Majority of us love to do things for community.
If we take a look at the Wikipedia’s definitions of “community”:
- Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a small village that shares common values. The term can also refer to the national community or international community.
- In biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.
If we merge these two definitions, ‘businessize’ it a bit and extract the ‘best’ of both, it could sound something like:
A group of people sharing the same values and cause in order to efficiently work, learn and develop together
We can call it a tribe (in a certain dimension). Please take a look at my previous post on tribes).
Why this is important?
Nowadays, we have structured (formal) organizations with clearly defined processes and rules. Majority of people feel safe to follow them for at least 2 reasons:
- They consider that processes help to work efficiently and produce wanted outcome
- They can always claim and blame on the process if something goes wrong
While the first statement is is not that bad, the second one produces a big crowd of Mr. Status Quo fans and a hard compliance to the process. Communities (of Practice) are virtual teams having no formal structure in the organization and are not mandated by management. They gather around common interests, purpose or idea, and create new pathways of communication and realization of ideas. I witnessed to some of such communities: Scrum Masters, developers, testers, continuous integration, system administrators, data base programmers, creative environment, software craftsmanship…
They make organization learning, adapting and stimulating to become more agile.
Some other communities were ‘established’ by management and soon some of them quietly vanished, or still exist just formally. The common cause/characteristics of those ghost groups were:
- Defined and imposed by management
- Drivers responsible for communities were managers or set by managers,
- There was no working agreement
- There was no clear purpose and goal to reach…
However, even a small achievement that sporadically happened in these groups is overstated as ‘best practice’ and a great ‘cross-organizational collaboration’. This is a natural recognition of own (management) work creating a fallacy of success, and keeping the command and control behavior. It is far from achieving the habit of continuous/sustainable improvement.
If we mathematically put a minus sign in front of the characteristics above, we twist the initiatives making them opposite and thus increase the opportunity to achieve valuable networking groups.
Leaders cannot just organize communities like departments or feature teams, or projects, or ‘special forces’… They cannot install a passion and enthusiasm by setting a formal structure. What they can do is to promote them and provide support, logistics, infrastructure, finances… and enjoy the movement and progress.