Your SlideShare is downloading. ×

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

Saving this for later? Get the SlideShare app to save on your phone or tablet. Read anywhere, anytime – even offline.
Text the download link to your phone
Standard text messaging rates apply

Communities of practice and application in Asian organisations


Published on

What are communities of practice? How can they help drive productivity and improve organizational performance? What are the key success factors? …

What are communities of practice? How can they help drive productivity and improve organizational performance? What are the key success factors?

In this guide I will examine what CoPs are and how they have come about, as well as their role in learning and development today, and in driving organizational success. Furthermore, drawing on my experience at Cegos I will provide guidance on some of the key factors for setting up successful and sustainable CoPs in Asia.

Published in: Business, Education
1 Comment
  • Please share your experiences of Communities of Practice - the good, the bad and the ugly....interested to create an up to date tips / traps summary following
    Are you sure you want to  Yes  No
    Your message goes here
No Downloads
Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

No notes for slide


  • 1. COMMUNITIES OFPRACTICE: A GUIDE TOTHE BUSINESS BENEFITSFOR ASIAN COMPANIESWhat are communities ofpractice? How can they helpdrive productivity and improveorganizational performance?What are the key success factors?Jeremy Blain, Director,Managing Director, Cegos Asia Pacific. 1
  • 3. 1. INTRODUCTIONWhile the term “Community of Practice” (CoP) was coined relatively recently, “ Communities of practice are groupsthe phenomenon, which centers on proactive collective learning, has beenaround as long as people have learnt and worked effectively together. Today of people who share aa growing number of people and organizations across the world from different concern or a passionsectors and environments are now focusing on the concept as a key toimproving their performance. for something they do and learn how to do itIn this guide I will examine what CoPs are and how they have come about,as well as their role in learning and development today, and in driving better as they interactorganizational success. Furthermore, drawing on my experience at Cegos I regularly.will provide guidance on some of the key factors for setting up successful andsustainable CoPs in Asia.Communities of Practice: The Characteristics ” Etienne Wenger, 2006According to social learning theorist Etienne Wenger, communities of practiceare formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning ina shared domain of human endeavor: a tribe learning to survive, a bandof artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers workingon similar problems, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, agathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.In essence, a CoP is a group of individuals with a common area ofresponsibility, or similar interests, united by a joint desire to develop and growby sharing ideas and best practices.Wenger cites three key characteristics – a domain, community and practice –which are required to distinguish a CoP from other groups and communitiessuch as workplace discussion groups or departmental teams.The domain: A community of practice is more than a club of friends or anetwork of connections between people. It has an identity defined by ashared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to thedomain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members fromother people.The community: In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage injoint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. Theybuild relationships that enable them to learn from each other.The practice: Members of a community of practice are practitioners. Theydevelop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways ofaddressing recurring problems – in short a shared practice. This takes timeand sustained interaction. 3 © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 4. Communities of practice are found the world over and come in a variety ofdifferent shapes and sizes, usually focused on learning and building capacity.Well documented examples include learning networks such as ASTD(the world’s largest professional association dedicated to the training and “ Some CoPs are formally recognizeddevelopment field), technology clubs, and technology programs which are runby companies such as Microsoft for example. within organizations and have a dedicatedASTD Global HRD Community of Practice budget, while others are completely informal.Through the world’s largest training and development platform, ASTDreaches professionals on six continents and more than 80 countries.The Global HRD CoP has been set up for professionals around the ”world to share regional best practices, conduct global benchmarking,and discuss cross culture and global talent development issues. A widerange of content is available in Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Arabic, andmany other languages. With ongoing support the community continuesto grow providing a valuable tool for its members to connect, learn andshare.Microsoft Innovative Teachers ProgrammeThe Microsoft Innovative Teachers Programme is an online CoP with theaim of creating a community of teachers who learn from and inspire eachother. It supports IT innovation and best practice in schools and helpsteachers use technology to connect and collaborate with colleagues,by providing training on and access to e-resources that integrate ICTinto the learning process. Key programme aims include continuingprofessional development, managing the online sharing of knowledge,sharing innovation through virtual classroom tours, establishing onlinecommunities to help teachers exchange information and creating bestpractice examples of how technology can be used in education.At one end of the scale CoPs are local with members limited to a singleorganization primarily interacting face-to-face while more complex set upsinclude global networks that mainly come together online and may span anumber of different organizations. Some CoPs are formally recognized withinorganizations and have a dedicated budget, while others are completelyinformal.The emergence of CoPs within businesses can come from a variety ofactivities such as the need to solve a specific problem – “Can we brainstormsome ideas to progress the development of this product?”; for gaining insightand experience – “Does anybody have experience of working with a customerin this region?”; and to map knowledge and identify skills gaps – “Who knowswhat within our organization, and what skills are we missing?” 