Archive for November, 2009

T4-4 Collect and Re-Use Work Templates

November 25, 2009

Re-using work templates developed by someone who has been efficiently performing a particular task is another inexpensive KM approach. This approach also works very well for shortening learning curves of new recruits.

A work template is a document, code or material that was used in performing a task well and can be re-used to perform other identical or similar tasks. By guiding action, a work template helps perform a task quickly and with fewer mistakes especially by those who are doing the task for the first time:

  • A checklist of things to do or to watch out for
  • A form letter for a type of communication that is repeated many times
  • A spreadsheet to compute something or to summarize something
  • A workshop session guide
  • A step-by-step action guide
  • A successful proposal that can be used as a pattern for drafting future proposals
  • A course outline or course syllabus
  • A well-written report to guide writing of next similar reports
  • Etc.

Knowledge workers (often unconsciously) improvise, re-use and improve work templates as a matter of course. They do these little things to simplify and speed up their work. They do not call what they are doing as “knowledge management” and often they do not recognize that they are creating and reusing valuable “knowledge products.” Nevertheless their intended result is what KM is really aiming for: more effective action.

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T5-3 Motivating Knowledge Workers Need Not be an Expensive Proposition

November 20, 2009

Motivating knowledge workers in KM projects does not have to cost much money. A survey of 22 Asian organizations performing good KM practices (conducted by Asian Productivity Organization) reveal an interesting pattern: they employ various (low-cost) ways to motivate knowledge workers:

  • Rewards and recognition schemes are often used. Airtel in India instituted the Knowledge Dollar (K$) as the unit of performance credit and the Joint President’s and CEO’s Knowledge Management Award. A Learning Award for knowledge transfer and an Enterprise Award for intrapreneurship were established by Unilever Indonesia. Wika in Indonesia instituted ten different awards. The Learning Award resulted in “new enthusiasm for learning, confidence in trainers to conduct sessions, new standards of module development… and preservation of knowledge not captured before.”
  • Infosys uses measurable returns from KM initiatives to demonstrate the benefits and rationale for engaging in KM. Initial positive feedbacks on outputs/benefits of KM were encouraging and provided motivation for the continuing development of KM at Goldsun in Vietnam.
  • At the Department of Health in the Philippines, members of the KM Team through a workshop surfaced their personal talents, passions and life goals and each member clarified how he or she can optimize the conscious convergence between personal and organizational goals.
  • Management of Qian Hu in Singapore designed a mix of informal and formal communication modes to strengthen buy-in from employees and customers. This includes “floor walks”, tea sessions and informal gatherings besides more formal modes such as seminars and focus group discussions.
  • At SCG Paper in Thailand, a balance of virtual interaction and physical or face-to-face meetings is employed. Physical spaces designed for interactions are provided that can foster openness and trust among employees. Similarly, Bank Negara Malaysia redesigned its library environment to make it more reader friendly, using ergonomics furniture and encouraging a more cheerful mood using paintings and appropriate color scheme for walls and furniture.
  • The importance of senior management commitment or executive sponsorship was mentioned in many case studies. In a survey of more than 200 organizations in Thailand this factor was ranked highest among critical success factors for KM. At Siriraj Hospital in Thailand, the CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) was selected on the basis of commitment, leadership ability and recognition from other staff. Leadership and policy was ranked second in a study in Malaysia of success factors in KM. JTC Corporation’s managers created “a motivational organizational culture characterized by a caring leadership behavior which supports active questioning and allows for mistakes… Employees are thus able to trust each other and to share their opinions about work related issues more freely.”
  • Learning is a win-win activity for employees and the company. CAPCO in Taiwan established an on-line learning program for its employees, the Multimedia Cyber College. It has motivated its employees by including on-line training and certification as part of the employee evaluation and promotion processes.
  • The motivational value of learning through face-to-face interaction in a team or CoP is mentioned in many case studies. Unilever Indonesia, SCG Paper and Siriraj Hospital in Thailand, and SAIT in Korea are examples of organizations that set up and nurture many CoPs. To sustain employee interest in KM activities, Bank Negara Malaysia initiated cross-functional teams, benchmarking projects and study visits or attachments.
  • At SCG Paper, the honor of being a mentor or coach is seen as a motivating element in tacit knowledge transfer processes such as the buddy system, job rotation and cross-functional group activities. Designating functional heads as the knowledge champions and setting up a community of experts were instrumental in gaining buy-in for KM at Airtel. Wika and Bank Indonesia created the role of “begawan” (sage) for mature and experienced mentors.
  • “Praise Ground,” which is an avenue for peer-to-peer public compliments for exemplary KM behavior, is an innovative process at Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology. According to the case study author,
    “A member identifies another employee who has done something worthy to be praised and writes a short, but entertaining note about it on the website. That member, then, identifies still another employee to praise and the process is repeated over and over… The Praise Ground is one of the most popular and most frequently visited website at SAIT. Most, if not all, members at SAIT consider it a great personal honor to be mentioned at the Praise Ground.”

If you wish to read more about these 22 KM case studies which I edited, click here and access the 3rd item in “Downloadable KM e-books”.

KM in Asia

KM in Asia (22 case studies)

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T4-3 Using the Performance Evaluation System for KM

November 18, 2009

A simple tool for increasing the likelihood that employees will perform desired KM behaviors is to incorporate those behaviors into the periodic Performance/Personnel Evaluation System. Personally, I prefer that employees (for example through a briefing) are assisted to understand and appreciate KM and what KM can do for them (see previous blog on “T3-1 Showing a concrete benefit of KM to the knowledge worker”). Demonstrating success of a KM pilot project in a selected unit within the organization is even better. However, a combination of many approaches may be the best approach, whichever is suited to the culture and problem of the organization concerned.

