October 26, 2009

It's Like Being Able to Call Him Up And Ask A Question

In this post I would like to share with you a discussion that took place with someone who had participated in a knowledge harvest exercise. Some of the details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

We had been engaged to conduct a number of knowledge harvest interventions and create knowledge assets with the resulting material. Also part of the scope was to transfer our skills in knowledge harvesting to the in-house knowledge management team and provide them with a knowledge harvesting toolkit. Knowledge harvesting is a process whereby the experience and knowledge of one or more individuals is gathered, distilled, packaged and made available to a wider audience. It is used in private, public and third sector organisations, frequently when someone is leaving the organisation and the organisation wishes to retain the knowledge.

We were conducting the end of project retrospect to identify and capture the learning from conducting the knowledge harvests and transferring the skills to the in-house knowledge management team when in response to the question, ‘what could have worked better’, one of the interviewees responded that they thought that the edited transcript of their interview was very poor indeed. There was repetition, the grammar was loose and it just wasn’t the tightly scripted text that he was used to.

This was great feedback as it allowed us to then ask the second part of the retrospect question, ‘what could we do to avoid it next time?’

For me, that’s when the real learning from this interviewee occurred.

The interviewee explained that they were so disappointed by the edited transcript they had been given that they decided to look at how the material from one of the previous interviews had been packaged as a knowledge asset on their intranet. They shared with the group how as they read the knowledge asset on the intranet they could imagine the person sitting in front of them saying those words, in that way, with the same mannerisms. It was interesting that on a survey of people who had also visited the knowledge assets someone else commented “It’s like being able to call him up and ask a question”.

They went on to explain that they suddenly realised that the text they were given to review and edit wasn’t intended to be a tightly scripted report or business case but rather it was intended to replicate how they spoke and shared insights when speaking with people. They finished by saying that once they had got that into their head and how it would come across to the end user, it was like they themselves were talking to them.

At the end of the dialogue we asked them to summarise the learning for the future. There were two main learning points;
• When asking the interviewee to review and edit the text that you want to finally convert into a knowledge asset and load onto the intranet, if possible show them an example of a knowledge asset so that they will understand that the text they have been given is not intended to be a tightly scripted report but rather something that when the end user reads it, they will imagine the person is sitting opposite them share those words with them
• Knowledge harvesting works as a process and helped to identify the key knowledge that they wanted to impart to others

I have been doing knowledge capture and packaging for a long time but this is the first time that an interviewee has so succinctly described the difference between the text that is in a report and the text that appears in a knowledge asset.
So if you are planning knowledge capture and packaging, it might be worth highlighting the difference to any interviewee before you send them the text to review and edit.

Knoco Ltd

October 20, 2009

Innovation Builds on Best Practice

In some instances there is good practice, in others it might be best practice while in yet others there might be no practice.

I was reading a blog entry entitled Just Tell Me What Works! It was interesting how it mentioned that on some days you just want to be told what to do and how to do it. There is clearly evidence of this in the huge number of cookery books that are sold each year but it is equally true of industry. If you think of industrial processes, in many instances the goal is consistency or standardisation. We don’t want people to innovate, we want them to produce the product or deliver the service in the standard way. If you have several plants, you want to raise the productivity or quality level across the board, having one plant that is 95% efficient while the vast majority are less than 85% efficient isn’t what most industrial managers are after, they want to raise all of the them to the same level.

A recognised way of doing this is to identify a good example of how to do it and replicate that in other locations. We used the term ‘good practice’ in the BP Operations Excellence programme. After we had identified several ‘good practices’, we developed from them, the ‘best practice’. It was only after the ‘best practice’ was identified (and agreed by the practitioners) that it was rolled out and all plants encouraged to implement that method. After all if there was an agreed ‘best practice’ to do an activity, why would you not want to use it? Learning was captured on an ongoing basis and the ‘best practice’ updated periodically.

Now I hear some mention the words like ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’. Perhaps you are thinking that the use of best practice will inhibit innovation and creativity. For me this is where context is vital.

In some situations, you don’t want innovation or creativity, you just want it done in a standard, consistant fashion.

If you are running a chemical plant, you don’t want the operator to innovate. If you are manufacturing microchips, you don’t want the technicians to innovate. If you are launching a new product into a target market, you perhaps don’t want innovation but standardisation. If you are decommissioning a nuclear power plant, perhaps you don’t want innovation during the work phase.

Innovation should be built on current best practice. One of the key lessons from the Knoco Bird Island exercise is that if you ask people to do something, they will frequently start based on their own experience. When you illustrate the current best practice that has been achieved by several hundred people before them, they are frequently overwhelmed as to how poor they achievement was compared to what has already been established.

Where appropriate give them the best practice and ask them to innovate from there. For example if by the introduction of AAR’s the time to change filters has been reduced from 240 hours per screen to 75 hours and a best practice created illustrating how this is achieved, innovate from the best practice figure of 75 hours, not the previous figure of 240 hours but only if it is safe to do so. In some instances innovation must be done in test area, ideas thought out, prototypes created and tested before the agreed modification is installed in the main plant.
Innovation is great but let’s lay out the challenge of doing it from what is the best practice level currently. If you haven’t achieved the best practice level of performance, perhaps the goal should be to achieve that level of performance before seeking to innovate.

I liked Shell’s innovative way of tapping into the collective knowledge of the global LinkedIn community to seek innovative ways of making stranded gas commercial. I liked how I was alerted to their request. Natural gas is said to be ‘stranded’ when it is too difficult or uneconomic to produce perhaps because it is located too far away from where it’s needed or because it requires expensive treatment to remove things in the gas. You are interested in reading more about stranded gas click here. Shell are currently seeking bright ideas on how to get stranded gas from where it is to where it is needed. A good example of attempting to unlock previously left behind resources. If you have want to make your mark, this could be a good way of doing it, both in terms of innovation and financial reward.