4 © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 5. One of the key benefits of CoPs is their dynamic nature and the fact that ! KEYlearning and knowledge transfer is not limited to individuals at any particularlevel of the organization but occurs among everyone involved. While CoPstend to be driven by a whole range of different individual and organizationalneeds, what they typically have in common is their ability to play a pivotal role POINTSin informal learning strategies and in helping organizations to move beyond Some defining traits ofmore formal organizational and training structures and techniques. CoPs: They are peer-to-peerAsian Development Bank collaborative networks They are driven by the willing participation of their members They are focused onADB introduced the concept of CoPs when it reorganised in 2002 and learning and buildingthese received a boost in 2009 when ADB empowered them under capacityAction Plan for Knowledge Management, 2009 – 2011. ADB-hostedCoPs: They are engaged in sharing knowledge,• Promote innovative approaches to address specific development developing expertise, and opportunities solving problems• Develop, capture, and transfer good practices on specific topics by stimulating the active generation and sharing of knowledge They can operate• Link diverse groups of practitioners from different disciplines and regardless of geographical are thus intertwined with ADB’s organisational structure location• Serve as an ongoing learning venue for staff (and outside practitioners) who share similar goals, interests, problems, and They can be reinforced approaches through leverage of• Respond rapidly to individual inquiries from members and ADB collaborative tools and clients, audiences, and partners with specific answers technologies 5 © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 6. 2. MARKET CONTEXT – THE KEY DRIVERSIn this section I look at the key drivers for CoPs in today’s global business “ The global economic slowdown andenvironment and specifically in Asia. now slow return toWithout doubt, informal learning tools such as CoPs are becoming an growth have shinedincreasingly important part of today’s business and learning strategies fororganizations worldwide. the spotlight on the importance ofResearch by industry analysts Bersin & Associates shows that more than80% of corporate learning now occurs through informal approaches such as maximizing the valuecoaching, mentoring, communities of practice, use of expert directories, and of L&D networking. Those organizations that have begun to ‘formalize’ informallearning and have integrated it with more traditional learning techniques tocreate the perfect blend of learning for today’s learner centric workplace areachieving the greatest impact from their learning programs.There are a number of factors driving the uptake of informal learning tools and ”CoPs – from economic benefits, globalization and the rise of technology, tothe changing dynamics of the workplace and the war for talent.Economic benefitsThe global economic slowdown and now slow return to growth have shinedthe spotlight on the importance of maximizing the value of L&D budgets. WhileAsia has not suffered to the same extent as the United States and Europe,the ongoing Eurozone crisis has impacted growth in Asia. With slower growthrates than predicted, companies are increasingly focused on getting themaximum ‘bang for their buck’ from their training programs and are looking toadopt more flexible and cost-efficient learning tools.More so than ever before, there is a need for learning to be integrated intoemployees’ day-to-day activities to ensure they remain productive andfocused on core activities rather than spending too much time away from theworkplace on off-site training courses.The low cost of establishing and maintaining CoPs, combined with theirflexibility to be embedded into daily workplace activities such as problemsolving make them a strong economic option in the current business climate.The rise of technologyIn today’s global multi-cultural 24/7 business environment, the rise oftechnology is enabling ‘learning-on-demand’, allowing people to learn‘anywhere, anytime’, as well as helping to foster greater networking,collaboration and community access. It is also having an enormous impacton the bottom line by reducing costs from training away-days and enablinggreater productivity through collective learning and collaboration in areas suchas product development and customer services.Over the past few years, the rise of the internet, faster and cheapertelecommunications infrastructures and the proliferation of smartphones andtablet computers have helped drive the uptake of CoPs in Asia, albeit manycompanies are still very much exploring this tool as a learning technique.This increased adoption of technologies and potential for the future is evidentin Asia if we look at their internet usage rates according to Internet World Stats. 