N.B - This was originally posted in 2017, but brought it over because some might find it still relevant
If you’ve never heard the term before, a community of practice is simply a group of people who share the same profession or craft. When this comes to Agile, it gets a bit more complicated as Agile is such a broad term and influences everything from how we organise ourselves to how we think about goals.
At NewsUK, the technology team found themselves in a unique position to reboot our Agile CoP and ensure that it met the needs and wants of the overall department, but it also contributed and worked towards something measurable. It’s really easy for things just to become a talking shop, which just leaves so much untapped potential!
In fairness to that point though, that’s how these things start. A passionate group of people that want to share knowledge, ideas and work together to overcome similar challenges.
And that’s how we got started, a small group going to the pub every week to talk about how we worked, challenges we had and looking for advice from our colleagues.
Next level community of practice — using data
We soon realised we could use this as a real driver for change, but we needed to scale. So we took it out of the pub (most of the time) and into a more formal setting, open the doors to anyone and everyone in the technology department and set about figuring out how we could be the driver for change.
To do this, we used a play on the well established Spotify Health Check exercise across the entire department, for the first time we had some incredibly rich data to target what this community could change.
With this, we were able to form a backlog, discover and act on solutions and ultimately measure reliably what impact we were having as a community.
It’s not just work though, you’ve got to make it accessible and fun
How do you get people to come to an Community of Practice meeting? Take on additional responsibility and keep up with it over a long period of time? One word;
Bring pizza, beer, food, snacks, donuts — whatever it takes to get people there.
It’s important to keep things fun, this is a community after all and it’s not just about shifting a KPI, it’s also (and probably most importantly) about building culture. Culture is the thing that’s going to allow you to overcome those challenges, no matter what they are and an Agile Community of Practice is likely one of the strongest weapons you have as a business to build that culture.
Trial and error, top tips
We’ve been on this journey for over a year now, building a community to a group in a pub garden to meeting fortnightly to keep driving forward our Agile maturity and capability. From external speakers to workshops, we’ve learned a lot over the past year, we’re far from done but what’s been the things working for us?
- Empower your champions, they will drive the culture
- Make it fun, workshops, games, external speakers and offsites
- Bribery! Beer and Pizza are tried and tested
- Use data to shape your goals
- Make a difference and shout about your successes, the more you do, the more people will join you