Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CIO as Agility Leader: Shall you Build an Agile Community of Practice

Agile Community of Practice is all about collective wisdom. 

Agile is expanding its horizon, from IT methodology to business philosophy; from best practice to next practice; from doing agile to being agile, and from agile team to the community of practice. What’s Agile team and community of practice related to though?
High performing Agile teams are typically cross functional in nature. Think horizontally: BA, Dev, QA, Ux, DBA, Automation, Mainframe, etc. Agile teams are (to the extent possible) vertically aligned to products and possess all of those functions necessary to build the increment. The downside is a potential alienation of those specialized skills on a team. A common approach is to form community of practices that are aligned to the function, horizontally. These are self-organizing groups who aim to continue to push their specific craft forward. they share ideas, discuss challenges, and continuously improve the adoption of Agile values on the teams and agility in the organization.

Agile Team is not a community of practice. Team members can be part of a community of practice, but is not mandatory. People with special interest in Agile can join such community,  but do not have to be Agile practitioners. The objective of agile community of practice must be transparent and clear. What do you expect from members joining? Do the community board members get time and budget to organize events/activities? Or should it happen for free in the evening? Running a successful community of practice is just like a project, define the outcome/expectations before you get started.

A community does not need to be agile related and agile activities can function without a community. What a community of practice can do is to create that central common learning space separate from the working world where new ideas can be surfaced across multiple stakeholder types, not just the delivery teams. If operated with purpose, where participants can gain something of value from their time whilst giving someone else value they can provide the backbone of a learning organisation

It’s all about wisdom of crowds. Being an active community member has advantages in Agile in that active members gain advantage from the "wisdom of crowds", share best practices and they even get specific issues answered on communities like stackoverflow, etc. Strong communities empower Agile team members to get stuff done faster with better quality, they avoid reinventing "the wheel" and can avoid the mistakes others have made and leverage lessons learned.

It is all about collective wisdom. Doing Agile is the team effort, but being agile needs to have such collective growth mindset, continue to learn the latest knowledge and practices, and make agile a phenomena which breakdown the silo thinking and become an emerging business philosophy and disciplines


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