In additional to my teaching duties at West Point, I am a member of the core support team that runs the Company Command (CC) and Platoon Leader (PL) Communities of Practice. Last week we had our annual gathering of topic leads and thought leaders. (Read about the 2012 Rendezvous here).
We reviewed our mission and purpose and then read aloud an article from August 2009 where member shared the impact of the forums.
Reviewing our purpose by reconnecting with the article energized the team and was a great way to kick off the event. The article can be read here and below are some excerpts from it:
The CC forum has given me a laboratory to test theories,
A sounding board for ideas and a support group of peers
larger than I ever could have had without it. Not only have I
used things that I have seen and talked about in the forum in
training for combat, I have used them in combat, with suc-
cess. The stories and scenarios available in the forum have
allowed me to think through situations before I faced them.
Even better, I placed my platoon leaders into situations that
they were able to think about prior to and during deploy-
ment. The forum saves lives on a daily basis.
Upon my return from Iraq as a company commander in
2004, I was looking for a way to reach out and share my
experiences with others. My greatest concern was passing
on relevant lessons learned that were not getting to those
Soldiers currently training for deployment because of the
time it takes for our organization to adapt as a whole. With
Company Command, I was able to contribute and connect
with leaders going into training for deployment, those al-
ready in theater and those who had already been there. In
terms of professional interaction with my peers, the profes-
sional experience was second to none, save my Captains
Career Course at Fort Benning, Ga.
I found leaders who could relate and offer advice. When 15 months
stretched on and tested my will to endure, I could post my
struggles and, without ever meeting the respondents, over-
come the challenge.
Another topic was the importance of what Wenger ( Author of Communities of Practice ) calls “back-stagework”. The team shared success stories of working behind the scenes to connect members to each other and have their questions answered. The knowledge of the profession is in the tip of the spear and when the members that form the tip engage in conversation, knowledge is created.
In the book CompanyCommand: Unleashing the Power of theArmy Profession Wenger advises community leaders to never to underestimate the importance of the ‘back-stage’ work of keeping in touch, calling people, and getting to know people. He writes that “back-stage” work leads to “”front-page results”. It’s easy to think as a leader that your responsibility is the ‘front-page’ stuff-the content, the conversations, the things that are visible. But in fact it’s the back-stage work-keeping in touch, calling people, knowing people-that is so important to building a successful community. Back-stage work done by passionate community leaders leads to front-page results Back-stage work doesn’t get noticed or produce immediate results. Leaders will do it only if that is who they are and what they are passionate about. Wenger (2005, cited in Dixon, et al, 2005, p. 167). Back-stage work is critical to the success of the community. Leaders who do not have a passion will not have the energy for this type of work which will have an effect on the quality of the content, conversations, and connections within the community.
The CC and PL Communities of Practice recently transitioned to a new technology platform. So to get the topic leads acquainted with the new platform the team conducted topic leader certification, which consisted of a number of tasks to be completed by the topic leads (See picture below).
|Topic Lead Certification Checklist|
The team also conducted a physical fitness session as a team building exercise. It is important forleaders to be physically fit and this was a great event to watch as the topic leads and core support team members supported and pushed each other during the workout.
The power of the team was evident during the workout and all the other events. The topic leads and core support team left the gathering Positive, Inspired and Energized for the year ahead.