Archive for December, 2009

T2-3 Cues for Product or Service Improvement

December 22, 2009

An inexpensive source of valuable knowledge for product and/or service improvement is customer complaints and customer dissatisfactions. Of course, solving customer complaints or dissatisfactions prevents or reduces loss of customers.

Some customer dissatisfactions are so mild that the customer herself may not be aware of them. Ask a customer for feedback during the initial stages of use; long afterwards, she would have adjusted to the product and forgotten her mild dissatisfaction. Ask “What feature(s) of the product do you like least? Why?” Different features of a product produces different value added for the average customer; least value-adding features offer the best opportunities for product improvement. Non-value adding features could be removed. Two different product features appealing to different customer segments suggest creating two versions of the product that are customized (i.e. more value adding for both) to their respective segments.

Observe if the customer makes improvisations (which can be unconscious) in the product or how she uses it. These little customer improvisations are cues that she perceives a gap in the product’s usefulness.

A bakery company in Japan involves customers (housewives) during all stages of their R&D, from the evolution of the product idea to exploring and testing various options and on to product launching. Of course, if you are one of these housewives it would be natural and expected that you personally promote the product to other customers after product launching!

An indication that a company sees and captures the value of customers’ feedbacks for its R&D is when the R&D unit and the sales or after-sales services (or other frontline or customer-facing unit) is under the same company executive. Otherwise, the flow of feedback information from frontline units to the R&D unit is either absent or inefficient. These two seemingly unrelated departments are actually crucial for value creation by the company. Management guru Peter Drucker said, “Marketing and innovation produce results. All the rest are costs.”

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T5-4 Convince Managers of Benefits of KM

December 13, 2009

Organization M (a real organization) is a network consisting of 15 related professional organizations. The President of Organization M, upon the recommendation of a Board member who understood the value of KM, decided to launch a KM initiative. Organization M functions through (a) a small secretariat of less than 15 staff members, (b) about two dozen technical committees, and (c) several geographically-distributed chapters.

The KM initiative was launched with three KM briefings for: the Board, the secretariat staff and the chairmen of committees and chapters.

Committees and chapters are composed of volunteer professional members who donate their services despite their busy work schedules. Committees have specific technical tasks, such as planning and executing conventions and forums, accreditation, professional journal, awards, professional ethics, etc. Chapters’ work revolves around providing continuing professional education and training for Organization M’s thousands of members.

Committee and chapter chairpersons perform management roles. A well-designed KM initiative can definitely help the work of committees and chapters, but the challenge is to convince committee and chapter chairpersons that KM would be beneficial to their work. When the third KM briefing was scheduled, few chairpersons signed up. They were either too busy or did not appreciate the value of investing their time for KM. To encourage more chairpersons to sign up, we sent the one-page “Invitation to a Conversation about KM” below.


Organization M has engaged a KM consultant to assess secretariat staff, committees’ and chapters’ work processes, and to recommend appropriate KM tools or solutions.

KM can help your Committee or Chapter work in many possible ways:

  • Speed up your work process
  • Shorten duration of meetings or reduce frequency of meetings
  • Enable and facilitate meetings among members who are geographically separated
  • Conveniently monitor activities among committee members
  • Quickly locate needed information
  • Respond to members’ needs more effectively
  • Find out quickly who is most likely to know the solution to a specific question
  • Identify ICT (information and communication technologies) skills gaps among members and missing ICT tools that are holding back the efficiency of your committee work
  • Most pressing information and knowledge gaps that needs to be addressed first
  • Determine which of the above (and other KM issues) should be addressed first.

Our KM consultant would like to invite interested Committee and Chapter Chairs for a “Conversation about KM” so that your Committee/Chapter can avail of the above assistance. One hour invested in this Conversation could be worthwhile for your Committee/Chapter work, and you may also get useful KM tips for enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of your personal professional work.

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T1-4 Convince Board Members on KM in One Hour

December 3, 2009

In September 2005, the Executive Director of STREAMS (an international network of NGOs in water and sanitation, which was one of CCLFI’s partners) asked for our help. STREAMS Board members flew to Manila and are meeting together with an Observer from their major funding sponsor, the Netherlands Government. She asked, can I please convince her Board that KM is important? My time slot was only one hour. And she warned that the Observer is avowedly skeptical of KM!

I did a quick workshop with the Board members, where I asked a series of 3 questions.

I asked the Chairwoman (the CEO of the Water Research Commission of South Africa) Question 1: To an outsider like me, can she please tell me in a few brief sentences what are the valuable development results their network wants to achieve?

I then wrote the key phrases on the whiteboard; the result was 2-3 key outcomes.

We next distributed metacards (similar to Post-Its) and felt pens to the Board members including the Observer. Then I asked them to write down (in short phrases) answers to Question 2: What programs, functions or projects of your network and its members are most important in achieving those development results?

We posted and clustered their answers on the white boards. After about 20 minutes discussion, we picked out a very important function or program. There was much debate what is the “most” important; so we settled for “a very important” program.

I next asked them to write down again in metacards, their answers to Question 3: What skills, information/knowledge, support systems and relationships are most important in implementing this program well?

Again we posted and clustered their answers. We then discussed the results and after about 30 minutes arrived at a priority shortlist of Generator Knowledge Assets or GKAs.

Finally, I concluded, “according to your collective judgement, the successful performance of your organization hinges on how well you manage these few Generator Knowledge Assets.”

Working backwards to identify GKAs

High-Octane KM: Working backwards to identify GKAs

In about one hour, the Board members saw: (a) the importance of KM to their organization, (b) the link between KM and their organization’s goals, and (c) that focused KM can be inexpensive.

Managing only the GKAs is “high-octane KM”. It is “lean and mean” KM.

During coffee break, the Observer approached me and said something to the effect that KM is indeed important.

I maintain that KM initiatives must be driven by the socially (or commercially) valuable outcomes an organization wishes to achieve or contribute to. One way to ensure this is to ask your internal and external customers’ needs and requirements. In other words, KM must be demand-driven, not supply-driven. KM must start with customer needs.

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