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Top management sponsorship to guide communities of practice

Stefano Borzillo (Visiting Faculty Member at Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, New York, USA)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 29 May 2009




Prior research on managing communities of practice (CoP) has not investigated top management's involvement in detail. The purpose of this paper is to present three detailed and successful mechanisms through which top management contributes to the guidance of CoPs.


The paper presents an investigation of 47 CoPs conducted in several organizations. Data collection was achieved using a qualitative questionnaire, followed by in‐depth interviews with leaders of CoPs.


This study explored three mechanisms used by sponsors to successfully guide CoPs. More specifically, the findings highlight a set of operational means used by top management – via sponsors – to supervise and facilitate best practice development and sharing within CoPs.

Research limitations/implications

The CoPs should be examined by means of an ethnological approach, thus interacting with many members of the same CoP to gain an in‐depth understanding of each mechanism's significance for the sponsorship's success. There is also a need to further explore how the three sponsorship mechanisms are interrelated.


Through numerous examples extracted from different multinational organizations, this paper offers clear guidelines for top managers on how to improve their support to CoPs in their organization.



Borzillo, S. (2009), "Top management sponsorship to guide communities of practice", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 60-72.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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