6Figure 1 shows that nearly a billion Asians use the internet. While Figure 2 showsonly a 24% penetration rate, it is worth noting that this is changing rapidly asbetter infrastructure is rolled out, tighter controls around IP are implemented, andwider applications to how technology is used continue to emerge. © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 7. “ Asia 922.3 Europe 476.2 Of key importance North America 272.1 too is the changing Latin America / Caribbean 215.9 demographics of Africa 110.9 the workforce which Middle East 68.6 is evident across Asia and indeed Oceania / Australia 21.3 globally. There are 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 currently four different Millions of users generations working Source: Internet World Stat – Estimated internet users are 2,095,006,005 on March 31, 2011. Copyright © 2011, Miniwatts Marketing Group side by side...Figure 1. Internet users in the world by geographic regions – 2011 North America 78.3% ” Oceania / Australia 60.1% Europe 58.3% Latin America / Caribbean 37% Middle East 31.7% World, Avg. 30.2% Asia 23.8% Africa 11.4% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70%º 80% Penetration Rate Source: Internet World Stat – Penetration Rates based on a world population of 6,930,055,154 and 2,095,006,005 estimated internet users on March 31, 2011. Copyright © 2011, Miniwatts Marketing GroupFigure 2. World Internet penetration rates by geographic regions – 2011The changing dynamics of the workplaceOf key importance too is the changing demographics of the workforce whichis evident across Asia and indeed globally. There are currently four differentgenerations working side by side which fall into the following categories:• Traditionalists born between 1925 and 1945 and tending to be characterized by a sense of duty and loyalty;• Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 – many of whom are in senior management positions today and tend to be more upwardly mobile with a greater focus on advancement and status;• Generation X born between 1965 and 1981 who often believe in the values of resourcefulness and self-reliance; and 7• Generation Y, or the Millennials, who born after 1982, tend to be highly technology literate, are often positive and confident and are prepared to challenge existing ideas. © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 8. Today’s global information economyCoPs have an increasingly important role to play in today’s global informationeconomy where knowledge is increasingly recognized as a crucial “ Today’s teams tend to be cross-culturaldifferentiator in the marketplace. and cross-functionalBut managing, sharing and leveraging knowledge and skills is more with individuals andcomplicated than ever before due the global nature of business. Today’steams tend to be cross-cultural and cross-functional with individuals and subject matter expertssubject matter experts dispersed around the world so it is important to find dispersed around theefficient ways for these teams to maximize their potential. world so it is importantTechnology and social networking tools are providing platforms for informal to find efficient waysnetworks and CoPs which are helping to solve this knowledge managementissue and enable people in organizations to foster more effective and for these teamscollaborative means of working together thus leading to greater value being to maximize theirgenerated. potential.The combination of these tools with techniques that enable greatercollaboration, such as agile development using scrum teams, is helping tocreate organizations that are more dynamic and adaptable to change.Last, yet by no means least, there is the skills and talent crisis. While this is ”a global issue, industry figures show that the problem is particularly acute inAsia, in particular in high growth markets such as India and China.The ManpowerGroup 2011 Talent Shortage survey of 40,000 employersacross 39 countries reveals globally, that one in three (34%) employers havereported experiencing difficulties filling positions due to lack of available talentwith 73% of respondents citing a lack of experience, skills or knowledge asthe primary reason. In comparison, 45% of Asia Pacific employers reporteddifficulty filling job vacancies due to lack of available talent – a 4% increaseover 2010s figures. This is likely related to the fact that many of the countriessurveyed across Asia suffered less impact from the global economicdownturn. As a result they will have experienced an earlier, more robustrecovery and there are only so many qualified candidates available in themarket to meet the continued strong hiring expectation.Figure 3 shows the extent of the problem in Asia with Japan and India bothreporting an increase in difficulty in 2011 compared to 2010. India shows themost significant increase – up from 16% in 2010 to a staggering 67% in 2011– which most likely stems from increased demand as the economy rebounds.In China, organizations appear to be finding it less difficult to fill positions in2011 than they did in the previous year. 8 © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 9. % 80%8 ! KEY 76% 20107 67%6 2011 POINTS 52%5 Key market drivers behind4 40% 40% informal learning tools 31% 29% such as CoPs include: 29% 29%3 24% 23% 21% 20%2 16% Economic benefits 14% 15% 9%1 Globalisation0 The rise of technology ce na a ly y US a n UK an ad di pa Ita an hi In m an Ja C Fr er C G Learning on demand Figure 3: Manpower Talent Shortage survey – Difficulties in filling positions amongst largest global economies More effective collaboration When respondents were asked what strategies they were using to overcome the difficulties filling positions in Asia, the most common response (17%) Changing workforce was to provide extra training and development to existing staff. While this is demographics encouraging, clearly an even greater investment needs to be made in L&D to build a robust workforce for the future with informal learning tools such as The War for Talent CoPs providing the ideal platform in conjunction with other learning tools to upskill employees in the region. When asked which position they find the most difficult to fill, employers in the Asia Pacific region universally cited sales representatives. Indeed, sales representatives have consistently remained the most difficult position to fill in the region during the past seven years. In section 5 where I look specifically at best practice examples of CoPs there is a good example of how a dedicated learning program can achieve great results in terms of developing sales talent from within the organization. The human capital market in Asia today is clearly a ‘buyer’s market’ – constantly challenging organizations to find the right strategies to attract, develop and retain staff. It is perhaps no surprise then that 12% of the Manpower survey respondents said that they were broadening their search