And finally for this posting;

I was doing some research and came across a web site entitled “40 Fantastic Time-Wasting Web Sites”. Now while I am sure you could easily list more than 40 time wasting web sites, you might be interested to try Stripgenerator that assists you to create your own comic strip. I am going to be on a train tomorrow that has wifi, so I might even try to create a ‘strip blog’ during the journey. Who knows I might be on the very verge of creating the knowledge management equivalent of Dilbert. Just remember that you read about it hear first.

Sign Knowledge

As I travel I come across warning signs that I sometimes don't understand. Perhaps for that reason I loved this site which has a collection of warning signs from around the world.

October 9, 2009

Knowledge Cafe and Know-How Capture

I am looking forward to being one of the interviewers and advisors to the case study companies participating in the Intellectual Assets Centre Supplier Gathering at Our Dynamic Earth on 1st December 2009.

My role will be to help tease out the know-how capture motives and expectations of the case study companies and the extent to which conducting know-how capture activities might add value to the enterprises.

This will be the afternoon session which will give me the opportunity to participate in the Knowledge Café on Knowledge Sharing Strategies being run by David Gurteen in the morning.

Details of the Intellectual Assets Centre can be found here and details of other upcoming events that they organise can be found here. I have attended the "Love Me Tender" course and can highly recommend it.

For those who haven’t visited Dynamic Earth before, it’s well worth a visit. I will probably use the excellent Park and Ride as driving in Edinburgh can be a bit of a challenge. There is one at Edinburgh Airport and one at Hermiston.

Papers on knowledge and know-how capture can be obtained here.

Negative Thinking Adds Value

I am on vacation next week and really need to finalise the text for my next book which covers knowledge management in sales and marketing. I have been using a mind map to identify what I need to cover and the key points that I want to make. I like how mind maps create a visual imagine of what needs to be included in a book and also the sub topics. The software that I use also lets me move the map and associated text about if I decide at a later date to change the sequence to make it easier for the reader to follow.

I was chatting with my colleague, Nick Milton, and he suggested as a sense check that I had included all the points that I wanted to include that I should look at it from a reverse direction. So instead of putting all the things that I think need to be included in a good knowledge management system for sales and marketing people, I should list all the things that would be MISSING or ABSENT from a good knowledge management system for sales and marketing people. I tend to be a half full type of person so thinking in a half empty way is a bit of a challenge for me but one that I am up for.

So here is the start of my list of things that would prevent knowledge management being successful in a sales and marketing environment or things that you could do to inhibit knowledge being shared and re-used in that environment. I will add to the list as time goes by;

1. Pay them to do it
2. Ensure they have to update the CRM tool immediately they are finished with the client
3. Ensure they share all leads with their peers
4. Ensure that information can only be shared via a secure desktop
5. Mandate it
6. Insist that all knowledge about clients is a corporate asset
7. Don’t give them credit for re-use of their knowledge in new sales
8. Ensure no team bonus are available
9. Focus all performance rewards at the individual level
10. Don’t make it anyone’s responsibility to manage the knowledge of the department

It certainly gives you a different perspective on things if you look at them from a how to ensure you aren’t successful perspective.

Knoco Ltd

Do You Believe This Knowledge?

I was having a cup of coffee when I picked up a publication that was sitting on the table. I flicked through it until the following caught my eye;

“A cockroach’s favourite food is glue on the back of stamps”

My first reaction was probably, I didn’t know that, followed by, isn’t that interesting. But then as it started to sink in I found myself thinking, how do they know that? In what context did they learn that?

Had they been trying to design a new food for people who keep cockroaches as pets I wondered? I could just imagine the television adverts. Nine out of ten cockroaches who expressed a preference preferred Stampo, made with real stamp glue extract! Feed your cockroach each day with Stamp to give them that health shine to their shell. And in a few years time there would be Stampo with added vitamins.

Or did they acquire this knowledge while trying to invent some new cockroach trap or method of eradicating them? Find the thing that cockroaches can’t resist, use it to lure them into the trap or perhaps eat the poison that will be fatal to them?

The context within which they had made this discovery, found this new knowledge is important. In one context we have happy, thriving cockroaches while in the other we have cockroaches who are no more. Context is important. Do you want happy cockroaches or unhappy cockroaches!

The other thing that spring to mind was, how do they know that? Did they conduct thousand of trails tempting cockroaches with different foods until they found the one that they preferred? If so who funded all of this experimentation. Did they mean that all cockroaches from anywhere in the world would find any glue from any stamp from anywhere in the world to be their favourite food?

Did I trust them? Was there any research or science behind this or was it just something written to occupy people such as me, while they were drinking their coffee?
Now while it might be easy to dismiss this story of me and my coffee break as trivia just reflect on some of the lessons that are in your lessons learned database. How many of them have the context in which the lesson was learned? How many of them contain sufficient detail to allow you to access if there was real learning behind the lesson or that it was just personal opinion?

The next time I meet a cockroach (which I hope will be a very long time from now) I will be sure to ask them if it’s true that their favourite food is the glue on the back of stamps.

Knoco Ltd

October 6, 2009

Knowledge Management for the dawn of the Post-Recession

Implementing Knowledge Management is the theme of the autumn edition of the Knoco newsletter including “Knowledge Management for the dawn of the Post-Recession”. It’s available for at http://www.knoco.com/knowledge-management-news.htm