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Re: Experiences with dysfunctional communities of practice

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  • bty364210
    ... I m wondering if it is possible to have a dysfunctional community of practice. If a CoP isn t really working then can it be called a CoP? And I think we
    Message 1 of 14 , Oct 1, 2009
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      --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "joitske" <joitske@...> wrote:
      >
      > Hi everyone,
      >
      > I'm working more and more with communities of practice. The more I work with them I realize how diverse they are, and how their level of facilitation and support varies. And also their level of effectiveness. Sometimes it looks like there is a belief in communities of practice, a conviction that it is always good to have one.
      >
      > Ofcourse you can assess the effectiveness of a community of practice by talking to participants and sponsor. What I'm interested in to learn from your ideas and experiences is the following: when is a community really dysfunctional in your eyes? What are the signals to recognize a dysfunctional community?
      >
      > Knowing this and being more aware of it will help facilitator, community leaders and evaluators alike I think. So looking forward to your ideas,
      >
      > Joitske
      >

      I'm wondering if it is possible to have a dysfunctional community of practice. If a CoP isn't really working then can it be called a CoP? And I think we need to distinguish between CoP (as defined by Wenger) and a community. I think a community as opposed to a CoP can be dysfunctional.

      Jenny
    • stevebarth1
      Hi, I certainly understand and sympathize, though my suggestion may surprise you. I have lately been working with a small, dispersed COP in a huge
      Message 2 of 14 , Oct 1, 2009
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        Hi, I certainly understand and sympathize, though my suggestion may
        surprise you. I have lately been working with a small, dispersed COP in
        a huge international NGO that has really been struggling to collaborate
        and cohere. The reasons for this dysfunction are not their fault, but
        derive mainly from a) extremely difficult working conditions in their
        field, b) intensely bureaucratic organizational culture, and c) the
        newness and uncertainty of their specific practice in the organization.

        After my intial difficulties and subsequent research, I came back to
        them with a second workshop in an isolated location instead of at their
        busy headquarters. I presented them a messy and provocative agenda that
        forced them to self-organize. And I demanded that they approach the week
        selfishly, with each standing up and shouting, "My name is... and this
        workshop is all about me!" Naturally they rejected and resented this
        approach, in such a way that virtually every single one of them made a
        personal committment to the health and productivity of the group. By the
        end of the week, they each came to realize that "all about me" meant
        nothing more selfish than citizenship is the community was a matter of
        choice, not compulsion.

        As a result, interaction and cooperation between then skyrocketed after
        the workshop, even though they had all returned to their separate
        locations.



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Alice MacGillivray
        LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre tactics I ve used over the years. That must have been a great experience. To Joitske: one
        Message 3 of 14 , Oct 2, 2009
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          LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
          tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
          experience.

          To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
          of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
          times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
          activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?

          Alice
        • joitske
          Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better. Miguel states that you measure
          Message 4 of 14 , Oct 4, 2009
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            Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.

            Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved. This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are on the outlook for?

            Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree, if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can benefit from careful guidance.

            In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of the signals to look out for.

            If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.

            Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??

            Greetings, Joitske

            --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, Alice MacGillivray <alice@...> wrote:
            >
            > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
            > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
            > experience.
            >
            > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
            > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
            > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
            > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
            >
            > Alice
            >
          • Nancy White
            As I was reading through this thread I had a little personal aha that relates to how you raised the question, Joitske. It is around the term dysfunctional
            Message 5 of 14 , Oct 5, 2009
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              As I was reading through this thread I had a little personal aha that
              relates to how you raised the question, Joitske. It is around the
              term "dysfunctional community." In my culture, there is a term
              "dysfunctional family" and we joke that all families are
              dysfunctional. It is an "assumed" that there is not some perfect
              form, and that living in a family is about riding the waves of both
              function and dysfunction to keep things as whole as we can. So I too
              had this reaction that dysfunction is a given. ;-)

              Now reading your clarification (and surprise) what I SENSE you are
              looking for is how we can attend to the health of our communities,
              catch the signals soon enough that tell us something has to change.
              So instead of letting a community die out from inactivity, to notice
              if something needs adjusting in the three areas of community, domain
              or practice. To consider if it is time to end the community vs
              letting it fade away.

