The issues of continuity comes up frequently in government, as we know, and today I am going to help you address the challenge of planning for continuity in your organizations, especially through times of board transitions.
I would like for you to think about 1) how continuity depends about the ability to capture and transfer knowledge;2) how capturing and transferring knowledge might be hindered by a lack of trust, and conversely helped along by the presence of trust.
So, we are going to connect the dots today, to get a clearer picture of how planning for board transitions is about building trust and capturing knowledge, all in the service of helping the organization to prepare and adapt to future change.
I am talking about two sides of the same coin. Knowledge management helps to build continuity through very structured, formal, explicit means (more technically oriented) but not to the exclusion of another means which is focused on the heart and soul of the organization, the people.
I am here to talk about what we can do to improve business continuity, especially knowledge transfer, in county government, and especially, how we can prepare for board transitions.I am also going to make a case for knowledge management as primary means to address the challenge associated with board transitions but invite you to think about applying knowledge management to other adaptive challenges, such as working with multiple generations in the workplace, each with distinct and sometimes competing styles. Also, we see many getting ready to retire or move on for many different reasons, and the loss of knowledge can be a challenge or threat. Finally, the fusion of technology at all levels and all areas of work life creates an adaptive challenge that can be addressed with KM strategies.We will move from an introductory section on KM, to a focus on our board transition challenge, to KM strategies that will help us address our challenge, and finally we will see if we can re-envision an agenda for continuity.
Romanesque Sculpture from Salamanca SpainWhat do stories do for us? Long before we had information systems, schools and even books, we had stories to transmit ideas, teachings and the necessary constructs of a good life. These stories gave us cues and reminded us of what was important. Stories on the walls of caves, in the form fairytales and here, in early church sculpture, are the earliest form of knowledge management. Stories explain day to day occurrences in nature, such as why the sun rises, as well as more complex narratives about the meaning of life. As it turns out, we are hard wired for stories it seems.As it turns out, stories are still the great teacher and are at the heart of the people side of KM. If you think about some of the great leaders in our organizations, and imagine collecting all their best stories, you pretty much get the idea of the power that rests in capturing stories in organizations. Let me start with three quick ones to send us on our way.
3 Stories to Illustrate Knowledge ManagementIf you visit the museum of the USS Constitution in Boston, you will find an old operating manual for the ship. But what you might also think about is the fact that the crew was made up of 400 mostly illiterate sailors. How do you imagine the ship maintained continuity of operations over the years? Specifically, how was knowledge transferred? Here is a good example of how formal, structured methods of knowledge management (operations manual) preserves knowledge while informal methods (stories) transfer the knowledge.More knowledge management success stories can be found at http://www.nickmilton.com
When a highly decorated Colonel in the early 1990’s was asked to head up a Hurricane Support Clean Up effort, he knew nothing about civilian operations. In four hours, he knew everything he needed to know to begin this project. How? The answer provides clear insight into the ways knowledge management will help us navigate the future. Story excerpted from Performance Through Learning: Knowledge Management in Practice (Improving Human Performance) [Paperback] byCarol Gorelick
One of my clients, a new manager with a whole new set of elected officials, is tackling a multitude of challenges wrought by the fact that the organization has absolutely nothing down in writing. But they also have almost zero turnover, they have never had any accidents and the esprit de corps is high among staff. Obviously, they have done something right. The challenge here is to capture what that is. So, in this case, knowledge management has been highly informal. Now they need the right tools to help them preserve the core and stimulate knowledge transfer.This particular group I am working with also came up with the idea of a What If I Got Hit by a Bus Policy. As the picture reveals, one can never be too safe!This policy is still evolving, but we are talking about ways to tie it in to the annual job and performance review process. So knowledge transfer is going to be made a central part of the annual review.The WHAT IF I GOT HIT BY A BUS” PolicyChange is a certainty in the life of an organization and the County is committed to ensuring ongoing continuity of operations and management succession going forward in the future. Therefore, the County has adopted a proactive approach to planning for eventualities of job turnover, retirements and other types of absences from the workplace.The documentation provided by the job description program supports an on-going effort by the County to ensure that the historical knowledge that has been vital to building a successful organization, and the experience that has formed the wisdom of the leadership be preserved as part of the core values of the County. This does not preclude growth and change going forward, but encourages the best qualities of the past be brought forward into the future.In this spirit, and for the more practical necessity of leveraging the potential of employees, managers are charged with encouraging the transfer of knowledge within their departments (and in some cases, where relevant, across departments). The “depth” of a department’s knowledge, skill and training will be measured by the degree to which jobs can be performed, in part or in full, by other employees. Employee performance goals will in part be established to support and measure the success of this overall goal for the organization. Recognition will be celebrated for efforts to transfer knowledge and skill to others, and likewise, will be given to those who receive and show promise in demonstrating cross-training received.
