Communities can be a powerful asset for change
Communities, given support, nurturing and social technology, can become a center of powerful influence that creates connections and enables continuous improvement within the enterprise through armies of volunteers.
Large-scale enterprises have diverse talent and skills to tap
One of the most exciting and powerful aspects of being part of a large-scale enterprise is having access to diverse talent and skills throughout the company. Within those enterprises that have invested in a good corporate-wide directory service with reasonable search functionality, finding subject matter experts or those with experience working on certain projects can be relatively easy. Still, the sheer size and distribution of large-scale enterprises often causes people to feel disconnected from their colleagues and can hamper collaboration across organizational and geographic boundaries.
Different types of cross-corporate communities support continuous improvement
Cross-corporate communities are a great way to foster connections throughout an enterprise to help enable rapid and continuous improvement in agility.
So, what are communities? When we talk about communities, we're talking about groups of people who work together to accomplish a purpose or share a joint interest. They can be long-lived, focusing on a certain practice or topic over time or they can be short-lived communities that have a specific goal and disband when they accomplish their goals.
Cross-corporate agile communities in large-scale enterprises serve a wide variety of purposes, including helping to support and encourage adoption of agile approaches from the top-down and as a grass-roots effort.
In Succeeding with Agile, Mike Cohn writes about the value of Enterprise Transition Communities as small groups that support an organization's efforts to introduce and improve certain agile methods and practices. The ETCs typically include the most senior people who are part of an Agile transformation and have the ability to remove obstacles and drive excitement for the new approaches.
Cross-corporate communities of practice enable team members to share their experiences and solve problems related to particular practices or tools. Communities may be focused on Agile software development in general or specific practices, such as behavior-driven development, Kanban, Scrum, automated testing or continuous delivery. Spotify's approach to scaling agile includes Guilds, communities of people from across the organization who share knowledge, tools, code and practices.
Communities can also be focused on specific role-based skill areas, such as product ownership, coaching or testing. Spotify describes Chapters, communities of people within a tribe who do similar work.
The article Agile Methods for Software Practice Transformation in the IBM Journal of Research and Development provides details of how a small group of less than a dozen people helped executives and more than 65,000 software development team members to become more agile. The approach demonstrates how communities can be scaled to spark and nurture a very large transformation.
Are you getting the most from your communities?
The key to successful communities of volunteers squarely centers on change agents within the community—typically a small group of passionate facilitators who can:
- Make people feel welcome, valued and appreciated
- Help the community to focus on the problems or opportunities of greatest value to members of the community
- Encourage members to donate their time, skills and energy to making a difference within the community
- Remove blockers, so that the community can truly thrive
If you're part of a community and are interested in discussing approaches to help your community thrive or if you're an executive interested in leveraging communities for continuous improvement, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss experiences.