Making Knowledge Work – Beyond Lessons Learned – Notes from APM #KSIGDDAY


APM prospective Knowledge SIG Conference – 5th July 2012

Based on the @ecgoodman twitter stream tagged with #KSIGDDAY @APMProjectMgmt #KM

Meeting kicking off – looking forward to it!

The meeting started with some speed networking in which I met lots of great people from all sectors of work, the UK, sizes of organisation, and levels of experience of Knowledge Management.

We shared our expectations of the day, common themes being: to gain practical insights, how to use lessons learned or project reviews because people still make the same mistakes all the time, and how to measure and share knowledge.

Steve Kaye, Head of Innovation, Anglian Water  - Managing Knowledge in Anglian Water

Innovation is about getting value from new ideas.  Steve shared a graphic with others, which suggested an evolution of the business model from working entirely in-house to working in partnership, group collaboration and now open innovation.  He suggested that the benefits and knowledge gained have gone up through this process, but that the degree of control has gone down so that we now have very difficult to manage complex projects.

Anglian Water has created a Water Innovation Network with underlying process to assess and adopt new ideas.  New ideas are assessed through a “Dragon’s Den” type forum and then the WIN steering group, so that they have a formal and robust process to drive new ideas into the organisation.

They use an electronic “Learning Hub” to capture learnings & prompt comments and actions at the various stages of capital projects.  They are trying to get people to rank and comment on learnings and so drive actions for improvement.

Anglian Water’s Standard product approach captures information on a large range of features with commentary online – so that this can act as a dynamic reference source for those developing products.

Steve believes that Nonaka’s tacit/explicit knowledge cycle is still relevant, for example in capturing knowledge from people who retire.  They are trying 1-day master classes with video recording as way to capture knowledge from retirees although he also suggested that the solution is to re-employ them as consultants!

Steve concluded with a yin/yang illustration suggesting that knowledge management is a balance of hard and soft: data, documents etc. and behaviour, communication, leadership.

There are challenges of consistency, duplication, operating in real time.  And there are opportunities to create a knowledge sharing culture and to drive innovation.

On lessons learned, Steve said that although there is a challenge to get project managers to meetings because they are very stretched.  Once they do get to meetings valuable learnings are obtained.  They have about 50 learning facilitators to organise the meetings and they are trained to ask the right questions.  But on the whole the benefits realisation process is much more developed in Anglian Water than lessons learned.

Break out session

We broke into several groups to discuss 3 questions posed by Steve Kaye:

1. How to create a culture of knowledge sharing?

The main points made were:

  • Need to balance what people are sharing (the supply) with what people want to learn or find out about (the demand)
  • There is no substitute for speaking to people as opposed to capturing stuff in systems – though information on who knows what is useful to record
  • There may be pockets of different culture within an organisation
  • There is a key role for the leadership in speaking about and modelling knowledge sharing
  • There is no formulaic way to enforce or empower knowledge sharing as it depends on the organisation
  • People need to be given a safe space and time to share knowledge, with active encouragement to report back what they have learned to peers, and the use of storytelling to support sharing
  • There were some good examples in the room of effective lessons learned processes and active communities of practice

2. What makes a good knowledge sharing system?

Victor Newman facilitated this session using his “Smart failing” technique that we all practiced later in the session.  He maintained that we need to start focusing on knowledge building, rather than knowledge sharing – something that he also described in his 2002 publication “The Knowledge Activitist’s Handbook”.

The group focused first on ‘what is not working’ with systems they have experienced.  They then looked for solutions to address the failings.  The list included:

  • Designing the system for the people who are going to use it
  • Intuitive navigation
  • Making sure the content is relevant, current and succinct
  • Ensuring that the content is designed for the user and the context in which they are going to use it
  • Clear ownership and accountability
  • Robustness for searching in many different ways
  • A pull strategy (from the user) – we generally need to get better at this, and gather more information on how to do this
  • A knowledge map to be able to find the expert and actual practitioners
  • A process to integrate the information into the relevant business activities
  • Appropriate governance and support
  • Clarity on the anticipated benefits

3. How can we convert tacit to explicit knowledge?

Points raised included:

  • Using visual representations of the explicit knowledge (diagrams, photographs etc.) with links to the appropriate people for reference
  • Shadowing can be a good way to capture tacit knowledge
  • Is there a corrolation between project management maturity and knowledge management?

