A Community of Practice.

What’s a CoP?

A Community of Practice is a focal point in an organisation that brings together people who are interested in a discipline.

It offers a focus – a way to bring elements of a discipline together

Examples can be:

  • a Project, Programme or Portfolio Management CoP,
  • a Change CoP,
  • an Agile CoP.
  • a Digital Practices CoP
  • etc

Often a CoP has a natural home in an organisation – for example a Human Resources or Finance CoP may sit within that function in the organisation.

But in some cases your organisation may benefit from a CoP on a theme that may not have a natural home and that may need some further thought.

In a health or biosciences organisation there may be a CoP in a type of treatment, and in a retail organisation a CoP could be centred around the ‘Voice of the Customer’. In a service provider a CoP could be in ‘Winning Work’.

It’s important to know that there’s no one-CoP structure that works for everyone and they can be formal or informal.

Some may exist entirely online.

Why might you need one?

  1. As a focal point for ways of work –

Perhaps there’s more than one way of doing things across your organisation right now and you’d like there to be more consistency? A CoP can drive consistency of approach, reduce overlap, duplication or wasted effort, and help you deliver better.

  1. Career path & retention –

A CoP can be used to provide clarity on what’s expected from a competency perspective, how the organisation will support the development of colleagues in a discipline, and provide a structured career path that people can follow. Put together these can provide a real differentiator in retaining good people … and a structured way of dealing with people who aren’t performing to expected levels.

CoP’s can be a focal point to develop ‘craft’ in a discipline across your organisation.

  1. CoP’s can be a useful vehicle for investing in capability development –

With a strategic decision to be better at (say); programme delivery, scheduling, teamwork, contract performance, commerciality etc. A CoP can be that focus for capability investment.

Having a CoP can provide evidence of investment – internally and externally to stakeholders of what’s important to the organisation and why other organisations (or customers) should work with you.

  1. Can be used as a means to reform –

CoPs can be developed or expanded as a way of driving change in an organisation.

It can act as a hub, a place to go – up and down the organisation – for driving change, developing or promoting a position, for capturing feedback on a strategic initiative or just for seeking advice when people need information.

Do you need a separate CoP?

You may be doing some of the above things already.

If you operate a PMO, Change Office or something similar – some of the elements above may be underway already – to varying degrees of maturity or success. If that’s so – you may not need a separate CoP. Resource may be better spent on leveraging your structure or changing the mandate of existing entities.

CoPs can work alongside a ‘Central Office’ or PMO too – perhaps when there are multiple PMOs in operation, or when PMOs have a specific remit. Sometimes even terminology, legacy effects, or pre-conceptions of remit, may play a part in CoP development.

If you don’t operate a PMO or equivalent, a CoP can provide a great focal point to achieve the benefits above.

And, of course, you can name your CoP whatever works best for you.

What may be the cost of a CoP?

Organisations usually start small and review progress.

The cost of creating an online CoP that’s governed or co-ordinated in a part-time fashion can be less than the salary of one manager in your organisation.

For larger organisations CoP’s can cost $100k-$250k a year to run.

And when a discipline is core to your operating model – such as engineering at Dyson, or project management at a service provider, then a CoP can run at 2-5% of turnover.

What to consider next?

Knowing about CoPs – researching them and seeing how other organisations have evolved their CoPs may open some new good practices and new ways of work for you to consider.

Considering whether to create a CoP alongside a PMO or equivalent, or using a CoP to better co-ordinate across pockets of existing capability may be a useful next step.

Or – if you’re thinking about how to incorporate more benefits of a CoP into an existing PMO, an existing team, or existing function – that’s a great way to boost the capability of your organisation, deliver better and create happy stakeholders.

If you’d like a quick conversation.

We’ve helped large and small organisations – develop or evolve CoPs and make the most out of their existing structures and capabilities.

You can tap-into that experience and book a quick call below.

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