Building a CoP Maturity Model and Questionnaire Instrument – WIP

This blog is a slight departure from normal, and discusses a work in progress rather than a statement of fact or opinion. It is also an invitation for readers to participate and to contribute in something that everyone can reuse when done.

Those who wish to contribute can do so on the CoP Maturity Model Workshop Wiki


In anticipation of my next job, I have been doing several little projects, one of which was looking for a questionnaire instrument with which to measure the Community of Practice (CoP) status in an organization.

The idea was to get a snapshot of where the firm is in terms of CoPs, and then to both measure progress from that point as well as to use the knowledge to better shape an approach and to know where to push and where to pull.

The first step in any research or endeavor is usually to conduct a review of current literature – look to see what has already been done and to leverage that if possible rather than waste time re-inventing something that already exists.

What I found was absence of evidence – no questionnaires to be seen, and none of my 500+ LinkedIn contacts or network of Knowledge Management practitioners responded with any knowledge of such a tool.

CoP Construct Structure

Questionnaire design is hard work but quite enjoyable if you have the time, and presently I have some of that, so I set about the first step of questionnaire construction.

No, not writing a bunch of questions, but doing a mind-map of the constructs – two key principles in questionnaire design are to have high construct-validity and reliability over time.

The mind-map at time of writing looked like this:

[fig 1]

The major dimensions or constructs of “CoP Status” I believe are:

  1. Maturity
    Structure to be determined
  2. Penetration
    How far across the departments CoPs have spread, as well as how far up and down the hierarchical structure they concepts and practice has spread. Maturity could thus differ horizontally and vertically, with empty spots, immature patches, as well as enclaves of highly mature CoP presence.
  3. Activity/Energy (can’t decide between the two yet)
    Basically how busy are CoPs and how much effort are people putting into them. A CoP may be mature and have penetrated well, but still be subdued and exhibit low activity.
  4. Externalization
    A measure of whether CoPs had stayed within the organization or have spread outside to domain-specific bodies (e.g. SIGs, Fraternities, professional organizations, etc.), suppliers, customers, or business partners.

The bit that seemed least fleshed out was a maturity model, and again I surveyed for existing literature – and again came up relatively empty. Those people that already had a maturity model regarded it as proprietary, and those that didn’t, didn’t.

First-Pass CoP Maturity Model

Not to duplicate effort, I borrowed the basic CMM model, added a level 0 which I took to be a naïve baseline that would look something like Argyris’s Model-1 state rather than a null situation – The thought being that a naïve state would be structured in a typical silo fashion by department.

  1. Level 0 – Learned Incompetence
  2. Level 1 – Awareness of process
  3. Level 2 – Repeatable process
  4. Level 3 – Defined process
  5. Level 4 – Managed process
  6. Level 5 – Optimized process

I have added to each level a first pass substructure of what I think would be going on at that level of maturity.


  1. Level 0 – Learned Incompetence
    1. Unaware of CoP concepts
    2. No efforts to organize or associate
    3. SMEs isolated from others beyond silo boundaries
    4. Silo’s, Silo’s everywhere, nor any flow between
    5. ..?
  2. Level 1 – Awareness of process
    1. Awareness of basic CoP concepts
    2. Initial efforts to self-organize
    3. Initial definitions of purpose
    4. Invitation by social network across boundaries
    5. Sporadic flow between silos
    6. Celebration of desired outcomes
    7. Connectors and Mavens identified
    8. .. ?
  3. Level 2 – Repeatable process
    1. Scheduled meetings
    2. Membership criteria
    3. Rules of interaction
    4. Codes of conduct
    5. Controlled vocabulary
    6. Enforcement of norms
    7. Inter-silo flows regular but dependent on Connectors
    8. Salesmen identified and empowered cross boundaries via Connectors
    9. … ?
  4. Level 3 – Defined process
    1. Defined CoP purpose
    2. Domain defined
    3. Objectives defined
    4. Policies formalized
    5. Norms formalized
    6. KPIs and success factors defined
    7. Inter-silo flow mechanisms established and documented
    8. … ?
  5. Level 4 – Managed process
    1. Formalized processes and norms enforced according to a formalized process
    2. KPIs monitored and wayward activities brought under control accordingly
    3. Celebration events controlled
    4. CoP Champion formally identified
    5. Budget provisions for CoP activities established
    6. … ?
  6. Level 5 – Optimized process
    1. CoP is integrated into strategic decisions
    2. CoP utilized to gain competitive advantage
    3. Hiring mostly done via CoP external connections
    4. CoP forms integral part of marketing and branding
    5. … ?

What’s Next?

The next step is more minds and a bit of basic collaboration – I need some input and thoughts to flesh out, and then flatten, sharpen, and contextualize the framework so that we get something worth testing.

  1. Workshop, Brainstorm, Re-jig, and then Formalize the Model
  2. Test it out by seeing if it mirrors what exists out there.
  3. Construct the questionnaire instrument
  4. Test the instrument on a small population of well known organizations
  5. Rinse and repeat until it seems to have adequate reliability and show signs of construct validity
  6. Give it to everyone and hope they find it useful


CoP success in a firm is vital to many things and having tools to measure what level of maturity, penetration, and level of activity there is in this regard is important. Furthermore, CoPs can play a vital role in the branding and market image of a firm and CoP activity in external bodies can be a critical source of innovation at low investment cost.

This blog is a starting point to develop a usable instrument with which to carry out such measurements.


Please contribute to my self-knowledge and take this 1-minute survey that tells me what my blog tells you about me. – Completely anonymous.


Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management professional and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge to work.


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One Response to “Building a CoP Maturity Model and Questionnaire Instrument – WIP”

  1. 2010 in review « Matthew Loxton's KM & OL Blog Says:

    […] Building a CoP Maturity Model and Questionnaire Instrument – WIP November 2010 […]

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