How to establish Communities of Practice?


@chrismurman is helping us to stay on target, so I’ll revisit and share some things I have done to give you a better sense of an approach. Feel free to call me crazy too if you don’t subscribe - wont be the last time (and definitely not the first, lol)

First point - I don’t subscribe to the assumptions you’ve made above. I may not understand the full context of your comment, so you can correct me if I’ve taken liberties with it. If I have a group of Scrum Masters passionate about helping their teams mature - those folks prioritize topics. They may ask teams for input (and probably should), but they don’t have to. If you are talking more functional level CoPs (ie. Security, not a role like Scrum Master), I would certainly work through my Product Owners if there were ideas about how to do things differently.

To Inspire a CoP - here is my handbook:

  1. Find change agents
  2. Invite them to collaborate
  3. Talk about these items:
  • Why is this Important? Value Statement
  • What do we expect to get out of this? Mission Statement
  • Who are our customers that can benefit from this? Is this bigger than just “us”?
  • What will we embrace? (think of the best team you’ve ever worked on) Team Norms / Charter
  • What will we not tolerate? (think of the worst team you’ve ever worked on) Team Norms / Charter
  • What will success look like a year from now? Vision Statement
  • Logistics - When, Where, How Often, Cadence

4.Go forth and conquer

You need someone passionate enough to be a Chairperson (ie. someone to manage logistics and facilitate) - and that’s about all you need beyond engaged people.

You can cut down on some of number 3 if its too much - I just like to establish the concept of “this is a team, this is why we are here, and what we intend to accomplish”.

This is a strong passion of mine lately, so I’d love to hear other ideas or approaches folks are using.

@hdietrich would love to hear your experience regardless of approach should you decide to pursue this CoP path…


I am extremely amazed by your answers. Really, it helps me a lot!

All of you are doing a great job. You are very serious about my question. You share your inner beliefs, your experiences, and patterns which work for you. And all I can find in this thread somehow makes sense to me. I love you for doing this.

One could think that we could be forming a community now :wink: We have an interesting topic and there is passion for the topic. I somehow can find vision, mission, and value statements in your answers above.

Anyhow, I start to understand that it will not work without a “call to action”.

I am still hesitant in taking the first step with my teams. But I understand now, that the most important step is to take the first step - to get something started, which is accepted by my teams.

The first step seems to ask for some formalism. When to meet, where to meet, what to talk about, which kind of results to produce. It is this simple framing, which will provide a benchmark to me and my teams. And it is the start for retrospectives.

Retrospectives seems to be the key to learning and improving also in here, when we are building communities of practice. It is the only way to ensure that the communities are not run for the purpose of sacrificing the needs of individuals, which seek for answers for their problems, but having the teams itself driving the learning. Thereby, to some major degree it will be up to the culture of the teams, if it turns out that they will be looking for more structure and guidance or for more autonomy.

So the center of my thinking is not that much about taking the first step anymore, which can be achieved by some formalism. The center of my thinking is turning over to the question, how I can ensure continuous learning and improvements to make the communities work in an adequate way. And there again I wonder how to make this work for people contributing in the community and for people benefiting from the community. These are very similar question like those to be addressed in an agile team setup again, whereas now the clients are the teams itself.

Following the “call to action” I should start taking action - accept experiments, accept failure, accept learnings, and find out step by step how it works for my teams. Presumably this is what you are telling to me already.

P.S. I am sorry, that my thoughts are wandering around that much. It seems to be difficult for me to get focus. I am somehow trying to follow all of your thoughts. But it might be difficult to follow my thoughts therefore. Please ask questions if something is too confusing :slight_smile:

P.P.S. I have to admit that I hate to come to that conclusion that it is all about retrospectives again. Retrospective seems to become the solution to everything, which bears the risk for them to become arbitrary - just as “workshops” and “brainstorming”.


I love this response so hard, and would be happy to share some failures in the CoP space I’ve encountered that could be interesting learnings for the community. I’ll put some energy into that over the weekend.

And @hdietrich you will never disappoint me by making this all about the retro - its my favorite and most passionate topic - and I agree! :sunny:

As you make some decisions / progress / whatever - post here. Worst case, we can commiserate, and support you for the next attempt. Best case, you crush it - share, and we have more data points to explore. Its a win either way.

Great thread!


I have been working in the same “time capsule” as @cusack and have really welcomed him taking the reigns of the coaching CoP. Its probably been one of, if not the, best parts about working there among all of the s@#%@ that rolls downhill sometimes. I am fairly new to the position I’m in, and being able to learn from the experiences of the other coaches here and kick ideas around is awesome, and I hope I’m able to give something back at the same time.

These communities should come together organically, but often times they don’t - but with a little leadership and prodding they can become very valuable. It doesnt take much! Before Jason took over facilitating the Coaching CoP, I organized and facilitated a Scrum Master CoP for the shared services group I was working with, and, they were not organically creating that community - but setting aside a space for this to happen and inviting them in was all it took, I felt that we were able to make connections, share ideas and solutions across the company that wouldnt have happened otherwise.


I recommend Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge
Etienne Wenger. I gives a solid and practical guide to all things Cop. The questions about forming a domain should boot the discussion on the scope of interest.


This thread has been spawned off by me almost four months ago. In the meantime a lot of things have happened since then.

First of all, I am an the way to establish Communities of Practice in a very reasonable way. Many thanks to all the good hints and advices I have got from the community. Every single one is worth while and helped me to find my way.

Due to the plenty of experiences I had in the last months, I started to note them down in a blog post. You can find a summary in my blog post “A Practical Journey to Communities of Practice” now:

I would be excited to hear some feedback, which keeps this thread alive. Looking forward :innocent:


The Coalition never cease to amaze and inspire me… this discussion is just another example of the power of our community… over time… over distance…

@hdietrich Great summary post. Thanks for doing that. @guy.winterbotham Thanks for the book reco. On my kindle now…

I’ll offer up an experiment of mine:

…which helps teams figure out candidates for CoP’s… or guilds… or what ever you want to call 'em

What are areas of common interest for learning, who’s got expertise, who’s got a hunger to learn… etc.