Setting Up Successful Agile Communities of Practice: An Experience Report

All agile organizations need champions – those passionate preachers of the power of agility – to spread the message far and wide, and to convince those unwilling to change. However, over a period of time even champions may wither and lose their motivation if they don’t get the necessary support.

So, how do you deal with (or better still, prevent) the loss of a strong evangelist/champion that had been the backbone of your agile movement? By creating many, many more evangelists and by keeping the fires going – that’s how!

In other words, you need a committed, tight-knit, and constantly learning COMMUNITY.

And that's exactly what we did at IHS. Very early in our agile transformation effort (June 2013) we realized we needed a way to sustain the momentum even before we'd started moving. To that end, the best way forward seemed to be to group like-minded, like-skilled people together, who could make a difference at the right time during the movement.

In effect, we needed change agents that knew agile and who were also willing to evangelize. That's when we decided to form our first Community of Practice. I was tasked with coming up with the charter/manifesto; pulling in the relevant people; organizing the launch; and ensuring we had a place to collaborate, all of which I was able to manage successfully.

The first CoP was for ScrumMasters, and we had our first meeting in late July; an external (very experienced) agile coach gave the very first talk and got us going. Since then, we've met every 2-3 weeks via WebEx and also collaborated via email, phone calls, and IMs; created special agile investigation groups to look into different aspects of agility, and generally made ourselves very useful and relevant to the transformation efforts.

Topics have included everything from kanban to scrumban to scaling agile to creating and demonstrating special dashboards for specific roles (e.g. QA, ScrumMasters etc.) using the Rally tool. We just finished our 34th session and attendance has been quite steady.

In the meantime I've also helped launch a CoP for QA - which is thriving and coming up with findings, standards, guidelines, ranging from automation to effective test case-writing to thought leadership around working effectively in an agile environment.

Currently, I'm involved in launching a CoP for Product Owners.

All this is great - but we also had challenges that we had to overcome, and challenges we face that still need to be conquered. 

In this session, specifically for the ScrumMaster CoP I'll walk you through how we did it, our successes, challenges faced and overcome, what challenges remain, and next steps for the CoP.



Outline/Structure of the Experience Report

In this session, based on the practical experience of the speaker in setting up successful CoPs at IHS, learn how to set one up yourself from scratch and how to get it to thrive and grow and keep relevant and fresh. Get details on what challenges were faced and how they were overcome, and also what success means in terms of CoPs.

  1. Baseline: What is a CoP and what are its benefits?
  2. Baseline: Identifying the specific Community (e.g. ScrumMaster; Product Owners) that needs to be set up
  3. Agile transformation begins at IHS
  4. Need for CoP
  5. Next few slides each comprise: Steps taken, challenges faced - if any, how the challenges were overcome
  6. Creating the charter/manifesto
  7. Identifying potential members
  8. Getting the buy-in from the executive sponsor (what to say and how to say it, to get the buy-in)
  9. Setting up the website on the intranet (e.g. SharePoint/Jive)
  10. Soliciting and generating buzz and interest for this initiative
  11. Inviting the members to join the Community
  12. Launching the Community
  13. Maintaining/sustaining the momentum and quality of output
  14. Succeeding by showing the benefits/results
  15. New Enterprise Social Network launched for more active and dynamic collaboration
  16. Current challenges faced
  17. Next steps
  18. Q&A

Learning Outcome

At the end of the session, participants will have a strong and detailed background on how to create a successful Community of Practice based on the practical, real-life experience described by the speaker. This can be a very useful template to apply with the understanding that certain elements may need to be adjusted to suit the specific culture and nature of the organization of the practitioner.

Target Audience

Executives, Managers, ScrumMasters

schedule Submitted 5 years ago

  • Seshadri Veeraraghavan

    Seshadri Veeraraghavan - Agile Transformation: Practical Insights into Behavioral Adjustments and Cultural Changes

    45 Mins

    An all-encompassing effort such as a full-scale agile transformation goes to the very roots of an organization and tends to shake things up quite dramatically. Indeed, it’s very much like undergoing heart surgery AND brain surgery – simultaneously.

    Imagine the damage caused from a failed organization-wide change:

    • Loss of credibility
    • Loss of trust
    • Loss of face and reputation
    • Strong demotivation and loss of commitment and faith on the part of employees
    • Clinging even tighter to the old (safe!) ways of doing things
    • Diminished success of future attempts by leaving behind a wary and highly skeptical audience

    After the storm passes, where things have settled often determines how and where the organization goes from that point onwards. Ensure your transformation plan succeeds and the pieces fall into place according to the set goals and plans -- and not according to someone’s whims and fancies; politics; cultural and attitude issues; or naysayers.