Knowledge management and creativity/ innovation enhance project management.
I am a firm believer in the value of knowledge management to enhance project management. I also believe that the use of formal structures, such as those advocated in Lean and Six Sigma (or process improvement), and project management, give people more rather than less scope for creativity and innovation. Creativity and innovation in turn, of course also enhance the quality of our processes and projects. So, I was delighted to read the Turner & Townsend case study in April’s APM (Association for Project Management) magazine: Project1. Even more satisfying is that this feature article was the result of T&T winning the APM Project Management Awards in 2009.
Why would knowledge management and creativity / innovation be important to an organisation such as Turner & Townsend?
T&T is a project management consultancy, with more than 2,400 employees, 770 of which are project managers, operating worldwide across 59 offices. So they are a prime example of an organisation that would benefit from effective knowledge management to ensure that employees can:
- Learn from their successes as well as their mistakes – so that they neither reinvent the wheel, nor repeat the same mistake twice
- Continuously improve the way they do things – in this case, the ‘art and science’ of project management
- Tap into the whole organisation’s experience and insights when working with their customers, and so not only achieve customer satisfaction, but customer loyalty
Creativity is the precursor of innovation: it generates the new ideas which if accepted and applied within an organisation result in innovation. An organisational structure that encourages and supports new idea generation and follow-through, will not only enable continuous improvement of its processes, projects and resultant customer experience, it should also result in greater employee satisfaction, morale, personal development and ultimate retention. A recent internal staff survey suggests that T&T is achieving this kind of result with 86% of staff feeling proud to work there, and 84% indicating that they would recommend it as a good place to work.
How does T&T enable knowledge management and creativity / innovation?
Fundamental to the T&T approach is the emphasis they place on a range of formal and informal communication opportunities, using both face-to-face and electronic media, across all levels of the business. Examples of these include:
- An ‘excellent ideas’ intranet portal – a platform for posting new ideas, suggested good practice, and tools / products. Apparently more than 200 ideas have been posted since the initiative started two years ago, and 50% have been applied or are in the process of being so, with another 18% under review.
- Knowledge breakfasts – an opportunity for junior staff to discuss specific project related topics and then present the outcomes to their teams.
- Intranet feedback – an opportunity for employees to submit best practice and guidance for continuous development and improvement of technical and service knowledge and delivery. The intranet thereby functions as an online knowledge base that is continuously improved.
T&T also have a strong infrastructure to support knowledge management and creativity / innovation.
These knowledge management and creativity / innovation practices are supported by the organisation’s emphasis on continuous development, with people being encouraged to participate in various training programmes.
1% of turnover is invested in research and innovation, resulting in new project management tools and techniques.
T&T also have a well-defined model or set of processes for their work with clients:
- Assess and engage: understanding client requirements, building a business case, building strong working relationships with the client and key stakeholders.
- Develop & improve: strategies and plans for implementing the project.
- Project execution plan: i.e. the manifestation of the previous step.
- Deliver & benefit: implementation for successful delivery
Although the article does not discuss this model any further, it is this kind of infrastructure that supports the identification and sharing of experiences, insights and new ideas that lies at the heart of knowledge management and creativity / innovation.
1. Head Turner. Project – the voice of project management, issue 227, April 2010, pp34-35
2. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, using process improvement, knowledge and change management to enhance team effectiveness.