Monday, July 20, 2009

Transferring Knowledge & Managing the time aspect

Comment : by Anonymous

These are the three challenges I see:
1) transferring knowledge (better teachers, better learners)

2) time (no one has the time to do it, or learn how)

3) disliking teaching/mentoring.

I think the last two might be overcome if people saw great results from their efforts to teach/learn, but I know that in my organization there is no system in place to help senior people become better teachers, and junior people become better learners. Senior people know what they do in each situation, but don't know how to articulate why they do what they do, and how junior people can translate it into any other situation. Thoughts on any resources for this?

Article : Two big challenges of Knowledge Management

I agree with the challenges mentioned the comment and in fact it was the first point 'Transferring knowledge' that I highlighted in my above mentioned article. To transfer knowledge, it must first be available then shared and shared knowledge must be used for an organisation to benefit from it. The difference is, said article deals with the cultural and system angle of an organisation while the above mentioned comment highlights the capacity and ability of people to share and use knowledge. To some extent the work culture of an organisation deals with the learning aspect. In a progressive work culture people would want to listen and learn. Their dislike to teaching and mentoring would be low to nil. But surely making better teachers and learners out of people working in an organisation is a tremendous challenge unless they are natural teachers and learners.

About Better Teachers

We do not need teachers in the traditional mould (class room teachers) to share knowledge. We need people who are willing to share knowledge (their ways, methods, wisdom, ideas etc.). If an organisation succeeds on this front then the next challenge is to help people articulate what they share. This is more of a glass ceiling than a concrete slab to break through. First, help people to share knowledge. Capture and channel appropriately that shared knowledge reaches people who may benefit from it. Let them pick the brains of the one who shared and learn from it. This way the person who shared gets better with his communication, those who need become better learners and the shared knowledge gets further enriched. Remember, learners can help people become better teachers.

About Better Learners

People learn when they are driven. Not everyone is self-driven and an organisation needs to play a big role in driving people to learn and achieve more. Create 'work challenges' that drive people to learn and raise the bar. Do not tolerate sub-optimum performances. Keep raising the bar of optimum performance with improvements in overall work performance. Leadership must set an example in learning. They cannot repeat their mistakes and close their eyes to knowledge available with the organisation when they want their employees to learn and use knowledge. Provide a learning environment where people are encouraged to learn. You cannot expect a person to learn from work when his request for a library is denied or for that matter executive / higher education is denied. Last but the most important incentive for learning is Respect, Recognition and Reward for knowledge shared. Absence of R-R-R will keep people far away from learning as not much is going to happen even if they learn and share their knowledge.

Integrate KM with business applications

The need for time will be felt when knowledge is shared in the traditional way. We can have daily / weekly sessions of knowledge sharing but then less will be learnt at those sessions compared with knowledge provided as the need for it arises. People at work would want to know what to do or how to do at a point of time. If they can be provisioned with the required knowledge at the click of a button or two there will be no need to push for knowledge usage or for that matter learning. But the challenge is in enabling it.

I was implementing my recommendations to improve 'Receivables' performance for one of my clients. We designed and developed a software that would double up as an intelligence system besides providing transactional and MIS support. We provided a field(s) for people to share their knowledge at various stages of the process flow and tagged them as 'Knowledge fields'. People can choose from standard text or type their own. They can share their ideas and views on what transpired and how they handled it. They could also say what they think or feel about a situation or how they expect things to go, especially with collections. These were stored for people to use in similar situations. Anyone who is performing a required activity can access knowledge stored specific to the activity being performed. People can also share general thoughts on how the work is performed and how they can be improved. This system was received with lot of skepticism but eventually turned out to be a beneficial one for the client. It helped people to learn how different customers respond and when they do what it means especially in the light of their subsequent actions. It's not always possible to do it the way I described. There could be work activities that involve no software yet demand involve knowledge acquisition and usage. How do we share knowledge in those cases and how do we use knowledge?

Knowledge management systems integrated with business applications help knowledge usage better than standalone KM systems. This however does not preempt knowledge sharing outside business applications. Corporate Blogs and Forums always provide good platform for people to share and learn especially in the absence of a software to input knowledge acquired. But KM fields in business applications help capture knowledge that is vital and critical for performance improvement.

If after all of the initiatives there still are people unwilling to learn or dislike learning then the organisation will be better off without them. You can work on people unwilling to share but not much can be done with people who are unwilling to learn.

Hope it helps. Good luck.

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