Developing an organization's professional doctrine using human and computerized resources
1 December 2010
Dr. Moria Levy
We, as individuals, all want to succeed in our job. We all want to excel.
The aspiration to succeed and excel is also shared by the organization as a whole. Individual wish to excel, to be appraised and experience the satisfaction that success provides. Organizations, too, wish to excel in order to attain their monetary/moral objectives.
However, reaching the top is far from easy. We know how to act according to habit, we struggle when required to stop, analyze and learn how to improve our performance so that it is both more beneficial and equally important efficient (quicker and cheaper).
According to Knowledge Creation models, headed by the famed SECI model created by Nonaka and Takeuchi, knowledge is developed in a group. This means that socialization is the first stage of a learning process.
This article describes a methodology for developing an organization's professional doctrine. It deals with typical cases in which people work in the field and is based both on reason and experience. While a previous knowledge methodology infrastructure usually exists, these are too general and do are not adapted to the business environment and the needs derived from it.
This can be analogized to branches and leaves, which are a tree's raw material in plain sight yet from a bird's perception they would not be detected (let alone from a pilot's point of view). This is true in organizational settings, too: the actions exist yet the organizing idea that allows us to direct functionaries to the highest quality of work (beneficial) for the fewest resources (efficiency).
The professional doctrine development methodology is meant to assist in collecting leaves, gathering them as branches (knowledge sharing); organizing them (knowledge structuring) into a complete array: and complementing missing pieces, integrating it all into a forest (knowledge development). These components comprise the professional doctrine available to functionaries.
How is such a doctrine created? Through socialization, of course.
To develop a professional doctrine optimally, one requires: an instructor, a heterogenous team of workers related to the process/subject of which the knowledge is developed, a means of sharing knowledge throughout a network, and time.
The instructor deals with the instructing methodology and will be well-versed in the professional doctrine methodology (to be hereby described).
The team will include both junior and senior workers; workers that represent the different types of workers typical of a job (for example, a manager of a large chapter and a manager of a large chapter); field personnel; etc. An optimal size for collective learning is 8-14 people. A smaller group would struggle at generating a variety and would feature poor brainstorming while larger groups usually difficulties to converse collectively without much distraction.
The means to share knowledge via the network (forum) will be used to upload and clarify specific questions with a larger community of functionaries not present at the time; this forum will later be utilized as a tool to validate the intermediate and final products of the doctrine development.
The time required (6-9 months) should be spent developing the knowledge deeply. It is preferable to set monthly meetings, each meeting taking four hours. A four-hour time frame is sufficient so that when the group members meet to learn they indeed concentrate on learning. The monthly meeting allows recruiting the best for the process (since people aren't required to be absent for much, it's only once a month) while ensuring thought, reception and internalization processes between the meetings. The intervals between the meetings allows users to experience the knowledge developed in the previous meeting and thus creates an effective learning framework. The intervals allow people to complete tasks and upload subjects discussed in the intermediate teams either fully (documentation process) or partially (completion task).
The Knowledge Creation methodology consists of seven stages, preceded by the initial stage in which the subject/process which the learning will focus on is selected.
The learning stages include:
The first stage involves broadening our thoughts by discussing case studies. This stage brings up terms, issues and components related to the subject at hand. This stage is critical since it provides the learner with an initial vocabulary before discussing the matter.
The second stage refers to the knowledge on this subject. Learning and Knowledge Creation should never be initiated before attempting to rely on previously developed knowledge on the subject at hand or related subjects. While we assume this knowledge is insufficient, since sufficient knowledge wouldn't require the development of new knowledge, it is always best to "ride on the shoulders of giants" rather than starting from scratch, ignoring the previously invested effort.
The next stages involve developing the model which is a graphic picture that conceptualizes the doctrine. Returning to our analogy, the model allows us to see the forest rather than merely the trees. Developing the doctrine's chapters, which include an elaboration on the model's components and insights to optimal management: Writing the doctrine document that binds them together and merges them into a shared document.
Sharing with people and learning involves the expansion of the learning 'circle': we learn in the room with the team; we turn to others for consultation or to note and validate what we've learned between one meeting and the other via the teams they are in contact with on a daily basis; use the network as a means for sharing knowledge, specific consulting and principal validation.
As the process nears its end, the group develops tools meant to promote the reflection and actualization of the doctrine in everyday life. Remember, people are not going to constantly read and remember this document at any given moment; we must create means that remind workers while implementing the doctrine's principles in the field. The tools can be tutorials, tagging lists, questionnaires, reports, etc. These tools are partially collected from group members and are bound in their initial form, while others are processed according to the group members' recommendations and the knowledge they developed regarding the optimal conduct when handling this subject/process. There are also new tools built from scratch.
The methodology's final stage is formulating an implementation plan; a plan that will actualize the real learning: implementing the doctrine in organizational life and, in turn, altering behavior and improving performance.
This is learning by all definitions and is where organizational culture is critical for successful implementation and learning as either a promoter or inhibitor of progress. This is the real learning; everything we've developed, as described up to this point, was merely an introduction.
Does it work? It seems to. During the decade years, dozens of professional doctrines for defining roles, processes and conduct regarding central issues have been developed. Management and field personnel seem enthusiastic and performance has visibly improved. Excellence is an aspiration, yet I sense that this methodology for developing a professional doctrine is certainly a road leading to it.