Developing, learning, and sharing knowledge is vital to the success of your organization. Training will get you so far, but creating communities of practice provides the chance to really set a sustainable path for development.
Emily Webber is joining Sander to discuss how and why to create communities of practice, and what the benefits are to both people and organizations.
What you’ll discover in this show:
– Communities are more than a group of people with the same interest
– CoPs enable cross-pollination of knowledge
– Being part of CoPs can increase the satisfaction of people
Independent agile, delivery and organizational consultant, coach and trainer
I offer Agile and Lean coaching, mentoring, development and training to support Agile delivery and lasting transformation. I am passionate about helping organisations, stakeholders, teams and individuals to reach their full potential and develop a culture of continuous improvement.
I work with teams to deliver valuable work that meets user needs and that everyone is proud of, I coach teams and individuals to quickly grasp Agile and Lean principles and techniques to be able to start applying them to see immediate results. I create meaningful connections between people and build communities to increase learning.
I seek opportunities to give back to the Agile community and am a co-founder and organiser of Agile on the Bench; a meet-up in London, a presenter and contributor at Agile and Lean conferences and meet-ups, and a mentor for Agile professionals.
Specialities: Agile coaching; Agile programme and project delivery; Agile transformation; organisational and individual development; process improvement, digital capability building, building teams, and building sustainable communities of practice.
Sander Dur (host)
Scrum Master, Agile Coach, trainer, and podcast host for ‘Mastering Agility”
Sander Dur is a Professional Scrum Trainer at Scrum.org, podcast host of Mastering Agility, Professional Scrum Master and Lead Agile Consultant and trainer at Xebia. Besides this, he’s an avid writer for predominantly Serious Scrum on Medium.com. Sander has a major passion for the human side in complex domains. Ensuring a high level of psychological safety therefore is a critical part of his work. Organizations in complex domains can only survive when innovating. Innovation can only take place with the right balance between low social friction and high intellectual friction. While most organizations now understand how to apply Agile frameworks, they struggle with delivery of value. Psychological safety is the next step in this evolution and Sander has a huge drive to help organizations reach that step.
He gained experience as a Scrum Master, Agile Coach, and Leadership consultant in many different top-tier organizations, including Nike and ASML.
Sander is enthusiastic, open-minded, and ambitious. He finds interpersonal relationships and intrinsic motivations very important in team dynamics. Besides his work, Sander loves to spend time with his family, enjoys sports and eating healthy, barbecuing, riding his motorcycle, and traveling.
Let’s connect! Sander is always up for new connections and discussions!
Discord community: https://discord.gg/6YJamBJxUV
Meaning of CoPs
Management and CoPs
Keeping people engaged
Involving CoPs in performance reviews
people, community, practice, organization, belonging, psychological safety, important, meetups, create, spend, meet, part, challenges, intrinsic motivation, instance, tend, approach, role, delivering, kickoff
Emily Webber, Sander Dur
Sander Dur 00:04
Season three, episode number 10 already 45 episodes in this mastering agility podcast Time goes by so fast. Before welcoming this week’s guests, I wanted to let you guys know that we have another giveaway this week. And we’re giving away a Norland marker said 15 markers to be exact with a travel bag, as well as a book set for you to develop, to learn to grow. And that’s what this mastering agility community really is all about. The only thing that you have to do to be able to win these sets is to join the mastering agility, Discord, community. That’s it. For today’s episode, we’re talking to Emily Weber, about creating communities of practice. Why should you be why should you care about communities of practice? What are they useful for? How do you set those up? And what do we define as a community? Stay tuned, and you’ll find out. Emily Weber, thank you very much for joining us today in this episode of the mastering agility podcast. I hope the weather is just as fine as it is over here. How are you doing?
Emily Webber 01:15
I’m good. And the sun is out here as well. So always is uplifting. So when a spring when spring appears it’s always really uplifting.
Sander Dur 01:25
isn’t it? It feels like it’s not the very typical British and Dutch weather that we usually have. This is so much better. Today, we’re talking about communities practice. What makes you enthusiasts sick about community of practice? What do they mean to you?
