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:
- 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?”
- Public posting: After a team member is done, she/he posts her/his work on the wall.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.