Thursday, February 16, 2012

Determining Charters for Communities of Practice

When forming a new Community of Practice (COP), the community members can hold widely differing points of view on what the community should be aiming for and how it should operate. While diversity is important for the strength of a community; these differences can derail some of the positivity that comes with a new community.

To ensure that the vast majority of members of the community receive strong benefit from participating I have found the following approach to be successful.

1. Capture Objectives, Values & Behaviours
2. Survey members
3. Collaboratively create a Charter for the COP
4. Trial and Evaluate

Day 31. School's Out.

1. Capture Objectives, Values & Behaviours
The first step is to sit down with all of the community members one by one and understand what their objectives are for the community, how they think members should behave and what values the community should uphold.

Example Objectives: Develop consistent practices, spread knowledge, recommend how to use …., promote the use of X.

Example Values: honesty, trust, openness, supporting community members, knowledge sharing, mentors others.

Example Behaviours: let others have their say (no talking over each other), turn up prepared for meetings, do not answer phones in COP meetings.

SIDE NOTE: This may reveal some personal conflicts between community members that are best sorted out before proceeding to step 3.

2. Survey members
Next I create a brief survey based on the objectives, values & behaviours that where captured from the community members. I have found that ‘Survey Monkey’ works well for this situation, as it is easy to use, and free for surveys of this size.

Once the survey results are in I analyse them to give myself a picture of what the community member’s desire most (i.e. received plenty of votes) and importantly where the differences are (votes are spread across two or more items). This analysis will help guide how I present items for discussion in the following workshop.

For example; the survey results may indicate that there is strong consensus on the value of ‘knowledge sharing’. This indicates to me that in the workshop I can propose ‘knowledge sharing’ as a community value that has strong support, hence saving time to spend on discussing the more controversial items.

3. Collaboratively create a Charter for the COP in a workshop
To create the COP charter, I schedule an hour long workshop with the COP members should be enough. The goal of the workshop is to get the COP members to create their own Charter. The process of collaboratively creating the charter builds ownership for it. The charter indicates the aims of the community and how they intend to operate while they go about reaching for those goals. The suggested charter will include these sections: Objectives, Values, Behaviours & Operation.

The workshop has the following rough agenda:
1. Set the scene - 5 minutes
2. Decide on the Objectives - 15 minutes
3. Decide on the Values - 15 minutes
4. Decide on the Behaviours - 10 minutes
5. Decide on how the community will operate - 10 minutes
6. Review and agree on the charter - 5 minutes

Set the scene 
Explain the goal of creating a charter with strong consensus from the community and explain the agenda.

Decide on the Objectives
As a group decide on the Objectives for the community. This is done by reviewing and discussing the survey results regarding Objectives. 

Decide on the Values
As a group decide on the Values for the community. 

Decide on the Behaviours
As a group decide on the Behaviours for the community. The community usually has the hang of the workshop by now and generally have less Behaviour items to discuss then Values or Objectives, so I time box this to 10 minutes instead of 15 minutes.

Decide on how the community will operate
Considering the Objectives, Values and Behaviours that have been agreed upon; the group now needs to brainstorm how they should operate to reach their Objectives, while following their values and behaviours. This may include meeting schedules, agendas for meetings, who/how the community is lead, how the community communicates with the rest of the organisation, how the work of the community will be performed, etc.

An example operating model is: 
* Fortnightly meetings
* Meetings are chaired by the Community Leader. 
* Minutes are taken and e-mailed to all stakeholders.

4. Trial and Evaluate
After the workshop the charter should be written up, reviewed and made visible to all COP members. 
As with almost everything to do with agile, now it is time to try it out, evaluate how it worked out and adapt it as necessary. To support this it is a good idea to squeeze in a 5 minute retrospective into any regular meetings to check if the COP is working effectively for its members.

Photo by: Kris Anderson