Archive for January, 2010

T2-4 High-Value Tacit Knowledge: What Worked Well in Clinching Contracts

January 31, 2010

In 2002 I conducted a KM workshop for top executives of a government think-tank. All the Vice Presidents and the President were there. Most of the Division Directors were present. This think-tank does not receive annual appropriations from the national government; it survives by winning and implementing projects, running a conference facility, conducting training programs (including a masteral program) and renting out office space. They are a government organization yet they operate like a business corporation. There are years when this organization was “on the red.”

They are staffed by a wide range of dedicated experts in a wide variety of fields. They lead in innovating new government programs. They provide a good training-learning ground for upwardly-mobile development professionals: many of their program and project managers move on to high-paying positions in the government, in local and international development institutions and in the private sector.

I wanted to provide them a workshop experience that, firstly, impresses on them that KM to support core business processes is high-value KM. I wanted to show this to them in a concrete way linked to their workplace experiences.

After a brief lecture on what the term “knowledge” means in KM and what “knowledge management” is, I asked them the first question: “What is your core business process?”

The answer was unanimous and quick: “project management.” Many will agree with me that this government think-tank is indeed very knowledgeable and experienced in managing projects and in teaching project management.

My second question was: “What is your second most important business process?”

The answers were slower in coming and there were many different answers. Apparently, there is no consensus among them on what is their second most important business process. But more importantly, NO ONE mentioned a business process that in my judgment is another core business process: negotiating and winning project contracts. The alternative technical terms for this business process are “project contract negotiation” or “project development” or “project marketing” etc.

I told them: “No matter how good you are in project management, if you fail in contract negotiations you will have fewer projects to manage.”

Next I asked: “Who among you participated in successful contract negotiation during the last five years?” Almost everyone raised their hand.

I then formed them into small workshop groups. Their workshop task was simple and easy: From your experiences, list down what worked well (or what were the success factors) in successfully negotiating project contracts.

After each workshop group leader reported their group’s results to the plenary session, we discussed and consolidated all the results. The results can be summarized in one letter-size page. The participants were proud and happy recalling and documenting how they successfully clinched project contracts, and they were satisfied with the summary.

In the end I said, “This one-page summary is high-value knowledge of what works in a business process critical for your future income growth or even financial survival. Re-use this knowledge and keep improving on it.”

The process is inexpensive: it took only about an hour of time of the top executives of this organization. The potential benefit: higher likelihood of clinching next project contracts.

Using the KM framework I described before (KM Framework or F Series) and the same color coding, here is the simple logic behind this inexpensive but high-value executive workshop:

What do you think? (Please use the “Leave a Comment” link below and write your feedback.)

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T1-5 High-Octane Knowledge Products by a Development Organization

January 29, 2010

Imagine: the top managers and executives of a development-oriented organization are ready to listen to you about KM. They are open to KM but they want to be sure that KM will benefit their organization. They are all busy and although it is difficult to bring them together, you succeeded in scheduling a one-hour slot for a KM activity you will design and execute. What will you do?

I was actually faced with this situation in two instances: a regional inter-governmental organization and a United Nations regional office. What I did then I now call “Zeroing in on High-Octane Knowledge Products”.

Development-oriented organizations are after results and outcomes that are far more complex than those of private corporations. Their stakeholders (the equivalent of “customers” for private corporations) pursue varied interests and agendas, operate at different levels (some are at the community and local level, some are at the national level, and others may be at the bilateral, regional or international level) and wield different types and magnitudes of power (financial clout of donors, regulatory clout of governments, military power of rebels and militias, local monopoly power of dominant businessmen, etc.).