Emily Webber 01:45
So I just told you about how I got into communities of practice, in my I guess in my non work or work adjacent life, I’ve always had a bit of a habit of setting things up getting people together around some kind of common topics. And that might be that in some cases, that’s like setting up meetups, which I’ve done a lot of in the past, or I used to run a community forum for the area of London Hackney that I used to live in. And part of that was around, there was a lot of there was a few kind of prominent blogs in the area that were quite negative. And I wanted to kind of get a lot of sharing and a bit more positivity and, and allow people the chance to connect with each other to create something that’s kind of bigger than the sum of its parts. And so I kind of naturally was always joining people up and I really saw an opportunity to do that within within work and within the workplace. Because generally, I believe that we are we are stronger when we’re together.
Sander Dur 02:55
Still, it’s a very challenging to do to really get people together outside of their intrinsic motivation, right? If you look at Dr. For instance, by Daniel Pink, intrinsic motivation, and mastery is really important. What still makes that challenging to a lot of organizations to put into practice, the communities of practice.
Emily Webber 03:18
I think visit, there’s lots of chat. I mean, there’s lots of challenges that come with any kind of anything that’s outside of day to day delivery is often very challenging in any organization, particularly if it’s delivering lots of stuff really quickly, which so many people are, is that you say well take time out of delivering this thing that you’ve been told is your number one priority and spend time doing something that doesn’t look like it’s delivering something of value very quickly. And I think that’s one of the biggest problems for organizations particularly, you know, you get people saying, we really want you to do this, and we want you to spend time learning, we want to support you. But we also want the thing that we asked you to deliver next week to be finished and to be perfect and do that. And that bit that gets that becomes a really mixed message for people.
Sander Dur 04:12
Now, what is the value behind these communities of practice? Is there something that organizations for instance, can I feel is the measurability of of communities of practice really hard, yet? A lot of organizations would ask for that, like, how can we measurably improve by having a community of practice?
Emily Webber 04:33
Well, yes, good. You asked that and I have a so I talk about five benefits of communities of practice. And I think they are measurable least at least kind of qualitatively in some ways. So my five benefits is that communities of practice support people and create support networks and I actually think that’s my kind of number One foundational thing of any communities that it is a support network and people feel connected to each other. Once you have that, and people have trust and psychological safety, there’s a lot of other things that can can come with that. Measuring that that, obviously is quite hard. But it’s in how connected people feel at work and how Yes, safe they feel at work and the fact they’re not leaving. The other benefits that I talked about is that they help people learn and grow skills. They help people share knowledge and join up related work. They hate help scale words, ways of working and create common approaches. And they help people collaborate with each other, and create new things. Now, measuring that some of that’s easier than others, I think, particularly with knowledge sharing. Which you can do in a number of ways, but when you do in communities, people are sharing through stories and of what they’re up to, and they’re sharing kind of more on a slightly more social level is, you can start to see where you save time. So there’s one, when I was setting up a community once for iOS developers, there was one iOS team that talked about the fact that they’d spent a couple of weeks trying to fix a problem. It was a resizing problem. And they found out later on that another iOS team in the same building had previously fixed that problem. And even like the fact that they’d spent that much time that much money, that much effort trying to fix something that actually had they been in a community of practice, they wouldn’t have had to spend that time anyway. So there’s like, there is actually some kind of financial quantifiable measures that you can do around that. But the real power comes from, from those connections.
Sander Dur 06:52
Psychological, because you referred to psychological safety topic that I’m I’m very much passionate about, is that a prerequisite for starting vcops?
Emily Webber 07:03
And not not for starting, I think it’s one of the things to focus on. I remember to focus on building before, kind of trying to expect it to deliver some kind of results. So I remember speaking to, I was working with an organization where they were setting up communities of practice. And I said, so you know, there’s these things, and it’s great to have some principles in place, and some somewhere where you store things and start to, you know, maybe set some standards and those and collaborate on things. And these things can come afterwards. And the person I was speaking to was like, yeah, we’ve got this in place. And we’ve got this in place. And we’ve got our principles, and we’ve got our values, and we’re all set. And I said, Have you have you met yet? It’s Oh, no, we haven’t met yet. No, maybe no community.
