“If I participate in the Center of Excellence, then I will receive the benefits of a community of practice, but then I will most likely have to change and improve some aspects of my life.”
Yes, the pmNERDS Center of Excellence is a (CoP) or Community of Practice. Looking back, we see that some connections are inevitable. Given enough time and networking, some people are bound to meet and find that they share a passion. For more than a decade, these three; Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder, had been working with communities of practice in their own ways. Etienne had been involved in the original research at the Institute for Research on Learning as well as some early work at Xerox and National Semiconductor; He had also written a seminal book on communities of practice. Richard had been building “Learning communities” for a dozen years at companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, Shell Oil Company, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as writing articles and developing tools to help change agents build such communities. Bill had found the concept in Etienne’s dissertation and used it as a key element in his own dissertation on the connection between learning and performance in organizations. He also used it to perform his work on knowledge and communities at Colgate-Palmolive, McKinsey & Company, and the federal government.
A decade later, when Val Workman left EDS Services to found the Center of Excellence with RYMA Technologies and Services, it was only natural to go back to old contacts and leverage the proven structures that these gentlemen had started, applying these principles to the development of community-based knowledge development to the domain of Integrated PM. Here at the Center of Excellence, we share the early vision that communities of practice will help shape society with pervasive knowledge-oriented structures. They will provide new points of stability and connection in an increasingly mobile, global, and changing world.
Here at the Center, we have attempted to:
DESIGN FOR EVOLUTION- The community of practice is organic, design is more an act of shepherding the evolution rather than creating it from scratch. The community’s technology is a catalyst for the community’s natural evolution.
ENABLE OPEN DIALOGUE BETWEEN INSIDE AND OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVES- Our community is built on the collective experience of each community member. Only members can appreciate the issues at the heart of Integrated PM, the knowledge that is important to share, the challenges that this field faces, and the latent potential in emerging ideas and techniques. It also takes an outside perspective to help our members see the possibilities. Our community brings information from outside the community into the dialogue about what the community could achieve.
INVITE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF PARTICIPATION- We anticipate many different levels of participation. We invite all to participate in the CORE group of leadership, but recognize that some may prefer to maintain an active role in the community, contribute to dialog and help build intellectual capital, but not participate in a leadership role. Still others may prefer to stay outside of even an active role, and enjoy only a peripheral status. Of course, it is the desire of the CORE group, to build a fire in the center of the community that will draw people to its heat.
DEVELOP BOTH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE COMMUNITY SPACES- Like a local neighborhood, dynamic communities are rich with connections that happen both in the public places of the community; meetings, webinars; and private space, groups, and the one-on-one networking of community members. We have public events where members meet face-to-face or electronically to exchange tips, solve problems, or explore new ideas, tools, and techniques. However, our community is much more than these public events. The heart of the community is the web of relationships among community members, and much of the day-to-day occurs in one-on-one exchanges.
MAINTAIN A FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT OF PROJECTS- our community thrives because it delivers value to its members. Some of that value comes from focusing on current problems and needs of community members. Developing a systematic body of knowledge that can be easily accessed is also important to our members.
COMBINE FAMILIARITY AND EXCITEMENT- As a community, one of our goals is to offer familiar comforts of a hometown, but also to have enough interesting and varied events to keep new ideas and new people cycling into our community. Like a neighborhood bar or café, our community desires to become a “place” where people have the freedom to ask for candid advice, share opinions, and try their half-baked ideas without repercussion. It’s a place for people to drop by to hear about the latest tool, exchange technical gossip, or just chat about technical issues without fear of committing to action plans.
CREATE A RHYTHM FOR THE COMMUNITY- Our everyday lives have a rhythm: Waking up and preparing for work, commuting, checking e-mail, attending meetings, commuting home, engaging with kid’s activities, enjoying quiet time. Although there are different rhythms for different people, most of our lives do have a rhythm, which contributes to its sense of familiarity. At the heart of our community is a web of enduring relationships among members. Regular blog posts, comments, teleconferences, podcasts, forums, courses, and group meetings become the community’s rhythm. Your participation becomes this rhythm of life pulse of the community. If you find the community to be dead, then participate more and increase the strength of the community’s pulse.