Tag Archives: John Riddell

Weavers of knowledge in our communities

By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th July 2015

Consistent messages about value and knowledge facilitation at CILIP’s 2015 conference

John Riddell and I attended Day 1 of CILIP’s 2015 conference in Liverpool to lead a master class on how to add value to your organisation as a ‘knowledge facilitator’. It turned out that not only was the concept of value to be a key theme at the conference, but also that of ‘knowledge facilitators’ albeit under different names.

R. David Lankes opened the conference with a very enjoyable keynote speech in St George’s concert hall, a splendid venue packed full with the 600 delegates. Although David used the generic term ‘librarian’, his messages hold true for all library and information professionals. He also used a variation of the phrase ‘knitters and weavers of knowledge in the community’ – the inspiration for this blog’s title.

R. David Lankes presenting the opening keynote speech at CILIP's 2015 conference

R. David Lankes presenting the opening keynote speech at CILIP’s 2015 conference

David set the tone for these important themes that continued throughout the day and culminated, back in the concert hall, with an inspiring presentation from Barbara Schack on Biblioteque Sans Frontiere’s creative Ideas Box approach to providing library and information resources in a different kind of community: that of refugees from wars and disasters.

The multiple roles of knowledge facilitators

I have witnessed a few variations of human bingo lately so thought I’d introduce one of my own at the start of our master class. We asked people to stand up if they illustrated one of the examples of knowledge facilitators on our slide. So we had examples of people facilitating information and knowledge sharing on committees, in project teams and on working parties. We captured a few other examples from those still seated.

(Note to self for next time, it works better to ask everyone to stand and then sit if they ‘match’. It’s easier to spot those still standing!)

Other knowledge facilitator roles identified by delegates in our master class at CILIP's 2015 conference

Other knowledge facilitator roles identified by delegates in our master class at CILIP’s 2015 conference

Martin Newman’ presentation on managing records of England’s legally protected heritage reminded me that Records Managers are also an example of knowledge facilitators. Martin has developed his team’s work such that they are moving from a traditionally responsive or reactive approach to one that is more strategic.  They will also be crowd sourcing images and additional information from their wide community of those accessing the National Heritage List.

Sandra Ward’s historical and forward looking presentation on “Information Management – impossible to ignore?” was also an important reminder of the evolving role of library and information professionals in the context of ‘big data’. I also came across at least one delegate who was now responsible for research data management for projects at her University. I felt like I had come full circle from my first role as a biological data coordinator after completing my MSc in Information Science. Only the complexity and quantity of the data involved is many times greater now than it was then.

Knowledge facilitators connect people to people, and people to content.

Challenges and opportunities for knowledge facilitators

Sandra Ward’s reflections on the history and future of Information Management drew out four key learnings:

  1. Innovation – it’s important to keep pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with Information Management, to keep up with (or even stay ahead of) the changes in the communities that IM supports
  2. Keep exploiting IT – to enable users / customers to do things for themselves
  3. Actively manage the interaction between the research and practice of IM
  4. Cooperate (or collaborate) with IT and with the business – to make information more accessible and aligned with business goals

These learnings raise both challenges and opportunities for knowledge facilitators – themes that we came back to in our master class when we suggested that knowledge facilitators created benefits both for the organisation and for themselves.

Organisational and personal benefits of being a knowledge facilitator - from Elisabeth Goodman's and John Riddell's presentation at CILIP's 2015 conference

Organisational and personal benefits of being a knowledge facilitator – from Elisabeth Goodman’s and John Riddell’s presentation at CILIP’s 2015 conference

Mindsets, tools and tips for knowledge facilitators

We shared case studies of knowledge facilitators during our master class, some of which reflected examples from the interviewees for our 2014 publication with Gower “Knowledge Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry“.

We also referred to Collison and Parcell’s book “Learning to Fly” and their approaches for learning before, during and after. It was good to hear from Stephen Latham in his presentation “Developing knowledge and information management capability in government” that they too use these knowledge learning and sharing techniques.

