managed groups that execute assigned outcomes).
Team working CoPs
Teams using CoPs to execute tasks, can carry on with their team dynamic of getting stuff done, manage and measure, produce outcomes/deliverables.
Team sharing/support CoPs
But more common are teams using CoPs for sharing/learning/communication/support (troubleshooting). And in this case it’s important that these team sharing type CoPs encourage facilitation rather than try run the community like a team.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the team lead and sub-team leads are too busy to run the CoP space, so a team member is given the task to run the CoP, which is sometimes like pushing up a hill, as they don’t have influence and feel they are bugging people who might not care about the CoP to start with, as they are automatically a member by default of being in the team, rather than accepting an invite. And if the lead and sub-leads are not role-model contributors then this makes it a real hard chore.
Regular sharing and learning cross-functional CoPs
For more on this point about group dynamics see my post, Team-based CoPs compared to cross-functional CoPs.
Then we have people coming together from different parts of the organisation who request to use a CoP space for their ad-hoc group, to work on a task like fixing a process, etc… These spaces are often more short-lived. Again this really isn’t a traditional CoP…again the technology (CoP tools) do no define the group dynamic.
Anyway, these ad-hoc groups should really be self-serve, I really feel like a bottleneck, and most of the time people don’t bother and use email because their synchronous to asynchronous flow ain’t smooth and effortless.
Sponsor vs Self-serve
Betrand Dupperin picked up on this notion of self-serve creation online group spaces, and from reading his post it seems he was more clear in his explanation.
For traditional CoPs we ask that the requestor has a community sponsor…this is important as online CoPs take time to run, and that is time the manager is allowing for, that could be spent on execution.
If there was a notice from the very top that people can spend time away from or related to tasks (like Google’s 20% time), then self-serve would be OK, but at the moment we need the requestor to note that her immediate boss is ok with this.
NOTE: we have a side issue that the CoP tools we are using are complicated to set up for a regular user, so self-serve might still be an issue from a design perspective.
Now, for ad-hoc group work, this really doesn’t require a sponsor, as the time you spend in the ad-hoc group space is time doing the task itself anyway.
So what we have to do, is work with the vendor to make simple versions of our CoP tools, where there is just one stream, and simple permissions…as stripped down as possible so it’s close to the ease of using email. This way these ad-hoc groups can be self-serve.
I see Jive SBS takes this approach where they have community spaces and group spaces, where the group spaces are self-serve and more basic.
Would people use these ad-hoc groups as traditional CoPs, probably, but they wouldn’t look like flashy websites like our regular CoPs.
I guess that’s where we are, the solution might actually create an issue…personally I would not see it as an issue but see it as emergence, and perhaps this momentum as a catalyst for the allowance of work time spent sharing and learning…not explicitly like 20% of your time, but just embedded into your day.
So what do you think?
- Teams or departments manage their own communities
- we refuse CoPs that tread on the turf of an existing team or department
- CoPs require a sponsor
- Bottom-up request, Top down creation
- Ad-hoc groups self-serve
And what do you do if ad-hoc group spaces are used as CoPs?
Would it matter, as the ad-hoc group spaces would be so simple that the facilitator does not need to spend time managing permissions, and up keeping the space. But people may still be spending a portion of their time contributing.