Starting a Community of Practices using the Learning Canvas at VivaReal

VivaReal is a great Brazilian portal whose mission is to help people find their dream homes. I’m working there as an agile coach, and we had a great experience using the Learning Canvas in our first Community of Practices meeting.

A community of practices is a group that shares a passion for something they do, learning to improve it through interaction Click To Tweet

The agile coaching team was wondering about how to start a Community of Practices and we had the idea of using a subject that was continuously appearing in our discussions: Writing and slicing stories. In agile software development, a story is the high-level definition of a requirement so a developer can read and know what is being requested in order to deliver some functionality.

I started by asking two managers that shared challenges with this subject if they would like to discuss these pains in a quite heterogenous group to see what we can learn from different points of view, experiences and idea sharing. They agreed and we started the challenge.

I became the group’s Facilitator and on the scheduled date I started explaining Learning 3.0 and the Learning Canvas rules.

Also Read: A Learning Canvas experiment at Arexo

How to use the Learning Canvas to facilitate a Community of Practices

The Learning Canvas is a very simple tool composed of three roles and five moments to discuss. Let’s explain that:

Learning Canvas Roles:

  • Facilitator – The one who will facilitate the discussion using the Learning Canvas.
  • Asker –  The person who shares the problem about a given subject and needs help in order to solve it.
  • Sharer – Participants who are interested in contributing, sharing stories, experiences and ideas.

Learning Canvas Moments:

  1. Problems / Symptoms –  The Asker writes his problem on a Post-It and explains his main pains to contextualize everything. Sharers can ask more about these points in order to understand the problem, but without contributing their own ideas or experiences.
  2. Expected Results – The Asker explains to everyone what their expected results are in solving the problem.
  3. Anecdotes – The Sharers should jot down on Post-Its the Anecdotes experienced concerning the Asker’s problem or something similar. After that, each one explains what they filled in by sharing it with the group.
  4. Ideas – The Sharers list and offer ideas to address the problem. Ideas do not need to be connected to any previous experience or to any certainty. This is the time to let the imagination flow!
  5. To Try – Finally it’s time for Asker to assemble, summarize and share the action plan based on everything that was presented. This plan may contain Anecdotes and Shared Ideas or even a combination of the two.

With all these concepts aligned, as Facilitator, I asked the managers to share their pain points, zoning in on the ones that were really related to the main subject. How did I decide what was relevant and not? By asking everyone else in the room! After all, they were working with these stories each day.

We ended up with a good collection of Problems and Symptoms and I asked the Askers about their Expected Results.

With the expected results and symptoms up on our Learning Canvas, the community talked about the Anecdotes. The dynamic had a strict timebox because we didn’t have much time —  five minutes to fill in Post-Its with Anecdotes, two to explain them and another two to answer questions and solve any eventual doubts. Everything must be done without judgment.

This step worked really well and the Askers were already taking notes about what they were going to try.

At the end of the experience sharing, we talked about Ideas using the same dynamics we did in the step before. Ideas are sometimes the most controversial part because people tend to take care not to judge experiences but can often still judge Ideas. To begin this step I reinforced the importance of building something together even while we had different ways of thinking. To me, it was the richest part because we heard a lot of Ideas from different perspectives, which were accepted respectfully and helped the team build a new mindset.

Also Read: How to improve meetings with the Learning Canvas

Finally the Askers chose four Things to Try based on what they had listened to, promising to share results with the group (we created a Slack channel for that). The group was so overwhelmed by this particular challenge that the Askers offered help with anything that was tried.

I believe the Learning Canvas is a powerful tool to engage people in respectful discussions. It doesn’t matter if we think differently, the most important thing is to build together and the differences are like puzzle pieces — if you collaborate to bring the pieces together, a nice picture should appear, but, if you don’t collaborate, you’ll be left with loose, meaningless pieces.

Like a puzzle, if you collaborate, a nice picture should appear. If not, it's just a mess. Click To Tweet

During this week I challenge you to choose a meeting at your company that is already scheduled and run it using Learning Canvas.

How was it? Share with us in the comments below or in our collaborative discussion in the #learning channel of the Happy Melly Slack community. We are looking forward to hear from you!

A special thanks to my friend Thiago (@rhaiger) who helped me a lot during the facilitation and writing this post.Blog Footer


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This article is written by João Reis on March 13th 2017.

You can connect with João Reis in Google+.