A community of practice (CoP) (Malone) is a group of professionals who share a common interest or area of work. They can be organized around roles, technologies, interests, and, well, anything else (Wenger; Cohn; Brown).
An Agile organization can have several communities of practice representing each domain. The Scrum Master CoP is established mainly for the ScrumMasters. Other representatives within each product team or organization may choose to attend it.
The use of CoPs is an integral part of an Agile organization. Highly functioning communities, with clear vision, autonomy, and focus, can become an important component in sustaining your transformation to Agility and the engine for continuous process improvement
Last month I, together with my fellow ScrumMasters, extended our initial meetings in a newly formed SM CoP with a kickoff session that included inviting the current role practitioners.
It was a very good experience for me, since for the first time I experienced directly the start-up of a new ScrumMasters' Community of Practice. Before the kickoff I had as inspiration in my mind my Agile
This was our kickoff agenda:
Why we are here (5 mins.)
Share our experience (5 mins.)
Know each other (15 mins.)
Identify our needs (40 mins.)
Way forward (10 mins.)
The context we wanted emphasize for our community was ownership and continuous improvement of the ScrumMaster role and the relationship of our role with other roles in the Agile framework.
Our community of practice is now not designed to be a show-and-tell or a lunch-and-learn, but we rigorously defend it as the place practitioners go to improve how they perform their role in the framework.
After sharing our experiences and getting to know each other, we had a very interesting session known as "Identify our needs."
After this we developed a first backlog, including the following topics:
Common definition of the ScrumMaster role
Growth in the ScrumMaster role
How to address impediments
Reading and learning
From Agile values to the Scrum framework
We concluded the meeting with a way forward, including a minimum set of working agreements and a first topic for the next meeting.
I believe it was a great change agent. After one-and-a-half hours we had a new CoP and a first SM CoP backlog. Not bad as a return on investment!
References and suggested resources
Attanasio F. Actively gain improvements learning every day with Agile. 2014.
Brown JS, Duguid P. Organizational learning and communities of practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning, and innovation. In EL Lesser, MA Fontaine, and JA Slusher (eds.): Knowledge and Communities. 1991. Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann.
Cohn M. Succeeding with Agile. 2009. Addison-Wesley Professional.
Cox A. What are Communities of Practice? A critical review of four seminal works. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/wbs/conf/olkc/archive/oklc5/papers/e-4_cox.pdf.
Malone TW. The Future of Work. 2004. Harvard Business School Press.
Wenger E, McDermott RM, Snyder W. Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. 2002. Harvard Business Press.