Communities of practice in UK large contracting firms: contrasting application and non-utilized merits
Elmualim, A. A. and Govendera, K. (2008) Communities of practice in UK large contracting firms: contrasting application and non-utilized merits. Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 4 (3-4). pp. 149-159. ISSN 1752-7589
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To link to this article DOI: 10.3763/aedm.2008.0073
The idea of a community of practice (CoP) has been offered as the engine to unlock the potential of organizational resources, mainly knowledge and people, to achieve the strategic goal of sustained competitiveness. The relevance and application of CoPs in large UK contracting companies was investigated using two case studies. Contrasting variations in the understanding of the concept between the two contracting companies were observed. While a CoP was applied in one company with strategic intent, the concept was not fully understood in the other. In one company, only a third of CoP members surveyed agreed that CoPs were a vehicle for driving best practice and innovation throughout the business; this compared with more than 60% in agreement in the other contracting firm. The higher agreement and satisfaction of CoP members in the latter case study was the result of the management's understanding and commitment. CoPs require time and organizational support to mature. The strategic inception and management support of CoP application is vital for their maturation and progress. Although the construction industry change discourses portray CoPs as fostering an environment of trust, and hence serving as innovation and competiveness enablers, their potential contribution to contracting firms does not provide a compelling case and hence merits further research studies.