Tuesday, 30 June 2015

'Ello, 'ello, what's all this then? Rewarded for knowing, or for sharing also?

Today the UK’s College of Policing published a report following a review into leadership, with recommendations to improve performance across the police service.  Details are available on their website here.
Regular readers of the blog will recall our examination (here) of the Hillsborough Inquiry and the issues it raised about honesty, defensiveness and poor police leadership.  So it is great to see serious efforts to address some of these issues.

In the report, there are some ideas that will appeal to those keen to learn from other’s experiences and manage their knowledge more effectively.
One encouraging point, on how the review was conducted, is revealed thus, “The review recognised the importance of capturing the lessons of leadership development from the widest range of sectors outside policing.”  So far, so good – using lessons is almost always a good idea, and to seek them from ‘outsiders’ introduces new perspectives and guards against ‘group-think’, one of the dangers highlighted in Margaret Heffernan’s excellent book, ‘Wilful Blindness’, which I reviewed here.
Welcoming fresh inputs is further encouraged through the recommendation for “a structure where officers and staff can exit and re-enter the service, bringing with them their new skills and experience.”
The value of skills, experience and knowledge is recognised in further recommendations, such as:

·        “Existing police leaders should influence and drive the required culture of change by demonstrating their own commitment to personal development….;
·        Develop career opportunities which allow recognition and reward for advanced practitioners.
·        Offering staff and officers reward and recognition for advanced skills and knowledge. We recommend that the Home Office should consider what amendments to pay and conditions are required to allow professional expertise to be appropriately recognised and rewarded.”
Again, that’s all well and good but, without explicit encouragement and enforcement of knowledge-sharing and collaboration, there is a danger that these proposals will result merely in rewarding people for what they know, without further recognition for what they share.
Incentivising the accrual of knowledge without any balancing expectation that it be shared produces employees that are reluctant to help others, or will only do so when they can spare the time (i.e. rarely).
This is common across many organisations, where the unintended consequences of rewarding knowledge are disincentives to share, reluctance to be honest and open (especially about shortcomings) and expensive losses when those with the know-how depart, leaving the remainder struggling to fill that gap.
Far better for the recommendations to read thus (my edits in bold):

·        “Existing police leaders should influence and drive the required culture of change by demonstrating their own commitment to personal development, openness and collaboration.”
·        “Develop career opportunities which allow recognition and reward for advanced practitioners that gain new knowledge and actively seek to share it as they do so.”
·        “Offering staff and officers reward and recognition for advanced skills and knowledge. We recommend that the Home Office should consider what amendments to pay and conditions are required to allow the accumulation and sharing of professional expertise to be appropriately recognised and rewarded.”
Such recommendations, just by their wording, would send the signal that hard-won knowledge must be valued, shared and used by all.  Once implemented, they would be an important part in wider efforts to create and nurture a true learning culture.
Further material on leadership, culture, knowledge-transfer and retention is available at the Knoco website.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Collaboration in an idyllic, rural setting - how KM frees us up to do more with less

Regular readers of this blog will recall last year’s post about my local village fair.  Key people were away the night beforehand, meaning that those of us left behind had to struggle to work out how to put up the marquees - which poles went where and then into which holes etc.

The end result was that we spent far too long putting them up when we could have been enjoying a drink in the warm evening sunshine.

So how did we get on this year, I hear you ask?

True to my word, I used photos I had taken of the finished products to make rudimentary ‘Knowledge Assets’.  This meant we could quickly identify whether it was the ‘spines’ ‘ribs’ or ‘legs’ of the marquees which required the short, medium or long poles and so could lay everything out with minimal waste.

Moreover, 2 key people (whose absence last year had left us flailing around with little idea what we were doing) were instead available to advise on the best construction sequence to follow.  They could also point out little tips - like how many ties were needed for each length of pole – which helped reduce waste and ensured we were able to put up all the marquees, despite it appearing that we didn’t have enough equipment.

Their assistance was akin to that of a ‘Peer Assist’: an effective way of bringing new project teams up to speed with the tips, good practice and critical know-how that have been hard-won on previous projects.  Of course, what I now need to do is update the Knowledge Asset (i.e. in this instance, a diagram with guidance notes) with these experts' insights, thereby reducing our reliance on them next year and freeing them up for more valuable tasks.

The end result?

Faster, safer, more efficient marquee construction followed by greater, more prolonged and better-deserved beer consumption. 

By some.  Apparently….

Let us help you do more with less through KM tools such as these and more.  Contact me direct or via the Knoco website.



Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Hmm, now that IS interesting. Let’s keep that to ourselves.

I have written elsewhere about my admiration for the relative openness of the US military in its approach to lessons learned from operations and training.[1]  Where the British instinct has always been to keep things under wraps, the American bias is traditionally towards greater transparency.

Sadly, this article in the Marine Corps Times, reveals that things are changing.  Whereas I would love to report that the British Army has decided to publish more, unfortunately the US Marine Corps Centre for Lessons Learned (MCCLL) is going the other way.

Whilst the detailed contents of its lessons have always been classified, MCCLL used to publish an unclassified summary every month, which enabled some degree of civilian scrutiny, education, accountability and debate.  Academics, journalists, defence contractors or knowledge management (KM) consultants could keep up to debate on how the US Marine Corps was, or was not learning lessons.

Knowing how much to share and how much to keep hidden is a judgement call facing all organisations.  Making everything secret is self-defeating and prevents one’s own employees from benefiting from learning from other’s experiences.  However, sharing everything ‘warts and all’ is not without its adverse consequences either, not least for an organisation’s short-term reputation.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I err on the side of greater openness, which means more honesty, more self-criticism, more transparency and a willingness to entertain ideas and innovations from ‘outside the box’.  Whilst some lessons should be considered sensitive, and access to them limited, these should be the exception, not the norm.

Unfortunately, MCCLL decided that re-writing lessons to ‘de-classified’ status took too long.  Let’s hope that they change their mind soon.

To chat about lessons learned - military, commercial or indeed from anywhere - contact me direct or please visit the Knoco website.

[1] “Furthermore, the traditional British predilection for over-classifying official documentation impedes both the internal sharing of knowledge hard-won on operations and its critical analysis by outsiders who, however unwelcome, may nevertheless provide valuable insights.  To make the point, you can buy the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual from Amazon whereas tracking down its British equivalent requires agility, cunning and tenacity.  It’s not the enemy’s efforts that are most frustrated by such constraints.” ‘Learning Lessons – the British Army’s Experience’, Rupert Lescott, Page 11, downloaded from http://www.slideshare.net/barmychap/20140409-learning-lessonsthebritisharmyexperience on 3 June 2015