Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lessons learned

Returning to the office after a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, I see a note reminding me of a deadline for article submission to the Best Practices Newsletter. Since I can’t (or just don’t know how) to attached an article to my blog, I going to summarize below my 10 lessons learned for getting an organization to embrace CMS.

Lesson 1 – Changing technology is easy compared to people and processes.
Lesson 2 – Changing culture takes time, a lot of it.
Lesson 3 – Entropy and the vision, the vision of the project shifts over time and must be managed.
Lesson 4 – Keep your eye on the target, each possible solution has the potential of shifting the goal of a project.
Lesson 5 – The voice from outside lends credibility and is essential for instigating change.
Lesson 6 – There are never enough champions.
Lesson 7 – Design first, buy software second to ensure that the product purchased meets your needs and has organization buy-in.
Lesson 8 – Address common misconceptions
Lesson 9 – Start small and be successful by breaking implementation into small well defined tasks. Nothing changes the culture more than success.
Lesson 10 – The need to distinguish between design tasks and policy issues.

The paper has much more detail on each of these items and is bound to be a fascinating read.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Managing priorities

With the launch of the CMS file migration effort, we began to hear grumbling about workload and all the new things that people need to do. Items that I heard mentioned include a getting aligned with federal reporting requirements, evaluating new research processes, and of course KM and CMS. Adding a change in management ... Managers justifiably are worried about the workload of their staff and accomplishing the tasks before them. Staff are being pulled in a variety of directions for the new priorities.

To address this we had a meeting last week of our KM team (managers of the various units). The questions we discussed were; what activities are taking the bulk of time, which have priority, and what should be delayed. Since my concern is launching KM initiatives in a time when people are overburdened, I offered to put some KM activities on hold if necessary and offered to take on some additional activities to help alleviate the load. While we weren't able to completely answer the questions before us, we did get the issue on the table and the commitment to talk further. Yesterday, I did discuss with one of the managers options for using support staff to help with the file migration. We also discussed some options for me to take a more active role in identifying some KM products. In both cases, this will require individuals giving up some control (I'm sure this will lead to a future post). A step in the right direction, I hope ...

Bottom-line: It's really easy to add new tasks and very difficult to tasks away. A tendency is to just let things pile up. The challenge is to manage the priorities.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

High water

I'm just back from a 4 day canoe trip on the Dolores river. The river was really high and therefore we sped down to camp each day, arriving by lunch time. The frantic pace on the river, followed by a calm afternoon and evening, is a perfect analogy for my role in KM.

Preparing for and launching new activities requires your full attention. Being unprepared can spell disaster. If you're prepared and the unexpected does happen (like a canoe tipping over), you can react quickly with no real harm done. Once you get to camp, for me that's equivalent to getting a new initiative underway, all you can do is sit back and watch others float by, look at their progress and shout an occasional encouragement. The hardest part of the trip is when you have wait for others to accomplish their task, especially if they arrive late to camp with the food.

Time in camp (after the activity is launched) can be used to do a side hike (i.e. a short activity), talk about the day's adventures (an activity debriefing), repair your gear or look at the map for tomorrow (prepare for your next activity). The challenge is not to take a nap after arriving in camp.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Final reports to be available electronically

One "quick win" that we identified was making all our organization's final reports available via the web site. In 2003 we started offering PDF reports, however prior to 2003 all we have are paper documents. Our subscribers would like the convenience of having web access to these reports. These reports are considered our main repository of knowledge.

This has been discussed for years, but keeps getting tabled because of all the potential challenges. When you hear a barrage of questions, it's easy to think that the problem are insurmountable or just not worth the effort.

In order to address this, we're tackling the challenges in a systematic three-prong approach. The first phase, that we just completed, was to define what we need technically and get vendor costs. By getting the technical folks together, OCR with chapter bookmarks for navigation easily emerged as the way to go. The ability of our search engine, Verity, to full-text search OCR documents simplified our conversations.

Phase 2 is just getting started and will involve senior managers. In this phase, we will focus on project management, funding, and other how-to issues. We're proposing a partnership with our sister organization and while it makes sense from a managerial and technical point of view, getting buy-off from two sets of management will be fun.

Our final phase will be to address all the ownership, royalty, and copyright issues. In the past, these were the comments that stalled out this project. I'm hoping that by building the momentum prior to this phase we can push past all the legal hurdles. Am I dreaming ...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Getting back on track

The sun's finally back and things are looking up again.

Following the discussions last week, we've gotten back on track by scheduling meetings (my favorite thing) to identify all the new initiatives and decide the priorities. Therefore, instead of reacting to "one more item" we can place each item in its priority for the organization.

Today at our all staff meeting we officially launched the migration of organizational files to the CMS. Surprisingly, we had a warm reception with only one or two scowls in the crowd. Of course I did make numerous statements about our awareness of workload issues and the need to coordinate with unit managers (I feel like a politician, yuk!). Folks had a lot of fun when we introduced the concept of "getting rid of the ROT" (redundant, trivial and outdated files). The first suggestion was to get rid of the KM Coordinator.

The silver lining or lesson learned is to take advantage of a break (like to weekend) to get things back on track. After folks had a chance to express their frustration last week, they were very amenable to talking calmly this week on how to move forward.