Friday 26 September 2014

KM - interviewing the winners

I spent this week working with a project, collecting "lessons learned" in a series of Retrospect meetings. This was a project that had succeeded extremely well, and was a model for others to learn from - and it proved rather difficult at first to find the learnings.

Part of the process of extracting lessons is root cause analysis - finding out WHY something went well or WHY something was troublesome. Usually the answer comes down either to process or to structure - something was done wrong, or something was missing in the structure of the project (a role missing, for example, or work-streams combined when they should be separate). Your Knowledge Management tool here is "the 5 whys"; a familiar tool first introduced by Toyota, which you apply throughout the Retrospect.

In the case of this successful project, the Whys all seemed to come to the same answer - "We just followed the established process".

I could have stopped there, in which case the conclusion would have been "for excellent results, follow the established process".

That did not seem enough, however. There are plenty of other projects which set out to follow the process, yet fail. Something different was going on here.

So I added another question to the list - "What did you have here, which other projects do not have? What was going on here that was different?"

This was a very interesting question, and led us into different territory. Instead of concentrating on structure and process, we began to explore other areas - areas about trust, about relationships, about rigour and control.

I found myself reflecting last night, as I flew back to the UK, that perhaps the difference between the winners and those in second and third place lies not in structure nor in process, but in far more intangible areas, and that when collecting lessons from winners we need to look more at the softer aspects.

That's where you may need to modify your questioning a little, and start searching to understand that "little bit extra" that makes a winner.

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