We then challenged our audience to identify ways that they could help knowledge facilitators succeed.  We got lots of good suggestions in a relatively short period of time.  Some matched our own suggestions, others went beyond them.

Delegate's suggestions for how to help knowledge facilitators be successful

Delegate’s suggestions for how to help knowledge facilitators be successful

Denise Carter’s presentation on engaging stakeholders was a great opportunity to reinforce what knowledge facilitators can do to build strong relationships with the members of their communities. I particularly liked her suggestion of taking advantage of the fact that people like to be asked their opinions, by making sure that you go to them with something specific to discuss, and to do this as part of a planned schedule of regular interactions.


There was a tremendous amount of food for thought in just Day 1 of the conference for how library and information professionals can add value as knowledge facilitators, and act as “hotspots” (quoting David Lankes again) in their communities.  I would be curious to know whether Day 2 continued and expanded on those themes.


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just under 6 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) for which she delivers various courses including “Fostering effective knowledge sharing and collaboration“.  Elisabeth is also a member of APM (Association for Project Management).

Lessons Learned – notes from an APM web briefing

By Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell, RiverRhee Consulting

(Preview of a blog to appear on the APM website)

A recent discussion thread on the APM (Association for Project Management) website focussed on the potential value of Lessons Learned and the failure modes that generally occur.  We have edited the points made in the discussion thread into an APM Web Briefing.

This blog summarises the discussion from the briefing, and is supplemented by some of the authors’ own reflections.

Lessons Learned can contribute to the success of projects

When used well Lessons Learned can contribute to the overall success of projects by re-using and building on approaches that have worked well and avoiding the repetition of previous mistakes.  Lessons Learned can also represent valuable intellectual property, deepen the relationship between suppliers and customers, and generally provide a competitive advantage.  A disciplined approach to Lessons Learned can make an important difference to cost, quality and time.

Why do Lessons learned not always work?

Some of the failure modes encountered are:

  • Lessons Learned are often not captured well.  There are several different ways in which this could be done more effectively, for instance by capturing Lessons Learned through the life of the project.
  • Lessons Learned need effective methods of communication.  Stakeholders need to be made aware of what’s available and how to access it.  Conversation is the most effective way to share lessons learned. Communities of Practice (e.g. between Project Managers) may help as might encouraging new teams to share with previous ones, and the use of published guides.
  • Adoption of ideas/outcomes from others may be hindered by cultural and behavioural factors. This may be linked to overall organisational culture, and to whether people are encouraged to learn from ‘mistakes’ or ‘failures’ and ‘successes’.  Whilst all individuals should have a responsibility in this area it may help to hold Project Managers accountable for taking a pro-active approach to Lessons Learned.

Overall a mix of process and culture can hinder the benefits that could otherwise be gained from a structured approach to Lessons Learned.

LESSONS LEARNED are a key component of knowledge management

RiverRhee Associates’ experience of Lessons Learned goes a bit further, as they are a key component of Knowledge Management approaches that we teach and facilitate for sharing learning, insights and experience within and between project and operational teams.

As the discussion thread and Web Briefing mention, Lessons Learned can be captured throughout the life of a project (or other kind of team), or at the end.  The Knowledge Management literature1 refers to learning before, during and after.

learning during: after action reviews

Frequent, short, and relatively informal learning reviews during the life of a project or operational team are sometimes known as ‘After Action Reviews’.  First introduced by the US Army, the intent is to capture and review Lessons Learned after any significant event, so that any corrective or supporting action can be implemented immediately.  In a project team, these After Action Reviews could be carried out after a critical activity or at each stage gate.  In an operational team they could occur as part of regular or periodic team meetings. Important ground-rules for these reviews include: everyone being involved, no blame, and ensuring that Lessons Learned are shared with everyone relevant whether inside or outside the team.  A typical structure for After Action Reviews will include: a recap of objectives, what actually happened and how this differed from the intent, what can be learnt from this difference, and who to share the Lessons Learned with.  What can be learnt covers both what contributed to things going well, and the causes for anything not going well.

