RE: [cp] In a typical CoP, does the Practice live on beyond particular members?
- Fred Nichols wrote:
>> I don't see CoPsfalling apart owing to member turnover. In short, I agree that the
practice endures and so does the community.
>> I don't see the link between these qualities and the notion about thecommunity 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 D. Smith | 503.963.8229 | 2025 SE Elliott Ave., Portland OR
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- Responding to my earlier post, John Smith writes:
>So, Fred, have you observed a community that's coping with the disappearanceWell, actually, I've blown away some CoPs by way of automation. At one
>of its practice? To me that would be a VERY interesting thing to hear
>stories about. (From anybody...!)
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.
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