The vital role of communities of practice in change management


Large organizations experienced a rollercoaster of transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, change is an ever-present concern even in “normal” times. Managing change is a complex process involving leadership, technology, communication, and culture — and the concept of a community of practice (CoP) has emerged as a key supporting element.

A global organization struggling with the sudden switch to remote work during the 2020 lockdowns sought to shore up its ability to navigate change successfully. Kalles Group helped the organization cultivate a community of practice to smooth the transition and support future growth in an uncertain business landscape.

Employees working together as a group.


Going remote in 2020: A time when change management was sorely needed

Meetings are a fundamental component of the organization’s way of keeping teams and employees informed, so one of the biggest challenges of going remote in 2020 was creating a focus and practice around engaging and inclusive virtual meetings. From setting up the right technology to helping people participate as they would in-office, many aspects needed a lot of work, and the organization was having difficulty spreading know-how across its siloed structure.

The specific meeting-related challenges were twofold: encouraging participation from everyone in the new virtual format, and ensuring that all users had a good handle on the technology. As Microsoft Teams would come out with new features from time to time, staff needed to be aware of these changes and get a solid grasp on how to use them.

Kalles Group had already been working closely with the organization to improve tech learning practices and centralize resources for IT help, so the consultants simply shifted focus towards helping the organization maximize collaboration with more effective virtual meetings — both internally as well as externally with grantees and partners.


Building an enterprise-wide community that gets knowledge to flow past the silos

The organization’s siloed arrangement contrasted with the dispersed nature of the challenge. The need to run better meetings was not limited to just a few teams — it was felt across the entire organization. More cross-team collaboration was necessary, but the way in which the organization was structured did not facilitate the seamless flow of knowledge throughout.

A community of practice can be quite effective in such situations. By bringing together diverse professionals sharing a common passion or concern, communities of practice facilitate knowledge sharing, help retain expertise, and provide an excellent environment for creative problem-solving. They can range from an informal cohort that meets on a semi-regular basis to a much more structured community with regularly held meetings and rules of governance. Organizations that cultivate a CoP can see wide-ranging improvements in collaboration.

Kalles Group helped the organization nurture a CoP that began as a small team seeking to drive engagement with a newly deployed virtual whiteboarding tool. Over time, with the KG consultants’ encouragement, the CoP added more facilitation content and later expanded to incorporate things like polling, breakout rooms, and Q&A sessions. As lockdowns eased and people trickled back into the office, the CoP became instrumental in supporting hybrid meetings.

Centralizing and spreading knowledge about digital tools, conference rooms, and more

Capturing knowledge and making it readily accessible throughout an organization is an important function of a CoP. Kalles Group helped the organization do exactly this with respect to virtual meeting technology. To ensure that employees were making the most of MS Teams, Kalles Group closely monitored its feature changes and announced any important ones. For particularly valuable new features, the consultants led monthly demos and “Try It” sessions and later added peer-led sessions to target key use cases and encourage community collaboration. A questions channel allowed people to submit upcoming changes.

The KG team built out a SharePoint site for critical organization-specific information regarding conference rooms or related meeting features. After a year or so of sharing information and adopting more tools, the consultants began centralizing a large amount of content for easy access to information about company-specific guidelines, configurations, and recommendations. Kalles Group organized the content on the basis of tool capabilities so that staff could locate content and identify the right tool based on what they needed to do.


A vital community for connecting, sharing information, and making change easier

The resulting community of practice became the organization’s largest voluntary community. It bridged departments, teams, and individuals looking to learn more about technology, inclusive communication, and facilitating meetings. The team has seen exponential growth in technology adoption and user confidence since implementing these learning initiatives.

This agile community has been instrumental in creating learning opportunities, trainings, and informational campaigns that challenged staff to adopt new technology and continuously improve hybrid communications. Users now feel more confident facilitating hybrid meetings or finding information and resources to help if they run into problems, and they are increasingly interested in effective collaboration centered around inclusive norms.

The CoP grows each quarter with greater visibility across the organization and increasing support for the adoption of digital tools. The resources implemented by Kalles Group will continue to assist new employees navigating the hybrid workplace and serve as a central location for all employees to continuously improve virtual collaboration. Any organization seeking to step up its ability to navigate and accelerate change can benefit from cultivating a CoP that spreads knowledge and brings teams together.

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