outside their local region. However, if talent starts to move from organizations’ multinational counterparts in the West on a larger scale than currently seen today, this could lead to a mass ‘Talent Migration’ that no one is really prepared for. As this happens, the protection of talent becomes even more critical with L&D strategies that fit seamlessly into day-to-day activities such as CoPs having a key role to play in growing this talent into the Asian context, and supporting long-term talent management and succession planning strategies. In my recent white paper Blended Learning and its Applications for Asian Companies Today I look at the implications of the movement of talent East in greater detail. So in summary, the lack of available talent in Asia combined with the migration of skills from West to East highlights the need for a greater focus on the development of employees, managers and leaders throughout Asian organizations, domestically and through the absorption of international staff from overseas. This ticking talent time bomb is driving the rise in 9 informal learning approaches and as a result more and more companies are experimenting with CoPs. Also more and more learners are driving CoPs out of necessity in order to raise their game and professional standing in the marketplace. © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 10. 3. THE BENEFITS OF COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICECoPs have the potential to provide a whole host of benefits to organizations “! As austerity measures continue to biteacross Asia, from both an L&D and broader business perspective such asreduced costs and improved performance with the individual learner standing organizations mustto benefit greatly too. These key benefits largely stem from the community’s be creative andpassion for learning and sharing work-related knowledge and the ability toconnect people across functional, divisional, organizational and geographic accountable in the waysboundaries. While technology provides the infrastructure of modern day CoPs that they develop andand enables the connection of people regardless of location, the beating heartof a CoP is the human interaction between its members, ensuring human retain their staff in thesecapital is front and centre. difficult times.Cost and performanceBersin & Associates 2011 Corporate TalentWatch® shows that reducingcosts is the number one challenge for organizations in 2012, cited by 42% of ”organizations surveyed, with the next biggest challenge being expansion intonew markets, cited by 35% of respondents.For companies today, the focus remains firmly on doing more with less whileensuring that performance within the workplace is maximized. As austeritymeasures continue to bite organizations must be creative and accountable inthe ways that they develop and retain their staff in these difficult times. CoPsprovide a low cost way of building knowledge and access to knowledge withinan organization, regardless of location with cost savings particularly evidentamongst global teams.In addition, the collaborative culture brought about by CoPs can overcomebarriers in larger organizations where teams can have a silo mentality and canlead to decisions being made more quickly, bringing benefits to the businessand customers. A collaborative culture is more efficient and innovative and helpsto build stronger bonds within and between companies which directly impactsthe bottom line.CoPs represent a low-cost learning tool – one that is even more powerful andhas the potential to deliver a greater return on investment when implementedas part of a blended learning program. Organizations need to carefully considertheir mix with technology enabled tools such as e-learning but also face-to-face interventions such as coaching and classroom training for which there is astrong cultural preference in many countries in Asia.In today’s technology-driven workplace, we must not forget that the ‘humantouch’ remains key to engaging people as they work and learn. Indeed ourannual 2011 Learning Trends survey found that the human touch still remainscore to training today despite the rise in technology-led learning techniques.Modern day CoPs represent a low-cost way of connecting people in a new waythat maximizes the use of technology for cross cultural and remote collaborationyet maintains the essential human elements of communication and dialogue.Dynamic informal learning for everybody, locally or globallyCoPs tend to be self-selected, autonomous and inclusive so every individual‘member’ can benefit regardless of their location. They can address the tacitand dynamic aspects of knowledge creation and sharing, as well as the more 10explicit aspects. CoPs allow the individual learner to share their experiences andlearn from others spontaneously when they need to. This learning in real-time, ina non-hierarchical way, from talent regardless of where an individual is located,can help accelerate learning. © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 11. For the individual the benefits are numerous and include greater access to ! KEYsubject-matter experts and valuable information resources, as well as ongoingprofessional development and helping the individual to remain at the forefront oftheir discipline and gain confidence in their own expertise. POINTS Members can accessClosing cross-generational skills gaps and share resources regardless of locationAs part of broader talent management and L&D strategies CoPs helporganizations harness the experience of older generation’s and close skills CoPs are a flexiblegaps by up-skilling younger generations. As mentioned earlier, this is important learning tool enablinggiven the fact that so many Baby Boomers are due to retire during the course learning anytime,of the next few years taking crucial knowledge and experience with them in anywhereareas such as leadership and decision making. CoPs can lower costsHow we engage today’s different generations is of great importance. CoPs of operation, increaseprovide an effective means to harness the enthusiasm of the younger tech- efficiency and improvesavvy generations, providing a stimulating collaborative learning environment. customer service