Learning after: Learning retrospects

A more reflective Learning Retrospect or History takes place at the end of a project or programme.  It will explore the same questions as an After Action Review, but the recap of objectives and what happened will be a broader based exercise.  We’ve facilitated this kind of learning review for a project in a workshop setting, with the originally planned and actual project milestones mapped out and annotated with post-it notes from the team members to indicate what went well and what could have been improved against these milestones. Again this kind of exercise will be most effective where there is involvement of the whole team, including the project sponsor(s), and agreement on what Lessons Learned will be shared with whom, how and when.

Learning before: peer assists

The third type of learning intervention takes place ‘before’ or at the start of a project or operational team.  Also known as ‘Peer Assists’, this involves bringing together the members of the new team, and some or all members of previous teams who have Lessons Learned to share.  In this situation, the new team lays out its draft plans, concerns, ideas and any specific questions for the visiting team.  The visiting team considers and then shares what insights it can bring to the new team.  The new team then uses these insights to revise its plans and also as input for its risk analysis.

How to be more successful with LESSONS LEARNED

As noted in the Web Briefing, the successful adoption of some or all of these 3 approaches for learning before, during and after will depend on the rigour with which teams and organisations implement the processes, and the nature of the supporting culture and behaviours.  Incorporation of the learning processes into project methodology, facilitation through PMOs or other central groups, and role modelling by sponsors and management teams are examples of how such successful adoption can be enabled.


1. Chris Collison & Geoff Parcell.  Learning to Fly: Practical Knowledge Management from Leading and Learning Organisations.  Capstone, 2nd Edition, 2004.

The “Lean Startup” approach to understanding customer needs

By John Riddell

Notes from a Cambridge Network talk by Eric Ries

I attended the January Cambridge Network meeting, which was focused on a talk by Eric Ries, the author of a new book entitled “The Lean Startup”.

Eric had developed the book based on the lessons learned by entrepreneurial start-ups of software companies that he had worked with in California’s Silicon Valley.  Most of these companies had been driving forward Web 2.0, and had either failed or been taken over.

Opportunities to use Lean to improve start-up success

Eric saw the opportunity to apply Lean principles both to identify value in the eyes of the customer, and to reduce the cycle times involved for gathering and obtaining learnings and so improve on their performance.

He described a “pivot approach”.  This involves “keeping one foot planted in what your idea is and the other moving with learning”.  The idea is that, as you gain feedback on your product or idea, you “pivot” (or change your plan) towards what the customer really wants.

The value of focusing on what your customer wants

The “Lean Startup” approach resonated with me as “focusing on your customers” is RiverRhee Consulting’s first principle for enhancing team effectiveness.  This enables you to identify what your customers want (and not what you think they want).

Of course you need to work out how to find out what your potential customers want, and it might involve recognition of the failure of the bright idea that you were so enthusiastic about!

Experimentation vs. customer surveys

An interesting point in Eric’s presentation was his differentiation between using a customer survey, where a broad range of feedback can be obtained from a wide sample of customers (with the results shaping general direction and strategy), and the use of experimentation.

With experimentation, customers can handle a product (in a trial or pilot), give feedback on the product, and, most importantly, give feedback as to whether they would purchase the product or not.  Once you have that knowledge and recognise that you need to change direction then you need to fire up and go again!

The more frequent the number of cycles in which this occurs the better.

In his presentation Eric emphasised that there is no point in brilliantly executing a start-up plan to produce something that nobody wants.  He also emphasised not leaving change “until the building is on fire”!

Closing thoughts

TV programmes like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice have given us all more exposure to the concept of entrepreneurs and new business start-ups.

Eric’s background with software company start-ups in Silicon Valley seems a long way from the pharmaceutical manufacturing environment that I’m familiar with.  It was very interesting to see both kinds of organisation connected by Lean principles.


