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Storytelling and Knowledge Management for Projects


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The business world today revolves around using project teams to accomplish specific goals and tasks. Project management methodologies exist to ensure that project tasks are completed on time and within budget, but the most important outcome of a project (the knowledge) is usually lost after the project is completed. During projects, knowledge is constantly being created but there are very few methods or processes to capture and transfer this knowledge to other project teams or organizations. One underutilized (and under-researched) method of capturing and transferring knowledge is using storytelling techniques to transfer knowledge.

Published in: Business, Education

Storytelling and Knowledge Management for Projects

  1. 1. Using Storytelling Techniques to Capture and Share Knowledge in Projects Eric D. Brown INFS 838
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION Organizations are using more and more project teams to accomplish objectives Formal PM methods do not address knowledge share - other than Lessons Learned Two approaches to knowledge sharing: Explicit - documentation, processes, etc Tacit - Learn while doing
  3. 3. MAIN QUESTIONS How can we share knowledge across teams while minimizing impact on team member’s time? Can we use stories to share knowledge across project teams (and organizations)? What types of project knowledge best fits the storytelling method?
  4. 4. KM IN PROJECTS Disterer (2002) traditional PM is overly concerned with efficiency and effectiveness of project team members knowledge needs of future projects isn’t within the context of the current project requirements;
  5. 5. KM IN PROJECTS Owen, Burstein & Mitchell (2004) - “knowledge gained in a project needs to be transferred to an organization’s memory for reuse in other projects” Kasvi, Vartiainen, & Hailikari (2003) - knowledge management practices were “weak and unsystematic” in project teams
  6. 6. KM IN PROJECTS Leseure & Brookes (2004) - Knowledge is generated within one project and then lost. Failure to transfer this knowledge… leads to wasted activity and impaired project performance”
  7. 7. KNOWLEDGE TYPES IN PROJECTS Reich (2007) - Four types of knowledge in projects: Process Knowledge Domain Knowledge Institutional Knowledge Cultural Knowledge
  8. 8. EXPLICIT KNOWLEDGE Explicit knowledge is the ‘know- what’ of an organization Explicit knowledge is the ‘visible’ knowledge Explicit knowledge has been defined by Polanyi (1967) as: knowledge that can be communicated using formalized language
  9. 9. TACIT KNOWLEDGE Tacit Knowledge is the ‘know- how’ of an organization. Tacit Knowledge is the ‘invisible’ knowledge According to Takeuchi (1998) tacit knowledge is: deeply rooted in an individuals actions and experiences as well as in the ideals, values or emotions that the person embraces
  10. 10. CAPTURING KNOWLEDGE Current technology is perfect for capturing explicit knowledge Tacit knowledge must be transformed to explicit knowledge Tacit knowledge can be shared using informal social processes Through storytelling, tacit knowledge can be embedded in narratives and shared
  11. 11. CAPTURING KNOWLEDGE Roth and Kleiner (1995) Learning Histories - written document used to help an organization become better aware of a learning effort. The history makes extensive use of participants' own narratives, as well as outsiders' assessments of the story
  12. 12. LEARNING HISTORIES Parent, Roch and Beliveau (2008) Report using learning histories to great success on an implementation project Knowledge gathered via interviews, and learning history created
  13. 13. STORYTELLING Swap, Leonard, Shields and Abrams (2001) use the term ‘Organizational Story”. An organizational story is defined as: “a narrative of past management actions, employee interactions or other events that are communicated informally within the organization”.
  14. 14. STORYTELLING Organizational stories are generated internally and reflect the organizations values and culture. Stories must have context and focus. Stories must be memorable to be effective. Vivid imagery - key to making stories stick Stories make knowledge more memorable via the ‘availability heuristic’ - elaboration, episodic memory.
  15. 15. STORYTELLING Stories are better used to share values, managerial systems and tacit knowledge. Stories are not good methods of sharing critical skills You wouldn’t want your doctor or pilot learning their job by listening to or reading stories
  16. 16. STORYTELLING Sole (2002) describes three areas to pay attention to for effectively using stories in organizations. Story-crafting Story-telling Story-listening
