“You need to exclude people to really include those who are willing to participate and interact. This is how you unleash the full power mindset of a community!”– Stefan Olt
Speaking about communities, I had the opportunity to interview John Nguyen about our CoPs. He hosts the Dev Ops and Cloud Engineering CoP. To explain what exactly takes place in this format is not easy for me as a non-IT person, but also not really of importance. Rather, it’s about how these meetings are run and, more importantly, what they do to an organization and yourself
What is Community of Practice?
A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. To make it as simple as possible, a CoP is an interactive and participative knowledge exchange format that allows people to have a casual discussion to learn from each other on a regular basis. These meetings are self-organized, totally voluntary and easy to prepare.
Currently at kreuzwerker, we have Data Engineering, DevOps/Cloud Engineering, Serverless COPs.
Why do we embrace CoP?
Perhaps you read a great article and you post it into Slack. Your post gets some reactions, but no discussion and the great article ends up in oblivion. Or you are stuck and would like to understand if anyone else has similar problems within the company. Or you just want to learn something new.
Each of us might have something to say or might like to share common problems, learnings, or best practices. We want to give everyone a dedicated space to talk about it, which is why we encourage our people to attend a CoP.
The topics can vary from discussing client projects and problems/solution the member might have had, to latest trends of a particular technology or methodology.
We think it is useful for individuals to stay updated, not only with latest trends, but also with other members’ client projects. That’s why Community of Practice is necessary in order to stay up-to-date and encourage discussions. CoP can also be used to do team building.
How do we organize a CoP?
It varies from CoP to CoP. As we said, it’s an autonomous, self-organized group of people and members who define their topics individually. Speaking of the DevOps/Cloud Engineering CoP: The community collects topics on their dedicated Confluence page in advance. Later, they vote on the topics via Slack and the two topics with the most votes make it to the next meeting that takes approx. 90 minutes. All our CoPs take place on our “non-consulting” Friday.
Ta-daa, easy? Don’t you think? Sounds easy enough, if it weren’t for that darn 90-9-1 rule. 🙄 90% are just there, 9% do something now and then, but mostly observe, and 1% are actively engaged. So, the question to ask is not necessarily the issue. There are enough challenges… I mean when I look at all the zeros and ones in coding, I’m not at all surprised that there isn’t just one solution to one problem. The question is rather, how do you manage to animate the community to provide added value, but set tight boundaries on topics that the community is burning for?
Takeaways for Building such a Community
First of all, keep your colleagues close and your community closer. A community comes together because of passion and a common mindset. It is totally fine when only some of people share knowledge instead of a huge group.
Second of all, allow feedback and give enough space to get together after the official meeting. You can use the dedicated Miro board to interact, you can simply raise your hand or praise a speaker for his’her openness and honesty, or whatever else you want to express. Sometimes when the community is in flow, do not stop them; just keep going. It is advisable not to jump into the next meeting straight away so that you can relax and raise
questions in a 1:1 session afterwards – that strengthens relationships, also for “introverted” people. Third of all, use the power of like-minded people. A community is more than a working group, task force or customer care team or whatever else these meetings are called. It’s a safe space where working life feels easy.
Curious? Then become part of our Community and become a kreuzwerker.