Doing KM One Person at a Time

Yesterday, for the first time in my KM consulting career I did something that I had not had the chance to do before. My colleague Paolina and I held a “clinic” at our client’s office; people were invited to come talk to us to figure out how they could apply knowledge sharing tools and techniques in their project or work area (this organisation has put some people through a programme which equips them with a suite of knowledge sharing techniques). This is not the usual high-level stuff that we do with clients, eg, KM strategy and roadmap development, but for some reason it felt very satisfying. 

We talked through with our guests the work that they do, and then figured out with them areas where they could apply appropriate knowledge sharing tools and techniques. So for example, one person whose division is undergoing restructuring will be using a technique called Open Space Technology to surface and address ground issues. Another one is involved in organising their staff forum, and she will be using a technique called Pre-mortem to anticipate likely showstoppers, and another technique called Retrospect after the forum to record lessons learnt for the next organising committee. These are not big, sexy KM projects. Quite the opposite. But by the fifth guest, I was getting quite jazzed. What if more and more people in this organisation practised those tools and techniques? What if it reached a critical mass such that they became part of the corporate speak? So someone would say, “Hey when we celebrate the end of our project let’s also do a Retrospect”, and everyone in the room would know exactly what that meant. Little by little I imagine the knowledge sharing culture being transformed. When I can really see something happening, it excites me.

5 Comments so far

Patti Anklam

This post reminds me of a story that I’ve been telling for many years. In the early days of computer-supported collaboration (way before the WWW), a consultant talked about introducing tools into an organization.  When asked how he actually got people to change and accept the tools, he said, “1,000 cups of coffee.”

Posted on January 06, 2008 at 10:31 PM | Comment permalink

Shawn Callahan

Is a Retrospect like and After Action Review? I like the idea if a KM clinic. What did your client think of the experience?

Posted on January 12, 2008 at 05:28 AM | Comment permalink

I think Patty’s comment about 1,000 cups of coffee is spot on. KM work is very dependent on individuals experiencing “aha!” moments when they see the power of a well structured taxonomy or social networks or other KM practices. KM practitioners can talk to groups all day about how great KM and KM tools are and their advantages. But until individuals actually experience the value and start talking it up it’s difficult to make significant progress. The emphasis on 1 to 1 communication and sharing subsequent success stories is key.

Posted on January 14, 2008 at 09:10 AM | Comment permalink

Edgar Tan

Hi Shawn

A Retrospect is done at the end of a project or activity cycle, and it looks at key learning points through sharing of stories about high and low points. It is used to reflect on what was important about the activity cycle or whole project, and what needs to be captured and passed down, either for the next cycle, or for future project teams.

An AAR is conducted at key points during a project to capture important lessons learnt by team members, lessons that can be used immediately to improve the team’s effectiveness in executing the project. During an AAR one asks:
“What was supposed to happen?”
“What actually happened?”
“Why the differences?”
“What can we learn from this?”

We didn’t ask our clients what they thought of the experience of attending the KM clinic, but during the 30 mins or so that we spent together they had more clarity about how they could apply knowledge sharing tools and techniques to improve their project than all the previous days of workshop combined. The idea of a clinic came up because we realised that out of a class of 35, not all of them can figure out on their own how and where to apply those tools. If I were to run the same programme again, I’d definitely make the clinic an integral part of it.

Posted on January 14, 2008 at 06:34 PM | Comment permalink

Edgar Tan

Hi Jim

I can’t agree with you more, especially after my recent experience of running the clinic. Here, I have one more thing to add. In order for KM practitioners to be able to help their colleagues reach that “aha” moment, they themselves need to be conversant with a good range of knowledge sharing tools and techniques, they should be able to spot value-generating opportunities where those tools could be applied, and they need to be able to communicate all these well. Are these common skills among KM practitioners? I’m not sure.

Posted on January 14, 2008 at 06:54 PM | Comment permalink

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