              About awareness of the community at some sort of "whole" level and
              using that to inform our stewarding and leadership activities?'

              However, there is an interesting element here of judgement of what is
              good or bad. That may be worth some deeper conversation. When
              considering an emergent, complex and organic organism, sometimes
              stunting is an adaptive advantage, eh? ;-)

              Nancy


              At 01:41 PM 10/4/2009, you wrote:
              >Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not
              >what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.
              >
              >Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the
              >sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved.
              >This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors
              >may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we
              >could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any
              >disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are
              >on the outlook for?
              >
              >Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking
              >the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree,
              >if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence
              >phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be
              >what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help
              >to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand
              >CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can
              >benefit from careful guidance.
              >
              >In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the
              >members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of
              >the signals to look out for.
              >
              >If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being
              >state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.
              >
              >Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??
              >
              >Greetings, Joitske
              >
              >--- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, Alice MacGillivray <alice@...> wrote:
              > >
              > > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
              > > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
              > > experience.
              > >
              > > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
              > > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
              > > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
              > > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
              > >
              > > Alice
              > >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >------------------------------------
              >
              >*-- The email forum on communities of practice --*Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >

              Nancy White | Full Circle Associates | Connecting communities online
              nancyw@... | +1 206 517 4754 | GMT - 8 |skype - choconancy |
              Twitter NancyWhite
              http://www.fullcirc.com/
            • Cornejo Castro, Miguel
              Steve s story is great indeed, I ll be trying some kick-catalysing like that soon :-). Joitske, I think you re heading towards a complex maturity model which
              Message 6 of 14 , Oct 5, 2009
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                Steve's story is great indeed, I'll be trying some kick-catalysing like that soon :-).

                Joitske, I think you're heading towards a complex maturity model which should be very interesting :-).

                Re the answers. What I meant is that there may be many levels to look at to find dysfunctionality, the higher the easier to see (and the most terminal):

                1. Executive: if the CoP is not doing what it's funded or authorized for; of if it is not doing what we (members, founders) signed up for. That's a result, not even a symptom. Those are the ones I mentioned earlier.

                2. Com management: several things (indicators, symptoms) can tell us that the CoP is not working smoothly, and most may be managed away with the right levers:
                - Participation concentration. A 10% of members with some degree of participation can be reasonable sometimes. If it's less, the CoP is walking dead (probably a long-declining group), an artificial construct (which never existed in fact but many people got signed in to), or in very serious trouble due to excessive barriers to participation.
                - Answer assymetry. If the most active CoP members pointedly do not answer all (or most) questions, but stick to those from a few people (themselves and friends, usually) you have either an invaded CoP on the defensive, or an aggresive clique behaviour that will kill it.
                - Social awkwardness. Relationships and conversations are strained, resulting in botched social initiatives, lack of cohesion, little esprit de corps. Something is under people's skins and pulling the CoP apart.
                - Herd behaviour. CoP members follow their leaders blindly and massively, and in some cases with aggresivity. The worst examples are groupthink, "political correctness" and guru worship, which kill innovation and significant practice development. This kind of CoP evolves into a thought sect, not a CoP.
                - Subject hijacking. Either through invasion (from some non-subject-concerned people) or through drift (lack of interest or relevance of the main subject), another subject creeps into the mainstream conversations and stays there. This can be a natural evolution of the practice (or of the CoP), or can be unwelcome by the old core (which should lead to a split). The worst is when it's simply a case of a CoP talking about offtopics instead of their practice ("how's the family?").
                - Work relevance. For any of the above reasons and for many more, a CoP may be unable to provide help to practitioners: it may grow irrelevant. If people feel the CoP is no longer generating stimulating debate, turning up useful advice or catalysing initiatives... they will leave.

                3. Culture: the ultimate causes usually are here. In the part that Steve kicked: what's this about, what are we doing and what for, what's importante for us. Having that clear allows forceful action (in design, moderation, activities) and usually helps to avoid weed infestation (dysfunction). Usually. Not having that, and the "institutional framework" that goes with it, is serious dysfunctionality. Serious and relevant goals the members really care about, a cooperative volunteering spirit, an affinity with fellow members, clear and well-defined rules, active and coherent moderation, member ownership of the community, aligned processes, efficient channels, sensible relationship with the funding part... Curing dysfunctionality here takes long work by specialists... and/or by very inspired, implicated members and moderators.

