Monday, 23 June 2014

Knowledge Assets (or, how to enjoy a pint in the sunshine a little bit quicker)

Edington is a lovely Wiltshire village tucked into the northern edge of Salisbury Plain.  It’s famed for its old and beautiful Priory Church and now has a very popular pub and farm shop, frequented by locals and visitors alike.
Two weeks ago, Edington held its annual summer fair and I helped with some of the setting up on the night before the fair.  There were 5 or 6 marquees of varying sizes that needed to be put up and about 16 of us grappling with them with varying levels of success.  The plan had been to get them erected as soon as possible and then enjoy a pint or two in the warm evening sunshine.
Unfortunately, it soon became clear that few of us were familiar with the marquees and those that were clearly hadn’t struggled with them since the last summer fair.  On asking if anyone really knew what they were doing, I was told, “No, unfortunately the people that really know how to do this are away on holiday.”
‘Long’ and ‘short’ poles differed only by a few centimetres in length and were not marked in any way help us tell which belonged in the ‘spine’ of the marquee (the short ones) and which were the supports (the long!).
Consequently, we had several unsuccessful attempts, with canvas being stretched almost to breaking point and a good old pointless thwack here and there, to try and make things fit in ways for which they weren’t designed – all the time observed by a happy few sitting in the sunshine, supping their drinks and occasionally calling out ‘suggestions’ of dubious relevance.
Still, we got there in the end and, before putting the canvas on, I took a few photos of the marquee frame and its component parts.  My plan is to use the photos in a one-page ‘how to’ guide, which we can laminate and pop into each of the marquee boxes, ready for next year.
Such a document would be a form of 'Knowledge Asset', the purpose of which is to provide the means by which one team or person can transfer their knowledge to many teams or people, separated in time and distance.  At Knoco, we help clients produce Knowledge Assets, which minimise the risk of the critical knowledge being stuck in the heads of one or two vital people who might resign, retire or fall under a bus at any time – or, in our case, simply go away on holiday at an inconvenient moment.
Knowledge Assets help clients to work more safely, more quickly and more cheaply – or, in our case, will help us get to the pub a bit quicker next year.  Nice one.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Life of a lesson #10: post-closure assurance - did we do it right? Any loose ends?

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 – ensure that changes have taken place and/or 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 examined lesson closure – we’ll now finish this discussion by looking at post-closure assurance.

In any organisation with an embedded lessons learned system, it doesn’t take too long for closed lessons to become so many in number for people to lose track of them.  Therefore it makes sense to develop some form of periodic review, whereby closed lessons are checked to ensure that they have sufficiently robust audit trails (i.e. the comments from those that managed the lesson and implemented its recommendation(s)).  Furthermore, the status of the lesson should also be validated – i.e. do we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that no further work is required?  Does the issue from which the lesson was originally drawn no longer occur?

If lessons are found to have incomplete audit trails or the implemented changes did not address the original issue sufficiently well, the lesson should be re-opened and managed to completion.  If lessons are found to have been closed correctly, then the audit trail should be updated to show that the assurance review has taken place.

That’s it

I began this look at the different stages in the life of a lesson because I come across many people that persist with the view that lessons are things written down from which others might learn if they can be bothered to read them. 

I’ve run meetings for clients where people express frustration that they’re discussing the same issues again and again and that “we never seem to learn from our lessons”.  Without engaging in discussion with those experiencing this angst, there is the risk that lessons as a concept lose credibility and people don’t bother anymore.

I have set out by views on what we should do to and with lessons to ensure that we learn them; you will have your own views.  Let’s hear them…

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