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Critical success factors for the implementation of communities of practice

August 2nd, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I think this is rather good. Although it is entitled ” Implementation guidelines for Communities Of Practice within the hospitality sector”, it has much wider applicability and interest. It has been produced by Marcel van Holstein from the Horeca Branche Instituut in the Netherlands as part of the European Work and Learning Together project. I am evaluator of the project but to my shame did not know about the wiki until I interviewed Marcel by telephone this afternoon. Below I list Marcel’s critical success factors But do look at the rest of the wiki.

I certainly concur when he says:

“Setting up a virtual COP takes time. This is especially the case when the virtual COP is not added as a tool to an already functioning COP. In that case building trust and commitment and letting the identity of the COP emerge is a gradual time consuming process.”

Marcel would very much like feedback so please so send him your comments.

“Critical success factors for the implementation of communities of practice

The success of a community of practice depends, to a large extent, on participants of the community, because of the voluntary participation, self determination and practical relevance for the individual or organization. These aspects can be cultivated best, when the following critical success factors are taken into account:

1. It is important not to apply very specific and narrow criteria with respect to what constitutes a COP and to when a COP is successful. Communities are intrinsically hard to define, because they are not by nature clearly bounded.

2. Participants of a community of practice have to experience the relevance and perceive the goal(s) of the community as useful. They will have to be able to identify themselves with it, to become “owner” of the community and enthusiastic about it.

3. Participants of community of practice have to be convinced of the fact that continuously improving and learning (new) competences leads to an improvement of job performance.

4. To realize this within the community there needs to be commitment and mutual trust. Participants have to experience their participation is valued by other participants. In most cases because of the knowledge they bring to the community but also because of their way of working and communicating.

5. The initiator of a COP will have to be prepared to give a considerable freedom to the participants.

6. Participants need to have well developed social skills. Working together within and outside the community will lead faster to new knowledge, insight and solutions compared to trying to solve problems alone.

7. Especially in the start up phase, a lot of attention will have to be paid to community building by community participants themselves.

8. Conflicts have to be dealt with in a timely and respectful manner. The solution of a conflict is not seen as a victory or loss or individual participants but rather as a learning opportunity for the community as a whole.

9. Dialogue has to take place. Conclusions have to be drawn in a collaborative way. Opinions of all participants should be respected. Conclusions should not be imposed by the moderator.

10. Participants should experience the community as a safe environment in which they can express their opinions and positions without fear, feel free to ask questions and free to explore non-conformist solutions and creative ideas.

11. Participants experience commitment and support from the management of the organization (if applicable)

12. Participants experience their participation as contributing to their personal growth. Bottom line is that participants experience that, based on the gained knowledge, their performance on the job in the hotel, restaurant, guesthouse, etc. where they work has increased.

13. Participants experience the added value of the fact that the community is of a multidisciplinary nature and consists of participants from different hierarchical layers of the organization.

14. Because the COP works to a large extent virtually, the community will need to be supported by a well-functioning collaborative working tool, which allows extending the range of functionalities as a community becomes more developed.

15. The management of the organization (if applicable) has to understand and actively support the strategic importance of the COP but should not be directly involved in its daily operation or setting the goals of the COP. The management has to accept and trust the community as a “self-steering” unit.”

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