Setting up communities of practice

This is a post about setting up a community of practice and why this is a good thing for organisations embracing agile ways of working.

Setting up a community of practice

In the early summer a group of us, herded by the brilliant Emily Webber, took a day out to talk about setting up a community of practice for agile delivery people.  We recognise that in a networked, progressive organisation of small and agile self-directed teams, there is a role for these communities to act as the glue across teams and the wider organisation.

Communities of practice: “… 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”  Etienne Wenger-Trayer and Beverly Wenger-Trayer

We wanted to create a community that:

  • could evolve naturally – for its members and by its members
  • was a safe space for open dialogue and learning
  • allowed different levels of participation – there’s nothing worse than forced fun!
  • had a regular rhythm to it

We agreed our community’s mission:

Our mission is to: Inspire others at Co-op and beyond by setting and continuously improving the standard of agile, collaborative delivery

And discussed its values:

Agile Delivery Community Manifesto. We will develop a community of practice that sets and improves the standard of agile ways of working in Co-op and beyond. We will do this by: Being open and honest Encouraging and helping each other Making an active contribution Always sharing, learning and improving Not judging

It’s early days but already there’s a growing level of self-organisation and trust amongst members.  The community is sharing ways of working, practical tips and techniques.

Beware silos

To help smooth the flow of knowledge sharing everyone is encouraged to be open.  Tools like Slack, Google apps and open invites to each team’s Showcase really help spread better practice – but only partially.  

Sometimes, everyone working in a product team is in danger of being so focussed on the thing they are making, they forget that they are part of a much wider organisation. It takes extra effort to look around, to dig deeper, to ask questions about why something works in one situation and not so well in another.  Sometimes we’re just too polite or don’t feel safe asking the difficult question.

Other communities of practice are springing up too

If you wander around our office in Angel Square you’ll see the signs of agile working blooming.  There are now more than a dozen teams working in this way, spread across the business from Membership, Funerals, Food to new digital products.  

The teams share some common characteristics (usually less than 10 people, a flat hierarchy, cross-disciplinary and empowered to experiment to solve a problem) but each team works differently.  They own their process and what works for one team might not work so well for another.  That’s a healthy thing and it’s fascinating to see how different ways of working are evolving and improving.

In fact, it feels a lot like a Co-op.  

We’re recruiting now.

Jamie Arnold
Head of Agile Delivery

Digital ways of working

Last week we held our first Digital MasterClass. We’ve talked a lot on the blog about the different ways in which we’re working in CoopDigital, Jamie’s post on agile delivery is a great example of this. We’ll continue to blog about how we’re working differently, but we also want to find other ways to share what we’re doing with all our colleagues.

Why would we want to share our ways of working? We’ve found that generally speaking, teams and organisations that adopt agile ways of working have a better chance of delivering the right thing, are happier and more collaborative. It’s perfectly suited to an organisation built on co-operation and doing the right thing for its people.

The first session was a pilot with the objective to provide an overview of digital and agile ways of working whilst gathering lots of feedback from attendees.

Picture of the first Digital masterclass

Anna Dick, Tom Taylor, Amy Wagner and Carl Burton all shared their experiences on topics including;

What is digital?
The habits of behaviours of successful digital businesses
Agile ways of working
Life as a product manager in CoopDigital.

We’re initially providing these sessions for colleagues in CoopDigital and will consider opening these up to other areas of Co-op in the future. The team are looking at lots of different ways for us to share experiences both internally and from people externally who we could learn a lot from. We’re trialling, learning and improving as we go.

We’re now reviewing the feedback to help us develop and improve the content and format for more sessions. We’ll also be talking with colleagues in our Group Transformation team about their work.

Picture of Jenni Moss - Delivery Manager

Jenni Moss
Delivery Manager

Co-op Finder Alpha

Co-op-Finder-Alpha
Co-op Finder Alpha – list results view

We’ve made live our Co-op Finder Alpha. Have a look https://alpha.coop.co.uk/finder.