John Riddell is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting.  He has held technical, operational and project management roles in pharmaceutical manufacturing working with both small and large teams from a local to a global basis. John is a certified practitioner in Lean Six Sigma and is highly experienced in knowledge management.  He has developed a successful programme to coach leaders in developing teams that have multiple cultures and are spread across global locations.


2nd Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices (1 of 2)

Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, The Brewery, London, April 2011 (1 of 2)

John Riddell and Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Consulting1

This was the second of IQPC’s specialist conferences on this theme, and as last time2, many of those questioned by the authors were finding it of real value for learning about the specific application of Lean and Six Sigma in their environment.

The conference extended over 2 days, with pre-conference workshops covering a range of topics3. With the conference themes including strategy, change management, relevance to non-manufacturing environments, and innovation, it was obvious from the start that deploying Business Process Excellence was going to be about more than Lean and Six Sigma tools.

Business Process Excellence is not just about the (Lean and Six Sigma) tools

Martin Conroy, Director, Global Lean Sigma at Medtronic, kicked off the conference by reflecting about the pains encountered when moving to a continuous improvement culture and what can be done about them. He argued that Lean is an apparently simple concept, but one that can be difficult to ‘nail’: it’s not enough to have the tools, but they need to be used intelligently (with know-how), together and, especially, with the right mindset.  He also emphasized that continuous improvement is neither a ‘bolt-on’ nor something to be done once (quickly) before moving onto the next initiative: it is something that requires careful planning and integration within the business.

Linking continuous improvement to organisational strategy

Many of the speakers referred to the importance of taking a holistic approach to implementing Lean and Six Sigma and of linking this to organisational goals.  See for example Elisabeth Goodman’s4 presentation that included case studies on this.  Tom Cochrane, Head of Security Operations and Process Development, Napp, described how their charter supports a continuous improvement culture although Lean and Six Sigma are never explicitly mentioned.  Instead, they take a systems approach to the whole production process, and use statistical process control as an intrinsic continuous improvement tool across all disciplines, with cross-functional teams operating from the QA department.

Damian Morgan, Senior Executive, Accenture described how industry pressures and the Pharmaceutical Industry’s own responses were resulting in slowing growth and margin pressures.  He suggested a consequential increased reliance on Operational Excellence (in the sense of Process Excellence) for winning.  Pharmaceutical companies need to be agile, to be operationally excellent, and have differentiated capability.  Indeed a cross sector study has shown that those who ‘win’ make investments in people and processes and, although they may look worse than their competitors who make draconian cuts in the short term, they recover more quickly and their recovery lasts longer (for more than 5 years).

Sauman Chakraborty, President and Global Head of Quality, HR & IT, described “Dr Reddy’s Way” which is a 4 strand strategic framework combining versions of EFQM’s Business Excellence Model, the Balanced Scorecard, Policy Deployment, and a Strategy and Tactics Logical Tree and underpinning everything that they do.

Top-down, middle-out or bottom-up implementation

Elisabeth Goodman also explored the pros and cons of taking a top-down, middle-out, or bottom-up approach.

This was a theme that came up in the first panel discussion.  Responses centred on “Yes, leadership can be sceptical” or “just don’t get it”, but can be brought round if they understand, or more importantly, tangibly see the benefits.  The bottom-up approach can be used to generate examples that demonstrate value and approaches.  Middle-out must not be forgotten, and here champions and change agents provide a key influence.

The theme also came up in the second panel discussion, when Karsten Benzing, Boehringer Ingelheim said that their most successful project were those driven top-down by leaders.  A further thought was that a bottom-up approach only has a finite life as “you can only do something for so long without your boss’s approval”.

Engaging leadership: senior management need to be involved

It was suggested in the second panel discussion of Day 1 that there are two levels of leadership support – passive – “I’ll let you do this”, and active – getting involved and showing commitment.