Judy Payne (@judypayne), Director, Hemdean Consulting – Understanding how knowledge is shared

Judy reiterated that what works in one organisation for knowledge sharing will not work in another.  She pointed out that army personnel are strongly motivated to learn from each other, and that just in time training with knowledge shared between people therefore works well in that environment.

Judy pulled up the wikipedia definition of knowledge sharing, and referred to others, which use terms such as knowledge transfer, flow, exchange etc.

Telling people something is not enough for knowledge sharing – it needs understanding, interpretation and application to really be effective.  Judy thought it would be helpful to relate knowledge sharing to an organisational learning model.  It needs a willingness to unlearn what we know, and is a multi-level process within an organisation.

The organisational model involves four learning processes:

  1. Individual intuition – where an individual realises there is something new that is important to tell others about.
  2. Work group interpreting – the individual discusses what s/he has learned within their work group.  It’s relatively easy to do as the group has a common language.  They may as a result decide that they need to take some kind of action, which may involve talking to a manager higher up the hierarchy.
  3. Organisational integration – this may be a more difficult discussion.  It may require showing the more senior manager some tangible results and a more detailed description of how things work.  It may require involvement of a senior manager’s peer who may have had more direct experience of what the group is trying to describe.  It may result in the more senior manager thinking this is such a good idea that they adopt it as their own with / without acknowledgement of the original individual’s insights!
  4. Institutionalisation – this involves actual embedding of a new way of working with all the challenges involved in doing so.  However, if successful, it can then trigger a whole new wave of unlearning required the next time a group or individual identifies a new insight.

Judy thought that a model such as this might help us to understand why lessons learned approaches often don’t work!

(You can contact Judy at judy@hemdean.co.uk or access her full set of slides on the APM K-SIG website http://www.apm.org.uk/group/apm-knowledge-specific-interest-group)

Break out session – How good are we at knowledge sharing?

Points raised included:

  • Using project gateways as milestones for reviewing learnings
  • Having experts / champions in certain fields
  • The “deep dive” approach
  • Identifying knowledge specialists within a matrix (or functional) team whose role is to research their area and train the others within the team on specific topics
  • The issue that often it is only a few people who are actively sharing within an organisation
  • The frequency of mandatory processes, forms or systems for capturing lessons learned that are not being used
  • There is nothing like getting teams together: old with new, or concurrent; maybe bribing people with pizza!
  • The effectiveness of getting people together one on one with no-one else listening!
  • The importance of exploring what went well as well as what went wrong
  • Getting similar project teams all in one room
  • Fujitsu’s us of “KELs” (Knowledge Element Libraries) for IT: a Q&A system with the answers to problems that have just happened on individual’s systems.  It’s a quick look-up source, is very focused and can be referred to at the point of need.  Individuals are encouraged to write a KEL after every incident.
  • Xerox’s quality improvement programme about 20 years ago where everyone was encouraged to think of better ways of doing what they did.  If their manager agreed they could form and lead a team to address it, and then prepare and present the outcome directly to directors.  Every team was given 15 minutes of glory to put up a stand, which the managers visited.  Awards and certificates were presented.
  • The importance of having the right KPIs to drive the right behaviour
  • References to using a maturity model for knowledge and using a market process (wants and offers)
  • The need for a facilitator to ensure the quality of the knowledge captured in a system

Steve Simister, Director, Oxford Management and Research – The prospective Knowledge SIG

Steve described the value of running this special interest group via APM; that it can also include non-project management people and the diverse inputs that this would bring to the group.

He and the other members of the committee are looking for input on the needs of a KSIG community and it would be looking to deliver potential quick wins and stimulate understanding and knowledge in this area.

