2Know Magazine: Sharing KM Knowledge
2Know: Sharing KM Knowledge
May 2013 - Magazine No. 164
May 2013 - Magazine No. 164
Edition:
Review: Dust Cleaning
Written By Maya Fleisher

 

Wiktionary defines a procedure as 'a particular method for performing a certain task'.

One may notice that the world of procedures is closely related to the world of Knowledge Management:

Procedures reflect the organization's important core knowledge and are therefore part of the Knowledge Management array.

Simultaneously, procedures are documents and as such KM techniques can improve their writing and mainly their clarity and comprehensibility and readability.

 

One of the fields I have dealt with the most this last year has been dealing with procedures. The term 'procedure' is interpreted differently in different organizations (varying in resolution and purpose of use) yet all share a common denominator-they are loaded, occasionally outdated and no one really wants to/is available to deal with them. Nevertheless, an organization's procedures are vitally important. They define the work method, provide uniformity to tasks performed by several people and are relied on in cases of external criticism/lawsuits/clients authorization etc.

 

In this article, I wish to share my experience with procedures as an outsider consultant ‘visiting’ and the positive process created in the organization as a result of improving the procedures. I will conclude with sharing my tips for keeping the procedure updated and effective.

 

I come to the organization in order to perform a facelift on the procedure; this facelift is supposed to ease understanding the procedure and therefore increase the chances the worker uses it.

I receive the procedure. After a short read and review I convert the content to a format known as a 'smart document'. In this document the content is organized in a more accessible, comfortably read manner. The 'smart document' includes a main map that assists the reader in understanding if he/she reached the correct procedures as well as informs the user of what the procedure includes and assists in orientation. The rest of the document is organized in a format of reader-friendly knowledge nuggets. They are reader-friendly both due to the simple, concise content writing method and due to icons.

 

Sometimes, I am unsure of the meaning of a procedure or the best way to present it. I then turn to the procedure's manager. She/he is my partner in the process. I complete the rewriting. When this stage is complete, the procedure is sent back to the organization in order to be reviewed and completed by the professional managers.

 

Then begins a process I refer to as 'dust cleaning'. The procedure's manager needs to approve the procedure. We are seemingly not altering any content, yet reviewing the updated procedure raises more than a few questions that the organization is not always aware of when the content is buries in a insufficiently accessible manner. This stage, which is not always easy but is of vital importance, leads to uniformity in the work processes of different factors in the organization, bridging gaps in the work process and raises the sub-processes that are performed without any official documentation.

 

Dust cleaning eventually leads to increasing the organization's efficiency

My edge is that when I come as an outsider consultant is double: I am versed in the unique methodology of friendly accessibility, but equally important: I'm objective when reviewing the procedure; I'm not fixated on the organization's current conception nor am I emotionally connected to the issue. It is therefore easier for me to change the procedure's structure if required in order for the procedure to ‘flow’ logically. It is easier for me to ask about content missing from the procedure in order for it to indeed be whole and comprehensive and will serve both new and veteran workers.

 

A few tips for a successful process:

Prior to the work process: it is important to recruit the relevant professional managers and explain the importance of the issue and its benefits to the organization.

Following the completion of the process: The writing and updating process may be short and simple yet it resembles a diet: it's easy to lose the weight; it's hard to maintain the positive status. By this I mean that for a procedure to remain updated and effective it’s important to appoint a professional manager or define a time period in which a review and validation of the procedure will be performed (in accordance with the dynamics of changes in the organization) in order to keep the procedure updated and relevant over time. It is important to teach the procedure manager the skills required in using Microsoft Word (or any other word processor) for further work in the new format. This Format may be simple yet for those who are unfamiliar with it, it can be stressful and threatening. Eventually, working in the new format will enable validating and updating more easily and more quickly.

 

In conclusion, procedures are part of the organization's important knowledgebase and should be aptly regarded. This is not as seemingly difficult. Sometimes, all you have to do is to get started. Once started, you can't stop.

Written By Hagay Kalev

Employees leave. It happens every day and right under our noses, so much we have grown indifferent to it. Even if we once stopped to shed a tear or get excited, we quickly learned to forget and internalize. They can leave because they found a better job; because they didn't get along in their current workplace; or that they are simply retiring.

Regardless of the reason the worker left, we must focus on the implications of his/her leaving on an organizational level. What the worker is leaving with is critical: knowledge, information, experience, relationships etc.

 

How many times have you had to contact an organization you have a business relationship with and requested to talk to Dave (Not his real name…) who has worked with you several times and therefore knows your history, only to be answered surely that "Dave's not here. He doesn't live here anymore". None of the workers present has a clue what you and Dave agreed on previously. This is indeed problematic.

 

These cases usually end with recovery attempts which include mining through history with the client and/or those present till even ground is reached. Yet, what happens if this is critical knowledge which must be acquired immediately and there is no one to address the issue? A wise man once told me that a lack of knowledge will eventually lead to planes falling from the sky. This is a tad extreme, but it still resonates when I perform Knowledge Retention activities and makes me personally pay attention to seemingly trivial issues.

 

Now that we understand the importance of Knowledge Retention in organizations, we must think of solutions (on an organizational level) and be prepared for such a situation.

