Quotes & Notes on Building Successful Communities of Practice by Emily Webber

The book: Building Successful Communities of Practice

The author: Emily Webber

…training and learning are not the same thing.

Companies and individuals allocate time and money for the “training” but might ignore or forget the “learning”.

Communities of practice create the right environment for

  • social learning,
  • experiential learning, and a
  • rounded curriculum

leading to accelerated learning for members.

Your community will have the best chances of building trust between its members if people have the chance to be physically in the same place and are able to meet face-to-face.

If your community is likely to be distributed over a large distance, think about how they will build trust. Try to find a way for them at least to spend some time together in the same space.

Maybe some video calls between small subgroups of the community could also help, in case travelling is not an option.

As a community matures, it will move on from just sharing knowledge to solving shared problems, using the collective knowledge of the community. This will create better practice.

This is especially important for bigger organisations with multiple projects or even products. A team might solve a problem but nobody else in the organisation is aware of the solution, so they need to re-invent the wheel.

Communities of practice encourage active participation and decision-making by members as opposed to decision-making by the leader or group of leaders.

It would be interesting to see how communities of practice make decisions if the members are separated in fractions. Can they work?

Those who lead a community should set the standards for what “good” looks like within the profession, at various levels.

Even if members of the communities make decisions, it seems that there is always the need for a person or a group of people to lay down the groundwork.

I have found that communities thrive best when there is an understanding of the boundaries around membership. These boundaries provide members with the emotional safety necessary for needs and feelings to be exposed and for intimacy to develop.

The community vision should be

  • aspirational,
  • achievable, and
  • easy to understand.

Having a vision gives the group a shared understanding of why they exist, which helps create common tasks.

From vision, to goals, to tasks.

Goals should be SMART

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Realistic, and
  • Timely.

The community achieving a goal is not the same thing as all the members achieving it as well. It’s up to the ones that accomplished something to bring the ones left behind forward as well.

Make sure you create time for the community to have less-structured meetings where they can discuss things that are on their mind and bring their problems to the community’s safe space.

This might not be directly affecting the community’s existing goals, but might help set new ones.

Make it easy for people to self-identify with what you say about community members, so that they can easily see how it would benefit them.

If a community is to become self-sustaining, leadership needs to be taken on by the group as a whole and not owned by just one person or one small group.

This could nicely transfer to quality. “If a development team is to become self-sustaining, quality needs to be taken on by the group as a whole and not owned by just one person or one small group.”

Communities of practice only exist as long as there is an interest from members in maintaining the group.

If the community’s goals are too big and hard to reach, the benefits might take too long to materialize. Maybe creating “small” goals in analogy with “small” user stories might help sustain the community longer.

Like all good things, communities of practice take a lot of time and effort to get right.

View a full list of the books I have taken notes on, in the Library page.