whichThe autonomy of such learning tools can help people feel a valued part of are essential for a healthythe team or company where their opinions count and are contributing to bottom linethe bigger picture and this in turn impacts productivity, staff retention andorganizational performance. CoPs have a key role to play in solving problems quickly and effectively,Innovation and reduced re-invention developing professional skills, influencingCoPs help connect people to experts thus decreasing learning curves. They strategy, and in engagingprovide a safe and trusted environment for brainstorming that can help and retaining talentedstimulate idea creation and problem solving through thinking outside of the which in turn leads to greater innovation in the workplace.They also offer the advantage of reducing rework and prevent the ‘wheelbeing reinvented’ all of the time. Indeed, research carried out by David R.Millen, Michael A. Fontaine, and Michael J. Muller from IBM Research’sCollaborative User Experience Group nearly a decade ago which exploredthe benefits and costs of communities of practice within large, geographicallydispersed organizations, found that by far the most compelling benefits forthe organization was in the area of time savings. In particular, the key benefitwas the reduced time to perform information seeking and sharing tasks thatcontributed to improved operational efficiency.Relationship-building and networkingCoPs break down communication barriers among individuals from differentlevels within an organization, different functions and different geographicalregions. This is particularly powerful for Asian companies seeking to bringknowledge from West to East.Their informal and dynamic nature based on continuous communication offersa social environment ideal for building and nurturing relationships. CoPs canalso provide a strong networking platform.Collective responsibilityCoPs can help tackle some of the toughest business problems. By promotingcollaboration, CoPs allow common outcomes to be achieved. They enable members 11to take collective responsibility for managing the knowledge they need. Furthermore,according to Wenger they create a direct link between learning and performance,because the same people participate in them as in business teams and businessunits. Collective responsibility leads to a more engaged and motivated workforce. © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 12. 4. KEY FACTORS FOR THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF COPS “! The first meeting should introduce participantsThe potential for CoPs in organizations is enormous, but their success hinges to the benefits of theon a wide range of factors. Drawing on my experience at Cegos, in this CoP and the roles andsection I focus on what basic ingredients are needed to establish productiveand sustainable communities of practice. responsibilities of the key personnel.Here are my 10 guiding principles for establishing a successful CoP in Asia:1. Ensure there is a clear purposeIt is important to establish from the outset what your CoP will be used to do.What problem or business issue will it address? It is worth developing a simple‘manifesto’ defining the vision, rationale and scope with clearly stated goals ”and success criteria. Make sure that the benefits are clearly identified for bothmembers and sponsors.2. Identify participantsGet together a list of potential participants – think locally and globally. I findit particularly useful to use a referral system where individuals are askedif they can recommend others in the organization that would be valuableparticipants. Also consider whether your CoP would benefit from a morediverse membership to gain a different perspective. Remember to establishexpectations in terms of peoples’ time commitment.3. Define key roles and responsibilitiesDo not underestimate the power of the facilitator. This is a key role which neednot necessarily be one individual or indeed a subject expert. The facilitatorfocuses on process and is responsible for understanding knowledge andlearning needs, designing and facilitating meetings, maintaining distributionlists and working behind the scenes to maintain commitment and working asa focal point both internally and for those outside the CoP.The champion has a powerful role to play in communicating the benefits ofthe CoP and engaging participants. The sponsor is largely responsible forensuring the CoP has the resources it needs to thrive and for monitoringbusiness outcomes.4. Hold a kick-off meetingThe first meeting should introduce participants to the benefits of the CoP andthe roles and responsibilities of the key personnel. An important focus will beto ensure all participants share a common understanding and vision for theCoP. The first meeting should be all about building relationships, trust andcommitment. Given that many of the interactions are likely to be via emailor telephone, it can be very useful to kick-off with a face-to-face meetingincluding a social activity.5. Establish behaviors from the outsetIf participants or the organization is new to this approach, you need to makesure that you start as you mean to go on by engaging members in developinggood practice. This can cover, for example, a code of conduct or expectationsof responsiveness to queries. It can be useful to have to hand some seedquestions to stimulate discussion. The facilitator has a key role to play here inpressing for answers behind the scenes. 12 © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 13. 6. Promote the CoP ! SUMMARY:Work with your marketing team to promote the CoP in internal and externalmedia/magazines. The more people who know about it the better. Try andshow how the CoP is helping employees to solve daily work challenges. Inthe early stages advertise quick wins and publicize milestones as they are CEGOSachieved which will help build momentum and commitment. TEN STEP7. Maintain connectivity PLAN FORSuccess depends on maintaining and building on the relationships betweenthe participants of the CoP. It’s helpful to establish a blend of face-to-face and SUCCESSonline activities which can be achieved by good active facilitation. 