Sander Dur 07:58
So maybe not a community, but what does define a community for you.
Emily Webber 08:05
So I actually wrote a blog post the other day to put some of my thoughts down. So I’ve been working with communities of practice for for a number of years. And one thing I’ve noticed, and this is particularly within the context of a single organization, is that people call, some organizations have started calling, calling everything that’s like that I would call maybe a practice or job family, or whatever term people might use, and just calling that a community. So here’s a bunch of people that all have the same job role, they are a community. And that’s not really true. The thing that I’ve started to try and do is say, okay, with a practice, you have things like kind of practices a little bit more formal, and you might all belong to a practice, because you have the same job role in this and standards, and there’s maybe some career progression, and there’s some formal kind of capability building. But the community side of this is actually about the connections between the individuals. It’s about the collaboration, psychological safety, the kind of cooperation and the social learning that sits in that. And I don’t think you can have a community of practice without those community elements. And that’s Yeah, I think that’s, that’s really important. If you just say that group of people, there are a community, you’re kind of missing a whole bunch of really important things that make a community.
Sander Dur 09:37
Yeah, exactly. And if you would extrapolate that to the more outside world, just looking at cities, for instance, just putting a bunch of people together into live in a city doesn’t make it a community, right. Yeah, that is the approach that I see a lot of organizations take is that, hey, you have the same skill set. Good luck. You’re from now on, you’re either a community of practice or a chapter or whatever they want to Call it. But that’s generally the approach. And it kind of has the same sentiment to me as the definition of self management. One of those things that’s been mentioned by organization like from now on, you’re self managing your autonomous. You had organizations skip out onto to discuss, what does that term mean to us? What does a community mean to us? How would you advise organizations to get up to speed with that?
Emily Webber 10:28
What do you know? I think, so often I run an exercise when I’m when I’m helping communities kickoff. And I asked people this question asked them, what value do they get from meeting people that do the same thing or care about the same thing as they do so not necessarily around their role just in general. And what I find is that, wherever I do that exercise, whatever role it is, wherever it is, in the country, whatever country is in, and I’ve run this exercise in quite a lot in the UK, all over the UK, I’ve run it in India, running in Peru. And the same things come out every single time. So, which is just kind of worrying, and basing those five benefits on intrinsically people know, what community feels like, they know this. And it’s sometimes I feel like, we know, we know how to be humans, we know how to connect with other people. We know what communities are because we’re in communities all over the place. And then we get into work. And suddenly, suddenly, we forget some of those things. So I would ask people to remember, remember the things they already know.
Sander Dur 11:47
One of the things that popped in mind when you were discussing doing this in different parts of the world, is a very basic human need is the sense of belonging. Right? How does that resonate with you?
Emily Webber 12:01
Yeah, I think that’s that’s really essential part of community is that people do feel like they, they belong to it. There’s some research that was done in the 80s. By I can. I’ve just, it’s just gotten out of my head by McMillan and Travis that looked at sense of community. And they researched a whole bunch of different communities to understand what is that sense of community. And they came up with four things, which is membership, influence, fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection. And that membership aspect really is about really is about belonging, and it’s about understanding where the edges of the community are, as well. So who is it that, you know, can you I can the explanation of the community mean that you identify as somebody that belongs to that community? And can you see who else belongs to it through understanding what that what the edges of that membership look like? So do you think it’s really important?
Sander Dur 13:13
Yeah, the thing is that this is so dastardly. There, it’s very, it’s not very tangibly there. People are aware of that. How do you make that more tangible? How do you make this more workable for people? Because it’s what you mentioned, people focus on work itself, the performing the work, rather than discussing these kinds of things. And same with what psychological safety or the mental aspect means. But how do you make this bring this through to people? So this might be really good for you guys to work on? Whether that’s for the quality of work, or for the sense of belonging, for instance, but how do you make these these boundaries? workable?
