Becoming "One Organisation" – KM’s role in integration of approaches

Many global organisations pass through a stage of global integration. Here is how KM helps.

image from wikimedia commons

Global organisations constantly draw a balance between global aspiration and local delivery. They need to balance agility and accountability in the local business units with the power and resources a global organisation can bring, and one of those resources is knowledge.

The managerial pendulum often swings between globalisation and localisation, and the swing to globalisation is often accompanied by the call to be “One Organisation”. I have seen this at BP with “One BP”, but also “One Rio Tinto”, One BBC”, “One Anglo-American” – and many others.  “One” can mean a uniform branding or a uniform strategy, but it can also mean “one way of working”. And this is where KM comes in.

KM can help learn from different local approaches to operational activity, using a process such as Knowledge Exchange, and to come out with a global “current best approach” on which any future local variants can be based. The company experts and practitioners get together, compare approaches, share knowledge of how things are done in the different regions and why, and build a “best of the best”. This then becomes the new standard way of working for the organisation, and the new baseline for continual improvement.

Immediately there is a step up in productivity and consistency. This is particularly important for global service companies, as their global clients now get a consistent standard of service worldwide.
This standardisation of approach is a Knowledge Management strategy, in that it results in pooling global knowledge into a “company best practice”.

However as a long term approach, this “one way of working” faces several problems;

  • Best practice never stays Best for long. The “global way of working” is going to need to evolve over time if the company is to stay competitive. There needs to be a feedback and improvement mechanism, such as a lessons learned cycle.
  • This is a “central push” model for KM, where knowledge (the “standard way”) is pushed out from the centre to the regions. However the regions are where The Way is applied, and unless knowledge comes back, and is shared between the regions, then that operational experience is lost. There needs to be an experience gathering approach, such as Knowledge Exchange.
  • All too often, the “global way of working” tells people what to do, but not how to do it, nor how to do it in the most effective way given the different operating contexts around the world. It provides the Standards and Rules, but not the tips and hints. The Tips and Hints come from the operators on the front line, and need to be shared with other operators. There needs to be a Community of Practice, allowing effective local application of the global ways.
In other words, a Knowledge Management Framework needs to be in place, supporting, refining and building upon the global ways of working. The first step of standardising needs to be followed by a second step of application and continuous improvement. Then the whole organisation, both global and local, form one learning organisation.

That way lies both local and global success.

View Original Source ( Here.

What are the outputs of the KM workstream?

KM organisations need a Knowledge workstream as well as a Product/Project workstream. But what are the knowledge outputs?

I have blogged several times about the KM workstream you need in your organisation; the knowledge factory that runs alongside the product factory or the project factory.  But what are the outputs or  products of the knowledge factory?
The outputs of the product factory are clear – they are designed and manufactured products being sold to customers. The outputs of the project factory are also clear – the project deliverables which the internal or external client has ordered and paid for. 
We can look at the products of the KM workstream in a similar way. The clients and customers for these are knowledge workers in the organisation who need knowledge to do their work better; to deliver better projects and better products. It is they who define what knowledge is needed. Generally this knowledge comes in three forms:
  • Standard practices which experience has shown are the required way to work. These might be design standards, product standards, standard operating procedures, norms, standard templates, algorithms and so on. These are mandatory, they must be followed, and have been endorsed by senior technical management.
  • Best practices and best designs which lessons and experience have shown are currently the best way to work in a particular setting or context. These are advisory, they should be followed, and they have been endorsed by the community of practice as the current best approach.
  • Good practices and good options which lessons from one or two projects have shown to be a successful way to work. These might be examples of successful bids, plans, templates or designs, and they have been endorsed by the community of practice as “good examples” which might be copied in similar circumstances, but which are not yet robust enough to be recognised as “the best”. 
  • More generic accumulated knowledge about specific tasks, materials, suppliers, customers, legal regimes, concepts etc.
The project/product workstream also creates outputs which act as inputs to the knowledge workstream; these are the knowledge deliverables, the lessons which capture hindsight, and the useful iterms which can be stored as good practices and good options. The link between lessons and best practices is described here, and shows how the two workstreams operate together to gather and deliver knowledge to optimise results. 

View Original Source ( Here.

How Best Practices work – an example from Sport

Best Practices are part of Knowledge Management, but sometimes misused. Here is an example of how they really work.

Picture originally from here

There is a lot of pushback in the KM world about the term “best practice”. In the discussion groups, we hear people saying “we don’t believe in best practice”. Respected KM gurus say that “best practice harms effectiveness”. There is a school of thought that says the concept is flawed, or even dangerous.

