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.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favourite quotes of wisdom, also known as "Maslow's hammer":

    I hope your recommended solutions were followed, it's all too easy to use the sticking plaster approach