1. Ensure there is a clear8. Monitor the effectiveness of the CoP purposeThe effectiveness of the CoP should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. 2. Identify participantsConsider metrics such as frequency of contribution/response, number of 3. Define key roles andunanswered questions, and for larger networks the churn rate for participants. responsibilitiesHow can you improve activity? What techniques and approaches can you use 4. Hold a kick-off meetingto make sure people remain engaged? 5. Establish behaviours from outset9. Review performance 6. Promote the CoPHow is the CoP delivering against its manifesto and key goals? What 7. Maintain connectivityfeedback do the participants have? Are there still regular examples of success 8. Monitor thestories? Ensuring you have quantifiable evidence that the CoP is delivering effectiveness of theagainst its objectives will help with ring-fencing further resources to ensure the CoPCoP can continue to develop and meet future challenges. 9. Review performance 10. Test for continuedMeasuring and demonstrating the value of a CoP is not always an easy relevanceprocess and there is much work to be done in this area. Cost savings can bequantified in a number of ways by tracking expenses accumulated in trainingnew and existing employees for example, the time spent on group projectsand travel time that would have been spent seeking out advice from expertsand meeting with people.10. Test for continued relevanceCoPs are dynamic and can last for as long or as short a time as theirmembers need them to exist as interests and issues shift and evolve.Periodically re-evaluate the ‘business plan’ of the CoP. Should it continue, bedisbanded, redefined or sub-divided into new CoPs? CoPs require nurturing ifthey are to remain valuable and viable over the course of their evolution.Launching and sustaining a successful CoP requires thought and commitmentbut with the right people, technology infrastructure and the steps outlinedabove it can be one of the most effective ways to develop your knowledgecapital.There are also key lessons we can learn from the software industry’s useof agile development and from the Agile Manifesto – a statement of valuesdefined by a group of software developers which originally formed in 2001.Through their work, they have come to value individuals and interactionsover processes and tools; collaborative technology over documentation;collaboration with the customer – the end user – over contract negotiations;and the all important ability and flexibility in responding to change rather thanadhering rigidly to an existing plan. More details of this can be found in my“Informal Networks – How they are changing the World of Work” white paper.Any embracing of CoPs must inevitably lead to a culture change within anorganisation. Going back to the Agile Manifesto, there needs to be a paradigmshift away from processes and tools towards individuals and interactions and 13an increased flexibility and agility within an organisation. © Cegos Group, 2011/2012
  • 14. 5. THE EVOLUTION OF COPS AND BEST PRACTICE EXAMPLES “! Early efforts to manage knowledge wereThe CoP concept is being applied to some degree in virtually every business underpinned by largetoday with government organizations, educational institutions, professional information systems,associations and other broader society initiatives all realizing benefits from thisapproach to learning and knowledge management. many of which failed to make a significantIt is perhaps not surprising that it is within the business sector that CoPs havegained the most ground. Why? This largely comes down to recognition among impact.businesses that knowledge is a critical asset that needs to be managedstrategically.Early efforts to manage knowledge were underpinned by large informationsystems, many of which failed to make a significant impact. CoPs provided ”a refreshingly new approach through their focus on people rather thantechnology, with social interaction enabling learning and knowledge to betransferred through greater collaboration. Arguably technology does play apivotal role today in CoPs, however its’ core role is in creating an infrastructurethat enables the people who use it to connect, communicate and interact. Itis not the be-all and end-all in the way that knowledge management systemswere created and rolled out back in the 80s and 90s.CoPs have grown up around the rise of informal networks and in the contextof today’s virtual organization. You can find more information on both of thesethemes in two further white papers I have written entitled “Informal Networks –How They are Changing the World of Work” and “The Rise of Virtual Learning”.So how are CoPs evolving today globally, and what challenges do they bring?As I mentioned earlier in this paper, in the past few years we have seena shift in effort and investment towards informal learning. This has beenaccompanied by the need to ‘formalize’ the more collaborative approaches tolearning in order to drive value and achieve measurable business results.As the worldwide economy slowly recovers, organizations and their HR,learning and talent development teams remain firmly grounded in cost-containment but are now starting to shift their focus towards innovation andgrowth and this is shaping the evolution of CoPs. CoPs are becoming anincreasingly important part of informal learning and blended learning strategiestoday with more and more local companies in Asia exploring their potential.Many organizations leading the way in this field are indeed Internationalcompanies with the need to build and share knowledge globally being a keydriver. Much can be learnt from such companies.Grant Thornton, Underwriters Labs and JetBlue Airways are all good examplesof companies that have closely integrated CoPs into their L&D strategies –the latter being an example of a company that has taken CoPs a step furtherthan many organizations by inviting trainers from other airlines to join theirCoP. These three companies all feature in Bersin and Associates’ LearningLeaders® 2011 research-driven program which recognizes innovation andexcellence in critical areas of corporate training and talent management. 14 © Cegos Group, 2012
