The concept of Community of Practice (CoP) is a recent denomination with a long history back to the old age. CoP is a concept of knowledge sharing and learning in an organisation. Currently, the members of every organisation are focusing on implementation of communities of practice to improve the organisational performance. It is the concept of sharing knowledge among the people belonging to the same community in regards to their profession (Kim and Yoon, 2011). Considering the benefits of communities of practices, it has grown to be a necessity in the current business scenario. Hence, the paper developed to evaluate the role of communities of practice in a construction organisation and discuss its main characteristics and functions.
In order to evaluate the role of communities of practice, Al Sahel Contracting Company LCC has been chosen for the study. It is one of the reputed construction companies in the United Arab Emirates operating since 1976. ASCC employs around 350 professional experts and 2150 unskilled and skilled labours (Alsahelcon.com, 2016). Along with that, the company has several professional sub-contractors. The organisation employs professionals belonging to different communities of practice. The study presents different communities of practice that exists in the organisation and explains their characteristics and functions. Furthermore, the paper evaluates the issues and success of the community of practice in the ASCC and explains the areas of improvement in terms of sustainability. Along with that, the study discusses the strategies that are required for improving sustainability through the community of practice.
Community of Practice
The concept of communities of practices was first introduced by Lave and Wenger. Communities of practices are a group of people belonging to same professions sharing knowledge and experience among themselves to improve the performance of the industry. The construction industry of UAE has a community of practice for the construction organisation owners to share knowledge and implement learning to active sharing of experiences (Kim and Yoon, 2011). On the other hand, Al Sahel Contracting Company has certain other communities that involve a group of architects, civil engineers, contractors, labour union, and designers. All these communities play an active role in improving the performance of the organisation.
The Architectural Association of the UAE, Society of Engineers and the UAE Contractors’ Association are several active Communities of Practice that controls the operations of the organisation (Robichaud and Anantatmula, 2011). The company needs to be an active member of the UAE Contractors’ Association to carry on with its operations in the market. Furthermore, the architects working for the ASCC must be a member of the Architectural Association of the UAE, and the engineers must get an enrolment or registration from the Society of Engineers (Kim and Yoon, 2011). All these Communities of Practice guides the operations of the professionals belonging to a particular community. On the other hand, these authorised bodies act on behalf of the entire group of professional to implement necessary rules and regulations in the market. Furthermore, the CoP act as a medium of sharing knowledge and learning that improves the skills and talents of every professional (Probst and Borzillo, 2008). The Labour Union act as a group of people who work on behalf of the contract labours to provide them with better work and work environment.
The CoPs arrange meetings and conferences in which the issues met by the construction industry are discussed to provide the professionals with better strategy and solutions to the problems. Hence, it can be seen that the CoPs work on behalf of the professionals to provide them with proper assistance and knowledge sharing (Robichaud and Anantatmula, 2011). The CoPs also aims to provide the workers with learning opportunities by sharing their views and problems. On the other hand, the CoPs introduce necessary legislations that must be followed by the members to maintain uniformity in professional practices.
Main Characteristics and functions
The Communities of Practice that is present in the Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC presents various common characteristics and functions that are important to understand. It helps to evaluate the role of Communities of Practice in a construction company (Marcelino-S?daba, Gonz?lez-Jaen and P?rez-Ezcurdia, 2015). Furthermore, the characteristics and functions help to understand how these communities work and their importance in improving the performance of the organisation. The characteristics and functions of Communities of Practice in Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC are discussed herein below:
The characteristics of CoPs in the Al Sahel Contracting Company are discussed herein below:
Group of people: The Communities of Practice is made of group of people working in an organisation or in a particular industry. The group is created to maintain unity and uniformity in professional practices (Koh and Crawford, 2012).
It is not a team or task force: The Communities of Practice are not a team or task force that is created to accomplish a particular task. CoPs are created to share knowledge and problems among the group members to increase their efficiency and practical skills.
There must be a common practice: It is important to have some common practice among the community members (Koh and Crawford, 2012). For example, the Architectural Association of the UAE consist of all architects working in the UAE market. They have a common profession to be a member of the community.