Emily Webber 14:00
Yeah, so I, so I’ve been, I’ve been brought into organizations before. And actually, sometimes I’ve been brought into organizations to help them set up communities of practice. And sometimes it’s something completely different. But I ended up also helping themselves communities of practice, because I think if you’re doing any, anything really, really valuable. And it often, like some often it starts with the fact that there are, there are people that are connected to each other already, because we tend to kind of gravitate towards people that share similar challenges to us and that we can, you know, have lunch with and complain about things or share problems with. So some of that starts to happen already. If that altered thing is if that isn’t happening, if people aren’t doing that, then there’s something out there’s a different problem. There’s a different challenge to overcome it. That’s probably how ought to have been much harder over the last couple of years where people aren’t in the same office as each other, and they’re not, they’re not kind of spending as much time together socially. And then what I tend to do is I, I tend to create a kickoff workshop for them and create the space for him to have the conversation to say what is what is the things that we also things that the community wants to do. So I tend to, I tend to find that there are some people in organizations that naturally who are naturally community members, but actually kind of naturally community leaders as well, because they’re really keen for for it to happen. So bring those people together and start with those people do a bit of a kickoff getting to talk about what what what is it that they think they what their purpose is? When are they going to meet? What are who’s the community for those kinds of things, and actually just start meeting. There is the other side of that is, is support from the organization, which is a, which is kind of a different challenge. But if I tend to find if organizations are looking to go through some kind of change, it’s something that they can kind of hook into, into their kind of change initiatives.
Sander Dur 16:25
You mentioned leaders and looking at natural group leaders. Now, if I look in the environments that you usually work in, you have very dominant people that are very extroverted and are out there. Are those by default, a good leader?
Emily Webber 16:44
For communities? Yeah. i It’s not necessarily it tends to be the people that are that, like connecting people. So I like yeah, personally, like I have been a person that likes connecting people, but I wouldn’t call myself an extroverted character. So I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Often, it might be that someone just is really well connected, and has a lot of social capital, just knows a lot of people. I always think with communities, I think the mistake that some people make is they think, well, it’s needs to be the more senior people that are the leaders of the community. And I don’t think that’s the case, what we really want with communities is that they are a little bit flatter structure. And the leaders of the communities are, are people that are good, at least in communities, it doesn’t matter where they are in the in the hierarchy of the organization,
Sander Dur 17:48
with people more higher in the hierarchy, would they be in the communities of practice? Well, if they wouldn’t be a leader, I guess it’s solely just something for people performing the actual work, or this is basically for anyone who has an interest in it.
Emily Webber 18:05
So I tend to it kind of the answer on that. One is it depends, but what I tend to do if they are always, you know, my consultant, that’s my stock answer.
Sander Dur 18:15
That’s my go to answer as well.
Emily Webber 18:19
If it’s a community of practice, it makes a lot of sense that people in it are practicing whatever that community is about. And it’s not just people that are interested. What I tend to do, and there’s a lot of discussion about open or close communities, and I think a lot of that depends on the maturity of the organization, or the maturity of those certain roles or skills within the organization. But I think it can, I think it’s, it’s worthwhile focusing on people that are actively practicing, because then they can help each other. They can have those kinds of deep conversations that you need when you’re stuck on something or when you need help with something. I have worked with communities where we kind of almost have two rings, where there’s the people that are practicing, spend time meeting together, and they have more open sessions for people that are interested. And I’ve done that in the past, actually. I had a community practice. When I was at GDS, called the Agile delivery community and I had lots of people saying, we want to come along because we want to learn more about agile delivery. And what I ended up doing is saying, well, we will have open sessions, tell us what you want to know. And we will we will spend time having sessions where we can talk about those things, whilst keeping kind of safe space where we could talk about more, target things at a deeper level or talk about challenges that we had without having an audience of lots of other people around.
Sander Dur 19:59
This is a company is a community of practice just on the level of people performing the work? Or have you worked with management communities of practice before as well?
