Monday, January 12, 2009

Knowledge retention - bridging knowledge

I was recently contracted to provide continuity of management for a soon to retire manager. My roles will be to complete one short-term project and provide interim management of another long term project. In essence, I’m providing a bridge of knowledge from the retiring employee to the new employee.

From a knowledge retention perspective my tasks are:

1) Learn all I can from the retiring employee,
2) Capture/ document key and salient items, and
3) Share/ transfer to the eventual long-term employee (hopefully hired soon).

At the first meeting, my first challenge became clear – identify “who” -- who are the contractors, stakeholders and end users. This includes contact information as well as insights on roles and expectations. Another task will be to identify documents and other resources and where they can be found.

While this position is important just to keep things running, this knowledge bridging will enable the new employee to get up to speed more rapidly

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Knowldege retention - Proactive vs. recovery?

With high turnover and difficulty in replacing key employees, knowledge retention is becoming more and more important.

I classify knowledge retention efforts into three categories:

1) Proactive – as an everyday task, capturing knowledge on an continual basis
2) Salvage – When you know someone is going to leave, capture essential knowledge in the time allotted.
3) Recovery – Finding or reconstructing the needed knowledge afterward

In an ideal world being proactive would be the best. However, capturing knowledge takes time, effort, and resources. There’s a fine balance between the value of knowledge captured and resources required. Prioritization and most importantly an understanding of “mission critical” or “position critical” knowledge is a good place to start.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Knowledge management technology lesson in buying a TV

My wife and I went out to buy a new TV. This was a great example of the promise of technology vs. what’s truly needed. Our business requirements were pretty simple, we needed a new TV (even though our current 25 years old set is just fine) and I had watched the Bronco game on a friend’s high definition set, so high definition was a must. Other than that...

So we went off to our local appliance store. Here’s some impressions:

  • The promise of technology - The first thing we saw was a wall of TVs of all shapes sizes. The size we were thinking of was too small for the wall and off in some corner. Should we get something bigger than our need?
  • Technology outpacing current requirements – The first thing we heard of was 760 vs. 1080p (the higher the number, the greater the resolution). Reviews that we saw say you can’t see the difference in the size TV we may buy. Of course 1080p is the future and costs at least $100 more. Buy for now or the future?
  • Newer technology – LCD vs. plasma – LCD is the newer technology and most manufacturers are moving toward it. It supposedly works better in variable light conditions. We were told that Plasma has better clarity for sports. LCD costs at least $100 more. Buy what’s hot or for one use?
  • Features – We heard a ton about the different features as a way to differentiate the models. Some could do some very amazing things. Of course, I’m the person who uses my cell phone only to make phone calls.... Buy with features that aren’t in our requirements list but might be cool?
  • User experience – After two days of technology investigations I began reading customer reviews. All rated the picture quality high. The reviews talked about operations issues such as poor sound quality, poor quality remote, and difficult to understand menu (i.e. can you actually use the TV?). The technical focus of picture quality wasn’t an issue to the majority. The satisfaction was related to the experience during use.

What TV did we buy? Well that’s a different question. I brought my research to management for the final decision.

The lesson here for knowledge management is that the latest and greatest technology may not be the best solution to satisfy your business needs. Whatever solution you chose is a balancing act between the technology (current and future), your needs and organizational culture. And of course, don’t forget to balance your checking account...

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