June 29, 2009

New Plant Construction Knowledge Asset

I have just uploaded a new video clip in which I relate the story of creating a knowledge asset for a technology company. You can watch it here or here.

In the clip I tell how I was commissioned to create a knowledge asset for a company who had recently built a technology plant. They thought that the focus of the learning would be about ‘hard things’ like foundations, commissioning or early production runs. As it turned out the main learning was about how to negotiated with governments at national and local levels; how to obtain permits; how to work with trade unions etc.

When you are creating a knowledge asset while it is important to capture that ‘obvious’ learning be careful you don’t miss the learning that starts to appear when you interview someone and engage them in a dialogue. In this example that proved to be the most useful learning as they could use it when they subsequently built plants in other countries.

Knoco Ltd

June 26, 2009

Knowledge Management Benchmarking

The analysis of the assessment and benchmarking interviews continues to proceed well. It is always interesting when you start to compare the findings of the most recent assessment with that of the benchmark data that we have available. In many organisations knowledge flows reasonably well through the communications route but relies on you being part of the social network and know who to talk to. If you are a new hirer or have moved to a different part of the organisation you may struggle as your social network has not been established in that area. For that reason, relying on communicate as the sole way of knowledge transfer can be quite a dangerous strategy.

Knoco Ltd

June 24, 2009

Knowledge Management Assessment Interviews

I have just completed a series of knowledge management assessment and benchmarking interviews. As usual the interviews uncovered a number of extremely interesting points on how knowledge is currently managed within that organisation. It has given us a clear insight to the current status and the way for forward. The depth and richness of the dialogue has assisted us to uncover things that self assessment approach just wouldn't have uncovered. This point was made very clearly by the client representative after they had listened to our initial feedback.

Knoco Ltd

June 23, 2009

Knowledge Management Webinar for Indian Audience

I agreed to deliver another webinar to an Indian audience. The interest in knowledge management in India continues to develop at a rapid pace. The thirst for knowledge would appear to have no limit. The previous webinar was very well attended with some excellent questions being asked from the attendees. I really enjoyed the dialogue, so much so that I agreed to present at this one. The topic for this webinar is how you implement knowledge management in a step wise and systematic fashion.

Knoco Ltd

June 18, 2009

Knowledge Transfer the Ancient Way

There is an old saying in this part of the world that that goes something like, ‘in order to be able to understand the present you must first understand the past’.

I recently came across an example which on first reading appeared to be an early example of a community at work. However on second reading I began to wonder if it really was a community or just individuals acting within the system that had been established for the behaviour. Either way, let me recall the story and you can decide for yourself.

The story goes that a long time ago the Babylonians had a very few physicians so they relied on an alternative strategy for tackling illness. The story goes on to recall how anyone who was sick would be placed in the town square and under penalty of the law no one was allowed to pass the sick person without offering them advice that could treat their sickness if they themselves had suffered from that sickness or had known someone who had suffered from that sickness are. Although the story doesn't explicitly say it, it would appear that if you knew nothing about the sickness you are allowed to walk on past unhindered.

It was then left to the ill person to decide which treatment they would utilise to cure the illness.

Unfortunately the story does not have a feedback loop so is difficult to know whether this method of knowledge transfer was successful or not. Presumably it was successful if there were lots of people passing through the town square telling the ill person the same thing.

This story also illustrates for me that knowledge transfer works best when it is Pull involved, that's to say someone wants the knowledge. In this example the sick person wants the knowledge and presumably by standing in the town square is proactively seeking that knowledge.

I guess this is the modern equivalent of ‘phone a friend’ or ‘twitter a friend’.

Knoco Ltd

June 17, 2009

How Do You Value Your Employees?

There is a growing awareness that taking a cost focused approach to releasing employees could lead to a solution that is acceptable in the short term but not the longer term.

The traditional approach has been to release the more expensive employees first, without giving a lot of credit to their experience and knowledge. Many organisations have released employees with huge amount of knowledge and experience only to have to hire them back shortly thereafter as ‘consultants’ because they had the knowledge the company required to function correctly.

If you are in a downsizing or restructuring mode, consider looking at employees through a knowledge lens to ensure that you retain the key knowledge that your company requires and don’t fall into the traditional cost focused approach.

Knoco Ltd

June 16, 2009

Truth and Knowledge Management

I have been doing some knowledge management assessment interviews recently and it was noticeable the number of times the word ‘trust’ came up in the conversations. For obvious confidentiality reasons I won’t disclose the industry or the company but ‘trust’ was very high on the personal agenda of those being interviewed.

They expressed how they needed to ‘trust’ the person before they would share with them. Equally they said that they needed to ‘trust’ someone before they would listen to any knowledge they might wish to volunteer to them. Now at one level this might seem very obvious but at another level I found myself wondering if the term ‘trust’ was being used as code to point to a cultural characteristic?

I had found on a previous occasion an organisation where it was fairly routine for management to listen to a suggestion and then comment on why it would never work (especially if it was being made by a junior member of staff). Sometime later the same idea would re-surface but as the idea of a more senior person.
Whatever the reason, trust is important to people when they are being asked to share or re-use knowledge.

Knoco Ltd

June 10, 2009

Surfacing the Less Obvious Issues

At the conclusion of an activity there can be an assumption that the lessons will all be about the hard issues addressed during the activity. While this might be the case, the most important lessons might be around softer issues. The retrospect is an ideal tool to surface and allow full understanding of the lessons associated with the ‘hard’ technical or process side of the activity but it will also surface the hidden lessons. For example a retrospect on an engineering project surfaced lessons around the design and how it was implemented but also identified that their engineers weren’t being trained in softer issues such as vendor management.

June 5, 2009

Knowledge Management Pilots

By now it is fairly widely known that the best way to transition from your master plan as encompassed in your knowledge management strategy is to test it via piloting. Given that, what makes a good pilot?

I think the way to identify a good pilot area starts with being able to answer the four criteria of;
• Something business-critical, which is new to (one part of) the organisation
• Repetitive activity, where continuous improvement is needed
• An area of activity which is carried out in several locations, and where performance levels vary
• An area of the business which is “stuck” due to lack of knowledge

If it passes these tests, I then ask;
• Does it have measurable impact?
• Does it have strong support (from management or target group)?
• Can others use the knowledge (is it transferable)?
• Can we do it (is it achievable)?

If these are all satisfied experience has show that this is a good pilot and I proceed.

Knoco Ltd

June 2, 2009

Knowledge Retention by Knowledge Harvesting

Knowledge retention is a very popular topic. We are all familiar with the issue and that of the aging workforce but the challenge is doing something about it.

Knowledge harvesting has become a common term used to protect a company against loss of knowledge especially associated with people leaving the organisation. In an ideal situation you should be constantly mapping individuals against your key company knowledge and ensuring that there is a process in place to ensure that their knowledge is made available to others in the organisation. However in some instances this isn’t possible and you need to do something just before the individual leaves. Knowledge harvesting is an excellent process in this situation.

I have written about this for May 2009 edition of IK Magazine. You can download a reprint (no need to register) here.

Knoco Ltd