Emily Webber 20:11
I have worked with I’m trying to think for what management communities I think it’s, I think there’s always value. And this is interesting, because it’s, this starts to be a point where the terminology can get, you can get tripped up on the terminology. And sometimes I’ve been in organizations and just called called them communities, and said, some of them are these types of communities, some of these types of communities, it doesn’t really matter. And I think the, the, there’s an essence here about when you get together as a community, as opposed to getting together to do your work work, that kind of gives you the time and space to learn from each other and to talk about things in a different way. Then, if you’re getting together to have a status meeting, or a very kind of a meeting, it’s very focused on a particular work outcome. So there’s this, I think there’s, a lot of times people don’t necessarily give themselves that space to do that. So yeah, so when it comes to something like a management team, having that time to do that, whether it’s called a community of practice or not, I think it’s really important.
Sander Dur 21:33
I think so too, because what I see happening is that most especially middle management is in that position. And there’s by no means take this as blame this just an observation is the middle management got to that position, because either seniority, so that the organization had to offer them a position being management, or because they are very skilled at a certain content more, for instance, developing language, programming language, and ultimately working themselves up to be a manager, not being trained to actually be a manager, but because they are there. So would you consider that been very useful, a community of practice on management techniques, getting people up to speed with different management practices as well?
Emily Webber 22:18
Yeah, which, which reminds us with one client, when we were setting up communities of practice, a lot of people were practitioners and experts in their field, but they will also line managers, which I, which I got them to consider the fact that those are two roles that need to different, like, you can need practices around those roles as well. So you can be a senior designer, for example. But if you also line manager, you need support and being the best line manager that you can be. Because as we all know, we’ve I’m sure most of us have had good line managers who really help us and not so good line managers that can really hinder.
Sander Dur 23:07
Absolutely. Do you feel there’s there’s a difference in entry level, let’s put like that, is there a bigger threshold for senior people or senior managers or sea level managers to enter such a community of practice?
Emily Webber 23:24
I’m not sure what you mean. Well,
Sander Dur 23:26
for instance, this is more done. And this is more actively engaged within people performing the work, whereas I never I’ve never seen this happen on management or sea level. Is there a different threshold? When it comes to perception or psychological safety? On higher levels in the hierarchy?
Emily Webber 23:47
Yeah, it’s interesting, I think. So it was one organization I was working with, who had a kind of network of kind of CIOs across the country, it was really interesting to talk to them and how they interacted with each other. And I think a lot of what you see is, particularly at that level, was people are too busy, way too busy to take part in anything. And there’s a lot of a lot of pressure. So finding that time to, you know, maybe blocks and, you know, block time out of your calendar to do learning is really hard for people to do and I think that’s that’s what makes it makes it really difficult. And it really also comes down then to motivation. You talked about intrinsic motivation. There’s a lot of extrinsic motivation, as well. And the more is the higher you go up and then the more pressure you have, the more the extrinsic motivation is to get stuff done and delivered rather than take the time out to learn.
Sander Dur 24:59
Is there a difference? level of psychological safety involved with that as well. The more you go, the less prone you are to being open about failures or challenges.
Emily Webber 25:09
Yeah, I think particularly if you’re working like that that particular scenario was was people in different organizations, as well. So sharing failures can be very difficult to do. And it also depends on its kind of cultural dependencies, I think as well. Whether whether that’s celebrated or not as or seen that failures are bad.
Sander Dur 25:37
How do you break that barrier, then, because people are expected especially, let’s put it like the lower ones in the hierarchy. And not to be disrespectful, because ultimately, I would like to see a flat hierarchy with people in teams performing the work are more expected to be open about whatever challenges or failures that they have. While this requires leading by example, right, they should have a solid example of how they should be done, how they should be performed. But if I hear you correctly, there’s way less space to do so in and the higher you go up in the chain.