What was it about that experience that made it a peak learning opportunity?On a scale of 1 – 10, how important was each of the following in this experience:Learning by doing Collaboration with othersConversationsOpportunity to reflect and re-integrate learningOpportunity to contribute to the success of somethingDocumentation of outcomes
If you look into what is behind knowledge management, you begin to see many related and familiar concepts that are related to continuity. Change Management. What is board transition if it is not about change and adapting to new ways of doing things.Succession Planning. Have we planned for what to do in case we get hit by a bus?Disaster Planning. Have we captured the knowledge of those who have been there, done that?Business Continuity Planning. Have we coordinated and documented planning across all departments for anticipated and unanticipated events?What particular challenges occur with board transitions in county government?
What are we doing right now to prepare for board transitions?What is on our agenda? What we trying to achieve?E.g., Name future challenges, anticipate gaps and impending departures, plan for support, communicate, communicate, communicate.These key issues will drive the immediate KM efforts.What is the purpose of a knowledge management team? Build collaborative relationships to capture and integrate knowledge. Identify appropriate strategies for preserving explicit and tacitknowledge within the organization.In order for people to collaborate, they must be engaged. In order to engage, they must trust. In order to trust, they must be heard.
Peter Drucker in the 1990’s proposed the idea that knowledge was a critical organizational asset that was as important as capital or property. This was the era of Content Management which concerned itself with EXPLICIT KNOWLEDGEThe lessons learned from the early era of knowledge management was that it was very difficult to get people to actually document what they know and difficult to get others to use the information once it was documented. However, people did use checklists or shared tools and reusable documents such as forms and other templates.Examples: operations manuals, job descriptions, personnel policy manuals, safety manuals disaster planning manuals
The challenge for the next stage of knowledge management was how to capture TACIT knowledge which is rooted in a way of knowing that is more difficult to transfer. Why? Perhaps because it is gained from a culmination of many experiences and is made up of anecdotal as well as situation specific data. Transfer of tacit knowledge requires relationship, context and conversation to get at the underlying meaning. When we want customer service, we typically need interaction, not a menu of information. Eg., computer problems, equipment problems; in short, we need the right context to get help with our particular problem.When we create any type of manual, we need to discuss issues, reflect and incorporate tacit knowledge into the design of the written words. E.g. teams do a better job of drafting policies and procedures.When we send someone to training, if often does not “take” because there is no mechanism for transfer of knowledge to the workplace.So the second stage of knowledge management focused on TACIT knowledge, or experientially based knowledge. Tacit knowledge is rooted in experience, ideas, values and emotions. During this stage, organizations attempted to capture rapidly changing knowledge of the kind not captured in manuals and generally held by peer groups. During this phase, we heard a lot about peer assists, documenting work processes and setting up systems that located experts in real time.Examples: peer mentoring, process improvement, focus groups, video training using real time events, mentoring.The ability to capture “success stories” include the Hurricane Story, the NPR story about using peers within women community groups to educate about STDs, and use of actual farmers in video training of farmers in Africa instead of western scientists.One of the lessons learned from this period of time was that tacit knowledge is quite simply, immense. So, while it can be useful in formulating a response to a specific problem or situation, i.e., how did we solve this problem before, it is extremely difficult to tap into the vast waters of tacit knowledge and organize it for future use.Also, another downfall of this approach is that it did not help the organization address strategy. For example, GM has an outstanding knowledge management program that captures process and expertise within the system, but it did not help the company with anticipating and managing future challenges. In short, it lacked the forward focus.