The next event will be on 18th July in the evening through the Leeds & York branch.  A 2nd all day event is also planned for September.

We collected feedback in our individual tables on the future remit of KSIG which was collated as follows:

  • Case studies to share
  • Signpost and analyse research in the area
  • Build a community that is wider than project management by reaching out to other groups who are doing this
  • Look for ways to introduce cultural change, especially in engaging leaders
  • Develop networks, mentors, buddies
  • Look for tools, methods, templates and how the various communication media can be used

Victor Newman, Visiting Professor in Knowledge and Innovation Management, University of Greenwich -  Fast organisational learning

Victor suggested that innovation is what knowledge management should be about.  He referred us to his latest book “Power House: Strategic Knowledge Management – Insights, Practical Tools and Techniques” http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2962123

We need to adapt faster and facilitate people’s thinking in real time.  We can’t permit drift in our work.

Victor adopts the KUBE model:

  • Knowing
  • Understanding
  • Believing and Behaving
  • Engaging and Expediting

He took us through some of his Emergent Knowledge Management techniques (EKM); these are covered in detail in his book.

We began with “behavioural literacy”.  We should recognised that our behaviour is a gift: what we do and how we do it, even down to what we wear and our body language carries the biggest message to the people we are interacting with.  What we say is only a minor part of the total message.

Behavioural Literacy is about creating personal awareness of the messages we are sending, and taking corrective or preventative measures, or actively using this behaviour.

Victor took us through his incident interpretation (or behavioural analysis) steps:

  • Identify the incident & the impact that it had (what, where, how, when)
  • The feelings experienced (how did it make me feel?)
  • The personal messages sent (so it’s OK to…)
  • The personal lessons gained / rules for the future (In future I will..)

We tried this out individually on personal incidents relating to gifts we made that did not work, tackling an impossible task, undergoing a significant change etc. and shared the results. It was apparent that many of us had gained some very positive learnings in just this short time.

Victor’s experience that getting people to ask themselves and articulate to others that something “made me feel” develops a ‘muscle’ of interpretation and makes others more willing to listen to what is being communicated to them.

He reiterated that there are no lessons learned until you’ve changed behaviours. All else is documentation.  When designing new behaviours it’s useful to identify: the current behaviour, the target behaviour, and how we will behave to get there. Giving the new behaviour a name makes the whole process even more effective.  This new behaviour design can be applied to customers, self etc .

Finally we looked at the use of contradiction & controversy to foster learning: how NOT to do things to work out HOW to do things.  This is Victor’s “Baton passing” technique for lessons learned – we went through this very quickly using the Smart Failing process centred on exploring how to ensure innovation fails!

The technique is based on 3 steps:

  • Capturing beliefs about what might fail (encouraging the sentiment “am I the only idiot in the room” and celebrating cynicism)
  • Prioritising the root causes of failure
  • Identifying the solutions and steps to address them (reverse engineering and finding the antidote)

The meEting wrapped up with feedback on K-SIG wishes – listed above

A link to a space on the APM website will follow.

All in all it was a very good meeting! Thank you to the KSIG team, and to Fujitsu for hosting the event.

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6 responses to “Making Knowledge Work – Beyond Lessons Learned – Notes from APM #KSIGDDAY

  1. Elisabeth…. WOW !
    What a thorough summary of the day and the speakers. Thanks for blogging this and thanks for your contribution on the day.
    Regards
    Andy Wall (Prospective SIG committee member)

    • elisabethgoodman

      My pleasure Andy. It really was a very good meeting – so lots of good material to write about!

  2. Pingback: Working in Virtual Teams – RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter – August 2012 | Newsletter

  3. Elisabeth, Would have been great to attend, a bit hard from Australia. I would appreciate your views on the following lessons learned paper. http://www.invictaprojects.com.au/pmlessonslearnedblog/?p=608
    Regards, Stephen

    • elisabethgoodman

      Yes – sorry you could not make it Stephen! I will take a look t your paper and reply separately. Best, Elisabeth

  4. Wonderful website. A lot of helpful information here. I’m sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you to your effort!

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