Posts Tagged ‘cross-functional KM Team’

T5-5 Expertise Directory with a Twist: “Getting Surprised with Each Other’s Talents”

February 17, 2010

In 2006, I designed and facilitated a KM planning workshop for a new cross-functional KM Team. Among my objectives were (1) to motivate individual team members and (2) to show them in a concrete way the advantages of an expertise directory. I introduced a module that generated so much energy and enthusiasm among the team members that I repeated this module in other KM workshops for other organizations.

This is how the process flows:

  1. Individual seatwork: Each team member is provided a 3′ x 4′ kraft paper (or Manila paper) and a black felt pen. The instruction is: “List down all your talents, both technical and non-technical.” A few members asked guidelines on how to identify their talents. My answers were: “In what tasks/skills do your colleagues often ask you for assistance?” “Recall 1-2 very successful task/projects you did; what talents did you use?”
  2. Public posting: After a team member is done, she/he posts her/his work on the wall.
  3. Comment/feedback on each other: After all team members’ work had been posted around the walls, each team member is given a red (or any colored) felt pen, goes around and reads everybody else’s work. Anyone can write comments on anyone else’s work, e.g. “you forgot to add skill XX.” “I didn’t know you are good at YY!” “Prove it!” “You are too shy to mention skill ZZ!” “You should have joined Project @@!” Approval of a skill can be conveyed simply by a red asterisk.
  4. Answer comments: A team member, if she/he wishes, can write her/his reaction to a comment using a blue (or another color) felt pen.
  5. Plenary discussion: The team sits down and the facilitator leads a group discussion on insights and learning from the content (output) and process, and how they each felt about the process. As facilitator, I conclude by proposing “Let us collect your outputs and use this as inputs to your internal KM Team Expertise Directory.”

My own insights and learning from this module are:

  • Team members often express surprise at knowing (and at previously not being aware of) many of each other’s talents. For example, they were very surprised that a medical doctor colleague had learned the skill of laying out bathroom tiles! KM is about harnessing talent, and it starts with recognizing it.
  • The module was able to reveal to them the value of an expertise directory, especially one that includes both technical and non technical skills. For example, a non-technical skill (or a skill that does not appear in the ordinary CV or resume) that is useful for the organization is the ability to act as emcee (from “MC” or master of ceremonies) in a ceremony, conference or public event.
  • The commenting process creates a space where KM Team members mutually acknowledge and affirm each other and their skills (this works well when the KM Team members know each other beforehand). It is a process that generates much interactive energy, team building and motivation.
  • The process supports openness about one’s abilities and gaps, at the same time that it reveals individual styles and preferences such as hesitance to publicly announce one’s talents, and personal boundaries in self-disclosure. Such hesitance is acknowledged and respected by the group instead of challenged.
  • All outputs taken together can reveal new systemic insights. In one organization, the CEO herself read the postings and then remarked “We have enough talent to put together a chorale and music band.”

What do YOU think? Tell us.

=>Back to main page of Apin Talisayon’s Weblog
=>Jump to Clickable Master Index


Practical Hint #20: Consider the Power Dimension in KM

May 1, 2009

Power is part of workplace reality. It is a fact of life. Here are some practical hints which consider the power aspect in KM practice:

  • In a Lessons-Learned Session or After-Action Review, some team members may tend to keep quiet or just agree when the boss is participating. Learning may not take place. A solution: divide the session into two parts: (a) the first part is participated by peers only so that they can talk more freely among themselves on what they think worked and what did not work and why, and (b) the second part is when the boss joins the session and gives his perspective.
  • In any new KM initiative, the formal authorization and/or informal “go ahead” signal from the boss is important, especially in Asian contexts. But once the initiative is started, look for ways to encourage or energize the KM initiative from the staff. For example you can (a) show how the KM initiative will work for their advantage, (b) identify those who are most interested and get them engaged, (c) emphasize or demonstrate the personal learning and other benefits, (d) connect the KM initiative to what they are doing, (e) make learning a social process, (f) ensure that good work is identified and appreciated by the rest of the group and (g) ask the boss to personally acknowledge and recognize staff members who are performing exceptionally well. The presence or participation of the top boss in a KM activity delivers a signal to everyone that the top boss supports KM.
  • Recognize, acknowledge and then harness relevant talents no matter how seemingly trivial by inventing descriptive, attractive and honorific KM titles or formal designations, and accompanying responsibilities, e.g. “Knowledge Networker,” “PowerPoint Expert,” “e-Group Co-Moderator,” “Internal Consultant on HTML,” “Proposal Writing Expert,” “In-House Editor,” “Expert in xxx”, “yyy Mentor”, etc. Get the boss to make the formal designation in writing.
  • In choosing members of a cross-functional KM team, select members who are (a) close to and listened by the boss, (b) influential among members of the division or department, and (c) respected by his professional peers.
  • If a Chief Knowledge Officer or a KM Officer is to be designated, recommend someone who is from the upper management level (at least vice president level). A middle or lower-middle manager would be less able to push the KM agenda across the organization.
  • If the top boss does not believe in KM, and for as long as he does not believe in KM, it would be fruitless to start a KM initiative in the organization.
  • If there is factionalism or power struggle, pervasive indecision or frequent decision reversals in an organization, it would be risky to start a KM initiative (or any other initiative) in that organization.
  • If the boss is a “know-it-all,” frequently tells people they are wrong or publicly scolds subordinates who make mistakes, then learning processes would be stymied in that organization.


=>Back to main page of Apin Talisayon’s Weblog
=>Jump to Clickable Master Index