Celia Banks’ (R&D and Medical BT CI Lead, Pfizer) initial work in Pfizer was as a contractor engaged to prove the benefit of a Continuous Improvement programme to a sceptical leadership (they were unsure how a “manufacturing programme” could be applied in R&D).  Some pilot projects were carried out, ensuring that they tied in to a strategic imperative, and the necessity of top-down support identified.  Celia also recommended the use of Nemawashi with senior management i.e. introduce ideas step-by-step (and involving them in developing), and not going to them with a packaged solution.

Engaging staff: it’s about improving people’s lives at work

The first panel discussion on day 1 included the theme of engagement of staff.  Delegates and panellists discussed the importance of using simple language, giving recognition, and ensuring that people’s lives improve.  The word “humility” was used in the context of recognising that managers “are non-value-adding” and that their role should be to ask questions and facilitate and look for their people to provide answers.

Chris Christodoulou, Head, Laboratory Compliance, MedImmune came back to this theme in his presentation when he described how Operational Excellence is introduced to new employees during induction, and yellow belt training is available to everyone, with a target of >80% take-up.  There is an emphasis on communicating successes to show measurable result, and showcase projects including small yellow belt projects.  All projects are expected to deliver tangible benefits.

The underlying message of his various case studies (management of consumables in the lab, analytical process simplification, 5S of the fridge, templates for writing up, and eliminating duplicate HPLC testing ) was to “do simple projects to make peoples’ lives easier and happier, and make things work better.”

The value of training everyone: organise training so that it is utilised immediately

The second panel were asked about the value of training everyone.  Chris Christodoulou said that this would result in everyone talking the same language and plant seeds [i.e. it’s part of the culture change].  David Hampton, Rath & Strong, “controversially” pointed out that training itself is non-value adding and that green and black belt training needs to be integrated with a project and support.

Celia Banks described how specific training was devised for Continuous Improvement leads – on-demand, on-line, rather than as a block in a classroom.

Charles Aubrey, Vice President Performance Excellence, Anderson Pharmaceutical Packaging, echoed the approach of integrating training into application. Their programme was initiated through 4 days of training with the Leadership Team (to create understanding) then a pilot project was carried out in order to get buy-in.  From there a comprehensive programme developed with the aim of everyone in the organisation having a role e.g. Yellow belts objective was to improve the way they work (they defined the 8th of Ohno’s wastes as that of the human mind).

The role of black belts

Martin Conroy was the first to raise the role of black belts in organisations.  He referred to them as experts parachuted in “behind enemy lines” and described the challenges that they face the biggest one being the need for people to recognise that continuous improvement is not about these experts “doing things to or for you”.

A panel discussion later in the day came back to the role of black belts.  It was generally thought that they should be full-time so they are more practised in the basics and have a wider set of tools, but there were mixed views on where their expertise should be applied.  One panellist’s view was that black belts can be a “nuisance” e.g. in causing processes to be reworked unnecessarily e.g. Kanbans, to achieve standardisation across an organisation.

Using consultants: bring in someone to help kick-start programmes

There was agreement in the first panel discussion, that building internal capability is essential, but external involvement by consultants can bring in lessons learnt and play a role in mentoring senior management.

Panellists in the second discussion suggested that consultants were useful for transformational projects, although a further guarantee of the success of such projects was that they would necessarily involve senior leadership commitment.

Notes and further reading:

  1. RiverRhee Consulting enhances team effectiveness using process improvement, knowledge management and change management.  Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting and about Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell
  2. Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech & Medical Devices – April 2010 – Key Themes http://wp.me/pAUbH-2u
  3. John Riddell and Elisabeth Goodman ran a workshop entitled: “Communities of practice and other knowledge management techniques to implement and sustain continuous improvement”.  Please contact us if you would be interested in arranging a version of this workshop for you. http://slidesha.re/eoqKH5
  4. Elisabeth Goodman.  “Sustaining Effective Continuous Improvement In An Organisation: A Holistic View”. Presented at Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, The Brewery, London, April 2011 http://slidesha.re/h2vVhN