If you’ve ever used our old store locator, you’ll see there are lots of things that aren’t in the new one. There’s a reason for that. We don’t know whether it was useful or not, in fact there’s a lot we don’t know. 

We’ll use our Co-op Finder Alpha to learn more.

We do know a lot of people choose to come to our website to use our store locator to see whether we are open, usually around those times when opening hours in general are not obvious, like Sunday evenings and national holidays.

We also know that the next most common thing customers need, is to know where the nearest Co-op is to a specific location. 

We’ve kept a few obvious elements, like telephone numbers and links to get directions, but other than that we’ve removed anything that we don’t have an evidenced user need for.

There are two opportunities for users to provide feedback on the experience itself and whether the information is correct, through this and further user research we will understand better what needs to be there.

We’ve already learnt a lot and have some solid improvements in the pipeline that we’ll make live shortly.

Our show & tell is part of the coop.co.uk session every Wednesday, 10th Floor, 10.15-10.45 – all colleagues and Council members welcome.

Please let us know what you think.

Ben Rieveley
Product Manager

Show & tells at Co-op

As we talk more and more about the products and services that we’re building at Co-op, lots of people have been asking us how they can find out more about them.

For each of the digital products and services that we’re working on we have regular show & tells.

What’s a show & tell?

It’s an opportunity to hear what the teams have been working on that week, what they’ve learned, and what’s coming next. It’s also where you’ll see working demos of what they’re building. We want as many people to come to them and to ask really difficult questions – the harder the better.

Picture of a recent show & tell
One of our recent show & tells

All colleagues and council members are welcome. They’re all held in our support centre at 1 Angel Square in Manchester, but we’re testing different ways to make them more accessible.

Here’s the list of what, when and where. We’ll update this post if they change and add any new ones.

Coop.co.uk
Wednesdays, 6th floor auditorium, Federation House. 10.15-10.50am

Food alphas 
Tuesdays, 3rd floor, Federation House. 11.00-12.00

Funeralcare
Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, 12th floor, 1AS. 2.30-3.00pm

Membership
Every 2nd and 4th Thursday, 13th Floor, 1AS. 9.30 – 10.00am

 

If you have any questions, please comment on the blog or send us a Tweet

Gail Lyon

We’re looking for Delivery Managers.

I joined The Co-op at the beginning of the year as Head of Agile Delivery. It’s my job to help The Co-op get the most out of modern ways of delivering its services, so that:

  • It’s quicker to deliver and test them with real people.
  • They’re more responsive to feedback from the people that use them.
  • Teams self organise around continuous improvement.

Generally speaking, teams and organisations that adopt agile ways of working have a better chance of delivering the right thing, are happier and more collaborative. It is perfectly suited to an organisation built on co-operation and doing the right thing for its people.

By giving a group of people authority to solve a problem we've made them feel stronger and more confident

Since joining I’ve been doing the rounds in The Co-op to explain it in more detail and how other teams can adopt this mindset to delivery. Some teams are already on their way, but others need help.

The conversation goes something like this:

“Can you help Jamie?”
“Yes, of course. You probably need a Delivery Manager to help get you going.”
“What’s one of those? We’ve got project managers. Is that the same?”

At which point I usually share this excellent post by Emily Webber explaining the role of a Delivery Manager, because the answer is, it is different in important ways:

“It describes the person on the agile team whose main concern is enabling a team of skilled people to deliver value. They create the right environment for the team. They facilitate the team and remove obstacles and blockers that might get in their way. They work closely with the product manager (sometimes known as product owner), but while the product manager is concerned with the vision the delivery manager is concerned with making it happen. The perfect visionary and doer pairing”
Emily Webber

Have a read of the post and if you’re that person and have the right experience then get in touch. It’d be good to hear from you.

You can see more information about vacancies for Delivery Managers on our career site.

Jamie Arnold
Head of Agile Delivery