An innovative approach used by SEAMEO INNOTECH in lieu of a generic Performance/Personnel Evaluation System is the individualized Personnel Development Plan whereby each employee, in consultation with his/her superior, commits to take specific actions or duties towards gaining or enhancing specific competencies during an evaluation period. Presently, the management of INNOTECH is considering incorporating the practice and learning of specific KM competencies in the Personnel Development Plan.

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T2-2 Mapping Interests and Power Relations among Stakeholders

November 8, 2009

KM for development-oriented organizations (government agencies, non-government organizations or civil society organizations, non-profit foundations, aid or donor agencies, social enterprises, etc.) is more complex than KM for private corporations. In development-oriented organizations, external KM (or KM to serve stakeholders) must consider the multiplicity of stakeholders and external actors, each with their own different or sometimes conflicting interests and agendas, complex power relations, differences in cultural background, different “knowledges” or epistemological assumptions, etc.

A simple way of quickly grasping the differences in interests and power relations among a group is through a sociogram. Below is a sociogram drawn for the members of the Executive Committee of an ad hoc network consisting of local and national government, non-government, private and academic members.

execom sociogram

The sociogram was constructed after interviewing and iterative discussion/refinement of the diagram with a knowledgeable informant who knows and have worked with everybody in the Executive Committee. The sociogram has two dimensions: extent of informal power/influence and position along an issue or policy dimension, in this case environmental beliefs or ideology. Note the following:

  • The members are generally clumped at the high-power, right-leaning end of the diagram. This means somewhat general agreement and power equality.
  • The widest gaps between any two members show the potential conflicts. An actual conflict can be depicted in red. In the figure the widest gap is more horizontal then vertical, which means that the conflict is more along beliefs than along power differentials.
  • The Chairperson (Person #1) and Vice-Chairperson (Person #2) are more-or-less ideologically at the center of the group, which means that they are in a position to mediate or balance the groups “to the left” and “to the right”. The vertical position is informal power. Note that the Chairperson is at the top: he has both formal and informal power. However, there are two members (Persons #6 and #7) who exert slightly more power than the Vice-Chairman, and they are both “rightists”. Hence, if the Vice-Chairman takes over, he may not be able to play the balancing role because two “rightists” may tend to overpower him.
  • The person with the most extreme position in the group, or the farthest away of everybody else is Person #4. She is the head of a network of local civil society organizations. She is somewhat aligned with Person #3. She is always at odds with Person #7 who is represents a private corporation. The power of Person #7 comes from the fact that this corporation is a major funder of the operations of this group.

Can you see now that a simple sociogram can give you that much insight?

In fact, an ordinary organizational chart tells you very little, namely, only the formal reporting relationships. It shows vice presidents at the same level but we know that in reality, vice presidents are never equally close to the president, and they often have unequal informal power or influence. In fact, it can happen that the secretary to the president is more powerful than any of the vice presidents! Ha ha!

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T4-2 An Inexpensive Tool for On-line Meetings and Follow-thru M&E

November 6, 2009

Do you need to conduct a meeting between people who are located at different cities in the world?

As CCLFI principals are spread around the globe (Jasmin Suminstrado in Africa and Europe, Alwin Sta. Rosa in Pacific countries, Daan Boom in Nepal, me hip-hopping across Asia and new member Ron Young in U.K. and France), we had to find and practice an inexpensive method of conducting on-line meetings. Former CCLFI Director for Operations Leslie Gopalan from Malaysia had introduced us to this tool. And of course, before we teach a KM tool to our clients, as a matter of policy, we first practice the KM tool ourselves.

Our simple formula:

  1. Create an Agenda (topics or issues for discussion or decision, lead person or responsible person, dates, any background information) in Excel file, upload it to Google docs (a free service by Google), invite members who will attend the meeting to view/edit it, and email the exact time of start of the meeting.
  2. Before the meeting time, any member can edit or add new materials onto the Google doc file.
  3. At the appointed time, members go on-line and conduct the meeting using Skype conference call (of course, every member must have Skype accounts – it is free; use of headphone is advisable to minimize audio feedbacks and ambient noise).
  4. During the meeting, each member accesses the agenda worksheet in Google docs, and anyone can edit or add new materials to record the points being raised and the decisions reached (any cell being edited by one person is temporarily locked out from the others; but once he is finished editing, the result is visible and editable by the others; members can edit different cells simultaneously).
  5. There is no need to write a Minutes of the Meeting; the Minutes is being written by everyone as the meeting progresses!
  6. The decisions reached and the actions to be taken are recorded, together with the person responsible and the deadline date for finishing the action.
  7. In other words, at the end of the meeting, the Agenda morphs into the Minutes of the Meeting.
  8. Days and weeks after the meeting, the people responsible for the different actions agreed upon must report on his progress (or problems met) by making corresponding entries on the Google docs file at any time. At any time too, any member of the team can check the progress of the others by accessing the same file. In other words, the Minutes of the Meeting next morphs into a team Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) tool!
  9. Once all the actions are done, the file can be part of the team’s work archives.

Does your team use any similar tool? If so, please describe it too using the “Leave a Comment” link below. Let us learn from each other.

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