                Can't elaborate further :-) but that's how I see it. Maybe some of them can be useful as dysfunctionality indicators.

                I don't know if they can be fit into a stages model, but if you do, I look forward to using it :-).

                Best regards,

                Miguel

                ________________________________
                De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com [mailto:com-prac@yahoogroups.com] En nombre de joitske
                Enviado el: domingo, 04 de octubre de 2009 22:41
                Para: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
                Asunto: [cp] Re: Experiences with dysfunctional communities of practice



                Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.

                Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved. This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are on the outlook for?

                Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree, if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can benefit from careful guidance.

                In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of the signals to look out for.

                If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.

                Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??

                Greetings, Joitske

                --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com>, Alice MacGillivray <alice@...> wrote:
                >
                > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
                > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
                > experience.
                >
                > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
                > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
                > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
                > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
                >
                > Alice
                >





                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • bty364210
                ... HI Joitske Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional I can see that I have not expressed myself properly at all ( a frequent occurrence!) as I
                Message 7 of 14 , Oct 5, 2009
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                  --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "joitske" <joitske@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.
                  >
                  > Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved. This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are on the outlook for?
                  >
                  > Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree, if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can benefit from careful guidance.
                  >
                  > In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of the signals to look out for.
                  >
                  > If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.
                  >
                  > Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??
                  >
                  > Greetings, Joitske
                  >
                  > --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, Alice MacGillivray <alice@> wrote:
                  > >
                  > > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
                  > > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
                  > > experience.
                  > >
                  > > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
                  > > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
                  > > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
                  > > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
                  > >
                  > > Alice
                  > >
                  >
                  HI Joitske

                  Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional

                  I can see that I have not expressed myself properly at all ( a frequent occurrence!) as I didn't quite mean this. I think it's possible to have successful and less successful CoPs. It was the word dysfunctional that caught my attention. It seemed to me that a group that is dysfunctional can not be called a community of practice because it is probably not sharing practice around a domain about which the community is passionate - but that might be an assumption on my part. I agree that a community can be struggling and definitely needs leadership and guidance, but dysfunction has negative connotations that I do not associate with communities of practice.

                  Hope this explains things better. I really should not make quick replies - they never work out !

                  Jenny
                • joitske
                  Hi Jenny, thanks for your explanation! I wasn t making myself understood either.. Still there is your last phrase: dysfunction has negative connotations that
                  Message 8 of 14 , Oct 6, 2009
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                    Hi Jenny, thanks for your explanation! I wasn't making myself understood either..

                    Still there is your last phrase: "dysfunction has negative connotations that I do not associate with communities of practice" that I feel is somehow a romantic picture. As if communities of practice can not be negative..

                    Cheers, Joitske


                    --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "bty364210" <jenny.mackness@...> wrote:
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "joitske" <joitske@> wrote:
                    > >
                    > > Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.
                    > >
                    > > Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved. This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are on the outlook for?
                    > >
                    > > Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree, if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can benefit from careful guidance.
                    > >
                    > > In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of the signals to look out for.
                    > >
                    > > If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.
                    > >
                    > > Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??
                    > >
                    > > Greetings, Joitske
                    > >
                    > > --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, Alice MacGillivray <alice@> wrote:
                    > > >
                    > > > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
                    > > > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
                    > > > experience.
                    > > >
                    > > > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
                    > > > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
                    > > > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
                    > > > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
                    > > >
                    > > > Alice
                    > > >
                    > >
                    > HI Joitske
                    >
                    > Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional
                    >
                    > I can see that I have not expressed myself properly at all ( a frequent occurrence!) as I didn't quite mean this. I think it's possible to have successful and less successful CoPs. It was the word dysfunctional that caught my attention. It seemed to me that a group that is dysfunctional can not be called a community of practice because it is probably not sharing practice around a domain about which the community is passionate - but that might be an assumption on my part. I agree that a community can be struggling and definitely needs leadership and guidance, but dysfunction has negative connotations that I do not associate with communities of practice.
                    >
                    > Hope this explains things better. I really should not make quick replies - they never work out !
                    >
                    > Jenny
                    >
                  • asif.devji
                    I think Miguel nailed it on the head with his post, tying in what Steve mentioned earlier in terms of the impact of organizational culture on what makes CoPs
                    Message 9 of 14 , Oct 6, 2009
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                      I think Miguel nailed it on the head with his post, tying in what Steve mentioned earlier in terms of the impact of organizational culture on what makes CoPs dis-function.

