Building a community of practice (COP) is not an easy task. It involves a lot of moving pieces from process augmentation to artifact refactoring to overall change management just to name a few pieces. However the benefits of a thriving COP include repeatable, predicable results for your projects (insert angel choir here for all you executives). But before you have a thriving delivery team who executes projects with majestic repeatability and conciseness, you need to take the right steps to build your COP. Here are a few great first steps to building your practice.
This is change management 101. The individuals executing and building your COP need to be fully engaged and on board with the movement. Not just your project managers but also your team members – at the very least your business and technical leads who can train their respective teams. Make sure that all team members have a voice in what your COP is shaped like. Rely on their experience, their successes and (most importantly) their failures to help guide and shape what your COP will look like. And remember, the more engaged your team members are, the easier it will be to embrace changes set forth by your COP.
One of the most common mistakes made when implementing change is to do too much all at once. The more changes you introduce, the more time people need to spend to adopt these changes which inherently builds resistance which is exactly what your COP needs to avoid. When doing your planning, start small – pick off some easy and obvious items to change – perhaps updating your templates or project plans for a 1.0 version of your COP. Once your COP starts to build up some steam with your early (and small) successes, train your sights on something a little larger – maybe some methodology refinements or organizational restructuring. Remember, your team buy-in is crucial for this to be successful – start small and see some quick wins to build up momentum before taking on something larger and riskier.
Revisit, Refocus, Re-prioritize
As with any part of change management, looking back at what you’ve done and evaluating the success is vital to moving forward in the right direction. Look at the changes made and what impacts they’ve had – positive and otherwise. Evaluate whether you need to pivot direction again based on the early results. Engage your team members for feedback – how have the changes affected them and their teams? Talk to your leadership – perhaps their priorities have changed and as such you need to alter your direction on what your COP focuses on next. For example, say you’ve revised your project templates – look at how they’ve been used in the field – have they been adding value? Does your team spend less time building documents and more time focusing on critical thinking? Or maybe the new templates need to be changed now that they’ve been used for a real-world project. Always be looking back with the intent to move forward in the right direction.
When building a COP for project management, your goal is the betterment of your project delivery across the board by way of establishing consistent, repeatable processes that your entire team buys into. It’s important to remember that you can have quick results if you choose your targets wisely and ensure that you manage change effectively across the group. You won’t have complete turnaround in a day, but you can ensure that by starting small, ensuring that your entire team is engaged and continuing to evaluate your progress, your COP, albeit small to start, will be set on the right path for success.