Challenges in implementing communities of practice in organizations

By Priya Chetty on June 17, 2012

There are four major challenges associated with communities of practice (Clarke and Cooper, 2000). They are community challenge, management challenge, personal challenge and technical challenge.

Personal Challenge

The personal challenge focuses on enhancing the relationships among or between community members. Although the practices of communities have been applied in many organizations there are still some challenges in implementing them successfully (Wenger, 1996). The first challenge lies in making all employees equally participate in a community. A community of practice is helpful for the active practitioners and however, not suitable for the non practitioners. Therefore, the organizations need to ensure that all the members of the community exhibit equal level of participation.

Management challenge

The management challenge lies in explaining the organizations and people about the important of communities of practice (Lang, 2001). First of all evaluating the community results in terms of financial ratio is rather problematic. Effects cannot often be linked directly to tasks of the community of practice but could also result from other contextual factors. Moreover effects may only become apparent after creating time lag. Besides most of the outcomes of community are intangible assets therefore critical to measure. Secondly, assessing the exact community costs is challenging. They include not only cost of technology investments but also participation costs in the community, costs of meetings, costs for maintaining the technical framework and costs for promotional material, content publishing and so forth.  Therefore organizations have to take suitable steps for evaluating the effectiveness of communities of practice, making the employees understand their importance and emphasizing them to participate in the same.

Community challenge

 The community challenge is the real values creation for the community that bonds the members and coherently sustains the community’s life.  As the objective of CoP is to develop organizational performance, it is necessary to connect community of practice and their values assessment to the business strategy of organization. In accordance with this strategy a knowledge strategy must be developed taking into account knowledge based capabilities and resources as well as knowledge needed for processes and products.

Technology challenge

The technology challenge is the configuration of KM systems that assure effective exchange of information, retention and capture in a reusable form and to reflect upon and stimulate complicated human thinking.

These four keys areas must be nurtured legitimized and cared for to assure that support systems are not too strenuous for the community to lose appeal for the members and not too small to permit the community to wither


  • Lang, J.C. (2001); Managerial concerns in knowledge management, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2001, p32-57
  • Clarke, P. and Cooper, M. (2000); Knowledge Management and Collaboration, Proceedings of the Practical Applications of KM (PAKM2000), October, Switzerland, 2000.
  • Wenger, E. (1996); Communities of practice: The social fabric of a learning organization, The Healthcare Forum Journal, Vol. 39, Issue 4, July-August, 1996, p20.