Friday, 27 November 2015

Does knowledge look different, looking back to looking forward?

I am recently returned from a busy few days with a manufacturing client, which has given me some food for thought.

We conducted a number of KM activities, including a Retrospect to identify and capture lessons from the last version of the product, and some knowledge gap analysis (KM planning) of future work. And it was only afterwards that I realised that all the backward looking conversation had been about Process, and all the forward looking conversation had been about Product.

Any manufacturing client looks at knowledge of product and of process - the ternary diagram from our 2014 KM Survey shows Manufacturing as half-way up the left hand side of the picture, midway between the Process and Product corners.

However the conversations we have about these two knowledge focus areas are different.

Looking back, the standard processes of Retrospect and After Action Review tend to identify the successes and failures in Process - the processes of design, manufacture, testing, technical decision making, and so on. If we want to review a Product, we need to specifically address this, maybe using something like the A3 process, or the Knowledge Briefs. 

Looking forward, the Knowledge Gap Analysis (part of the KM Planning methodology) tends to look at gaps in Product knowledge, rather than gaps in Process knowledge, unless we were deliberately to focus the conversation on process.

Both Knowledge Management methodologies come up with a list of improvement actions, and the combined list covers Product and Process, so all learning areas were eventually covered, but the reflection on this experience leaves me with a clear lesson.

When an organisation needs knowledge of more than one type (eg knowledge of Product and Process, or Product and Customer) we need to deliberately incorporate discussion of both of these knowledge types in our KM processes.

If we don't, then our knowledge focus may seem different depending on the KM processes we use, either looking backwards in a Retrospect, or forwards in a KM plan.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

HG Wells on Knowledge Management

An immense and ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today; knowledge that would probably suffice to solve all the mighty difficulties of our age, but it is dispersed and unorganized. We need a sort of mental clearing house for the mind: a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared 

H.G. Wells
Author of "War of the Worlds"

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

3 levels of lesson learning

In a large organisation, lesson-learning can happen at multiple levels. 

In global oil and gas companies for example, there are often three levels

  • Firstly team learning uses After Action Review to learn within project teams. Discussions take place within the team, and any changes are to team processes. Lessons are documented in simple form, perhaps in Excel spreadsheets.
  • A more complex form of learning is learning from one project to another, using facilitated lessons-identification meetings. Lessons are collected, actions are assigned, and changes made to organizational process. Lessons are documented in lesson management systems.
  • Finally in analyses of major incidents, an investigation team is tasked with collecting observations, the insights, the learnings, and even the recommendations for action. Lessons are documented in evaluation reports.
In each case, and at each scale, the learning cycle is similar.

Lessons are identified through discussion and investigation, and pass through a series of stages, from context to observation to insight to lesson. If the lesson is to be truly learned (in other words, embedded into new ways of working), then there are further stages.  
 The lesson must be documented and validated, it must lead to assigned actions, those actions must be disseminated to the correct people through a lessons management system, the appropriate actions must be taken, and the lessons closed.

However the scale varies - from one project team, to multiple project teams, to the whole organisation, and as the scale changes, so does the rigour of, and the investment in, the learning process.

The table below shows how the learning stages and steps are applied at each of the three levels.

Within a team
Between projects
Major Investigation
1.     Context
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect, led by the facilitator
Investigated by the incident investigation team
2.     Observation
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator
Collected by the incident investigation team
3.     Insight
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator
Analyzed by the incident investigation team
4.     Lesson
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator
Recommendations made by the incident investigation team
5.     Documented lesson
Either not documented, or documented within a lessons log
Documented within a lesson management system by the facilitator
Documented as the incident investigation report
6.     Assigned action
Discussed within the team After Action Review
Either discussed within the retrospect led by the facilitator, or discussed after the facilitator by senior staff
Discussed and agreed by senior management
7.     Validated lesson/action
Validated within the team and by the team leader at the After Action Review
Validated a) within the lessons management system, or b) by senior staff
Discussed and agreed by senior management
8.     Distributed/notified lesson/action
Action assigned using existing team processes such as action log
Use of a lessons management system
Use of a system such as the ‘strategic implementation planning’ tool
9.     Taken action/change
Action taken by team member
Action taken a) by other teams, or b) by company authorities such as Subject Matter Experts
Action taken by company authorities
10.  Completed lesson
Action closed in action log
Actions tracked and lessons closed in lesson management system
Actions tracked and lessons closed by central team.
Monitor, review, report
Monitor through routine team action monitoring
Statistics created and reported from the lessons management system
Lesson closure reported by central team.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

"What sort of Knowledge Management are you talking about"

We have already, on this blog, pointed out that there are "50 shades of Knowledge Management", and as a result, in any conversation about KM, you need to find out what the other person understands by the term.

There is no commonly accepted definition of KM, and as part of the KM hype wave in the early 2000s many parallel disciplines adopted the term "knowledge management" as somehow being more exciting that previously existing terms such as "content management", "document management", "librarianship" and so on.

As a result, we currently have many sub-groupings under the KM umbrella, each with their own understanding of the term.

This was brought home to me recently, when we received a request for KM services, which was clarified as

  • Records management/archiving 
  • search optimisation 
  • document tracking/user usage/version control 
  • user policies/protocols/permissions/protection 
  • bulk/batch scanning
All of this is a long way from the services we offer, which include

So far away, that it might almost be a different discipline with a different name. "Records Management" perhaps.

