Tanner James Blog

What makes a good P3 Community of Practice?

John Howarth

If your organisation is targeting P3M3® level 3 maturity in portfolio, programme or project management then you need to address this question, because the P3M3 model expects that “Forums exist for sharing organisational experience to improve individual and organisational performance”.

There are many good Communities of Practice out there already, however there is a problem – many of them are run by industry bodies or external organisations such as AIPM or PMI. While very well run and respected, they do not satisfy the P3M3 requirement, because it is has an organisational focus. 

So, here are a few pointers to get you started with your internal communities (or help improve your existing ones).


Why have a Community of Practice? Don’t over-think this. The answer is simple – to share organisational experience in portfolio, programme or project management.  One thing you may wish to think a little more about though is whether you want one or multiple communities? That probably depends on who you want involved…


If your first thought is to get all the project managers together or all the people running PMOs in your organisation together can I respectfully suggest you pause and think deeper. The reason I say that is you risk ‘preaching to the converted’ and/or creating a community which isn’t inviting to others.

I am not saying that project managers and people in PMOs should not be a part of the community, but rather you should cast you net wider. Interestingly, P3M3 provides a ready-made start-point for who you should target, in the sense that if you have already undertaken an assessment you will have identified those in key portfolio, programme and project management roles.

Whether you are familiar with P3M3 or not, I do strongly recommend that you involve executives/sponsors (perhaps they have their own community?) and involve business-side people.


Most Communities of Practice manifest themselves as a forum of some kind and to my way of thinking that is the best and easiest place to start before considering online content such as intranet sites. If you are going to share experience nothing beats talking with one another.

The content of a forum/meeting will obviously vary but I think there are some golden rules:

  1. do provide time for people to chat, perhaps in a structured way such as ‘speed-dating’;
  2. do make it inviting for newcomers and sceptics;
  3. do share knowledge and experience. ‘Show and tell’ or story-telling is a great way to find out what is happening on the next floor in your building;
  4. don’t argue about who has the best approach; and
  5. don’t talk too technically – technique is fine, but it’s much more interesting (and useful) to consider how it works in the real world.

Ideally in work time but not in the heart of peoples’ working day – breakfasts or late afternoon sessions seem to work well.

Pick somewhere that is easy for people to attend. If you run it at your premises then try to find a nice room. How about you talk to the EAs in the Executive Suite - running the first P3 Community of Practice there will send a really positive message.

Hopefully there are a few ideas here to get you started. If you are already running a successful P3 Community of Practice in your organisation please share your hints and tips so others can benefit from your experience.

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