                      My two cents is this: a dysfunctional community (I do believe they exist - in fact they constitute the majority of CoPs I've seen) is a "symptom" of the org culture.

                      I think many orgs think that setting up a CoP will automatically generate collaboration, when in fact it is only the infrastructure that could support collaboration.

                      Bringing a CoP in, however, could be a prime moment to deal with dysfunctional org cultures. With a widespread & coordinated strategy of org transformation, a CoP could effectively be used to induce a culture of collaboration within the physical org.

                      And a helathy org should produce healthy CoPs.

                      This is what I think theoretically anyway...never having had the opportunity to put it into practice.

                      Thanks,

                      Asif


                      --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "Cornejo Castro, Miguel" <miguel.cornejo@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Steve's story is great indeed, I'll be trying some kick-catalysing like that soon :-).
                      >
                      > Joitske, I think you're heading towards a complex maturity model which should be very interesting :-).
                      >
                      > Re the answers. What I meant is that there may be many levels to look at to find dysfunctionality, the higher the easier to see (and the most terminal):
                      >
                      > 1. Executive: if the CoP is not doing what it's funded or authorized for; of if it is not doing what we (members, founders) signed up for. That's a result, not even a symptom. Those are the ones I mentioned earlier.
                      >
                      > 2. Com management: several things (indicators, symptoms) can tell us that the CoP is not working smoothly, and most may be managed away with the right levers:
                      > - Participation concentration. A 10% of members with some degree of participation can be reasonable sometimes. If it's less, the CoP is walking dead (probably a long-declining group), an artificial construct (which never existed in fact but many people got signed in to), or in very serious trouble due to excessive barriers to participation.
                      > - Answer assymetry. If the most active CoP members pointedly do not answer all (or most) questions, but stick to those from a few people (themselves and friends, usually) you have either an invaded CoP on the defensive, or an aggresive clique behaviour that will kill it.
                      > - Social awkwardness. Relationships and conversations are strained, resulting in botched social initiatives, lack of cohesion, little esprit de corps. Something is under people's skins and pulling the CoP apart.
                      > - Herd behaviour. CoP members follow their leaders blindly and massively, and in some cases with aggresivity. The worst examples are groupthink, "political correctness" and guru worship, which kill innovation and significant practice development. This kind of CoP evolves into a thought sect, not a CoP.
                      > - Subject hijacking. Either through invasion (from some non-subject-concerned people) or through drift (lack of interest or relevance of the main subject), another subject creeps into the mainstream conversations and stays there. This can be a natural evolution of the practice (or of the CoP), or can be unwelcome by the old core (which should lead to a split). The worst is when it's simply a case of a CoP talking about offtopics instead of their practice ("how's the family?").
                      > - Work relevance. For any of the above reasons and for many more, a CoP may be unable to provide help to practitioners: it may grow irrelevant. If people feel the CoP is no longer generating stimulating debate, turning up useful advice or catalysing initiatives... they will leave.
                      >
                      > 3. Culture: the ultimate causes usually are here. In the part that Steve kicked: what's this about, what are we doing and what for, what's importante for us. Having that clear allows forceful action (in design, moderation, activities) and usually helps to avoid weed infestation (dysfunction). Usually. Not having that, and the "institutional framework" that goes with it, is serious dysfunctionality. Serious and relevant goals the members really care about, a cooperative volunteering spirit, an affinity with fellow members, clear and well-defined rules, active and coherent moderation, member ownership of the community, aligned processes, efficient channels, sensible relationship with the funding part... Curing dysfunctionality here takes long work by specialists... and/or by very inspired, implicated members and moderators.
                      >
                      > Can't elaborate further :-) but that's how I see it. Maybe some of them can be useful as dysfunctionality indicators.
                      >
                      > I don't know if they can be fit into a stages model, but if you do, I look forward to using it :-).
                      >
                      > Best regards,
                      >
                      > Miguel
                      >
                      > ________________________________
                      > De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com [mailto:com-prac@yahoogroups.com] En nombre de joitske
                      > Enviado el: domingo, 04 de octubre de 2009 22:41
                      > Para: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
                      > Asunto: [cp] Re: Experiences with dysfunctional communities of practice
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.
                      >
                      > Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved. This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are on the outlook for?
                      >
                      > Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree, if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can benefit from careful guidance.
                      >
                      > In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of the signals to look out for.
                      >
                      > If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.
                      >
                      > Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??
                      >
                      > Greetings, Joitske
                      >
                      > --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com>, Alice MacGillivray <alice@> wrote:
                      > >
                      > > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
                      > > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
                      > > experience.
                      > >
                      > > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
                      > > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
                      > > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
                      > > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
                      > >
                      > > Alice
                      > >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      >
                    • Cornejo Castro, Miguel
                      Hi Asif (thanks), IMHO your theory s good :-). If you get proper sponsorship, and do it within a proper change management programme, it could work, I think.
                      Message 10 of 14 , Oct 7, 2009
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                        Hi Asif (thanks),

