Tuesday 18 May 2010

The safe zone

Originally uploaded by Duchamp

Beginning Knowledge management - being the "first follower" for example - can feel risky. There is a degree of exposure in being open, in exploring mistakes and successes, in offering your know-how to others, and in asking help and advice from others. Especially if the culture is not supportive, the first follower can feel at risk.

Therefore, in the early stages, you may need to create "safe space" where people can explore KM processes with minimum risk. You may have to do the following;

  • Careful facilitation of lessons capture, Retrospects and After Action Reviews, to ensure they are non-judgmental and focused on learning.

  • Running your first Retrospects on successful projects

  • Very careful facilitation of Peer Assists, to ensure they do not descend into attack-defend behaviours

  • "Closed" communities of practice, restricted to the practitioners themselves and not accessible by their managers (again, with very careful facilitation lest the community becomes a moaning and bitching session)

  • A close editorial eye on the wiki

  • Clear upfront discussion, in all these instances, of the ground rules and of the behaviours we seek.

What I would not recommend is either of these -

  • Anonymous posts in discussion forums (I have seen these
    degenerate into flame wars and prank postings)
  • Anonymous lessons in the lessons database (if there
    is no provenance, people do not trust them)

In these two instances it becomes safe to behave badly. We want situations where it is safe to behave openly. And then once the behaviours are established, we can begin to relax the rules, and open up the safe zones for others to join in.

But right in the early stages, its important to feel safe enough to ask and share. As KM professionals, we need to create the Safe Zone.

1 comment:

Nancy Dixon said...

This is very helpful advice for start-ups. Right on!

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