Knowledge Management is a big field, and a very loosely used term. 

Before having any conversation about KM, you need to ask "What sort of Knowledge Management are you talking about?"

Monday, 23 November 2015

How to use the Knowledge management Pull Matrix

Here is a really interesting blog post from NASA entitled "how rocket scientists learn" by Yasmin Fodil

It contains much that is interesting, and makes three main conclusions - 

  • Knowledge Management at Goddard (NASA) is all about people
  • Social Media Can Enhance Learning (but relationships matter)
  • Learning in Public is Hard, but Worth It.
It also contains the following matrix

Yasmin describes the table as follows

So as an individual trying to learn, I have my own experiences, which I can reflect on and share with others during pause-and-learns, through job rotations, case studies, and lessons learned documents. In turn, I can learn from case studies and lessons learned from other projects, which I can engage with by simply reading about, attending workshops, or engaging with my peers.

I like the concept, and particularly like the fact that is the whole matrix is pull-driven - "Who can I learn from", "What can I learn", "How can I learn it" - all driven by knowledge-seeking.

This is refreshingly different from the more normal "who can I share with", "where shall I store this" conversation. It's like a personal Knowledge Management Plan - all that's missing is the "What do I need to learn" element.

I would like to extend the table a bit, because there is a big jump between "my friends" and "the whole organisation". We could include in this, for example, "my project team", and "my community of practice", both of which are organisational constructs which don't necessarily map onto "my friends". Also, "company experts" are a source of learning too

Here's my extended version

I hope this is useful

Friday, 20 November 2015

Another step in the direction of KM standards

A knowledge management standard or guideline is a good thing, but it is even better if it fully appreciates what knowledge management really is.

Thanks to Paige Kane for alerting me to the pharmaceutical guidance document ICH PHARMACEUTICAL QUALITY SYSTEM Q10.

This guideline applies to the quality systems supporting the development and manufacture of pharmaceutical drug substances (i.e., API) and drug products, including biotechnology and biological products, throughout the product lifecycle.

One excellent element of this guideline is the inclusion of KM as part of the quality system, as follows:

1.6.1 Knowledge Management.    Product and process knowledge should be managed from development through the commercial life of the product up to and including product discontinuation. For example, development activities using scientific approaches provide knowledge for product and process understanding. Knowledge management is a systematic approach to acquiring, analysing, storing and disseminating information related to products, manufacturing processes and components. Sources of knowledge include, but are not limited to prior knowledge (public domain or internally documented); pharmaceutical development studies; technology transfer activities; process validation studies over the product lifecycle; manufacturing experience; innovation; continual improvement; and change management activities.
The text above already contains a warning of potential confusion (did you spot it?) and this confusion is confirmed in the glossary to the document, as follows:

Knowledge Management: Systematic approach to acquiring, analysing, storing, and disseminating information related to products, manufacturing processes and components. 

So - great - the document acknowledges that knowledge is a crucial element in delivering quality.  Not so great - it defines KM as the management of information - a definition of Information Management, not of Knowledge Management.

Overall I believe the inclusion of KM in this document is a positive step for the Pharma industry, and now just needs to take the next step and recognise that KM is not about the management of information, but about the management of knowledge, both documented and tacit.

Not all information is knowledge, and not all knowledge is documented in information form. Confusion between the management of information  and the management of knowledge will, I hope, be resolved in future issues of this guideline, and will provide the next step forward for the use of KM in the Pharma industry.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

8 approaches to Knowledge Transfer

Imagine you have some learnings within a team. How do you pass them on?

Image from wikimedia
The approach you take to Knowledge Transfer depends on the circumstances, and the answers to the three questions below will define 8 possible approaches.
  • Who needs the knowledge? The same team as generated it, or a different team?
  • When do they need it? Now, or at some undetermined time in the future?
  • Where are they? Near enough to sit down with, or somewhere remote?
So we have three variables, so we can't draw a Boston Square with four divisions - we have to draw a Boston Cube with eight. And in each of those divisions, we take a different approach to how we transfer the knowledge.

  1. Same team, same place, same time - hold an AAR. Discuss the learning, and help everyone internalise it.
  2. Same team, different place, same time (virtual team) - hold a virtual AAR. Discuss the learning, and help everyone internalise it. Checking for internalisation will be harder without access to body language.
  3. Same team, same place, different time - hold a Retrospect and update and improve your team processes, procedures and practices. Then if you follow those next time, performance will improve.  
  4. Same team, different place(virtual team), different time  -  conduct a Learning History and update and improve your team processes, procedures and practices. Then if you follow those next time, performance will improve.
  5. Different team, same place, same time - hold a Peer Assist. Discuss the learning, and help the other team internalise it. Or host a site knowledge visit
  6. Different team, different place, same time - hold a virtual Peer Assist. Discuss the learning, and help everyone internalise it. Checking for internalisation will be harder without access to body language. Set up a community of practice, or virtual coaching group.
  7. Different  team, same place, different time - hold a Retrospect and document a Knowledge Asset. When the knowledge is needed, find someone from the original team to talk through the Knowledge Asset.
  8. Different team, different place, different time - hold a Retrospect and document a stand-alone Knowledge Asset.
Different contexts require different approaches, for example the 8 approaches defined here

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