                        IMHO your theory's good :-). If you get proper sponsorship, and do it within a proper change management programme, it could work, I think.

                        But culture and power politics are seriously solid. I gave up trying to do just that at [] after two successive transformative CoP projects got derailed by "the interests" :-), namely second-tier management, and I got posted to Siberia twice for trying. You could say the culture created terminal dysfunction, while I was too junior for my hat :-) and too naïve by half. Rather help people who want to be helped (or get paid for the effort).

                        Also I agree the "natural" state of most CoPs out there is slightly dysfunctional. Or rather, the tendency (and opportunity) to go dysfunctional is always there. I guess most (all?) have some negative elements as Joitske says. That's why they need management, and why moderators burn out.

                        Best regards,

                        Miguel

                        ________________________________
                        De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com [mailto:com-prac@yahoogroups.com] En nombre de asif.devji
                        Enviado el: miércoles, 07 de octubre de 2009 2:25
                        Para: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
                        Asunto: [cp] Re: Experiences with dysfunctional communities of practice



                        I think Miguel nailed it on the head with his post, tying in what Steve mentioned earlier in terms of the impact of organizational culture on what makes CoPs dis-function.

                        My two cents is this: a dysfunctional community (I do believe they exist - in fact they constitute the majority of CoPs I've seen) is a "symptom" of the org culture.

                        I think many orgs think that setting up a CoP will automatically generate collaboration, when in fact it is only the infrastructure that could support collaboration.

                        Bringing a CoP in, however, could be a prime moment to deal with dysfunctional org cultures. With a widespread & coordinated strategy of org transformation, a CoP could effectively be used to induce a culture of collaboration within the physical org.

                        And a helathy org should produce healthy CoPs.

                        This is what I think theoretically anyway...never having had the opportunity to put it into practice.

