Guest AuthorSreekanth K Arimanithaya

Community of practice: The way ahead

By | Sreekanth K Arimanithaya | Global Talent and Enablement Services Leader, EY Global Delivery Services

Organizations have long thrived in the formal structure. This year, I completed three decades of my professional life, and I still recollect the formal organizational structures when I was starting. They looked like neat little layered pyramids. Then came the matrixed hierarchy, largely corresponding with our business and workforce’s increasingly collaborative and global nature, not discounting the intricate yet extensive delivery networks.

But as I look ahead, I see these formal organizational structures fast fading. Not surprising because the world is coming together more seamlessly than ever before, and business mimics life. So, when we are solving problems that have a global impact, it is only natural to tap into experts from across the globe.

Let me take a step back, for the context lies in the way we make decisions. Traditionally we have subscribed to the ‘unity of command.’ It is indeed a sound principle where the instructions come from the top in a linear flow. The often-quoted example is of an army, referencing discipline. But again, one can argue that most battles are influenced by the decisions taken on the ground and the effectiveness of their implementation. This brings the focus back to the quality of decisions. 

About a decade ago, Marcia W. Blenko, Michael Mankins, and Paul Rogers from Bain and Company authored an article on The Decision-Driven Organization; it definitely makes a good and highly relevant read. One of the key focuses of the article was on how often leaders interpreted transformation as organizational restructures or changes. It is effective when the change in structure leads to better decision-making across the board, else it will simply lead to chaos or worse erode the cultural fabric of the organization.

That brings us to the question of what is a good decision. Can it be measured? Here the success is result of a simple formula: ‘Quality of decisions x velocity x yield – effectiveness’. If any of these parameters are off, your success rate diminishes. In a nutshell, you must make the best call by reading the situation and implement your solution quickly and correctly. 

How does this connect to the community of practice (CoP)? Well, CoP is effectively decentralized decision-making where a group of experts from diverse backgrounds comes together to solve a problem or deliver a solution. There are no leader or management layers. There instead is a project in charge. A common vision binds these groups, and they group and regroup based on need. 

The four key aspects of CoP are:

  1. It brings together people from across the board based on skills and competencies. It brings together the best combination of resources that is lean, agile, and effective for organizations. 
  2. It fosters a truly collaborative environment where people come together and share tools and methodologies. It especially works well to bring in an outside-in perspective.  
  3. It provides more effective career paths and professional development through accelerated learning beyond one’s fields. And it also boosts continuous learning as all team members have to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. 
  4. Finally, better engagement in teams as it brings in a sense of community and belonging, leading to a more positive and inclusive work culture – everyone brings their own unique skills and personality to the table. 

As for me, this is the way ahead as we try to harness our collective knowledge to build a better working world. In my own experience, the network I hold on this platform – of 40,000 vibrant people – is my best asset. The ideas and thoughts I receive from you, here and when we meet, inspire me daily. That is the power of collective knowledge. So, I leave this conversation too open-ended to hear your thoughts on how we can better tap into the Community of Practice. 

Republished with permission and originally published at Sreekanth K Arimanithaya’s LinkedIn

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