Exchange of Knowledge: Exchange of knowledge is the most important characteristic of a Community of Practice. Information is provided to the community members regarding the industry and new practices (Raymond and Bergeron, 2008).
Discuss problems: The problems faced at work are discussed and experienced members share their views to provide solution to the problems (Koh and Crawford, 2012). The community members are asked to share their problems that are discussed in the seminars to develop the members’ skills and knowledge.
Implement universal legislations: Universal rules and regulations are implemented by the Communities of Practices to maintain uniformity in the practices (Probst and Borzillo, 2008).
The functions of CoPs in the Al Sahel Contracting Company are discussed herein below:
Share knowledge: Sharing knowledge is the most important function of CoPs. The members of the communities are asked to share their experiences and views regarding any problem arising in the industry. Furthermore, the members are taught about new technologies that can be used in the professions to which they belong to improve their performance (Raymond and Bergeron, 2008).
Conduct meetings and conference: The CoPs conducts meeting on a regional or national platform to introduce the professionals to the industry leaders (Jaya and Frederika, 2015). Furthermore, the meetings and seminars are held to analyse common problems arising in the industry and get solution of the issues.
Implement rules and regulations: Implementing common rules and regulations for the benefit of the community members is an important function of the CoPs (Jaya and Frederika, 2015). The Community of Practices regulates the operations of the members to maintain uniformity in the practices.
Collective bargaining on behalf of the entire community: The authorised bodies act on the behalf of the entire community to collectively bargain with the employers and maintain a uniform wage rate throughout the country.
Evaluation of Success and Issues of Community of Practice
In the contemporary business scenario, Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC has identified the sustainable utilisation of Community of Practices effective for collaboration and knowledge sharing among the workforce (Talbot and Venkataraman, 2011). The identified communities of practices and organisational networks of the group have been instrumental in understanding the issues relevant to the organisational management reviewing the intricacy of the governance challenges, the efficiency of organisational decision-making, the ascendancy pattern and co-management procurements, and the existing social capital structure among the stakeholders to obtain mutual understanding (Blatt, 2008). Moreover, communities of practices have influenced the association of individuals seeking support and knowledge creating knowledge networks within the organisational structure. For instance, the team leaders of Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC have established clear distinctions for the rest of the subordinates to strengthen the knowledge sharing tactics for professional development of the new talents. Also, the social capital structure of the group has influenced the organisational human resources to exchange sufficient knowledge and information working together as a team (Mahalingam and Levitt, 2007).
Meanwhile, the communities of practices have enforced networked governance, inter-organisational governance and purposeful individual collaborations so that the knowledge sharing efforts and combined actions of the team members can form learning network effective for every individual participant (Schuiling, Cathcart and Badescu, 2008). As Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC has identified the most sustainable CoPs regarding designs and functionality are concerned, significant advantages have been accomplished at the managerial level. The latest technologies have been effectively utilised within the CoPs to achieve interactive settings. For instance, telephonic conversations, video conferencing and the internet platform have been identified as the networking technologies to connect the operations of the members of CoPs (Aubry et al., 2011).
The performance development of the subordinates has been one of the essential parts of the systematic process. Through the identification of the area of operations, the management of Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC has evaluated the most significant CoPs networks protecting the interests of the subordinates. As a result of such events, CoPs have served the organisation to be improved promoting knowledge sharing and performance assessment. On the other hand, the CoPs have contributed to creating the existence of bridges providing disciplined collaboration and diversity management (Lundin and S?derholm, 1995). In this way, the knowledge transfer can find broader standards within the organisational culture. By identifying the roles and responsibilities of the subordinates, Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC Group has improvised significant activities patterns through CoPs to meet the community’s orientation creating sustainable networks in the target market.
