Friday, January 27, 2006

Communities of practice and core qualities

I read the book by Daniel Ofman called Bezieling en kwaliteit in organisaties
(don't know how to translate 'bezieling', the rest means quality in organisations). I worked a couple of times with the core quality quadrants or kernkwadranten in teams. It is very powerful, because it goes one step beyond competences and styles, looking at core qualities a person posesses as really someone's capacity which is so natural to the person that he/she thinks everybody can do it. But it also helps you to look at the shadow side of your core quality by looking at the pitfall (if you are overdoing your core quality); your challenge and allergy. In that sense it is very respectful of the fact that everyone has something to bring and that too much of a good thing becomes a negative quality and that you have to find your personal balance. Sometimes a very revealing exercise! What has been particularly revealing to me is that you have something to learn from the people who match your allergies (usually not your best friends :)). He describes why it's hard to change yourself, and that the best step to take is towards an increased balance is to be aware of and accept your core qualities and pitfalls.

In this book, part two talks about organisational development and states that managers tends to be allergic to chaos, because they don't realise that chaos is the presence of energy without direction. He thinks management of energy will be a huge management theme. I think this links strongly to the power of communities of practice, if they achieve in connecting people who are passionate about their practice (which probably has a connection to their own core qualities) it combines and directs their energy. I see communities of practice as a potential entry point to change the wider organisation and bring it in closer touch with its core quality.

We can also talk about the core quadrant of an organisation (this is new to me). Drawing a core quadrant of an organisation, in a participatory manner, could help to see where communities of practice would fit in or meet with resistance. Including subcultures in an organisation (coupling their core quandrant can make it more visible where they bite eachother!)

I liked the way he revisits project management and 'projectmatig werken', because I'm very tired of projects, after 10 years in Mali, Ethiopia and Ghana. If a project turns into a controlmechanisms which leaves out anything coincidental and spontaneous developments, the result will be forced and will not be sustainable. Nevertheless, this is not a fault of project management in itself, if the essence is co-creation it can be a very powerful intervention. A creative proces can be facilitated as a technique (by formulating objections to an idea as challenges) , but it is also a competence in itself and reflects a philosophy which starts from the premises that everyone's work and ideas have value. Advice at the end of the book: try to be creative and not reactive (something I find easier in CoPs than in organisations or projects ...).

PS in this post I'm not really doing justice to the whole book, I just picked out a few things which resonated with my own ideas.

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