Thursday, 18 September 2014

When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail

Well maybe.

However, I was recently struck by how many problems identified at lessons capture workshops have potential solutions in KM and how people don’t realise it until it’s pointed out to them:

·        Last week, an engineering client bemoaned the loss of one individual from a project and explained how this had adversely affected performance, with significant delays.  When I queried what it was about this person that was so valuable, the response came back, “Well, his knowledge of where things were, who to speak to and how to get things done.”

·        The previous week, another client extolled the virtues of using people from an earlier project on the latest one “…because they had really valuable knowledge that we could use.”

·        Back to last week, with a different client querying the value a new employee was providing because of the time it was taking to “bring them up to speed and start being useful”.
To varying degrees, each of these clients showed an awareness that knowledge (or its absence) was at the heart of the issue we were discussing.  But I sensed that, left to their own devices, each client would have identified mere ‘sticking plaster’ solutions, such as:
·        Filling key knowledge gaps soon after they appear;
·        Keeping the knowledgeable people around for the next project;
·        Sacking the employee and recruiting a ‘better’ one.
However, with my ‘have hammer…must find nail’ approach to KM, we came up with solutions that might endure, which were, in order:
·        Get projects to create and update project knowledge assets as part of a KM plan, so that the ‘know-how’ and ‘know-who’ isn’t just in one person’s head and at risk of loss if they take a leave of absence.  Wikis are an excellent collaborative tool to enable many people to contribute.
·        Use post-project knowledge retention interviews to get the ‘know-how’ and ‘know who’ out there, ready for the next project to use; also, consider using previous project people as internal consultants rather than dedicated project staff, or their relative knowledge will only increase further, thereby making it even more difficult to release for other work.
·        Create an induction process, getting the latest new-joiner to write up mini knowledge assets for others following in their wake – these could cover basics like ‘how to book a meeting room’ or more complex tasks such as ‘creating, saving and sending a weekly report’.
Not every problem can be addressed by KM alone but most will benefit from a KM element in the proposed solution.
For a conversation about KM with a really rather enthusiastic knowledge management consultant, please get in touch direct or visit the Knoco website.

Monday, 8 September 2014

First day at school? How did that happen?

My eldest daughter started school today. 
Ridiculous, I know.  She’s still just a baby etc.
All things being equal, she will be receiving her ‘A’-level results on Thursday 16 August 2029.
What will change in the world of work between those two dates?
What sort of student will she be?  What sort of employee?  What sort of customer?
To compare, let’s go back a few (ahem) years, to my childhood.
I have always been a James Bond fan.  I read the books as a child, collected the toy cars and watched the films.
Back in the 1980s, there were 3 terrestrial TV channels in the UK, then 4.  You only had a week’s notice of the TV schedules and then only if you bought the ‘Radio Times’ for BBC 1 and 2, or the ‘TV Times’ for ITV and Channel 4.
Bond movies were always shown on ITV, usually twice a year and in a random order.  This didn’t matter regarding the plots but made little sense in terms of the actors playing Bond – one Easter I might catch the first 20 minutes of a Roger Moore movie and 5 months later I’d see the opening sequence to a Sean Connery one.  And so on.
So it was a big deal for me to be able to buy DVDs and watch what I wanted, when I wanted.  At work, I have been increasingly impressed by the ways in which we can summon up the people, documents, information and knowledge that we want, when we want them.  I have got used to this way of working but will always retain a frisson of amazement and glee at being able to do so.
Back to my daughter.
She likes the Ice Age animation films.  We have cable TV and can pay for movies, to watch what we want, when we want.  So, before I bought the DVD box-set, my daughter would think nothing of asking to watch ‘Ice Age 1’, or ‘Ice Age 3’ or perhaps the ‘Christmas Special’.  Moreover, being an indulgent Father who refuses his daughters’ requests less often that he should, she has already become used to getting what she wants, when she wants.
Now, let’s fast-forward again to 2029 and beyond and imagine she is considering employment or university.
What sort of student will she be?  What sort of employee?  What sort of customer?
As a student, will she settle for anything other than an educational environment when she can summon up textbooks, quotes, insights and feedback instantaneously?
As an employee, will she tolerate anything other than instant connection with the people whose knowledge and inputs she needs to help her with her work?
As a customer, will she buy from any company that doesn’t give her what she wants, when she wants it?
No chance. 
My indulgences have hard-wired into her from the earliest age an expectation that she can find information, knowledge, people and products with almost no effort at all.  Companies are going to have to up their game to get her commitment as an employee and win her business as a customer.
And it’s all my fault.  Sorry about that.
For a conversation about sharing knowledge and using it to win business from high-maintenance little madams like my 4yr-old, or just to hear how well she is doing at school, please contact me direct or via the Knoco web-site.