  • 15. Grant Thornton “! CoPs are becoming more and moreGrant Thornton LLP is the US operation of Grant Thornton International, sophisticated asthe global accounting, tax and business advisory organisation which organizations gain moreemploys more than 30,000 employees globally and serves public andprivate clients in more than 100 countries. experience in integrating them into the fabric ofGrant Thornton is using CoPs for continued learning as part of itsinnovative learning and leadership development initiative called LEADS. their business.LEADS’ mission is to develop leaders who live the organisation’sglobal vision and values, excel in client service and technical expertise,develop the firm’s people and support continuous leadershipdevelopment. ”One of its most visible and impactful programmes is a live three daysales simulation event for senior managers. The CoP is used alongsideregular-scheduled online learning events as a follow-up to the event tohelp embed key learnings in the workplace.Underwriters LaboratoriesUnderwriters Laboratories is an independent product safety certificationorganisation that has been testing products and writing standards forsafety for more than a century. To keep pace with its organic growthrate, in 2009 the company had a pressing requirement to recruit andtrain around 1,000 product safety engineers throughout 19 countrieswithin three years.This was made possible through a blended learning programme and‘boot camp’ with the Underwriters Laboratories University’s knowledgemanagement system providing support for informal and collaborativelearning through online communities, blogs for Q&A, wikis, and a globalcommunity of experts.Year over year, the product safety engineer training programme hasmet or exceeded the goal of cutting the speed to qualification, andtherefore speed to productivity, by 50% compared to the instructor-led apprenticeship model it previously relied on. The online CoPs haveplayed a key role in facilitating knowledge-sharing.CoPs are becoming more and more sophisticated as organizations gain moreexperience in integrating them into the fabric of their business.According to Josh Bersin, one of the key challenges facing organizationstoday is not only rethinking how learning content is developed and consumed,but rethinking how a company works as a set of business communities anddesigning learning and development solutions that fit each community’s 15needs. Two companies that are beginning to embrace this approach are Inteland Lufthansa. © Cegos Group, 2012
  • 16. A community-based learning approach to develop femaleengineers at Intel “! Lufthansa’s innovative approach of developing people to support their own communitiesThe role of women in the workforce has dramatically changed in the last 10years. Today, more than 58 percent of graduates are women and many leading and giving them theorganisations like HP, IBM and PepsiCo now have female executives at thehelm. Corporate programmes that attract, develop and support women have a freedom and actioncrucial role to play in winning the war for talent. plans to implementIntel recognised that there is still a subtle bias against women in technical solutions within theirroles in many parts of the world. Rather than simply train managers on the community has helpedrole of women and how to counter gender bias, Intel proactively set up 32community chapters called the Women at Intel network, empowering women drive significantto work together as a local community and learn from each other. improvements inCorporate HR and learning and development teams have helped to build and operational executionsupport these communities with infrastructure, communications and training, and has resulted inbut ultimately it is the communities themselves which surface cultural,training or leadership issues that must be addressed. greater engagement and career growth throughout theLufthansa – Developing people to support their own communities organisation.Lufthansa’s Coaching Ourselves programme gives high-potential leaders a ”set of high-value coaching skills and formal leadership development and isdesigned to change the organisation itself not just the people it trains.With over 100,000 employees and internal communities in place amongservice agents, finance, IT and country operations teams, a key goal of thecorporate HR department was to empower these communities to improveleadership, internal coaching, knowledge sharing and development.Lufthansa developed a highly blended training programme for high potentials,teaching them how to coach themselves with the goal of working on projectsthat are very specific to their own communities using the skills they learnedthrough the programme.One team addressed the problem – “If only Lufthansa knew what Lufthansaknew” – by creating an active social network that put in place a formalprogramme for sharing best-practices, and the programme was replicatedacross different countries using country-specific approaches and tools.Lufthansa’s innovative approach of developing people to support their owncommunities and giving them the freedom and action plans to implementsolutions within their community has helped drive significant improvementsin operational execution and has resulted in greater engagement and careergrowth throughout the organisation. 16 © Cegos Group, 2012
  • 17. As I mentioned earlier, many of the best examples of CoPs which we can learnfrom come from large multinational organizations that are using the conceptto unite learning among teams across the world. However, it is important toremember that there will always be local issues and nuances that need to be “! is important to remember that theretaken into account given today’s multi-cultural workplace and that success willoften be dictated by the ability to find the right approach in the local context. will always be local issues and nuances thatIn Singapore for example, HCS (Human Capital Singapore Academy) thenational CET centre for HR WSQ competency-based training, has received need to be taken intosupport from the Workforce Development Agency to create 12 CoPs across account given today’ssix industries in the Human Resources profession to pilot CoP concepts forprofessional fraternities. multi-cultural workplace and that success willThe aim of the pilot project is to adapt general CoP ideas to work in theprofessional context in Singapore to develop an additional approach to often be dictated by theprofessional learning and knowledge development. Experience has shown ability to find the rightthat finding the right approach in the Singapore context has not been easyand will require considerable time and effort. However, HCS believes that the approach in the localrewards will easily justify the investment for everyone involved and will enable context.organizations to compete more effectively. ” 17 © Cegos Group, 2012
