Create a Community of Practice

Any U-M staff member can start a Michigan IT Community of Practice, regardless of which unit you work for, or seniority level. Once you have reviewed the following guidelines and resources, use this request form to create a new Community of Practice (CoP).

If you have any questions, please email michigan-it-cop@umich.edu.

Guidelines for Getting Started

Have a clear purpose

Each group defines their own goal & charter, which could be a specific outcome (develop skills) or informally just to network, build relationships, or talk about a common interest. Having a clear description/purpose statement helps members understand when and how to engage with the group.

TIPS

  • Research existing CoPs, Centers of Excellence, SIGs, etc. to determine if your CoP should be a distinct group or join forces with another group.
  • Do an annual evaluation or health check of the group. If value exists, people will keep coming, if not, close it up. It’s perfectly acceptable to try something and have it not last. Experiments are worth trying. CoPs only exist as long as they provide value.

Consider Membership

Diversity is important. Most CoPs are open to any member of the U-M IT community without restrictions, however, there may be times when it makes strategic sense to restrict membership. Just explain the criteria to help others understand.

TIPS

  • Assign at least two facilitators of your community.
  • Designate a community organizer / discussion leader
  • Consider rotating leadership to help share responsibilities of finding rooms, BlueJeans set up, speakers, etc.  

Determine meeting frequency

Choose a meeting frequency. Only meet as often as practical, once a month, once a quarter, twice a year, or whatever works best. Groups can meet in person or exist online only, or a mixture of the two.

TIPS

  • Face to face communication and discussion is key.
  • Add your meetings to the CoP Calendar (email michigan-it-cop@umich.edu to request access to the shared calendar).

Establish group principles

Establish principles to ensure that your meetings are productive and respectful forums. Some ideas on principles include:

  • Everyone participates. Encourage each other and create a trust.
  • Humor is great. It’s ok to have a good time.
  • Take some risk. Share your thoughts and ideas even if not fully “formed.”
  • Listen first. Keep an open mind and try to understand.
  • Trust positive intent (don’t assume or be quick to react).
  • It’s ok to disagree. Constructive disagreement is helpful.
  • Have patience. Let ideas develop.
  • Speak for yourself. Use “I” and empathize.
  • Stay on track. Stick to the topic.

Communicate

Make it easy to share information within and outside of your CoP by establishing some standard communication practices.

TIPS

  • Create a self-joinable MCommunity group for your community
  • Always include a meeting description when adding CoP meetings to the CoP event calendar
  • Share agendas, notes, and other docs in a common location (Google Team Drive, Box, etc.)
  • Submit articles to Michigan IT News to announce your CoP or share information about upcoming or recent discussions
  • Use Michigan IT templates and branding for presentations and signs
  • Use the #MichiganIT hashtag when promoting your CoP on social media

Make it official

To form a new Community of Practice, please use this request form to provide your group's name, the names of your facilitators, and a brief description of your group's purpose. The Michigan IT CoP facilitators team will then follow-up with you to:

  • Add your facilitator(s) to the CoP facilitators group. The group meets several times a year to share input / best practices for facilitating CoPs.
  • Give your facilitator(s)access to add meetings to the CoP Calendar on the CIO website
  • Create a basic CoP webpage for your CoP on the CIO website
  • List your CoP in the “CoP Community Directory”
  • Create a folder for your CoP on Google Team Drive

If you have any questions, please email michigan-it-cop@umich.edu.