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I first joined Co-op in 2018 as a delivery manager, working with the One Web team in digital. Since then, I moved into a principal delivery manager role where I supported multiple digital product teams. And most recently, I’ve become the agile skills practice lead, working with teams across the business who’d like to learn agile ways of working.   

Communities of Practice   

The things I enjoy most about working at Co-op are the range of communities of practice we’ve got in place. A community of practice is a group of people who do similar roles and come together to support each other and share ideas on how they can do things better. There’s a community for so many different parts of the business such as engineering, content design, service, architecture, and one for delivery – which is where I work.  

Lots of organisations use communities of practice because they’re fantastic for learning new ideas, developing professional skills, and breaking down silos between different teams. Sometimes in a big, complex business, it can be easy to focus all your time on your own team’s work and miss chances to learn and develop using ideas from others. Communities of practice give time and a purpose for that.  

Making time for improvements  

Co-op’s communities of practice were founded back in 2016, and it was one of the main things that attracted me to move here. It’s important for us to make space for our communities of practice, as the improvements, support and value they bring are incomparable.   

In the delivery community of practice, we meet weekly for a session hosted either by one of the delivery managers or an external guest. This regular contact helps keep people in touch, encourages them to share ideas, ask for help, or talk about a challenge with people who may have experienced something similar.  

We’ve been evolving our community or practice for the last year or so, and now share responsibility for running the sessions across the different delivery managers. It's has been a great way to get to know people in more depth. Talking to my team about what topics we’re passionate about, and what we look for in a good session, has been really interesting.    

A visible impact on teams  

One session that I enjoyed helping to plan and run was about building successful teams. We used different techniques to draw out ideas people can use to help their teams discuss and improve how they were working together. This included: 
 

  • A knowledge share where people could talk about what they were already doing to see a range of ideas and swap techniques.  
  • A “what’s the worst team in the world” exercise using the anti-problem format. Talking about disasters helped to express what we wanted to avoid, and what to do about it.  
  • A “practical tips for team wellbeing” talk run by external guest Stephen Mounsey, bringing in lots of ideas from outside the Co-op community. 
  • A workshop on psychological safety, from two community members who’d researched studies and approaches used at a range of organisations which we could apply at Co-op.  
     

The community of practice sessions are so much more than just a tour of different ideas. It’s a place that helps us all to break out of existing thinking patterns, lean on one another for advice, and inspire new ways of working that have benefits for everyone.  

Neil Vass, 

Agile Skills Practice Lead 

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