Project Management

Community Works

Karen Klein

Remote worksites, international time zones and dispersed teams can isolate project managers and stymie their problem-solving efforts. But communities of practice may help, connecting them with like-minded individuals and the tools to approach issues collaboratively. Here are five ideas for improving project collaboration through CoPs.

Communities of practice (often abbreviated CoP) are "groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly," according to Etienne Wenger, an educational theorist who coined the term with a colleague in the early 1990s.
But Phil Karren, the collaboration product manager at Novell, defines the CoP in purely practical terms, with a real-life example.
 "One of our customers, a U.S. mining company, had a problem with the brakes on their earth-moving equipment,” Karren says. “If they couldn't get the problem figured out, it meant work-stoppages. In the course of wracking their brains trying to solve the problem, they posted a question on an online CoP internal to the company.”
Within a few hours, mine worker on another continent saw the posted question and replied, saying they'd had the same situation and it took them a year to figure out how to fix it. "And then they said, ‘…

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