Certainly if best practice is used the wrong way – for example as a reason to avoid innovation and improvement (“we are already following best practice – no need to change”) – then it can be a danger.

But let’s look at Best Practice in the context of sport, let’s look at the value the concept brings, and lets see how it develops over time. This will allow us to draw some conclusions for the world of KM.

Let’s look at the high jump.

There was a time when there was no established technique for the high jump. People approached the bar front-on, often from a standing start. However as the high jump became an international field event, techniques and practices began to be developed.

One of the early successful practices was the Western Roll, introduced in 1912, leading to the world record of that time, and a step change in performance. This new practice rapidly became “best practice” of the time, and was predominant through the Berlin Olympics of 1936. You can see the introduction of best practice in the graph above, as an abrupt improvement in performance (labelled Western Roll, followed by a long flat period, as the new best practice becomes established.

The Western Roll was superseded by the Straddle technique in 1937. You can see on the graph how this new practice led to another step-change in performance, with record height rapidly increasing over a period of years as the technique was perfected and adopted around the world, and then a flat section where the new best practice becomes common practice.

Then in 1968, Dick Fosbury introduced a new technique, the “Fosbury flop“, to win a gold method in Mexico City. As Wikipedia says, “After he used this Fosbury flop to win the 1968 Olympic gold medal, the technique began to spread around the world, and soon floppers were dominating international high jump competitions”. The new practice had become Best Practice, and so standard practice. Over the years since 1968, the details of the Flop have been perfected, but it still remains the basis of Best Practice in high jump techniques, until a new technique is discovered.

So what has all this got to do with Knowledge Management?

Basically, this is a metricated historical look at Best Practice under controlled conditions, and allows us to draw the following conclusions.

1) Best Practice is what delivers Best Results. In high jumping, this is easily defined – it’s the technique allows you to jump higher than any other technique. In the office, it is whatever approach gets your work done better, or faster, or cheaper, or best satisfies the customer.

2) People will follow Best Practice whenever they are highly incentivised to deliver the best performance. In an Olympic Games, people will adopt a new Best Practice when it allows them to jump higher than their old practice did, and when they have not yet found an even better practice (see number 1 above). Nobody would not go back to the practice of the Western Roll.

3) Best Practice is not static. Best is “Best for now, until something better is found”. The existence of “current best” doesn’t stop you looking for Better. In the history of the High Jump, Best Practice has changed three times – from no defined practice, to Western Roll, to Straddle Jump, to Fosbury Flop.

4) Best Practice is easiest to develop and copy in a relatively repeatable situation, where the parameters remain fairly constant, and where the metrics are clear (such as jumping over as high a bar as possible).

5) Under such circumstances, changes in Best Practice drive step changes in performance – the steps seen in the attached graph. Adoption of each new Best Practice gives a step change in performance, followed by a flatter performance graph where the new Best Practice is refined and perfected.

6) There will be personal variants of Best Practice, but the core of the practice – the fundamentals of the technique which differentiate it from other techniques –  remains the same. Tinker with the core, and the practice fails to deliver.

7) Changes in Best Practice are often driven by changes in context. The Fosbury Flop, which drove the biggest leap forward in high Jump achievement, was made possible by the change from sawdust landing pits to deep foam matting. Basically, you could land on your neck without killing yourself. So the new Best Practice – the flop –  was born.

View Original Source ( Here.

The difference between lessons and best practice – another post from the archives

Here is another post from the archives – this time looking at the difference between Best Practice and Lessons Learned.

Someone last week asked me, what’s the difference between Best Practice, and Lessons Learned.

 Now I know that some KM pundits don’t like the term “Best Practice” as it can often be used defensively, but I think that there is nothing wrong with the term itself, and if used well, Best Practice can be a very useful concept within a company. So let’s dodge the issue of whether Best Practice is a useful concept, and instead discuss it’s relationship to lessons learned.

My reply to the questioner was that Best Practice is the amalgamation of many lessons, and it is through their incorporation into Best Practice that they become learned.

If we believe that learning must lead to action, that lessons are the identified improvements in practice, and that the actions associated with lessons are generally practice improvements, then it makes sense that as more and more lessons are accumulated, so practices become better and better.

A practice that represents the accumulation of all lessons is the best practice available at the time, and a practice that is adapted in teh light of new lessons will only get better.

View Original Source Here.

Skip to toolbar