Emily Webber 26:15
Yeah, and I think it takes I mean, it takes a strong, take strong, confident leadership to show that it’s okay to do that. But I think, you know, the same with the same with anyone in an organization, if there isn’t a, if there isn’t a culture of sharing and being open, then people won’t, won’t share and, and be open. And with something like I think communities of practice, for example, can help people share with each other, but they won’t share if they don’t feel psychologically safe. So what, you know, mistakes that I’ve seen some organizations make is tell everyone, they’re in a community of practice. And you’re all in a community of practice. Right? Off you go, everybody, exactly. Rather than taking a witch, I think a far better way. And this is an approach I’ve taken with. So I run a community, which started as meetup and this is grown into a community called Agile and ether, which is a meetup I’ve been running for maybe four years now, something like that. I’ve taken the taking a really kind of slow and steady and gradual approach to, to growing the community side of it, which is sits on Slack, which is only a certain criteria before people can join. It’s not about just opening it up and inviting everyone in because then you get another one of those, like Slack groups where no one is talking and no one knows each other.
Sander Dur 27:55
There’s one of the other aspects as well, I’ve seen so many communities of practice, or chapters or whatever, pop up, either because they are told to do so or someone has had the brilliant idea to do so. Yet. They’re also the first ones to be skipped, or where people are very less engaged or a little engaged. How to overcome this bridge?
Emily Webber 28:18
Yeah, I’d say I think I think the approach is to start small, with the people that are that see the value in it in the first place. And grow, grow, just having a small engaged group of people that are getting value and start to show that value to other people will will bring other people in. Rather than, you know, just open up the doors and say everybody, go and talk to each other go and share with each other. Is is probably the first place to start. But keeping it interesting. It’s is the next thing to carry on keeping people engaged.
Sander Dur 29:00
Do you make that? Because I’ve had my specific approaches, but I’m really curious about your perspective as well. Do you have a single singular approach to this? For instance, do you make people create a backlog of these are the items that we would be interested in? How do you work with this? How do you make it interesting for other people to join?
Emily Webber 29:21
So this is a few methods that I’ve used. So I have a and this is I say this is not what I’ve done in my in the community that I run, take a different approach of that. But generally in organizations, I have a kickoff canvas. I have a workshop format, which which gets people together to talk about the community, why exists who it’s for, what it’s called, which is always handy. And some of the things that it hopes to achieve and when it’s going to meet so getting people to agree that they’re going to meet on a regular basis is quite important. I also have a maturity model that I use or it’s so it’s, it’s a framework really, that I have a set of cards that when I’m with people in a physical workshop, which has been a while, gets people to talk about whether they there’s a bunch of statements on the cars to talk about whether they think they’re true or not. And that helps them identify some of the things that they need to do in order to keep the community more successful. Then there’s also a, like, I have a bit of a guidance around how people should think about their meetups and how they might vary them and keep them interesting. So sometimes it’s spending time talking about their own situation, so their own role in their own organizations, and some of the problems that they have. But if you do that every single week, that gets really can get really dry. So then different things that people might do. So looking out words, and learning new things, and, and different kind of, almost like kind of a plan to say, on this week, you should do this kind of thing. This way, you should do this kind of thing, and give that to people to help them mix up what it is that they do as they get together.
Sander Dur 31:26
Is there a universal cadence? That would be that’s that’s most commonly accepted? And I think that judging by your, your smile, that’s, that’s a frequent question.
Emily Webber 31:36
Yeah, and I think it’s interesting because the, like, I tend to say to communities, so if it’s a community of practice, in an organization, that’s just kicking off, I tend to tell people, they should be meeting as a group weekly. And then sometimes that raises some eyebrows, because people wanting weekly, we haven’t got time to meet weekly. But the reason for doing that is your, your kind of your your grown some momentum. But the other thing is that people aren’t always going to be able to meet. So if you miss one of those, it’s only two weeks before you can go to another one. But if you meet monthly, and you can’t make one of those because you know we we’ve got work, we’ve got team meetings, other things we need to be and then it’s two months before you see people and that’s that starts to become a really long period of time. Or one community I once spoke to and said, Oh, we meet every six months or so if you miss one. That’s a whole year before you meet again. So I think it’s really useful to have a really regular cadence, although, uh, meetings are kind of the heartbeat of the community. But it’s not the only it’s also not the only way that people interact with each other. It shouldn’t be the only way that people interact with each other. So I tend to kind of lean people towards weekly and then they often sometimes they meet fortnightly, but I think any, any more than that. It’s hard to kind of keep people together,
Sander Dur 33:08
give that together, but at the same time Hawkes, what’s what’s the time box that you use for a weekly event of this? Do you spend an hour together? Do you spend half an hour and you spent five hours
Emily Webber 33:21
you spend seven, five days together every week? Yeah, and half an hour an hour weekly, I think is good, anything shorter than half an hour, it’s, you know, it’s like if you try and have a meeting shorter than half an hour,
Sander Dur 33:35
you’ll just be establishing establishing an agenda for half an hour. One of the most common arguments that I get for not attending a community of practice or any formal like is that it doesn’t come back to us in the annual review. It doesn’t it’s not part of our appraisal. What to do with do you feel that this should be part of your the way that you are being perceived or rewarded, however you want to call it? How do you deal with this?
