Why communities of practice succes and why they fail

  • dec 2011
  • Irene
  • 1
  • 9621
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Dossier: Sociale Innovatie

Een artikel uit 2008 over een onderzoek naar de succesfactoren van Communities of Practice binnen organisaties. Het gaat in dit artikel niet zozeer om online CoP's , gefocust is op CoP's rondom technische ontwikkelingen. Het gaat om georganiseerde CoP's, waarbij er concreet toegewerkt wordt naar innovatie.
Toch kunnen de uitkomsten van het onderzoek naar mijn mening redelijk vertaald worden naar een online situatie. De succes- en risicofactoren die genoemd worden gelden in meer of mindere mate ook voor online communities.

De uitkomsten van dit onderzoek kunnen helpen om richting te geven aan het inrichten van het community management (of community facilitation). In ieder geval om na te denken wat deze succesfactoren (en risicofactoren) betekenen voor online communities in organisaties.
Een van de punten die aangehaald wordt als succesfactor is een omgeving vrij van hiërarchie. Wat betekent dit voor een samenwerkingsomgeving in een organisatie? Hoe zou je dat kunnen waarborgen?

Hieronder mijn samenvatting:

De eerste actie van het onderzoek was een vragenlijst naar 57 CoP-leiders. "The results revealed ten governance mechanism linked to strategic objectives, an actie collaboration between a "sponsor" from top-management, and a CoP "leader", networking routines, a risk-free environment, and the measurement of CoP's success. The results also revealed a number of reasons for failure: absence of a core group, weak one-to-one connections between members, rigidity of competence, lack of identifiaction with the network, and practice intangibility.

The research's central question is: through which specific governance mechanism are CoP's succesfully guided? A CoP is defined as successful when its members exchange specific knowledge, practices and/or experiences that contribute to developing a practice (know-how) in a specific field."

Ze vonden 10 succesfactoren voor CoP governance, ze noemen deze "The 10 commandments of CoP governance."

1) Stick to strategic objectives.
We found evidence that setting clear and measurable objectives provides CoP members with a concrete direction to follow. Consequently, members - especially core members - participate more actively in the process of best practice development and sharing, because they can clearly perceive the financial benefit of using such practices in their own organizational unit, and of multiplying, such practices throughout their organization.

2) Divide objectives into sub-topics
Evidence also suggests that classifying objectives into sub-topics gives CoP members absolute clarity regarding the goals that a CoP must achieve. A taxonomy of objectives gives them a precise orientation to follow by proposing different areas in which they must develop and share best practices.

3) Form governance committees with sponsors and CoP leaders
This committee discusses and assesses the overall activity of the various CoP's in their specific functional area of the organization. The committee regularly assesses whether each CoP's activity makes strategic sense for the organization, and how these activities can be presented to the top management to obtain additional financial support. There are several positive impacts that governance committees have on best practices if they are developed regularly:
- Opportunity for inter-CoP sharing of best practices
- Opportunity to merge CoP's
- Opportunities to benchmark activities across CoP's

4) Have a sponsor and a CoP leader who are "best practice control agents"
In succesful CoP's the sponsor stays in regular contact with the leader to obtain access to these best developed and shared practices.
If the leader is able to activate the connections between members, it is more likely that the knowledge flow's density will increase. But, this does not guarantee the relevancy of the knowledge contained in these flows. Nor does an increased knowledge flow density ensure that hte members will make good use of the knwoledge that they receive, which is why the sponsor also controls the practice's performance criteria:
- punctiality (does it allow time saving?)
- quality (does it deliver better output or lead to higher revenues?)
- cost (does it enable the organization to save costs?)

5) Regularly feed the CoP with external practice
Two ways in wich external expertise has a positive impact on best practice development and sharing:
- Specialization in specific parts of the practice
- Maintain excitement within the CoP

6) Promote access to other intra- en interorganizational networks
This increases members' active participation. Through other CoP members, they obtain access to practice-related experts outside the CoP's boundaries.

7) The CoP leader must have a driver and promotor role
The findings show that the leader increases the CoP's attractiveness by distinctly structuring it into different sub-topics and coordinating the CoP as a whole, with each sub-CoP managing and indexing best practices relative to a specific part of the CoP's general practice. The sharing of best practices is therefore stimulated, as members are more willing tot access best practices from a platform that clearly announces what it offers. Members also post and share best practices more enthusiastically on a platform where they know their practices will match other members' demands.

8) Overcome hierarchy-related pressure
Within the CoP's boundaries, members are no longer regarded as being under their direct superior's orders, since a CoP is a hierarchy-gree, learning zone. The leader reminds members that they will not be judged and/or sanctioned by their direct superiors if they make mistakes, ask naive questions, or admit that they have gaps in ther knowledge.

9) Provide the sponsor with measurable performance
The sponsor is provided with quantitative evidence that the CoP is fulfilling its strategic operational objectives so that the top management can maintain, or increase, its investments in the CoP.

10) Illustrate result for CoP members
CoP members are encouraged to post their written expericences with a best practice on an electronic scorecard system: how they implemented a practice in their organizational unit, how they used it, and even how they were able to improve it. They relate how they could quantitatively measure the results that were generated through the use of a specific practice.

Naast 10 succesfactoren zijn er 5 risicofactoren gevonden:
1) Lack of a core group.
The core group usually emerges at an early stage of the CoP and should remain stable thereafter.

2) Low level of one-to-one interaction between members

3) Rigidity of competences
Members tend to primarily trust their own competences, and are therefore less willing to integrate practices originating from other CoP members into their daily work.

4) Lack of identification with the CoP
Members do not view participation in their CoP as meaningful for their daily work.

5) Practice intangibility
This occurs when members fail to engage with one another in a way that allows them to illustrate the practice to make it concrete enough fot other members to understand and visualize its function.

Het volgende CoP governance model wordt voorgesteld:
Een wiel met daarin 6 factoren die bijdragen aan succes en dus allemaal de nodige aandacht moeten hebben:
- Objectives
- Sponsorship
- Leadership
- Boundary-Spanning
- Risk-free environment
- Measurements