Communities of Practice Success Stories: How World-Class Companies Run Their CoPs
These communities of practice success stories let you learn about how this knowledge management framework can be tweaked to meet your organisational goals.
Communities of Practice Success Stories
Empowering communities of practice is one of the best ways to foster learning and boost performance in your organisation.
Here, we talked about how CoPs enable knowledge transfer (which is basically one of its primary roles). But to truly appreciate their value, it would be best to tell you about communities of practice success stories.
Ready to be inspired by these success stories? Let’s begin.
World Bank Communities of Practice
Let’s begin with one of the most popular and should we say, one of the largest banks in the world.
World Bank is an international financial institution with 189 member-countries. The bank has been in existence for over 75 years, providing loans to various countries looking to fund their projects.
With such a complex structure and international operations, you know that it is not easy to manage a company like the World Bank, much more to acquire, produce and transfer knowledge.
You might be wondering – what does a community of practice look like in World Bank?
In World Bank, a CoP refers to an informal group of practitioners that shares knowledge on common development projects while at the same time, pursuing joint solutions.
They make an important contribution in the organisation through a more informed dialogue with the decision-makers. This leads to improved development outcomes.
In addition to the regular dialogue with the bank’s management team, CoPs also help members develop their skills and knowledge by initiating learning opportunities, promoting professional development, solving common problems, and addressing individual questions that members need in their daily work.
They use various tools and initiate different activities to maintain interaction among members.
Functions of CoPs in World Bank
There are over 100 diverse communities of practice at World Bank. Yes, that’s how important CoPs are to them. Specifically, such CoPs perform the following functions:
- To serve as an ongoing learning venue for the Bank staff and outside practitioners who share common goals, interests, and problems.
- Respond to inquiries from members and the Bank’s clients.
- Develop and share best practices on specific topics.
- Contribute to company development by promoting better-informed dialogue.
- Promote innovative ways to tackle various problems.
What can we learn from World Bank CoPs?
In companies with complex structures and geographical differences, CoPs can greatly help cultivate a learning culture.
In World Bank, memberships to CoPs are voluntary, and the majority of the staff belongs to at least one CoP. But one of the key factors to their success is that these CoPs in World Bank often involves members from different disciplines and geographic areas.
This enables them to improve knowledge flow, address knowledge gaps, and foster knowledge partnerships.
Mitsubishi Communities of Practice
Mitsubishi is a Japanese multinational automotive company with over 60,000 employees and 7 business segments, including machinery, finance, banking and food.
The company has what it’s called “engine high performance CoP” which aim to develop and share technical knowledge among 150 car engineers.
Just like a typical CoP, members meet and interact on a regular basis, discussing issues and collaborating to build a knowledge base on how to build more reliable and better-performing car engines.
Meanwhile, their sub-objectives include exchanging technical knowledge on starting systems, electrical systems, cooling systems, lubrication, and combustion, valves, and much more.
What can we learn from Mitsubishi CoP?
Here, we learn that CoPs work better when they set clearer, more specific goals. Classifying objectives into “subtopics” gave community members more clarity about the goals they need to achieve.
It also gives them an accurate orientation to follow by creating a list of topic areas where they must develop and share knowledge with the community.
Furthermore, creating subtopics helps community members focus on fields that they are expected to work on. This leads to a more targeted performance development, knowledge management, and sharing of best practices.
Siemens Community of Practice
Siemens is the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe based in Germany.
They are a prominent maker of medical diagnostics equipment but also have segments in energy and infrastructure. The company employs around 372,000 people worldwide, ending 2017 with €83 billion revenues.
At Siemens, the ‘‘Process Council” brings together the leaders and sponsors of three different communities of practice. One focuses on supply chain management, another on product lifecycle management, and the third on support management.
These CoPs contribute to the Council by providing an operational view, proposing a number of shared practices that they developed through their interactions.
Each quarter, the council reviews these processes and discuss which are most helpful, in terms of helping the company save time, reduce cost, and boost development. The CoP sponsors have a very important role in sustaining these communities.
Primarily, they assess how the varying communities would fit in the organisation’s strategy and how they can be presented to the top management to receive financial support.
What can we learn from Siemen’s CoP?
Siemen’s story reiterates what we have been talking about in our previous blog posts – the support from the leadership team is critical to the continued growth and development of CoPs.
It also shows how these communities can be structured in order for them to work and contribute to the success of the company.
Having sponsors and leader who have specific roles and functions allow the community to progress, continue making significant contributions to the organisation, and improve the skills and knowledge of the members.
Inter-CoP sharing is also a unique feature in Siemens. During committee sessions when sponsors and leaders meet, sharing of best practices happen between different CoPs with different goals.
In this setup, there is a potential to cultivate best practice sharing at a larger scale, thus, enabling the organisation to save cost and boost its revenue.
These are just three of the many communities of practice success stories which greatly show how they can be used as a powerful tool to foster learning and knowledge sharing which leads to many desirable outcomes, including process improvement, improved employee performance, and innovative business strategies.
If these organisations were able to succeed using communities of practice, there’s a good, good chance that your company can succeed as well.
You think your company is still small and the success stories are from BIG companies already? All the better because your company is organising its CoPs in its early stage – it’s still manageable!
Imagine if you have thousands of employees already who are waiting to get the CoPs in your company get organised. They would definitely lose interest! And when it comes to this type of initiative, momentum is everything.
Get started now. Use the resources we have on our blog. Or Start by taking our Organisational Mastery Scorecard.
It’s a structured assessment to know where your company stands now in terms of optimising your team’s performance. It’s a 5-minute time investment but it’s all worth it.