Communities of Practice are a vitally important part of transformation at Defra. As joint Chief Digital Officers here, we want to encourage as many people as possible to join a community, because we believe there’s a lot to be gained from it. This post explains why we think that.
Emily Webber wrote a blog post back in July, explaining how communities exist to bring people doing the same role together: “They make it easier for people to support each other, share experiences, collaborate, and build confidence and skills.”
Transformation is about people, because it’s about working in new ways. The better connected our people are, the more efficiently we can operate and the easier our work will be. Communities make those connections possible in the first place, and more meaningful in the long run.
Communities thrive when they're active, and being active means having as many involved members as possible. The more brains to spread the load and the more diverse the group, the better.
Not all communities have a clear-cut list of potential members, either. For example: the Product Managers community (pictured above) might include people who don't have the specific phrase "product manager" in their job title.
Our communities so far
The communities we've started or established so far are:
- Business Analysts
- Content Designers
- Delivery Managers
- Product Managers
- QA and Testing
- Service Managers
- Software Engineers
- User Researchers
All of these communities works across the boundaries that have traditionally separated the various agencies and bodies in Defra. Simply by setting these communities up, we’re breaking down barriers, and helping the organisation as a whole work better together.
In times of continuing uncertainty and constant change, change itself is the only thing we can be certain of. Defra as a whole needs to become better at dealing with, and adapting to change. Building strong Communities of Practice is an important part of that, partly because communities give people a place to vent frustration and work out constructive ways to resolve problems together.
Why you should join a community
One thing our communities team has noticed is that there are lots of people in Defra who could join one of these communities, but haven't.
If there is one that aligns with your job, you should join a Community of Practice. If you do, you will:
- get help and support from people who already understand what your job is all about
- get chances to learn from more experienced colleagues who may have already faced (and solved) the problems you're running up against
- find it easier to collaborate between teams, programmes and other organisations working on similar things
- learn new ways of doing things
- build relationships with people who can support you through difficult times
- have a chance to get involved with recruitment, and ultimately drive change across Defra
- no longer be a lone voice
Something that emerged during a recent meeting of community leaders was summed up by a colleague like this: “Being part of a community is about taking part.”
A strong community can be a positive force for change within a large and complicated organisation like Defra. Communities represent their members, but can speak on their behalf with one voice. As more people take part, that single voice gains more authority. As the community grows, it becomes a more powerful force for change. There’s more momentum.
Communities of Practice are an enabler for digital transformation to happen. They lay the foundations for creating sustainable change through connecting and supporting people in complex and challenging roles. Bringing together people who share similar challenges, purpose and focus gives them the support and confidence to be successful and allows them to benefit from each others’ experiences. Communities of Practice provide a framework for this to happen. They make us a better organisation. If you can take part in one, do.