The purpose of this article is to empirically investigate the relationship between communities of practice and performance.
Interviews, surveys, and company records from a case study of several communities of practice within a multi‐billion dollar construction project are investigated. Using the concept of learning curves, the authors look at the relationship between four communities of practice and their performance as well as taking an in‐depth look at the communication patterns within each community of practice.
Three communities of practice that operated under stable conditions were found to exhibit improved performance. However, the one community of practice that experienced changes in its communication channels due to a physical move was never able to regain its previous ability to continuously improve, indicating a strong relationship between communication channels and performance.
The research presented here focuses only on communities of practice within one organization and one industry, thus limiting the degree to which the results can be generalized.
The results provide support for the recent efforts by managers to sponsor and even “formally define” communities of practice within organizations. This article also illustrates how sensitive communities of practice are to changes in communication channels, thus alerting managers to the importance of understanding the impact of their actions on a community's cognitive processes and structural dimensions.
This paper offers empirical support for a positive relationship between communities of practice and performance, thus filling a research gap that has been difficult to fill due to the ethereal nature of communities of practice.
Schenkel, A. and Teigland, R. (2008), "Improved organizational performance through communities of practice", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 106-118. https://doi.org/10.1108/13673270810852421Download as .RIS
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