Friday, 27 May 2016

Adressing the KM "personal balance"

Implementing Knowledge Management is done one heart and one mind at a time. And each knowledge worker's mind will evaluate their own personal balance - namely whether the WIIFM for KM outweights the personal cost. 

To interest people, knowledge management must satisfy the principle of local value. What they get out of it must exceed what they put into it.

This is a very personal equation. People have limited time, limited energy and limited enthusiasm. If they do knowledge management, they must stop doing something else. The value it delivers must exceed the cost that people have to invest, otherwise they will not bother.

So it's a balance. On one side is the personal cost, on the other, the personal benefit.

Personal Costs include the following
  • KM takes Time
  • KM takes Effort
  • KM takes Thought
  • KM may require Exposure (exposure of your ignorance, or exposure of your knowledge)
  • KM requires Change in the way you work
Personal Benefits include the following
  • If you access useful knowledge, this means your job becomes less risky, as you can access proven solutions
  • If you access useful knowledge, this means less stress, as you now know what to do and how to do it
  • When KM is culturally embedded, doing KM brings Peer approval
  • Sharing Knowledge gives Community approval
  • When KM is a management expectation, doing KM brings Management approval
  • Outstanding delivery of KM may bring Formal recognition
  • KM gives you The chance to be heard
  • KM gives you The chance to make a difference
  • When KM is seen as part of the job, then doing good KM means Doing a better job

Your job, as culture change agents for knowledge management, is to ensure that the personal balance is weighted in the right direction, for each of these hearts and minds.  You therefore have to do two things:

  • Make Knowledge Management as simple and easy as you can while still delivering full value 
  • Make sure that every individual understands, appreciates, and feels the benefit it brings them. 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Quantified KM value story #104 - Texas Instruments

We have discussed the Texas Instruments story already on this blog, and here is an article with a value-figure added. 

Image from wikimedia commons
I quote from the article

"Texas Instruments Office of Best Practices, an organisation that to our knowledge was the first one to build a best practice knowledge base on such a scale.  
"The office started its work in 1994, and within three years it had identified over 530 best practices. Its knowledge managers define best practice as ‘a technique, tool, enabler, process or part of a process that works best to improve your situation’. The basic philosophy behind this sharing was summarised by its CEO at that time: ‘We cannot tolerate having world-class performance next to mediocre performance, just because we don’t have a method to implement best practices’ (Davenport & Prusak 1998 p.167).  
"Knowing that their knowledge base would need both input as well as users, the office developed a network of 140 best practices-sharing facilitators worldwide. These facilitators gathered and promoted the practices and organised annual ‘sharefairs’ where they handed out the ‘Not invented here, but did it anyway’ award. The office also made great efforts to communicate the best practices through newsletters, e-mails, presentations, etc. Eventually, the internal website attracted a lot of traffic, over 10,000 hits a month in 1996.  
"According to the magazine Business Intelligence (1999), the Office of Best Practices saved Texas Instruments over $.1 billion thanks to operational efficiency and process improvement"

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

How to break the KM culture barriers

There are many cultural barriers to Knowledge Management implementation, but all of them can be broken

Image from wikipedia
There are several things that can stand in the way of the Knowledge Management culture change. Some of these barriers are listed below, with thoughts on how they may be addressed.

Knowledge is power

Despite the real meaning of the term, "knowledge is power", as used nowadays, is teh barrier where people fear that sharing knowledge will harm their status. Instead, help people realise that sharing knowledge increases collective power, that being generous with your knowledge helps your status, and that accessing the knowledge of others makes you more effective.

Not invented here

"Not invented here" is a symptom of an unwillingness to learn, and there is absolutely no point in creating the best knowledge sharing system if your organization has a learning problem. Redefine “here”, so “here” could mean “this community” or “this company”, not just “this team”. Then outlaw NIH completely.

Building empires

This is a result of rewarding internal competition, which means that people build silos for personal security and reward. Focus instead on building communities which cross-cut organisational divisions, on removing all incentives for internal competition, and on bridging the silos.

Individual work bias/Local focus

Here people are incentivised solely by their own contribution, which disinentivised sharing with others. Promote and reward work in teams and communities, and show how this gives better results

Fear of "not knowing" - aka Knower behaviours

Here people are unwilling to look for knowledge from others, in case they appear personally incapable. Help people realise that it is better to look widely for solutions that to rely on your own personal store of knowledge, and that the wisest person asks the most questions. Address the knower behaviours, and turn the knowers into learners.

Penalising errors

Help people learn that mistakes are OK so long as you learn from them and share that learning, and so long as you are not repeating someone else’s mistakes (or even worse, repeating your own).

No time to share

Very often people say "we don't have the time for Knowledge Management".  But in fact, it's not a question of time, it's a question of priority. Capturing and sharing and resusing knowledge needs to be seen as part of the job, not an add-on, and just as much a priority as many other management aspects of the way we work.

For an in-depth analysis of the cultural barriers at your organisation, and for further guidance on how to remove them, contact us.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Re-use, review, improve

Re-use, review and improve are the three basic components of any Knowledge Management cycle

Start a piece of work by re-using knowledge that already exists, in preference to starting from a blank sheet, or re-inventing the wheel. There will be times when there is no knowledge to re-use and you have to innovate, but 8 times out of 10, when faced by an unfamiliar problem, the knowledge that you need already exists somewhere in your organisation or network.  You just have to find it.

