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RE: [cp] Re: Experiences with dysfunctional communities of practice

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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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