Thursday, 24 April 2014

Life of a lesson #6: don't try to mess me about - have you done the work or not?!?

As part of a wider discussion about knowledge management (KM), we’ve recently been looking at the following ten steps in the life of a lesson:

1.       Event takes place – an experience, idea, incident or accident
2.       Analysis and capture – through interview, AAR, workshop, report-writing etc.
3.       Packaging – write-up of lessons
4.       Review for accuracy – editing and improvement by person who identified the lesson
5.       Validation – quality check, ownership assigned and upload into a management system
6.       Review for accountability – periodic checks on progress
7.       Implement recommendations – to avoid/ensure recurrence of bad/good alike
8.       Review for effectiveness – observe changes to ensure they have had desired effect
9.       Closure – lesson status updated but retained in system for reference and to aid analysis
10.    Assurance – as part of risk management, periodic review to ensure closed status remains justified
Last time we looked at the 5th step - validation, assignment of ownership and upload into a management system.  We’ll now look at the periodic reviews to which lessons should be subjected to ensure accountability for progress is maintained.
We’ve already said that lessons should be assigned to an individual, team or department with the ability to implement the recommendations contained therein (i.e. “the levers”, the budget, the ability to hire and fire etc.).
In many respects, lessons are no different to any other kind of work, in that there needs to be some way of monitoring progress and ensuring that things are not simply allowed to drift.  Just as organisations review projects, safety, sales, budgets etc, so they should review their lessons.
There are several ways this can be done but the simplest is some form of meeting, held every few weeks or months.
Such a meeting should be chaired by an individual responsible for lessons across the whole organisation (i.e. relatively senior, perhaps even the overall boss) and attended by representatives of the departments to whom lessons have been assigned for resolution.
Advance notice of the meeting should include an agenda setting out which lessons will be discussed, enabling all to ensure that lesson audit trails (i.e. commentary setting out the status of the lesson and what has been done so far to implement its recommendations) are updated.
An example of such an agenda is below:
  • Departmental updates
  • Discussion of high impact lessons
  • Discussion of lessons recommended for transfer or elevation
  • Discussion of lessons recommended for closure (recommendations implemented)
  • Discussion of lessons recommended for closure (lesson rejected)
  • Any other business
 As the agenda implies, these meetings ensure that lessons do not lie idle, that people’s ‘feet are held to the fire’, that lessons are assigned and re-assigned correctly and are the only authority under which lessons can be closed, once it has been demonstrated that recommendations have been implemented and had the desired effect.
As should now be obvious, this stage in a lesson’s life is perhaps the most important because:
  • Without proper accountability and a regular forum within which to examine progress, things remain as they are or get worse;
  • Without senior buy-in and participation in meetings such as this, departments downgrade their attendance or skip the meetings altogether;
  • Without the opportunity to discuss suggested solutions and seek assistance from others, lesson owners are left feeling powerless and unable to make progress.
Next time, we’ll look at the recommendations contained in lessons and how they are implemented.

For more information on lessons, lessons management systems, knowledge management (KM) and organisational learning, please visit the Knoco website.

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