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Notes on Knowledge Continuity

I was part of a content creation for the bspin conference recently held at Bangalore on Knowledge Continuity. These notes of mine which were part of the first version which got morphed into totally something else when we finished. I felt there were some key points here that may interest Knowledge Managers. So here it goes…

Knowledge Continuity 3 D

Business continuity (for target vectors like performance, functionality, availability, ability to change, etc in IT Services) is provisioned by Knowledge continuity.

Knowledge Continuity cuts across 3 dimensions

1. People Interface/Relationships

· Such as between roles that work only in few phases (tester, BA, Architect) or between vendor and business user

2. Time

· Such as tenure in domain/account/technology

3. Content

· Such as standard operating procedures and heuristics of how experts handle crisis and how it is traded or exchanged

Common reasons that lead to loss of continuity include

1. Forgetting

2. Attrition

3. Too much or too little governance/processes

KM Strategy

Knowledge management as a strategy for achieving continuity intervenes by each of these dimensions

1. Interface: Building newer relationships across diverse groups

· Participative culture builds relationships and sustains rituals

· Diverse (not in bred) relations are formed as part of social network stimulation

2. Time: Bridging gap between expert and novice

· High Cost Experienced Resource versus Profitability equation

· Concept mapping and expertise transfer as methods to reduce time to become expert in the knowledge domain

3. Content: Sustained Knowledge creation socially

· Wiki as a preferred tool, how peer review helps in increasing quality of wikis, differences between closed and open wikis

· Structured Story Listening methods and AARs (after action reviews)

Success Determinants

Success of such KM strategy will be determined by the following

1. Culture prevalent in the enterprise, specifically drivers that create habits

2. Information and Communications Technology and its social utility value (the bargain)

3. People Policies

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How to deal with Avoid Task and Seek Attention behaviours?

Below 2 behaviors are common in the workplace that is necessary for every change agent to understand. They are critical to every change and system roll out.

Task Avoidance Behavior

Task avoidance behavior manifests as excuses even when there is agreement that the system or change is a worthwhile thing to try. There are many games like the Yes, but… that makes it difficult to spark action. To work around this issue, what I do typically is keep collecting excuses, and for each of the excuses find what “the precious” is, it could be time, effort, attention, presence among many others and gift them free.

Attention Seeking Behavior

Attention seeking is not really a problem, but it requires significant effort usually in the form of habits to sustain action. Social media actions like "like", +1 or transactional superlatives like "awesome" or even a simple "pat on the back", “Bravo” are undervalued. So to sustain attention it is necessary to come up with ideas that are high pedestal and keep coming up with ideas for different actions. If the prize or attention is easily gamed then it diminishes in value and no longer encourages action. So here the change agents’ job is to come up with large number of ideas using simple techniques like Forced Association, on what is available and direct attention to the action and not the pedestal.

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What is Management by Walking Around?

Otherwise called Genchi Genbutsu is a feature of the Toyota Production System. After all, if we are going to pick the metaphor of assembly line/manufacturing to even knowledge centric delivery processes, better learn from the best right. Management by Walking Around (MBWA) has been around for a while, in fact one of the best examples I have heard was from Ramesh Dorairaj (VP AMS MindTree), who cited from his NTPC days of having a manager who practiced MBWA. This manager takes place of a sub ordinate who is on leave to do all the tasks, handle situations, have lunch with the sub ordinate’s group and pretty much go through the entire day on his absent sub-ordinates schedule. These are in effect rituals that every employee goes through and managers tend to forget as they do only management (whatever that means) not real work, to be in touch with those rituals is an intimate way to understand what is “work”.

In IT industry it has become even simpler, to do MBWA all you need to do is set a rule that will forward emails (in effect tasks/decision items that others create for you) to your willing boss when you are out of office. This is a great way to build integrity, trust and relationships within teams that will be scales higher than your last team building activity that typically involves jumping into high chlorine waters, or throwing paint at each other or some such nonsense.

So in effect "increasing the chance that actual issues and unplanned events will be observed first hand and are managed immediately". These points are points of knowledge creation that managers take for granted, and proceed to act as if they do not matter. This sense making is not through an MIS report or from a status reporting presentation, but from issues, constraints, problems as it happens real time. Bonus in this strategy is there will be no back log to process when you return from your vacation. You return the favor for your boss on his vacation. And you also get to do tasks of the next level and build your own capability to handle it.

I know we as humans are great at excusing ourselves (from even the radical sounding ideas such as this one), but I still feel there is genuine productivity gain from plain transparency in work places. Think about it…

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