Area of improvement in Community of Practice (CoP) Group in terms of sustainability
Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC has unified engineers’ community, designers’ community, architects’ community and other distinct communities at the expertise level. Therefore, maintaining sufficient communities of practices have been the key to the organisational sustainability. In the existing business affairs, Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC is needed to take a look at their engineers’ communities of practices to provide significant corporate sustainability in the massive target market (Sacks, 2013). The commitments of the communities are massively important to the business success of a construction organisation. As the network of connections of the engineers has shared domain interest at the corporate structure, significant CoPs collective competence can increase the productivity of the firm in an automatic way (Aubry, M?ller and Gl?ckler, 2011). As one of the large-scale construction organisation of the target market, Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC needs to manage complex construction project managements with a high level of difficulties. Hence, the activities of the architects must dictate terms for sustainable business growth. In terms of larger industry perspective such as construction industry, self-forming CoP has contributed in an efficient manner to the organisational success of Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC. The designing architects’ community of the corporation has formed a significant community of practice providing inventiveness at the operations management (Okafor C, 2014).
Meanwhile, the designing architects’ community of Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC has held the key to success. The emerging community of practices has connected the members providing opportunities of knowledge sharing through meetings and seminars. Through the identification of contemporary issues in engineering project managements, the CoPs have explored the ramifications of latest ideas and innovative thinking of the members for instrumental decision-making. By understanding the goals and objectives of the firm, CoPs core group has maintained programmatic integrity to meet the objectives of the firm (Antonio et al., 2013). Also, Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC’s management has enforced knowledge and skill development programmes among the subordinates of the designing group to fix any issues linked to the project management. Evidently, Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC corresponds to a cross-section of the identified CoP group so that the strategic functionality and business proposition of the construction firm will be highly benefitted (Tukiainen and Granqvist, 2016). The acceptance of the CoP’s core group has provided the leverage to the members of the group to focus on their work on a positive note. The collective collaboration from the team members has influenced the performance standards of the participants to prove their worth securing corporate sustainability (Indelicato, 2014). Thus, Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC has been highly recommended to concentrate on the designing architects’ community for further propagation.
Strategy for improving sustainability through community of practice
Different strategies can be used to improve sustainability through community of practice. It can be seen that every community works on individual perspective to improve the performance of the members belonging to a particular community. Hence, there is a need to improve the strategies of the communities of practices to improve sustainability through community of practice. The recommended strategies with proper justification are presented herein below:
Communication among the communities: There is a need of proper communication among different communities of practices to improve their performance. It will help to share the problems among all members of the organisation and help to improve their performance. Furthermore, it will lead to sustainable development of business (Abaza, 1996). Communication among the communities will lead to unity in the organisation that will help the management to implement a better workplace environment.
Common goal for all communities: There must be a common goal set for the members of all communities that is sharing of knowledge and improving performance in a sustainable way (M?ller et al., 2013). It will help the management to seek the common targets and missions of the company.
Implement technology: There is a need to implement technology in the practices of the CoPs. The organisation can develop a common community for all employees of the organisation using the social media platform to interact with each other and share their problems and views (M?ller et al., 2013). The social media platform will act as a medium of learning and sharing knowledge.
Implement enhanced corporate social responsibility: There is a need to implement corporate social responsibility policies in the operations of the CoPs to improve sustainability in the organisation. It will improve the performance of the CoPs and help the organisation seek growth in a sustainable manner.
As identified in the above discussion, communities of practices have enforced collective learning process including organisational subordinates in a shared sphere of influence of human endeavour. Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC has identified their management issues and problems relevant to complex business challenges to implementing effective CoPs in the required space. Meanwhile, a clique of engineers and designers of the organisation has seemed to be managed using efficient knowledge sharing techniques. Through the identification of the same issue, the engineers belonged to the CoP must explore the latest techniques to evaluate the best management methodologies. In a nutshell, in modern project development scenario, communities of practices of Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC can share their concerns and issues on a given problem that is similar to each of the member. Understandably, the frequent conversations and knowledge sharing endeavour of the participants can identify the best solution available to the problem. Moreover, the CoPs have included three primary characteristics such as domain, community and practices within the organisational culture of Al Sahel Contracting Co LLC to manage any project management issues based on unified expertise. Conclusively, the identified communities of practices in the organisational culture of the construction firm have given the significant competitive edge to the business.
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