A toolkit for analyzing Communities of practice

When you are running a CoP it is a good practice (not a best practice !) to regularly measure the heart beat of the community.
For this purpose I developed a simple checklist, organised around 5 axes :

– Purpose (WHY)       … scope, objective, goal, mission
– Processes (HOW)    … practices, procedures, roles
– People (WHO)         … identity, trust, reputation
– Place (WHERE)        … systems, tools, technology
– Paper (WHAT)         … documentation, learning history

In a simple way, you can monitor a community’s status (maturity) on each of these axes. 
It is not rocket science and highly subjective, but it is a good framework to organize the action points around.
Both for starting up new Communities of practice or for doing a check up on an existing one.
The output can be represented in a single (simple again !!) spider chart like this :

SpiderWeb

Absolute accuracy is not the purpose, but the chart can be a great help to reveal issues and start actions.  In this example, there was not a clear shared goal of the CoP and as a consequence, no clear processes were in place to achieve this.

One major principle to remember is that all ‘P’- principles are equally important. Over-investing in one will not compensate for ignoring another.

In the next posts, I will deal with each of the ‘P’-axes in some more detail.

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2 responses to “A toolkit for analyzing Communities of practice

  1. Hi Marnix, sounds like a simple and good framework. How does it relate to community- domain- practice? I guess place is a good specification/addition it it. Practice may need some more light?

  2. For me the framework is a more practical analysis of a community of practice.  It’s advantage being that is easy to explain to a community and it can be used for evaluation.  There probably is a link with community – domain – practice.  What we do, why, how and where builds  the real community feeling, ie all 5 axes.  The domain is reflected in who and why (Purpose + People).  The practice – what really happens – is reflected in how and what (Processes + Paper).

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