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RE: [cp] In a typical CoP, does the Practice live on beyond particular members?

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  • John D. Smith
    ... falling apart owing to member turnover. In short, I agree that the practice endures and so does the community. ... community enduring. What am I missing?
    Message 1 of 5 , Oct 1, 2000
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      Fred Nichols wrote:

      >> I don't see CoPs
      falling apart owing to member turnover. In short, I agree that the
      practice endures and so does the community.

      and asked:

      >> I don't see the link between these qualities and the notion about the
      community enduring. What am I missing?

      It seems to me that passion just grows up around a practice. We care about
      how well we do something -- it's important. I think that the passion that
      arises in a community of practice can be VERY positive in several regards:

      * it incites focus on the practice
      * it reflects connection and commitment
      * it gets passed along from generation to generation
      * it does distinguish between those who "get it" and those who don't

      NOW, it can certainly have a downside. Communities of practice can have a
      "communal somnolescence", I think Etienne Wenger calls it. From that
      perspective I think a community leader's role is to skillfully stir the pot,
      so that those of us who are "in" are regularly confronting the fact that
      there are new people and ideas "out there." Letting them in or inviting
      them in is a risk-taking activityi. Some appropriate degree of permeability
      would be a measure of community health (although no boundaries would be
      dysfunctional as well).

      So, Fred, have you observed a community that's coping with the disappearance
      of its practice? To me that would be a VERY interesting thing to hear
      stories about. (From anybody...!)

      John

      --*
      --* John D. Smith | 503.963.8229 | 2025 SE Elliott Ave., Portland OR
      97214-5339
      --* http://www.teleport.com/~smithjd ICQ: 72789757 cell: 503-975-7799
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      Deming
    • Fred Nickols
      ... Well, actually, I ve blown away some CoPs by way of automation. At one company, the claims examiners were practically wiped out owing to the introduction
      Message 2 of 5 , Oct 1, 2000
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        Responding to my earlier post, John Smith writes:

        >So, Fred, have you observed a community that's coping with the disappearance
        >of its practice? To me that would be a VERY interesting thing to hear
        >stories about. (From anybody...!)

        Well, actually, I've blown away some CoPs by way of automation. At one
        company, the claims examiners were practically wiped out owing to the
        introduction of a computer-based system that handled all but a fraction of
        the claims that the examiners used to process. At another company, the
        back end or suspense stream of financial aid forms were resolved by a group
        known as financial aid assistants. Those were wiped out in their entirety
        as a result of documenting their resolution work and recasting it in the
        form of algorithms suitable for computer processing. Similarly for a
        community of underwriters (roughly 90% of what they did was
        automated). Much of what some even more high powered actuaries did was
        automated, too; ditto for their kissin' cousins, some statisticians.

        The blunt answer is that they don't cope too well with the disappearance of
        their practice. Initially, they dismiss out of hand any claim that what
        they do can be automated. They claim that it can't be automated
        (inevitably an empty claim). Then, as they see their work being defined in
        unambiguous ways by those whose own specialty is the definition,
        description and design of work processes, they begin to resist. They dig
        in their heels and become cooperative. So, you go around them. Instead of
        getting them to help you figure out an alternative, machine-based process,
        you figure it out without them. Next, as they begin to see that resistance
        is futile, a few decide it is better to be one of the survivors and they
        clamber back on board and see the effort through to its finish.

        Generally speaking, the members of a CoP are pretty much like most people
        who are not skilled in the study of work itself; they fail to draw clear
        distinctions between and among work, worker and working. As a consequence,
        they get nailed a lot. What's really interesting, to me, is to turn the
        methods and techniques of the study of work on the study of work. (I'm a
        firm believer in the notion that the best measure of anything is to turn it
        on itself. If it's solid, it will produce value; if it's not, it won't.)

        Anyway, I can't say that I've actually studied CoPs that were unravelling
        (or being demolished) because the concepts and the language of CoPs were
        new to me until a couple of years ago. In contrast, I've been ripping
        apart and redesigning work processes for a good 20 years.

        It might be the case that Etienne, Richard McDermott and some others, owing
        to their longer study of CoPs, have observed some that were coming undone.
        --

        Fred Nickols
        The Distance Consulting Company
        "Assistance at A Distance"
        http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm
        nickols@...
        (609) 490-0095
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