What makes communities of practice work

Scaling Scrum - Communities of Practice (CoP) clearly explained

Imagine introducing agile methods such as Scrum or IT Kanban in your company. Maybe you already work like that?

Software developers now work in small teams of 5 - 9 people. ScrumMasters and Agile Coaches invest a lot of energy in strengthening and protecting these teams. Over time, each team develops its own definition of how good software development looks and works.

But what about cross-cutting issues?

How do you coordinate joint deliveries that several teams are working on? How do we learn new software development practices across teams? How do we develop development guidelines that fit all teams? Where do testers come together to find out what good quality means to them?

If we want to work in an agile way with several teams, we need a way across teams to organize such an exchange. A kind of loose community of interest made up of practitioners. People who come together voluntarily and out of passion - perhaps as we Germans like to do so in associations (just less bureaucratic)?

More than 20 years ago, the social researchers Jean Lave and Étienne Wenger dealt with the importance of social constructs in learning processes. And they formed the term “Communities of Practice” - in short: CoP.

A Community of Practice is a group of people who have a common cause or passion for something they do and want to learn how to get better at it through regular exchange.

Participation in such a community is always voluntary - and regardless of previous knowledge. Beginners, advanced and experts meet regularly to learn together.

How do you start such a community of practice?

That's easy! Anyone who has a great passion for a topic is looking for like-minded people in the company. The first goals are set together and all interested colleagues are invited to a big welcome appointment. There you will then inform about the project and ask the participants for feedback as to whether they will also be on board in the future. An experienced ScrumMaster as an expert in team processes can accompany the CoP as a facilitator right from the start.

How would your company look with such learning communities? Then what would be different? Who would be in exchange on which topics? If you feel like setting up a community of practice yourself or helping colleagues to be successful with their initiative, I recommend this book to you. And then have fun with the implementation! Because we often have the most fun learning together, right?