Finally, KM developed an added emphasis on whole systems where experiential knowledge is shared within the community but also reflected upon and discussed in the context of important and pressing issues. So today, when we think about capturing the knowledge of an organization, we think about convening conversations. Continuity is about shared understanding, shared expectations. Critical conversations help us to adapt to a new reality.If we go back to our current reality, and the need to convene a transition team, we might think about what conversations we need to have within the organization to ensure smooth transition.For example, conversations about: Important relationships in the community, or with local governments or at the statePressing challenges now and down the road for each area of the organization and the organization as a wholeWho are the key players addressing the most critical issues?Where do we experience the most serious gaps in critical skills?How can people feel more supported through this transition?How can we attract and retain talented people?When we think about our current reality and our agenda for a transition team, what can we say is different about this? One, it is intentional with its emphasis on conversations; and two, this approach envisions engaging the whole organization.Examples of whole system strategies: World Café, Open Space Technology, Future Search, Communities Of Practice (COP), e.g., on-line global peer networks such as GovLoop,com, social networking
If knowledge is going to be transferred it must be given context and channels of communication must be open. There is no better way to build trust then to enter into a shared space for the purpose of solving problems. TRUST is at the core of our best hopes for a good transition. Engagement and problem solving build trust and is the most important piece to the knowledge transfer process. Knowledge transfer is what building continuity is all about.Knowledge transfer requiresA needA sourceA relationship of trustAn applicationWhat we know about research about knowledge transfer and weak versus strong social ties:Informal social ties, such as those developed in online spaces, have a positive effect on completion time when knowledge is not complex. Informal ties are non-hierarchicalAllow for joint sense making without requiring a strong commitmentReinforces the value of questionsStrong social ties, such as those developed in work teams, provide the highest relative net effect on completion time when the knowledge is highly complex.Sharing social experiences builds relationships and the trust needed for open conversation and knowledge sharing.http://www.csee.wvu.edu/~xinl/library/papers/social/Hansen1999.pdfConsider the examples provided in the 3 stories at the beginning of this presentation. How did strong or weak ties help knowledge transfer?
Design a conversation for the whole organization, or focus teams, around key issues, e.g., transition issues, training and development issues,
Relationship building is crucial for providing psychological safety which them enables people to learn from one another.Mutual understanding means diverse perspectives are being expressed and people are making sense of what they know.Possibilities, ideas, if appropriate boundaries are set, will keep the conversations anchored in the present but directed toward the future.Action flows when people feel connected and supported.The people who are the most vested and will be most impacted, are the people who should be part of the conversation!They are the ones who hold all the tacit knowledge.The leaders job is to facilitate the time and space to allow for sense-making.People are the heart and soul of an organization. Once you tap into that, the sky is the limit!
Continuity means you are ready for anything.
The case for_knowledge_management_revised
This presentation was prepared by Nancy JHess of N. J. Hess Associates and may be used for educational purposes with permission. For more information go www.njhessassociates.com
Our challengeBoardTransition Lack of continuity
Our ChallengeLack of Continuity Instability Loss of trust Loss of knowledge, skills and relationships
3 Stages of KnowledgeManagementFirst Stage: CONTENT MANAGEMENT Thank you to Nancy Dixon for this summary
3 Stages of KnowledgeManagement Stage Two: EXPERIENTIAL
3 Stages of KnowledgeManagement Stage Three: COLLECTIVE
Why is collaboration andengagement key to knowledgetransfer?
Things we need to Things we knowknow in the future, but now, but may not know don’t know now (lose) in the future Possible conversations Things we need to Things we don’t knowknow now, but will no and won’t need in the longer need in the future future
The next successful peoplewill be those that facilitatethe flow & transfer ofknowledge acrossgenerational, geographical &functional boundaries…inwhat ways are you enablingthis?
Conversations for AdaptiveChallengesMust be about: Relationship building Mutual understanding Possibilities Action
If you become part of a team ororganization that learns andreuses learning, you can beready for anything.-Dr John Henderson,Boston University
Our New Agenda Build engagement Collect Stories Convene conversations Create collaborative workplaces Hold staff accountable for transferring knowledge Recognize and reward mentorships Identify KM strategies that fit YOUR county’s needs.
Take a moment to reflect. What did you learn today? What stood out? What conversations do you need to have in your workplace?