The process I designed and found quite effective proceeded as follows:

  1. Brief lecture (5 minutes): using prepared PowerPoint presentation on what is “knowledge” (assets that enable effective action) and “knowledge management.”
  2. Small-group workshop (20 minutes) on the first question: “List three of your most important stakeholders, and for each one, what important action does your organization want them to do more effectively?” The group outputs are written in large kraft or Manila paper and posted where everyone can read. If there are 5 groups, there will be 15 important stakeholder-actions (duplication can occur across small group outputs).
  3. Voting (5 minutes): Each participant is given a red ball pen and he/she is asked to read all the important stakeholder-action pairs listed by all the groups. He/she selects three which he/she regards as the most important, and writes a red asterisk on each of the three.
  4. Plenary discussion (15 minutes) on the following questions: “Which stakeholder-action pairs garnered the highest votes? Do you agree or disagree? Comments? Did we miss any important stakeholder-action pair?”
  5. Last question followed by plenary discussion (15 minutes): “What knowledge product/service (existing or still to be innovated) of your organization can best support each of the top three stakeholder-action pair?” Those are “high-octane knowledge products” or services the organization is producing or can produce.

The logic follows from the same KM framework discussed in the F Series of my blogs (and the same color-coding also applies).

Identifying high-octane knowledge products

My observations:

  • The workshop illustrates the principle that knowledge enables more effective action, and makes this concrete via the concept of “knowledge product” or “knowledge service.”
  • Best ideas tend to come from the topmost executives, most likely because they are the ones more familiar and concerned with stakeholders in relation to the organization’s strategic objectives.
  • Development organizations often do not directly produce the desired social outcomes they aim for. What they do is to provide products/services to various development actors or stakeholders who produce or contribute to those outcomes. The workshop is a good way to prioritize and identify the greatest social value-adding outputs (or “high-octane knowledge products“) that the organization can produce.
  • The exercise can lead to identifying a high-octane knowledge product/service that the organization is not yet doing, i.e. it can help them set specific targets for R&D or innovation/design of new knowledge products/services.

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T0-5 Estimating the Financial Impact of an Intranet Enhancement

January 15, 2010

One of the purposes of an intranet is to speed of work, including reducing time wasted in hunting for documents and information.

In one of CCLFI’s clients, we developed and installed an intranet enhancement, uploaded documents often needed, and provided users training. CCLFI asked the following questions to the staff members:

Before installation:

  • Approximately what percent of your time do you use every day looking for documents and information in relation to your work? (=T1)

Six months after installation:

  • Approximately what percent of your time do you use every day looking for documents and information in relation to your work? (=T2)
  • Approximately what percent of the hunting time you saved do you attribute to your use of the intranet enhancement? (=f)

If P = total annual payroll, then an estimate of financial impact is (“ave” suffix means “average over all staff”):

Financial Impact of Reduced Hunting Time = P x f x (T2ave – T1ave) pesos per year

Percentage Increase in Productive Time (due to faster retrieval of information using the intranet enhancement) = f x (1 – T1ave)/(1 – T2ave) percent


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T4-5 What Information Input Limits Your Productivity the Most?

January 9, 2010

A question I ask in a two-week sample survey of knowledge workers’ operational issues is: “What needed information, data or document were you unable to locate today, or took you too much time to locate?” The sample survey consists of questions that I ask knowledge workers to spend 5-10 minutes to answer at the end of every working day in a typical two-week period (or 10 working days).

The consolidated list of answers by all knowledge workers in an operating unit is useful information for the knowledge manager. Whatever the set of solutions, the most cost effective ones must be implemented soonest to reduce knowledge workers’ “down time” (or unproductive time wasted while hunting for information they need).

The solution depends on the nature of the missing or difficult-to-find information, data or document. The solution can be one or more of the following:

  • Locate the information and place it in the intranet.
  • Improve the set of keywords used in searching and/or add more tags/keywords in the target document.
  • Use a better search engine (e.g. Google Desktop’s search works more effectively and faster for me than the search in Windows Vista in my laptop).
  • If the information can be generated from an automated or semi-automated business process, ask the software or systems engineer, in coordination with the process owner, to automatically generate the information for you.
  • Place a hard copy of the document within easy reach from where you sit in the office.
  • Annex it to whatever is the working document that always needs that information.
  • Make the document accessible on-line and mandate/authorize data originators to update their respective fields promptly.
  • Cultivate a closer or more trusting relationship with the external institution or person from whom you depend for the needed information, data or document.
  • Adopt protocols in the organization to define the circumstances and procedures whereby anyone who needs information badly or regularly from another unit can call anybody there directly without “going through channels” and other time-consuming bureaucratic steps.
  • Undertake special research to produce the desired quantity, quality and timeliness of information.


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