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Knowledge Works: The Handbook of Practical Ways to Identify and Solve Common Organizational Problems for Better Performance by Jane McKenzie, Christine van Winkelen

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Chapter 10

SUSTAINING EFFECTIVE COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE

Snapshot

Communities of practice allow those interested in a particular area of knowledge to share knowledge and experiences with likeminded colleagues and to solve problems together. They are a way of ensuring that knowledge in a field is developed and maintained within the organization and that the overall level of competence is increased.

There are some principles and approaches that are generally useful in supporting communities of practice, but the way that these are interpreted needs to reflect the culture and business model of the organization. If the dominant approach is highly structured or process-oriented, then this probably needs to be reflected to some extent in the way communities of practice initiatives are undertaken. Conversely, if the organization values flexibility, then a “light touch” management approach will be more appropriate.

The most important aspect of an effective community of practice is the motivation of individuals to participate, which is directly related to the value that they anticipate gaining. Aligning this with the value delivered to the organization in return for supporting the community is the basis of an effective community. Alignment relies on the subject area being appropriate, the purpose of the community being clear, ensuring key roles are fulfilled, and providing relevant organizational support in the form of processes and technology.

It can be difficult to establish substantial communities ...

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