                        Thanks,

                        Asif

                        --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com>, "Cornejo Castro, Miguel" <miguel.cornejo@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > Steve's story is great indeed, I'll be trying some kick-catalysing like that soon :-).
                        >
                        > Joitske, I think you're heading towards a complex maturity model which should be very interesting :-).
                        >
                        > Re the answers. What I meant is that there may be many levels to look at to find dysfunctionality, the higher the easier to see (and the most terminal):
                        >
                        > 1. Executive: if the CoP is not doing what it's funded or authorized for; of if it is not doing what we (members, founders) signed up for. That's a result, not even a symptom. Those are the ones I mentioned earlier.
                        >
                        > 2. Com management: several things (indicators, symptoms) can tell us that the CoP is not working smoothly, and most may be managed away with the right levers:
                        > - Participation concentration. A 10% of members with some degree of participation can be reasonable sometimes. If it's less, the CoP is walking dead (probably a long-declining group), an artificial construct (which never existed in fact but many people got signed in to), or in very serious trouble due to excessive barriers to participation.
                        > - Answer assymetry. If the most active CoP members pointedly do not answer all (or most) questions, but stick to those from a few people (themselves and friends, usually) you have either an invaded CoP on the defensive, or an aggresive clique behaviour that will kill it.
                        > - Social awkwardness. Relationships and conversations are strained, resulting in botched social initiatives, lack of cohesion, little esprit de corps. Something is under people's skins and pulling the CoP apart.
                        > - Herd behaviour. CoP members follow their leaders blindly and massively, and in some cases with aggresivity. The worst examples are groupthink, "political correctness" and guru worship, which kill innovation and significant practice development. This kind of CoP evolves into a thought sect, not a CoP.
                        > - Subject hijacking. Either through invasion (from some non-subject-concerned people) or through drift (lack of interest or relevance of the main subject), another subject creeps into the mainstream conversations and stays there. This can be a natural evolution of the practice (or of the CoP), or can be unwelcome by the old core (which should lead to a split). The worst is when it's simply a case of a CoP talking about offtopics instead of their practice ("how's the family?").
                        > - Work relevance. For any of the above reasons and for many more, a CoP may be unable to provide help to practitioners: it may grow irrelevant. If people feel the CoP is no longer generating stimulating debate, turning up useful advice or catalysing initiatives... they will leave.
                        >
                        > 3. Culture: the ultimate causes usually are here. In the part that Steve kicked: what's this about, what are we doing and what for, what's importante for us. Having that clear allows forceful action (in design, moderation, activities) and usually helps to avoid weed infestation (dysfunction). Usually. Not having that, and the "institutional framework" that goes with it, is serious dysfunctionality. Serious and relevant goals the members really care about, a cooperative volunteering spirit, an affinity with fellow members, clear and well-defined rules, active and coherent moderation, member ownership of the community, aligned processes, efficient channels, sensible relationship with the funding part... Curing dysfunctionality here takes long work by specialists... and/or by very inspired, implicated members and moderators.
                        >
                        > Can't elaborate further :-) but that's how I see it. Maybe some of them can be useful as dysfunctionality indicators.
                        >
                        > I don't know if they can be fit into a stages model, but if you do, I look forward to using it :-).
                        >
                        > Best regards,
                        >
                        > Miguel
                        >
                        > ________________________________
                        > De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com> [mailto:com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com>] En nombre de joitske
                        > Enviado el: domingo, 04 de octubre de 2009 22:41
                        > Para: com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com>
                        > Asunto: [cp] Re: Experiences with dysfunctional communities of practice
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.
                        >
                        > Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved. This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are on the outlook for?
                        >
                        > Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree, if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can benefit from careful guidance.
                        >
                        > In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of the signals to look out for.
                        >
                        > If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.
                        >
                        > Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??
                        >
                        > Greetings, Joitske
                        >
                        > --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com><mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com>, Alice MacGillivray <alice@> wrote:
                        > >
                        > > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
                        > > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
                        > > experience.
                        > >
                        > > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
                        > > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
                        > > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
                        > > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
                        > >
                        > > Alice
                        > >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        >





                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • joitske
                        Hi Miguel, Thanks a lot, this is a very nice list. I can see you are working with online communities- you phrase them in online cop terms, but I relate to them
                        Message 11 of 14 , Oct 7, 2009
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                          Hi Miguel,

                          Thanks a lot, this is a very nice list. I can see you are working with online communities- you phrase them in online cop terms, but I relate to them in f2f groups too. Will still chew on it!

