Monday 11 August 2014

10 common factors of successful Communities of Practice

There have been many articles and blog posts (including here) listing "Top Success Factors for Communities of Practice". Usually these are based on a combination of experience and theory. Here's a different approach. 

 As part of our recent global Knowledge Management Survey, the nearly 400 participants were asked to rank the effectiveness of their Communities of Practice in adding value to their organisation. They were also asked to identify which of a list of CoP components they apply as of their CoP approach.

 The combination of these two questions allows us to work out which of those components make the most the most difference to the effectiveness of the CoPs. The "difference figure" is calculated as (average effectiveness when this component is included)/(average effectiveness when this component is absent). High percentages therefore represent the greatest effectiveness impact.
The top ten are listed below, together with their effectiveness difference (for example CoPs with a way of interacting online are rated as 30% more successful than those which don't).

To be clear, this list is based not on theory or experience, but on looking at the common elements between successful CoPs. The list is in order of declining importance, with the most important factors at the top.

  1. A way of interacting online - 30%
  2. A charter or terms of reference which reflects the members' view of the network objectives - 26%
  3. A performance contract or objectives agreed with the sponsor - 24%
  4. A business case - 23%
  5. A clear focus on business issues - 21%
  6. A defined leader - 19%
  7. A store for common documents - 19% 
  8. Training for CoP leaders and facilitators - 18%
  9. A defined facilitator in addition to the leader - 16%
  10. A defined sponsor - 13%
Also, let's not forget that size is important, and with Communities of Practice, Bigger is always Better.


Andrew Bishop said...

Wow. Didn't expect to see this result! If we group 2-4 as being somewhat similar, the clear message is that successful CoPs need a common, valuable purpose and a means to easily interact with each other. Simple!

Nick Milton said...

Not quite so simple, as I don't think you can group 2, 3 and 4, nor do I think 2, 3 and 4 are "a common valuable purpose". I agree number one is obvious, and its no surprise that it is top of the list, but I think many would be surprised to see governance elements at number 2, 3 and 4.

There was a time, say 15 years ago, when we all thought that informality was key for CoPs. What these results show is that this is not the case, and that where there are these three levels of formality - an agreement between the CoP members, an agreement with the sponsor, and an articulation of the business value - the satisfaction ratings with the CoPs are highest.

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