Tips for company practice groups

Companies have their own strategies, priorities, tools, and ways of working.

Your group needs to both fit within the existing work context, and help create change that can lead to a compelling future-state that others can buy into.

Stepping up as a leader within the company

"I would like to share a secret with you; I don't know Dynamo well enough to teach a class. When has that stopped me? Here's the thing: your co-workers don't know it either, they just need a leader."

"Don't worry about becoming the guru right off the bat, being one step ahead is ok."

- Bill Debevc on LinkedIn

Creating a movement of different stakeholders

Work to engage multiple groups...

  • Project managers: How can you help with training and connections that lead to project success?

  • Practice managers/ technology managers: How can you help with the company’s standards, methods, and procedures? How can your group help the company innovate and adopt better ways of working?

  • HR/ people managers: How can the group help with training, mentorship, and career paths.

  • All: How can it improve staff engagement and career fulfillment?

"Communities of Practice are where a good deal of the work involved in knowledge creation and organizational learning gets done.” - John SeelyBrown & Paul Duguid in the Social Life of Information

Executive mandate and buy-in

You get mandate and funding from executives.You'll need to show strategic alignment, and a 'business case' for the group.

  • Present the business case using the considerations above

  • Create an operational plan (e.g. create a steering committee, ask for any budget, space, or time you need)

    • When and how will the group address specific training needs or contribute to other initiatives.

  • Seek feedback, approval to proceed, and concrete agreements

  • Recommended timing to engage

    • It depends on your company culture and whether or not you're asking something specific from them like funding.

    • Get alignment with other stakeholders before initial conversations with many executives, so you already have a movement growing.

    • Perhaps get the support and advice from one executive early-on in the process. Sometimes initial mandate and interest can create the seed to enroll others.

    • Seek to formalize sponsorship/ relationships over time. Perhaps as part of your group's board or leadership structure.

Have empathy for business leaders: often AEC firms operate on very slim margins. These slim margins make it more risky to change the way things are done and innovate with technology. Can company practice groups can help reduce this risk, while simultaneously enabling faster innovation!?

(from AU2020 panel conversation)

Engagement with colleagues in the group

  • Can your group be a force for healthy change in the company through how you operate?

    • Openness, listening

    • Clear communication

    • Hope, innovation, possibility

  • Choose communication tools that are well adopted and liked within the company.

    • Don't use corporate tools that people don't like or aren't embraced.

  • Develop a cadence of communication

  • Develop a calendar of topics

  • Develop a group identity and subculture over time

  • Make time to connect personally.

Celebration and appreciation

Having fun and celebrating each other keeps engagement, fulfillment, and motivation high. It can be a good counter-point to, and change agent within, 'business-as-usual.'

  • Take time to celebrate as you accomplish things individually and collectively.

  • Create space to explicitly voice appreciation for each other. This might be through...

    • Internal communications

    • Awards

    • Celebratory events.

  • This could be sparked when...

    • People move into new roles

    • When projects start or end

    • When someone takes time to help others learn and succeed

    • Or just at a dedicated time for fun or appreciation. Can your group help spark motivation and fulfillment in your workplace?

See community management and engagement.

Company Practice Groups often have a higher participation rate than public or online communities, according to a 2011 study referenced in this AU 2013 class on Communities of Practice.

Practice improvement & industry innovation

Company practice groups are unique in that you’re bound together more deeply, over time, in the context of the company and its projects. This is fertile ground for meaningful projects and real innovation.

Can the group accomplish project or knowledge work to help individuals, the company, and the industry advance?

What are group members intrinsically interested in?

What can you do to help the company?

  • Can you run a pilot project to advance your technology strategy or innovation agenda?

  • Should you build a knowledge base, mentorship/ apprenticeship structure, or training program?

  • Can you deliberately surface and connect expertise within the company?

Can you also be in dialogue with the industry as you develop best practices in your company?

  • What can you learn from outside? What can you share?

  • This is where your members’ involvement in public, local, or specialized communities of practice might come into play.

    • Can your company practice group partner with a local user group or other organization?

  • Attend and present at conferences relevant to your industry/ practice, like Autodesk University.

  • This might even take the form of providing a louder voice of feedback to toolmakers like Autodesk, perhaps through an account representative, product manager, or channel partner.

Corporate Knowledge Management Program Elements

Can you tie your Company Practice Group to other knowledge management program elements within your firm?

The periodic table below is from Christopher Parsons at Knowledge Architecture (KA Connect 2016).

Other Resources

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