Emily Webber 34:07
Yeah, and I think it’s important to make to make it recognized. So in the balance is not telling people that they will only be that they have to take part because I don’t think you should force people. But I do think they should be recognized for the time and effort they spend on things that are of value to the organization, which essentially is and I’ve seen that, you know, people who take part in leading communities spend lots of time lots of effort, they’re creating fantastic things that other people can use. They’re leading on great things. They’re helping other people learn and they get to their review, and there’s nothing in there. So what have you been doing last year? So I think it’s important to recognize it and any organization you know, should be recognizing The value that people bring that is outside of their day to day role Anyway,
Sander Dur 35:05
do you make that part of the discussion in it now often you attend or how active you participate? Or how many facilitated? How does that work? Because I would be very much interested in making this a part of your annual review or whatever guidance you have for your review, this annual review is still a very outdated format, in my opinion. Other than that, what would be the right approach to this?
Emily Webber 35:27
Yeah, I think it’s a good idea to habit. Habit. So and I think it’s this is the the challenge is, you know, you want your communities to be voluntary, because you want people to want to take part. So if you start to say, you have to attend this mini community practice meetups a year, then you’re it’s like, you get what you measure, right? So people will turn up, that doesn’t mean they’re going to engage. So I think it’s better to have those conversations to be around contribution and impact rather than specific numbers. And actually, people may have great contribution and impacts outs not not even as part of a community of practice. So yeah, I think kind of tight tying that down. Too much to kind of making people behave in a certain way without really being invested in it is problematic.
Sander Dur 36:31
What about facilitation participants are always the same person who facilitator. That’s what I meant also really referring back to the dominant people, how do you ensure that it’s not always the same group of people up front?
Emily Webber 36:46
Yeah, I think one of so I think when you’re thinking about community of practice, and you have a kind of core group of people, which sometimes I call them core group, some can’t sometimes call them leadership, but the people that are the you know, do the things that make the community practice happen. One of the roles there, I think, is being responsible for making sure that there is content in the meetups. But that doesn’t necessarily mean running them. And actually, I think that it’s it’s best when everybody is that it’s, it’s shared. So facilitation happens by different people. And sometimes, you know, facilitation is a skill that people are looking to grow. So facilitating within facilitating something within the community practice Meetup is enabling people to build their skills as well.
Sander Dur 37:44
What’s the best results you’ve ever seen coming forward out of a community of practice?
Emily Webber 37:52
I think so, there’s lots of different things of value that I’ve seen that come out of communities of practice. The thing that I waise tend to gravitate towards is seeing it seeing people that are happy and motivated. I have a quote on a slide that I often use, which was from somebody in a community of practice that, I think and really, they were, they weren’t feeling great about their job, they weren’t feeling particularly supported. And having the community practice around them and building those kind of deeper relationships with other people in that, who practice the same thing meant that they actually felt much, much more confident and secure in their role. And they talked about the fact that they felt that everyone had each other’s backs. So they could they had help, they could reach out to people, other people and ask them. And for me, that’s, that’s, that’s super important. But I’ve also seen, you know, on a kind of benefit to organizations point of view, communities of practice crate training for other parts of the organization, which I think is really valuable, because you not only you’re not going out and paying for it, you’re also getting very relevant kind of material, relatable material for the organization. I’ve seen people create standards. I’ve seen people said earlier, you know, share things that mean that other people aren’t doing. Work I’ve seen people create sets you on the standards thing, things like the GDS service manual, or you can see kind of Google’s design system is created and owned by communities, which means it’s always relevant and up to date, because the practitioners are keeping that information up to date. And then I also have heard that there was a adult community practice at a large UK bank that was really instrumental in the Agile transformation. Is that bank.
