Experience has been gained and a body of literature is building about how Communities of Practice within organizations are formed. We are learning about the progression of communities over time, how they evolve and mature, and about the factors that contribute to their sustainability. However, communities, being "living systems", do not live forever, or even very long. That said, exactly why and how does any particular Community of Practice disappear? This chapter will discuss the factors related to the ending of individual communities. Specifically, it will address three basic questions:
The material for this chapter is drawn primarily from observations of and experiences with the Communities of Practice within IBM Global Services. A number of these communities over the past six years have "disappeared", but they have not all "disappeared" in the same way. The authors will discuss patterns and variations that have emerged as these communities vanished from the organizational scene. In working with these communities, they have also developed a general guide to aid in the communities' transitioning. The authors will very briefly describe the steps in this guide.