  • 18. 6. CONCLUSIONSWithout doubt, CoPs have a valuable role to play in today’s L&D strategies “! Those companies that nurture their CoPs, usewith CoPs clearly offering the potential to deliver many key benefits toindividual users, teams and the overall business on a local and global scale. them as part of broaderCoPs are all about connecting people who have a passion to learn and drive blended learningthe business forward. They provide the perfect antidote to the economic crisiswhich has resulted in a reduced focus on L&D and employee engagement, programs and trulywhile providing a catalyst for change and growth to create a more agile and integrate them withinenduring business for the future. the culture and structureWhile much progress has been made in this area in the past few years, I of their businesses arebelieve we will see an even greater shift towards the application of CoPsin Asia and around the world in the next five years as innovation becomes most likely to reap aan ever more essential factor in helping to win the war for talent. Those return on investment incompanies that nurture their CoPs, use them as part of broader blendedlearning programs and truly integrate them within the culture and structure the years to come.of their businesses are most likely to reap a return on investment in theyears to come. ” 18 © Cegos Group, 2012
  • 19. 7. REFERENCESADB (Asian Development Bank), – State of the Industry Report, 2010, !Bersin and Associates, http://www.bersin.comCegos – Blended Learning and its Applications for Asian Companies Today,Jeremy Blain, http://www.cegos.comCegos – Informal Networks – How They are Changing the World of Work,Jeremy Blain, http://www.cegos.comCegos – The Rise of Virtual Learning, Jeremy Blain, http://www.cegos.comCommunities of Practice Lave and Wenger,! magazine, Wenger, http://www.ewenger.comHCS Human Capital Singapore Academy, Thornton LLP, http://www.grantthornton.comIntel, World Stats, http://www.internetworldstats.comJetBlue Airways, http://www.jetblue.comLufthansa, http://www.lufthansa.comManPower Group,, Stanley, World Bank, http://www.worldbank.orgUBS, the Benefits and Costs of Communities of Practice – David R.Millen, Michael A. Fontaine, and Michael J. MullerUnderwriters Labs, 19 © Cegos Group, 2012
  • 20. 8. ABOUT CEGOS GROUPCegos, Europe’s largest training organization, is one of the major Internationalplayers across the Asia Pacific region, based at its HQ in Singapore, and withoperations in China and Hong Kong. A network of region-wide Most Valued !Partners, and Collaborators, ensures Cegos can support Client training anddevelopment anywhere, in any language, consistently and with a truly “ThinkGlobal / Learn Local” approach – meaning Cegos is experienced at drivingtraining in the Asian context, not just in the context of the origin country /company.The Cegos Group was founded in 1926 in France, and is one of the worldleaders in professional training for managers and their teams. In 2011, theCegos Group achieved a turnover of SGD300 million and trained more than200,000 managers more details, debate or discussion, please contact: or + 65 9069 3291 20 © Cegos Group, 2012
  • 21. 9. ABOUT JEREMY BLAIN !Jeremy Blain is Managing Director for Cegos, Asia Pacific, where he heads upCegos’s Region-wide operations and activities from the company’s Singaporehub.Prior to this, Jeremy was responsible for Cegos’ strategy for internationalexpansion through a value adding Global Distribution Partners Network.An L&D entrepreneur responsible for growing Cegos’ business worldwidethrough his various roles within the company, Jeremy has 10 years experiencein the industry as a managing director, partner, trainer, coach and programauthor. In previous roles at Procter and Gamble, Pepsico and as CEO of hisown business, Jeremy’s background includes marketing, sales, operationsand account management.As one of Cegos’ senior executives, Jeremy is a frequent internationalconference speaker and media commentator on topics related to the globalL&D market. Themes include: the integration of emerging and informallearning technologies; the importance of performance measurement andproving ROI; developing ‘core’ leadership, management and commercial skillsto achieve competitive business advantage; and change management andhow to implement successful international training strategies.For more details, debate or discussion, you can find Jeremy on LinkedIn and also on Twitter at has also published a series of white papers on issues relevant to L&D.These are still current and available, and include:• Blended Learning and its Applications for Asian Companies Today, March 2012• Developing Multicultural Leadership and Management Skills in Today’s Increasingly Globalised Workplace, November 2011• Global Themes & Trends – European, US and Brazilian Comparisons on the Key Drivers and Issues in L&D Today, October 2011• Learning in the Cloud – Opportunities & Threats, September 2011• Cegos/ASTD global learning trends research: A comparison between what is happening among learners today and the perceptions of learning professionals, July 2011• Training Today, Training Tomorrow – An Analysis of Learning Trends Across Europe and Global Comparisons, May 2011.• Corporate Philanthropy: How Strategies are Changing and How Cegos is Helping to Make an Impact, May 2011• The Rise of Virtual Learning, April 2011• What has L&D Learned from the Economic Slowdown, March 2011• Informal Networks – How They Are Changing the World of Work, December 2010 21• Exploring and Interpreting the Most Important Learning Trends across the Globe’, May 2010 © Cegos Group, 2012