Sander Dur 40:03
Awesome. How do you? One of the things that popped to mind is how does the organization, the broader organization, leverage the results of multiple communities of practice? For instance, how can we learn? How can different communities learn from the outputs and the outcomes of other communities?
Emily Webber 40:23
Hmm, yeah, interesting, I think it’s hard, because a lot of that is about it being I guess, with being kind of in the fabric of the organization, like, you know, your communities are successful. And our communities of practice are successful when people just kind of naturally refer to them, like, they’re just part of what we do just part of what the organization does. And when people start to talk about communities as an entity in themselves. So instead of saying, I’m gonna go and ask, So and so for help, they say, I’m going to ask the community, I’m gonna go to the community and ask for helping this thing, or whatever that might be, or how do I do this thing? I think that’s when they’re just kind of part of everything. In terms of sharing, and I think there’s a value in that kind of cross community sharing, as well, I think it’s great to see where communities start inviting each other to some of their sessions, particularly where they have crossover, or joining up and learning in that way. I am. A while back, I was working with an organization where was one of the ones where I hadn’t hadn’t gone into sort of communities of practice, but it did anyway. And one place that we took a couple of the communities is we started to create joined up training and learning plans. Rather than these kinds of individualistic learning plans, I think, previously, once a year, line managers would send an email out to everyone saying, Oh, we got some budget, where do you want to win? What training do you want, and people individually would come back and talk about what training they wanted. So we actually said, we’re gonna do a thing is, uh, together, and we’re going to work at identify some, some areas, and they, they, they came out and they said, this is one thing. And part of that was to say, you know, where can we help each other rather than just spend money on training. And they all came out and said, we really want to learn more about accessibility. And that’s really important for us. And so they were, they decided the best thing to do was to bring a trainer in, and then they were able to open it up to other communities as well. So, yeah,
Sander Dur 42:58
that’s pretty awesome. Yeah. Hey, before we go into the closure of this episode, if there’s a single advice to organizations who want to start working with communities of practice, what would it be?
Emily Webber 43:13
It would be to let the people that are enthusiastic about them, or give them give them the space to get on and make them happen.
Sander Dur 43:25
Awesome. I’m definitely going to put this into practice. I’m currently dealing with a couple of these implementations, and I’m really looking forward to putting this to practice. You mentioned in one of your meetups before, where can people find that?
Emily Webber 43:39
That is agile in the ether.co.uk? I think yes.co.uk Although it is it’s it’s online, it’s an it’s it’s been online, since 2018. So it’s even though it’s a.co.uk, it’s not UK based.
Sander Dur 43:59
I’m gonna include that in the show notes if you’re okay with that. Because you mentioned there are some prerequisites to it might be very useful for other people as well.
Emily Webber 44:06
Anyone can come along to the to the meetup.
Sander Dur 44:09
All right, awesome. Great. Where can people find you Where can people interact with you?
Emily Webber 44:16
So I My blog is Emily weber.co.uk. And I’m at Weber on Twitter.
Sander Dur 44:24
Awesome. Put those in the show notes as well. Emily, whoever Thank you very much for being here. I really enjoyed it. Thank you. Big thanks again to Emily and of course to you guys as well for tuning in again in this episode of this podcast series. just wants to remember you again that we have this awesome giveaway. The only thing that you have to do is join the mastering engineer the discord community, easy as that. There’s nothing else to it. In the next episode, we’re talking to Henrik Neubert. And I got to say I really like this I like his mentality. I like what he’s done for the Agile community. And I really love this discussion. Stay tuned for more