Thursday 6 March 2014

Having the time to halve the time

2014-365-3 Time by Michael 1952
2014-365-3 Time, a photo by Michael 1952 on Flickr.
Here is an extract from a conversation last week.
Me: Can you give me any examples where the Community of Practice could add value?
Client: At the last meeting we identified one of these - we found one part of the job where everyone does the task differently, sometimes very inefficiently. It's very junior work, but still, the CoP said "this is a real mess, we have to fix it".
Me: Did you fix it?
Client: No, it didn't go anywhere, because everyone is too busy.
Everyone is too busy to take the time to fix a problem that is wasting lots of time. Huh?

This is a typical situation in any organisation where Knowledge Management is seen as an overhead and not an investment. Knowledge Management is a powerful approach to improving the way we do work, and this client was too busy doing the work, to have time to improve the way they worked.

In the US, they call this "too busy fighting alligators, to drain the swamp"

In BP, we positioned KM as an investment, by urging people "to have the time to halve the time". In other words, if you invest time in learning, you can more than recoup that investment through the increase in efficiency it brings.

  • For example, a three day Peer Assist may reduce the elapsed time of a project by three months.
  • A 12 day investment in a lesson capture meeting (10 people for a day, plus facilitator, plus write-up) can save 10 months of rework in future projects
  • In Shell they believed that every hour spent on Community of Practice knowledge-sharing saved you 7 hours if you applied the learning you gained
In order to get your company out of this time-trap, you need to do two things
  1. Position KM as an investment and not a cost
  2. Create a proof-of-concept demonstration that shows this to be true. For example, in BP we had several video stories of people saying "I had a problem, I went to the CoP and asked for help, the advice I received was fantastic and solved my problem instantly".
That's how you start to change the mindset from "KM is an added cost" to "KM is the investment that will save me a huge amount of time.

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