Posts Tagged ‘project management’

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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Practical KM Hint #9: Post-Project Knowledge Capture

February 9, 2009

Following the previous blogpost (see Q13- Learning = KM + “Power of the Third Kind”?), a project team learns while doing a project. However, much of this learning is unconscious and would be forgotten unless a Post-Project Knowledge Capture is done. Basically the same trigger questions listed in the previous blogpost can be used for this procedure.

Learning should be pursued at three levels. The main question is: What learning do you need to document which will benefit those who will do a similar project in the future?

1. Learning concepts, especially gaining better understanding of how things work. A trigger question to surface this is:

    What new insights did you gain?

2. Learning what works or how to make things work better, especially learning new skills or sharpening existing skills. The trigger questions to surface these are:

    What worked?
    What did not work and why?
    What external factors facilitated (or hindered) success?
    How differently would you do it next time to achieve better performance?

The answers to these questions constitute knowledge; they can be sought along three areas (see F1- KM is not enough!):

    Human capital: new or better skills, what specific aptitudes to look for in applicants to particular positions, who was (not) good at what, etc.
    Structural capital: new or better work templates, checklists, software, enabling policies, manuals, guidelines, risks checklist, process documentation, workflow diagram, etc.
    Relationship capital: supportive external organizations or persons, directory of buyers, suppliers network, “Who Knows Who” directory, membership in e-commerce groups, useful “connections” in government, who was against the project, etc.

In a multi-country project, we decided to have three sub-groups go through the Level 2 questions separately: one for project development including project design, a second for project implementation and a third sub-group for cross-country cooperation and local government coordination. This sub-grouping made sense because in this particular project different people were involved in the three phases. A helpful advice for big projects: pre-work to collect documents for this part can make the lessons-learned session faster and easier.

3. Learning new paradigms, or freeing yourself from one of your mental boxes. The trigger questions to surface this are:

    Did you change the way you see or think about something?
    The “why” part in: What did not work and why?

In my opinion, the third level of learning is most important because a better paradigm increases one’s capacity to see new things one hardly saw before — thus enabling even faster learning. The “why” part in the question What did not work and why? can lead to improvement or even innovation. Something did not work because we failed to recognize something; the “why” question can help reveal this. The third level of learning is facilitated by extra doses of reflection, honesty and humility, i.e. the Power of the Third Kind.

By mid-2009 CCLFI will co-publish a manual on post-project knowledge capture. As part of its public service, CCLFI will also give it for free. Watch for it.

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