  17. 17. PROJECT KNOWLEDGE MODEL Based on Reich’s Project Knowledge Typology Behavioral Technical Knowledge Knowledge Breaks project Cultural Domain knowledge in to Knowledge Knowledge behavioral and technical Much research states Institutional Process Knowledge Knowledge that stories are great for sharing cultural and organizational knowledge
  18. 18. STORYTELLING MODEL FOR PROJECTS 5 Steps: Step 1: Capturing the Capture Story Feedback from Journaling Craft Step 2: Step 3: Crafting the Telling the Story Story Tell Step 5: Step 4: Internalize Documenting Internalizing the Story the Story Document
  19. 19. STEP 1: CAPTURE THE STORY New Team Members are asked a set of questions New Team Member Every team member keeps Questions a weekly journal (weekly Project reporting) Weekly Learning Journals Journal Weekly meetings - taped Weekly and transcribed Meetings Weekly activities are combined into a Project Learning Journal
  20. 20. JOURNALING The key to journaling is to have team members provide their narrative of what has happened during the week. This is done by asking open ended questions such as: What went right this week? What went wrong this week? Have the goals of this project changed? If so, in what way? Share a story of something you’ve learned this week.
  21. 21. STEP 2: CRAFT THE STORY Roth and Kleiner (1995) - Four necessary pieces of a Learning History Story: Notable Results – What message is the story trying to convey? Curtain Raiser – An Attention getter for the reader. Kernel Paragraph – One or Two paragraphs that contain the thematic point of the story. Closing – What will the reader take away from the story?
  22. 22. STEP 2: CRAFT THE STORY In addition: Plot - What keeps the reader engaged in the story? Exposition – Description of the details of the story. What, When Where and Who. Right-Hand Column – Contains the Story Left-Hand Column – Contains Questions and Comments about the story.
  23. 23. STEP 2: CRAFT THE STORY Each week’s project learning journal is combined with previous learning histories Project Project Learning History Learning generated using text Journal Project classification algorithms Learning Previous History Learning Project team members review the Histories electronically classified stories for accuracy and conformity. Users can add their own narratives as required.
  24. 24. STEP 3: TELL THE STORY Left Column Right Column Story is ‘told’ by allowing project team members to access learning history 2 column layout Left - Questions/ Comments Right - Story
  25. 25. TELLING THE STORY Readers have the ability to rate, comment and provide their own narrative if it differs from the presented story During weekly meetings, project learning history is reviewed and discussed with one story being chosen that best highlights
  26. 26. STEP 4: INTERNALIZING THE STORY Project team members submit story’s about ‘lessons learned’ during the previous week This feedback is then fed into the users’ weekly journal for inclusion in the following Learning Histories.
  27. 27. STEP 5: DOCUMENT THE STORY Since the Storytelling Model for Projects is built on an electronic journaling medium, the documentation is taken care of
  28. 28. VALIDATION Worked with 2 small project teams One team used normally PM methods of reporting One used a rough Storytelling model
  29. 29. VALIDATION Team members were from different backgrounds, different cultures and different technical levels (some non-technical) Teams consisted of a mixture of long-term employees, newer employees and contractors 3 month projects
  30. 30. VALIDATION - CONTROL GROUP Used normal weekly reporting tools email spreadsheets Weekly meetings held. Meetings focused on deliverables.
  31. 31. VALIDATION - MODEL GROUP Weekly journaling using WordPress Weekly meetings conducted to review weekly journal entries Weekly meetings recorded and transcribed Learning histories created weekly Learning histories reviewed by each team member NO SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR JOURNALING
  32. 32. VALIDATION RESULTS - CONTROL GROUP Control Group Control group saw no noticeable knowledge transfer between team members. Most members stayed within their ‘comfort zone’.
  33. 33. VALIDATION RESULTS - MODEL GROUP Model Group Interesting dynamics began to occur after the 2nd week Members began enjoying sharing their stories of what they did, how they did it and what they learned At week 4 non-technical people were beginning to understand the basics of the technology Technical people began to understand the business drivers
  34. 34. FURTHER RESEARCH Additional avenues for further research: Text classification research to attempt to automatically select story elements from journal entries Research into best methods for capturing stories using journaling. What questions to ask? How do we get people interesting in sharing stories? Research what aspects of the project knowledge framework best fit into the storytelling model
  35. 35. THANK YOU