                          Joitske

                          --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "Cornejo Castro, Miguel" <miguel.cornejo@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Steve's story is great indeed, I'll be trying some kick-catalysing like that soon :-).
                          >
                          > Joitske, I think you're heading towards a complex maturity model which should be very interesting :-).
                          >
                          > Re the answers. What I meant is that there may be many levels to look at to find dysfunctionality, the higher the easier to see (and the most terminal):
                          >
                          > 1. Executive: if the CoP is not doing what it's funded or authorized for; of if it is not doing what we (members, founders) signed up for. That's a result, not even a symptom. Those are the ones I mentioned earlier.
                          >
                          > 2. Com management: several things (indicators, symptoms) can tell us that the CoP is not working smoothly, and most may be managed away with the right levers:
                          > - Participation concentration. A 10% of members with some degree of participation can be reasonable sometimes. If it's less, the CoP is walking dead (probably a long-declining group), an artificial construct (which never existed in fact but many people got signed in to), or in very serious trouble due to excessive barriers to participation.
                          > - Answer assymetry. If the most active CoP members pointedly do not answer all (or most) questions, but stick to those from a few people (themselves and friends, usually) you have either an invaded CoP on the defensive, or an aggresive clique behaviour that will kill it.
                          > - Social awkwardness. Relationships and conversations are strained, resulting in botched social initiatives, lack of cohesion, little esprit de corps. Something is under people's skins and pulling the CoP apart.
                          > - Herd behaviour. CoP members follow their leaders blindly and massively, and in some cases with aggresivity. The worst examples are groupthink, "political correctness" and guru worship, which kill innovation and significant practice development. This kind of CoP evolves into a thought sect, not a CoP.
                          > - Subject hijacking. Either through invasion (from some non-subject-concerned people) or through drift (lack of interest or relevance of the main subject), another subject creeps into the mainstream conversations and stays there. This can be a natural evolution of the practice (or of the CoP), or can be unwelcome by the old core (which should lead to a split). The worst is when it's simply a case of a CoP talking about offtopics instead of their practice ("how's the family?").
                          > - Work relevance. For any of the above reasons and for many more, a CoP may be unable to provide help to practitioners: it may grow irrelevant. If people feel the CoP is no longer generating stimulating debate, turning up useful advice or catalysing initiatives... they will leave.
                          >
                          > 3. Culture: the ultimate causes usually are here. In the part that Steve kicked: what's this about, what are we doing and what for, what's importante for us. Having that clear allows forceful action (in design, moderation, activities) and usually helps to avoid weed infestation (dysfunction). Usually. Not having that, and the "institutional framework" that goes with it, is serious dysfunctionality. Serious and relevant goals the members really care about, a cooperative volunteering spirit, an affinity with fellow members, clear and well-defined rules, active and coherent moderation, member ownership of the community, aligned processes, efficient channels, sensible relationship with the funding part... Curing dysfunctionality here takes long work by specialists... and/or by very inspired, implicated members and moderators.
                          >
                          > Can't elaborate further :-) but that's how I see it. Maybe some of them can be useful as dysfunctionality indicators.
                          >
                          > I don't know if they can be fit into a stages model, but if you do, I look forward to using it :-).
                          >
                          > Best regards,
                          >
                          > Miguel
                          >
                          > ________________________________
                          > De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com [mailto:com-prac@yahoogroups.com] En nombre de joitske
                          > Enviado el: domingo, 04 de octubre de 2009 22:41
                          > Para: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
                          > Asunto: [cp] Re: Experiences with dysfunctional communities of practice
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          > Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.
                          >
                          > Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved. This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are on the outlook for?
                          >
                          > Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree, if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can benefit from careful guidance.
                          >
                          > In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of the signals to look out for.
                          >
                          > If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.
                          >
                          > Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??
                          >
                          > Greetings, Joitske
                          >
                          > --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com<mailto:com-prac%40yahoogroups.com>, Alice MacGillivray <alice@> wrote:
                          > >
                          > > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
                          > > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
                          > > experience.
                          > >
                          > > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
                          > > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
                          > > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
                          > > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
                          > >
                          > > Alice
                          > >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          >
                        • joitske
                          Ha Nancy, Thanks for formulating it in this nice way, this is exactly what I m looking for: signals about the health of a community (or sickness) so that we
                          Message 12 of 14 , Oct 7, 2009
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                            Ha Nancy,

                            Thanks for formulating it in this nice way, this is exactly what I'm looking for: signals about the health of a community (or sickness) so that we can intervene and try to mitigate. I'm still surprised that it very normal to talk about dysfunctional teams and not about dysfunctional communities of practice... I guess my bottom-line is learning and innovation. When are these two functions are hampered or are at risk of being hampered? Miguel gives some very practical ideas. In reality the judgement will depend on the facilitator/leader/steward. What is a normal stunting process and what needs careful attention? What is normal in one may be dangerous in another I guess.

