By Murray Guy, MBA, P.Eng, PMP, LEED, LCI-C Member-at-Large, Founder of Lean Lab
“Today’s economy runs on knowledge, and Communities of Practice (COP) are a relatively new organizational form that that can radically galvanize knowledge sharing, learning, and change. They are formed by groups of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise.” 
The Saskatoon Community of Practice was started to engage like minded individuals in learning more about lean principles and practices and how they can be used to drastically improve business and project outcomes. For our first event we invited people from property management, construction, design, manufacturing and the building industry supply chain to a Lean Coffee event.
A Lean Coffee is a great way to kick start the formation of a COP. It helps facilitate the group forming, storming and norming process in a democratic and collaborative way. We found a Lean Coffee Infographic that was used to guide us in how to select and discuss topics that are of mutual interest to the majority of the group members. We used this for the first two events that were run on the last Friday of the month for an hour.
We discussed such topics as Study Action Teams (SAT), Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Lean Project Delivery (LPD), Lean Construction Institute – Canada (LCI-C), Target Value Design, Last Planner System, Lean Enterprise Transformational Model and Prefabrication. We also discussed lean reference materials and books including “The Toyota Way”, “Broken Buildings Busted Budgets”, “High Velocity Edge”, “This is Lean”, “Transforming Design and Construction” and the “Commercial Real Estate Revolution”.
The COP then decided we wanted to delve deeper into lean methods, tools and go on tours of businesses that have adopted lean practices. Over the next year we organized presentations and tours that were attended by ten to twenty people:
- “This is Lean” a presentation on the Nuggets from the Lean Construction Institute conference in Boston;
- “The Lean Turn Around” a tour of the POS Bio-Processing Center where they adopted lean strategies to save their industrial bio-processing business;
- Lean Manufacturing at Superior Millwork where we learned how lean is applied to manufacturing;
- 5S Simulation: Why and How it helps to Build a Lean Culture.
Next we decided to host a larger event and called it Lean Talks. At this event we adopted the format of Ted Talks and had twenty minute presentations on the following topics:
- With 11 Billion People on the Planet … Is Lean Enough?
- How does Lean get us to a Green Building Industry?
- Have you Created your Lean Project Check List?
- Integrated Lean at Every Step of the Way
- DIRTT Lean @ Arab Health Conference
- Changing Culture from Government Funded to Lean Entrepreneur
Most recently our group has decided to pursue formal training on Lean Project Delivery and are pilot testing the Lean Construction Institute of Canada (LCI-C) “Lean Project Delivery Certification Program“. The program includes three levels of certification, our group participated in the Level 1 Lean Project Delivery Fundamentals Workshop, will write the exam and apply for Level 1 certification. The plan is to schedule the “On Schedule with the Last Planner System” for January 27, 2017 which will be followed by the “Hitting the Target with Lean Design” workshop in February, 2017.
Next we are going to go online with a morning Lean Coffee and run a Study Action Team (SAT) studying the book “The High Velocity Edge” by Stephen Spears. Interested members of our COP will get together for a one-hour SAT kick-off event which will then be followed by approximately ten 45-minute online coffee break sessions to learn about the four capabilities needed to build a high velocity company. The beauty of this format will be the ability to engage with people remotely, which should enable more people to participate.
Our experience has been that starting a COP can be a great way to promote the spread of best practices, develop professional skills and create a network that can result in mutually beneficial business relationships. A community of practice may or may not have an explicit agenda on a given week, and even if it does, it may not follow the agenda closely. Inevitably; however, people in communities of practice share their experiences and knowledge in free-flowing, creative ways that foster new approaches to working together. 
We have shared our COP start-up story in hope that we can help others create and sustain a community of like minded professionals interested in pursuing knowledge of lean practices. If you are interested in getting one going in your community, we hope this blog has provided a bit of a recipe. If you would prefer to get some help getting one going, please contact LCI-C to arrange for someone to help organize and facilitate the first event.
 Communities of Practice: The Organizational Frontier, Etienne C. Wenger, William M. Snyder, Harvard Business Review Jan. 2000