Once you have applied the knowledge and finished the task or the project, it's time to review. Hold an After Action review or a Retrospect, and collect your lessons, What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? What have you learned? How reliable was the knowledge? Was anything missing? Have you learned something new?

Once the review is complete, improve the knowledge. Fill in any gaps, and add any addition knowledge you have gained.  By improving the knowledge, you pass it on to the next person in a better state than when you found it. Over time the knowledge gets better and better, and more and more refined. 

Through a combination of re-use, review, improve you are contributing to a continuous improvement loop for knowledge, which will help you and your colleagues continuously improve delivery. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

WIIFM for the Knowledge Worker

What's in it for the Knowledge worker, when you introduce Knowledge Management to an organisation?  This is a crucial question you need to answer.

Luckily it's an easy one to answer as well.

We have explained, on this blog, about the two stakeholder groupings for Knowledge management - the Senior managers, and the knowledge workers. The value proposition for the senior managers is easy - KM will help the organisation perform better, as demonstrated in the many quantified value examples. KM will deliver greater efficiency, greater effectiveness, faster growth, bigger market share, faster time to market, and happier customers. But there needs to be a value proposition for the individual knowledge workers as well - a local value proposition - a WIIFM from their point of view.

The WIIFM for the knowledge worker is simple

"When we have a functioning Knowledge Management framework in place, it will make your life easier. It will provide you with easy access to reliable knowledge that will save you time, will reduce your risk of failure, and will make your results better".

Look at Shell, with their Community forums, where staff browsing the forum estimate that every minute spent on the forum saves them 7 minutes work. That's the value proposition you need to focus on - "Use the KM system and it will more than repay the time you spend".

Then of course you need to make sure that your KM framework really does deliver value to the user; that KM acts as a supply chain to deliver accessible, useful, comprehensible, valuable knowledge to the point of need, be it through connecting people, through collating advice, or through any other means necessary. You do this, through relentless focus on the knowledge customer, and you convince other knowledge workers through the use of stories and social proof.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Making Knowledge continuously improveable

You must be able to continuously improve and develop the knowledge in your knowledge base.

Image from wikimedia commons
I worked recently with an organisation that invested heavily in a knowledge base a few years ago. A central team spent a year creating the best possible content, and rolled it out to the users. The users were delighted - this would make their knowledge work easier and more consistent.

Over time, however, they noticed content which was out of date, insufficient, or occasionally just plain wrong. They started to create feedback. However for whatever reason, the feedback loop was broken. There was no way to edit the content online or to automatically raise a change request, and when they sent suggestions to the central team by email, nothing seemed to happen. 

Users began to lose faith in the knowledge within they system. If there was no way to correct errors, they felt that the knowledge could not be trusted. Even worse, they lost any feeling of ownership regarding the content. If they could not influence it and contribute to it, it was not "theirs".

With the lack of a feedback loop, there was no way to continuously improve the content. Slowly it began to go out of date. Slowly people abandoned the knowledge base and created local alternatives that they felt ownership for, and today the central knowledge base sees little use.

Your knowledge must be continuously improved, and you must introduce a system whereby knowledge content can be reviewed, improved and developed, and any missing elements added.  This will deliver knowledge that is owned by the community of users, and is always as fresh and as accurate as the community can make it.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Quantified (estimated) KM value at Siemens - 100 million Euros (quantified value story #103)

Thanks to Simon Dückert for forwarding me this article on value delivery through KM at Siemens.

Image from wikimedia commons
The article describes a Question and Answer system known as Technoweb - a collaboration and networking technology used by about 40,000 technology staff in Siemens. One of the unique features of Technoweb is that when someone asks a question on the system, they also define a figure for the value of the answer.

As the author of the article, Manfred Langen, describes -

 Before posting an Urgent Request on TechnoWeb, it is required for the sender to select the estimated Business Impact (BI) of the answer to his Urgent Request with a slider. The Business Impact that has to be set ranges from € 1000 to € 1 000 000. The higher the Business Impact the less rigorous is the selection of recipients. 
If the Urgent Request has a Business Impact of just € 1 000, it is not appropriate to contact thousands of experts. In this case the Urgent Request is only sent to those experts which are directly associated to one of the tags of the Urgent Request. Here, we take the risk that we lose some experts in TechnoWeb which might have replied to the Urgent Request. As long as the sender gets support, this is acceptable. If the Urgent Request has a Business Impact of more than € 1 000 000, we do not want to take the risk that we lose a potential answer from an expert. In this case the Urgent Request is broadcasted to the whole TechnoWeb community. 
Every month an average of 25-40 requests are published. Each request receives an average of 8 replies – the first arriving within half an hour.

Measuring the estimated value of the questions, and assuming that every question is answered, gives us a proxy estimate of the value delivery through Technoweb. Given that not every question WILL be answered, this is an overestimate (or more accurately, an estimate of the potential value of the system).  Also the total figure depends on the accuracy of the individual figures for estimated value, but these figures are set by the questioners, who are the people most likely to know the value of getting their problems solved.

Manfred reports the value delivery as follows:
Summarizing the business values of answered Urgent Request over a month results in an average value of 3.5 million Euro per month. Since the introduction of the concept of business impact in October 2011 the cumulated business impact in three years exceeds 100 million Euro.

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