Share Knowledge, Tools, and Practices

Business Guilds & Communities of Practice

Many organizations need to harmonize practices, procedures and tools across teams and departments. They also need people to share knowledge and develop their craft by communicating across traditional organizational boundaries. This is the purpose and role of guilds and huddles.

business guild shield

A guild originally was a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power. In the Middle Ages these guilds were focused on certain crafts like carpentry and iron works. Their purpose was to help develop the craft, an early sort of mentoring.

In modern days, business guilds are called a community of practice or CoP. This is a group of professionals who share a common interest, passion or area of work. A CoP allows participants to share challenges and experiences and even create best practices to follow.

A Management 3.0 community of practice of course doesn’t just mean people at the same level doing the same work connect. These modern-day business guilds cut across teams, projects and levels, breaking down barriers. They are cross-organizational and cross-functional, with an effort to break down silos toward innovation and collaboration. As Etienne Wenger wrote in his book titled Communities of Practice, business guilds includes:

  • A domain of knowledge
  • A community of people
  • A shared set of tools and practices

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The main purpose of a community of practice is learning through collaboration, but a positive consequence of COPs help any member gain more insight into the organization and have more impact on products, services and strategy.

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Business Guilds Tips

Get each guild member to organize at least one session themselves. This prevents them from expecting that the guild leader does all the work.

Community of Practices in remote teams

A Guild, or Community of Practice, can be perfectly executed online in the virtual space. Just make sure to meet regularly and to create space for exchange. Why not use your regular messenger such as Slack and create a special room for the group? However, make sure to keep your group active. Proactively share information that is of interest for everyone in this group or raise questions that get you all thinking.

Support your guild with good collaboration tools for ongoing conversations. It’s often not enough for people just to see each other face-to-face once per month.

If you don’t like the word guild, call it what you want. Just remember that probably nobody has ever been inspired by the term center of excellence.