Here are some tips that can assist in minimizing harm and performing activities efficiently:

  1. Conduct and manage a precise list of all veteran workers who are expected to retire in the coming years. In accordance with the retirement date and knowledge field (explained in the next paragraph) identify and decide on performing a Knowledge Retention activity among these workers. This list should be updated every predefined period.
  2. Map the knowledge and positions/responsibilities of each worker in the organization/department/field before it's too late and reserve your mapping:
    • Routinely: you can direct projects and different activities professionally and effectively.
    • When leaving/completing a task: you can focus on knowledge which is important to retain from this worker.
  3. Even a worker that has only worked in the organization for a year or two has saw, heard and experienced something worth retaining. Consider this worker as a holder of critical knowledge.
  4. Reserve enough time for activities of knowledge retention, since they can take several months due to various constraints. Projects postponed to the last minute are conducted under pressure and usually miss many important subjects we would like to retain (besides subjects defined as most critical).
  5. One man's trivial is another man's treasure: When deciding on subjects to be documented and retained, don't hurry to filter and skip on subjects that an expert defines as unimportant or trivial. Validate the importance with the knowledge receivers/clients only.
  6. Avoid 'White Elephants': Expert Knowledge Retention is not a passing phase; it is a critical activity with implications on the organization's business activity. Don't perform a Knowledge Retention project for show, use the project in order to learn and serve the organizational goals.
  7. Recruit Management: this phrase may sound redundant, as it is said about every project. Yet, it is true. Even though in most cases the activity is performed by 2-3 workers (expert, successor and activity director) an involved management that understands the criticality of the issue and wants to produce the most from this process can make the difference between an activity performed for the sake of performing it and an activity that will birth a new organizational conscious perception regarding everything related to Knowledge Management, specifically Knowledge Retention: additional activities, updating and refreshing the existing knowledge, etc.

 

A final point which in my opinion is equally important and refers to project management in practice is (among others):

  • Sensitivity! Remember, we are working with people, not machines. Some people do not know/cannot share their knowledge freely, especially when the subject of retirement is echoing and generates a certain anxiety within most workers.
  • If possible, schedule activities so that they are not too pressuring (especially not for the retiring expert).
  • Use the correct terminology:
    • Instead of saying "milking knowledge" say "retaining knowledge".
    • Don't say "the retiree". Some find this pressuring. Instead refer to him/her as 'the expert.
    • Show empathy and listen to stories end explanation, even if they slightly divert from the subject. It helps the expert open up and will therefore serve the cause later (if any insights can be derived from the story, document those as well).
  • Maintain an ongoing relationship. Even when no work is being done, if you happen to be around drop by and say hello. This will create a friendly, positive atmosphere that will serve the cause in the future.

To conclude, one last tip: Knowledge Retention should reveal what we don't know. This should be our objective.

Good luck.

Written By Michal Tzadka

 

Have you ever taken the elevator down, then remembered you forgot something, so you pressed the number of the flight you need in order to go back up? Has it happened more than once?

Have you ever encountered the new elevators which do not have buttons in their interior and can only be called from the outside? This means that if you forgot something, you must exit the elevator, call another elevator and go up again. Unfortunately, this happened to me more than once and after a quick survey I found that I'm not the only one.

Some might say that this is an innovative invention and innovation and progress come before everything. They might also add, that there are many needs and aspects that cannot all be taken into consideration. I claim that while innovation and progress are important, we must remember the users and make sure that the learning curve is as small as possible by answering the needs of a variety of users.

 

How is this done?

When we characterize a KM solution for organizations, it is important that we understand who are our users and construct numerous prototypes to check if we answer their needs in terms of user experience.

In the organization, we will review our workers:

  • The young worker: likes gadgets and innovation, is restless and spends his day in a computerized environment. This worker wants to receive the information here and now. A common example of this type of worker is Y generation workers or in the near future Z generation workers.
  • The technophobe worker: frightened from technology, is usually older, prefers a routine and 'the good old way' i.e. keeps the information in folders and is careful to print the material). A common example of this type of workers is workers from the 'baby boomers' generation.
  • The worker between the two aforementioned types learns and adapts to technology. On one hand, he does not search for the latest gadget released yet uses a computer for work and is possibly connected to a social network. A common example of this type of workers is workers from Generation X.

We will also review the nature of the organization and the work performed in it:

  • Many new workers, quick turnover such as call centers, the lifespan of an average worker in the organization is approximately a year.
  • An organization with veteran workers, little turnover, the workers know most of the work procedures.
  • An organization in which work procedures are altered in a high or low frequency.

 

Here's an ample for a characterization of a work process in a Knowledge Management system:

Should we characterize it as a workflow process with all its divestitures and require all workers to go through each phase, or should we characterize it as a map with an option to focus on the knowledge relevant to each question? Review the users presented above and think: what solution would apply to this situation?

There is no absolute solution, yet the tendency of an organization with quick turnover would be to choose a workflow solution and an organization in which work processes are rarely altered usually choose a process map.

Occasionally, organizations are in hast to purchase the most innovative product available, and then attempt to assimilate it. Just a few tips before you take this route:

  1. Stop and check: who are the users in the organization and will progress and innovation answer their real
  2. Take in consideration that answering your organization's UX will require further development and adaptation of the product.
  3. Check the search engine: in a world in which 3.8 billion searches are performed a day and each one of a billion web surfers perform an average of 100 searches a month (according to comScore statistics, July 2012). The search engine is a UX feature crucial for a successful assimilation of a KM solution.
  4. Conduct a usability test on the system, using real users from the organization (those who will actually use the system, not only Training & Development personnel).

Addressing a variety of users whose needs seem at times to contradict is undoubtedly challenging. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that in order to successfully assimilate these Knowledge Management solutions, we cannot avoid investing in User Experience.      

Written by Rom Knowledgeware
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