Thursday, May 11, 2006

Knowledge retention workshop

Yesterday I got the chance to participate in workshop that was held in conjunction with an AwwaRF project on knowledge retention. The workshop had about 20 representatives from water utilities to discuss tools for knowledge retention. The final results from this project will be tools and strategies for implementing KM.

The research team from EMA and APQC did a great job. Some of their descriptions of knowledge and knowledge management were some of the best I've heard. I'll try and cover them in a later posting.

Below is a sampling of the discussion. Sorry I don't have time to add the context for each, but hopefully y the majority hopefully will make sense.

"KM can't stand alone. You must build into an existing effort." i.e. KM within workforce planning

Disconnect between upper management and middle manager. There is frustration at the middle manager level. These folks often don't get the vision for KM brought to them. Need more training for middle managers on strategy items like KM.

The old paradigm is doing more with less. Now that we are at less, we're being asked to do more with even less." The first thing that gets cut, is programs like KM. "We just don't have time to do it."

Challenges with knowledge retention are increased when you factor in different generations. Values and learning styles are so different.

"We all talk about leadership buy-in. How do you define your leadership?"

The "crusty old guy syndrome." You should put the crusty old guy on a pedestal and capture his knowledge. Instead he is often shunned.

In some models we try to take knowledge to the point where you don't need to think anymore (i.e. explicit knowledge is so well defined or the process is automated. Think about someone who learns to cook only TV dinners, what happens if they get the raw ingredients? What happens if your automation fails? Do we continue to generate new knowledge?

In looking at roles:
- Finance is on the back-end of projects, they'd love to be in on the upfront planning.
- Front-line people (i.e. the guy repairing the water line) needs as much information as the press guy. They usually talk to the customer first.
- Customer service vs. the field guy - either might be the first to identify a problem. Both need information at the same time.

The shift from "built it and they will come," to "find the need, fill the need."

There was a whole lot more covered, but these were the ones that caught my attention.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'm certified now

I passed the test, so now I'm a "Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM)." It's funny, I don't feel smarter, but I do have great initials to add after my name. This will look great on my business card and resume.

Certification in knowledge management is still evolving. My certification required a two day course and then taking a 50 question test. Even though I have over 10 years experience in the field, little of my past knowledge helped me with this program. The STI Knowledge approach, terminology and test questions were different from how I was approaching KM (not necessarily bad, just different). I'm aware of a few other groups that offer certification, and I assume their certification has the same challenges. The course itself was valuable from a learning perspective; the certification, well that's another story.

Until this field is more standardized, certification is what it is, proof that you listened in a short course.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Helping start KM

On Friday, I made a presentation to the public works department at a local city. I had three hours in which to describe KM, KM tools and to start their dialogue. What surprised me was how quickly they entered into the discussion and got excited about KM. There was no lack of areas where KM could be helpful, the biggest challenge they identified was in finding the time to implement it.

I did ask the question, who's are already doing knowledge management? Not one person said yes. They were a little surprised when I said that they all are managing knowledge, the field of KM is there to help them do it better.

Prior to the session, I spent a lot of time finding examples to put KM into context. During the session, a number of good examples emerged. These included:

- Find "as is" plans - Identifying valves that needed to be shut own in order to work on a pipe. Often the values weren't in the same place as indicated in the plans (causing more of the street to be excavated).
- Converting lab methods into a standard procedure, electronic copy. Previously methods were kept in a "recipe box." The city now has one person who's responsibility it is to document and keep up the methods.
- HR support - A challenge for a supervisors is consistent handling of HR matters. Rules are always changing and recommendations different with each person you talk to.

Some KM tools that I mentioned that immediately got people nodding their heads (in agreement)
- Yellow pages - The idea of developing an expertise based yellow pages for their organization
- Mentoring/ using retired employees - Names immediately began to surface of who they could use.
- Community of practice around HR - The idea of an HR support group.

Following the session, I got a quick chance to talk with the department director. It was obvious that he was thinking about how they could effectively use KM and even mentioned that he has one person in mind to take the lead.

It will be interesting to see what happens here in the next few years.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Putting KM into context

I've been asked by a local public works department to conduct a workshop on knowledge management at their management staff retreat. They had heard about knowledge management and knowledge retention, but don't know where to start.

It has been a challenge to pull my materials and thoughts together for this workshop. After working internally for so long, this made me look back at the basics, why would someone start knowledge management?

The challenge in my first three slides was to put the drivers for KM into context. I've finally settled on three drivers 1) the changes in information (i.e. too much information and new information expectations), 2) treating knowledge as an asset and 3) knowledge retention (operating knowledge is 80% tacit and over half your staff won't be with you in 10 years). I'm guessing that they will relate to the last item most.

The next challenge has been taking the commonly used terms and knowledge management tools, and putting them into context for the audience. The context is the knowledge that I can bring to this group.

Finally I had to find challenges that they might face and examples from similar organizations. This is where Foundation research and conversations with some of our investigators has been really helpful. The research into utility practices will provide the context I need so that they can see KM is real and not just a bunch of theory.