Published on 27/03/2019

Building strong communities

I’ve been a firm believer of Agile ever since it was introduced to me. I’ve learned a lot from the people that inspired me. I thank them all!

I’ve quickly learned about the positive effect on teams and tribes while practicing a role as Scrum Master or Agile Coach.

Today’s challenge actually goes further than transforming an IT Department into an Agile way of working. Today’s challenge for existing organisations is to turn around their heavy internal structure into something that brings in agility. And a part of the puzzle is building strong teams, delivering value to the organisation and having a purpose.

In my current job at Tobania, we’ve started building strong Competence Centers and we've called them Communities of Practice. The idea of tribe-thinking helps to organize the communities. Seth Godin once wrote in his book ‘Tribes’: “A group only needs two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” This is also the foundation of our communities. Godin also states that the tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. We’ll invest heavy in building strong communities. A strong community is only as strong as the mutual relations of the people in the community. The relations are essential because in communities people act towards these mutual relations; a specific function of a person doesn’t matter to drive the community forward, the interactions of the people, guided via new leadership do. 


Pillars for strong communities:

  • Practices need identity and people become engaged when they can contribute to their practice of passion. #EngagedWorkforce
  • Knowledge sharing inside & outside the community: training, book club, career path, peer coaching, inspiration sessions, think factories. #ContinuousLearning #SecureKnowledge
  • A Community of Practice offers a safe environment to rethink via think factories, follow up on trends, try out new things (processes, methodologies, frameworks, technologies, …), launch internal projects (‘think big, start small’), organize and participate in hackathons, build partnerships with suppliers #RethinkInnovation
  • Committed people become a leader (community of practice lead) and define via co-creation sessions a community vision, goals and strategy. #ServantLeadership #Coaching
  • Objectives and key results are the driver for the community. Each Community defines their objectives in order to have a plan. These objective are directly related to the goals of the organization. #Okrdriven

The market is craving for T-shaped profiles (or even Comb-Shaped or X-shaped) profiles. The World Economic Forum states: “Technological shifts to create 58 million extra jobs by 2022.” T-Shaping might be one part of the solution because this typically means a person has a deep understanding and expertise in 1 subject and a general understanding of related subjects. It helps to drive business forward. Communities boost this mindset if they are handled as bubbles instead of silo’s... #antisilostrategy

The second part of the solution is to keep people aboard. Gallup states:”87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work”. Communities offer a strong answer to get people involved, committed and finally engaged. You actually want people to share their strong expertise with your company in order to move your business forward. The effect of getting engaged people is that they will stay and lift your organization. Nevertheless, it all starts with addressing the intrinsic motivation of the individual. The personal development should be in line with the goals of the community in order to have people contributing.


Communities typically tend to create a sort of separated silo: “we are the .net society” or “we are the agile community”. The risk is that it becomes a closed group and competition will arise from this. We aim to build strong communities with a clear overlay with other communities of practice. This benefits interactions between the different communities, boosts learning and career paths for employees (horizontal and vertical growth of the individual).

Communities are the foundation of your organization. They will drive business forward, but also provide answers for and easily adapt your organization to the ever changing customer needs. Keep your people aboard and so, innovate from the bottom up.