August 29, 2014

Teaching Staff To Have Conversations

I have a Smartphone as I am sure you do.  I have to be honest and say that I mainly use it as a telephone rather than a surrogate computer, I could probably get by with a very simple mobile telephone but every now and then I find the additional functionality useful.  My Smartphone is not the central point of my life.

I first became conscious of it when I was in Hong Kong, then later on in China but have noticed that it is even happening in my local town. 

People don’t talk to each other any more; the Smartphone is the focal point of their existence.

I started to notice in restaurants that people sitting at the same table, eating together, instead of speaking between courses were instead totally immersed in their individual Smartphone.  It wasn’t just once of twice, it was almost universal; people in a social environment were spending the vast majority of their time together, doing an individual thing, interacting with their Smartphone rather than interacting with each other. 

The more I looked the more I saw the same phenomena, people sitting next to each other interacting with their individual Smartphone rather than interacting with each other.  Conversation was dead.

Why does this matter?  Well as we all know, conversation is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to sharing, capturing and re-using knowledge.  It is a foundational skill of knowledge management.  Does this mean that we need to teach our staff to “have conversations” and not just interact with their Smartphone if our work to introduce knowledge management is to be successful?

August 27, 2014

Don't #5 - Don't Over Staff Your KM Team With KM'ers

It was easier in the early days of KM; there were no formal qualifications in KM so when you put a team together you had to staff it with people from 'traditional disciplines'.

The first KM team that I was a member of had an engineer, a geologist, a project manager, a business person, an IT guy, an Admin person and others.  We were a pretty mixed bunch but we had the advantage that we understood the business, spoke it's language and had extensive personal networks in the business.  We understood what the business was trying to achieve and if we asked to speak with a senior manager about how KM might assist, we got a slot in their diary.

It's a bit different now (I wouldn't necessarily say better) in that many institutions offer some sort of formal qualification in KM.  The temptation therefore is to staff your KM team with people with formal KM qualifications.  I would suggest that would be a mistake.

To be effective the KM team needs to understand the business, speak it's language and be staffed with people that the organisation respects.  It is more likely that a combination of people who have a KM qualification and people with more traditional discipline backgrounds will be effective than if you have a KM team that is entirely made up of KM qualified people.

A lot of the KM qualifications that I have come across focus on the IT component or the taxonomy dimension of knowledge management and while these are important, to be successful in a business environment you need a wide spectrum of KM talents.

August 25, 2014

Don't #4 - Don't Forget To Plan For Success

A very common issue with knowledge management programs is the failure to plan for success and the increased demand that it will place on your resources. 

This is entirely understandable. 

In the beginning while you are confident that you are doing the correct thing, you don't know for certain how successful your KM efforts will be.  You proceed with cautious optimism.

You start with your assessment and benchmark, then move onto developing your KM strategy and the framework that you will use to deliver that strategy.  You design the implementation schedule to focus on the business areas where KM can have the greatest impact or perhaps the areas which are creating the greatest pain for the organisation.  Your focus and resources will be deployed to deliver those outcomes but what about all the other parts of the organisation who are looking in and observing what you are doing?  Whose going to help them?

As you start to deliver significant benefit to the business, other areas of the business will want to replicate those efficiency improvements or cost reductions but you don't have the resources to assist them.  What do you do? 

You can increase your resources by internal recruitment (always a difficult thing); you can hire external resources to help with the peak demand; you can create self help resources that the other parts of the business can use on their own without your assistance.

Whatever tactics you decide to deploy, please don't under estimate the demands on your resources that will come from other parts of the organisation as they see you deliver significant performance improvement.  The old saying, "I want some of that" will become the chant as business unit leaders and functional heads beet a path to your door.

August 11, 2014

Consequences Of Not Using Known Knowledge

A lot of material written in blogs focuses on capture and transfer of knowledge but in this post I would like to focus on the consequences of not using knowledge that you already have access to.  Using what you personally or the organisation already knows.

I would like to share with you an experience that happened recently to my family.

My father decided to move a concrete paving slab in the garden.  He used a spade to leverage the slab out of the ground and then dropped the spade on the ground next to where he was working.  He knew that this was wrong but he still did it.  He knew he should have had a clear workspace but he ignored knowledge that he already had.  Why did he do it?  Moving this slab will only take a couple of minutes; too lazy to put the spade in a safe place; done a similar job in the past so didn’t think about the potential risks; got to engrossed in the task?  Who knows, but he did it, he dropped the spade next to where he was working.

As he moved the slab, the spade struck him on the side of the head.  He didn’t lose conciseness but it was sore.  He took a couple of pain killers and didn’t think much more about it.

Two days later, the pain hasn’t gone away.

Four days after the incident, he isn’t feeling too well so telephones the NHS24 medical helpline who advise that it might be concussion so best to get it checked by a medical doctor at the local hospital.  He goes to the hospital by car where he is checked by a doctor who confirms the telephone diagnosis of mild concussion.  He is sent home with the warning that it gets worse to immediately get back in contact.

On day six he is sitting at home and suddenly doesn’t feel very well.  Again NHS24 is contacted and again he is told to attend the local hospital.  Again he travels by car.  This time they conduct a full suite of tests including ECG, blood pressure, x-ray, CT scan, numerous blood tests including diabetes.  After many hours of testing, all his tests are clear and he is sent home by car. 

He returns home and within ten minutes of arriving home he starts to convulse.  He is kept conscious until the emergency paramedics arrive and take over.  This time he arrives in the hospital in an ambulance with blue lights and sirens blaring.

He survives and in now fully recovered but all of this was because he didn’t use knowledge that he already possessed eg don’t have tools lying about a work space.

Sometimes it isn’t about capturing, synthesising and broadcasting knowledge but rather about embedding a culture of ensuring that knowledge is used time and time again.