Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

As practitioners in the field of Software Engineering we have many opportunities to work alone and as part of teams. However, those teams usually cross many different functions and areas of expertise leaving professionals at times “on their own” regarding how to approach their craft in a given circumstance. This can lead to a feeling of isolation when confronted with a difficult challenge and frustrated when there is no one with which to share a success story!

To confront this situation, professionals with similar interests and goals organically leverage their own connections and networks within an organization and across multiple organizations to share knowledge, discuss challenges and share success stories.

The term “Community of Practice” was first coined in 1991 by learning theorist Jean Lave, and Etienne Wenger to describe this phenomenon. Some of the defining characteristics of a Community of Practice are informality, shared purpose, a lifecycle that organically aligns with the value the members find in participation.

When Communities of Practice emerge and thrive, the organization reaps many benefits. Teams can share information, standardize on approaches they find valuable and effective, celebrate successes, and offer encouragement to those who may be struggling. All this at little to no cost to the organization. Some large organizations who truly recognize the benefits of this approach may have hundreds of communities of practice. Siemens has gone so far as to create a “Process Council” which consists of Leaders/Sponsors from several communities of practice who meet quarterly to determine which communities and practices are most aligned with strategic objectives and surface these to company leadership for funding and prioritization.

JBS strongly believes that Agile software development is key to success for our clients. Communities of Practice are an effective way to realize the key agile principle of Continuous Improvement. We are excited to have launched our own “Agile Community of Practice”! This will be a forum for Scrum Masters, and anyone interested in learning more about Agile software practices, that can participate in a variety of activities that foster learning, collaboration and sharing ideas. Recent topics have included how to conduct engaging retrospectives using a product called DX, and a book discussion of “Agile Conversations: Transform Your Conversations, Transform Your Culture”. We have many more planned! Guest speakers, lean coffee discussions where we surface topics and vote on what the members want to do next to name a few!

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