                            Have fun in Brussel!

                            Joitske

                            --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, Nancy White <nancyw@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > As I was reading through this thread I had a little personal aha that
                            > relates to how you raised the question, Joitske. It is around the
                            > term "dysfunctional community." In my culture, there is a term
                            > "dysfunctional family" and we joke that all families are
                            > dysfunctional. It is an "assumed" that there is not some perfect
                            > form, and that living in a family is about riding the waves of both
                            > function and dysfunction to keep things as whole as we can. So I too
                            > had this reaction that dysfunction is a given. ;-)
                            >
                            > Now reading your clarification (and surprise) what I SENSE you are
                            > looking for is how we can attend to the health of our communities,
                            > catch the signals soon enough that tell us something has to change.
                            > So instead of letting a community die out from inactivity, to notice
                            > if something needs adjusting in the three areas of community, domain
                            > or practice. To consider if it is time to end the community vs
                            > letting it fade away.
                            >
                            > About awareness of the community at some sort of "whole" level and
                            > using that to inform our stewarding and leadership activities?'
                            >
                            > However, there is an interesting element here of judgement of what is
                            > good or bad. That may be worth some deeper conversation. When
                            > considering an emergent, complex and organic organism, sometimes
                            > stunting is an adaptive advantage, eh? ;-)
                            >
                            > Nancy
                            >
                            >
                            > At 01:41 PM 10/4/2009, you wrote:
                            > >Miguel, Jenny, Alice, Steve; thanks for your responses. Somehow not
                            > >what I expected, but I may have to explain my ideas better.
                            > >
                            > >Miguel states that you measure dysfunctionality by asking the
                            > >sponsors and the members whether the initial goals are achieved.
                            > >This would be a natural thing to do. However, members and sponsors
                            > >may be content. Nevertheless, I wonder whether as specialists we
                            > >could have additional observations, a critical eye to spot any
                            > >disfunctionalities. And what are the disfunctionalities that we are
                            > >on the outlook for?
                            > >
                            > >Jenny thinks any community of practice is functional. This is taking
                            > >the state it is in as the state it should be. Personally I disagree,
                            > >if you have a relatively old CoP and it is still in the coalescence
                            > >phase, you could judge that its development is stunted. This may be
                            > >what I'm looking for. Like the team growth model by Tuckman can help
                            > >to understand dysfunctional teams, the phases may help to understand
                            > >CoP development and problems? This is because I believe a CoP can
                            > >benefit from careful guidance.
                            > >
                            > >In Steve's story I can find the essence of taking ownership by the
                            > >members? Is this what you were forging? This could indeed by one of
                            > >the signals to look out for.
                            > >
                            > >If I think for myself it is mostly in the direction of not being
                            > >state-of-the-art, cliqueness resulting in lack of innovation.
                            > >
                            > >Alice, could you explain your idea about seemingly disfunctional activities??
                            > >
                            > >Greetings, Joitske
                            > >
                            > >--- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, Alice MacGillivray <alice@> wrote:
                            > > >
                            > > > LOVE the story Steve. It brings back many fond memories of bizarre
                            > > > tactics I've used over the years. That must have been a great
                            > > > experience.
                            > > >
                            > > > To Joitske: one comment on function: perhaps the "obvious" functions
                            > > > of a self-governing group are not always what they need. There may be
                            > > > times when groups need to engage in some seemingly dysfunctional
                            > > > activities to cope with other aspects of their current contexts?
                            > > >
                            > > > Alice
                            > > >
                            > >
                            > >
                            > >
                            > >
                            > >------------------------------------
                            > >
                            > >*-- The email forum on communities of practice --*Yahoo! Groups Links
                            > >
                            > >
                            > >
                            >
                            > Nancy White | Full Circle Associates | Connecting communities online
                            > nancyw@... | +1 206 517 4754 | GMT - 8 |skype - choconancy |
                            > Twitter NancyWhite
                            > http://www.fullcirc.com/
                            >
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