It’s all aboutCommunication
A JOINED! story on the power of internal communication.
Organizations (yes, also yours!) spend a vast amount of money on communicating better with customers, on optimizing IT-processes and creating posters that should demonstrate that people are their biggest assets.However, most of these organizations fail to optimize and invest in people communication. The amount of time that is wasted because people have no access to information when they need is, are unaware that the information even exist or by doing the same work as one of their colleagues is enormous.Figures range from 10% of FTE cost that is spend on searching information (The Butler group, 2006) to even more.Maybe even worse are the opportunities that are missed because people do not even bother finding the right information.
Oh, did I mention that access to information is not only a theoretical issue, it also means access to the right people. Knowing who can help you with your new groundbreaking idea is also ‘access to information’...
It is strange to notice that even the vast amount of companies in the service industry puts little or no focus on the importance of knowledge within the organization.
These companies all evangelize that people are their main asset. This may be true, but not quite. It is the experience and knowledge these people bring in the company that counts. (Typically consultancy firms are the first to notice this. Just have a look at what you look for yourself when selecting a consulting firm: You look at the resumes and track records of the people that are proposed).
If you value the importance of knowledge, you face more than one question:
What do I define as knowledge and as important: what is not defined as knowledge?
How do I motivate people to share their knowledge with the company (because otherwise you will loose it when you loose the people)?
How do I make this knowledge accessible to other people in the organization?
How do I keep the knowledge up to date (because knowledge is time dependent)?
So this is about knowledge management?
Well, actually, it is not!
Because probably, when you think about knowledge management, you think about time-consuming digital libraries and software as Microsoft Sharepoint.
That is what old school Knowledge Management (KM) was all about: You force people to write down their 'knowledge' and make it available on a central location.
Of course, there are some limitations to this way of working:
Whether something is 'knowledge', is defined by thereceiver, not by the sender.
It is very complex to find the right amount of detail to put into this knowledge database.
Putting information in the KM database is an extra effort with no added value for the creator.
When people need information, they have a hard time finding exactly the bit of information they need in the huge amount of data.
Information of 6 months ago is hardly relevant anymore for a lot of information.
If you have been working with old school KM, you probably now this is not working because you experienced the hard way.
For the lucky ones that where never forced to ‘share’ knowledge like this, let me give you some situations that still occur with old school KM:
"I'm sorry, I did not know that customer has been merging with yours." (2 Key Account Managers in a sales meeting).
"We already developed that??" (Eager product manager in a management presentation).
"I just seem to lose plenty of time making this geographically dispersed and cross-departmental team work together." (A project manager on his status meeting with his sponsor).
"I hate this silo's!" (A young potential trying to ship).
"Why are we spending money on an intranet that only remembers people on the birthday of their colleagues?" (An IT manager in the boardroom).
“I already have some knowledge management in place.”
Good for you!
Next question you should ask yourself: “Is it working for me and my organization or team?”.
If it does, you can stop reading (unless you want to know why it is working).
Let’s have a look at how communication works. We all remember the basic communication scheme we learned at school.
How hard can it be?
Some problems occur however with traditional knowledge management (or no KM at all):
The Sender has no real interest in getting the message across.
There is a time shift between when the message is encoded (created) and decoded (used).
There is no feedback loop.
The message has to be stored on a non direct medium, which is unnatural for the sender to encode (“Write down everything you know about this project you were working on the past six months...”).
The receiver has to find the correct message himself. This is not only a huge job (“Get yourself up to speed on this project.”), in most cases, one does not even know what he should be looking for or is missing (You might find out that somebody in your organization is working on a similar problem as you are).
“The problem with communication is the illusion that is has occurred”
George Bernard Shaw
Enough problems, give me solutions!!
For communication to work within an organization, you need to work on the following elements:
People should be encouraged to share the knowledge when it occurs to them (not one week before the objectives should be met around KM).
Sharing the knowledge should be easy. There are multiple ways to do this:
Share small pieces of information instead of big chunks. This will not only will make it easier for the one who has to share the knowledge, but it also allows the one who needs the knowledge to quickly find the relevant information. Nobody reads big knowledge documents. Not to mention that traditional tools have a hard time mapping the contents of a 30 page word file or make it searchable.
Keep it simple, stupid (KISS), both in volume, process and tools.
Create a culture of sharing. You cannot underestimate the importance of culture. The number of companies where people give you ‘the look’ when you share what you are working on, what you think is important for the company,... is huge. Make sure that people who share knowlege are valued, that people in charge lead by example and that all tools are available.Also, do not forget to bring in the new-hires. You show them who the people are that will be important to them, also show them where the knowledge can be found that will be critical to them.
Create both push and pull knowledge communication(more about that in a minute).
Value the feedback loop. This is not a technical confirmation that the message is understood, it is about the knowledge itself. Knowledge typically comes from the shared experience of different people, so let people work on it together.
Make it easy to change the information: It is not static, so why should the capturing be?
“Communication works for those who work at it.”
Sarah is a marketing manager. Let’s have a look at what she needs...
She needs to be aware what Tony, the sales manager is promising to customers: If a customer expects a targeted event or service, she needs the now when the contract is signed, not 3 days before the due date.
She needs to be able to follow up on her agency that is working on the launch of the new portal website. Did she mention the developers are working in India?
She needs to be able to capture all the inputs from here team-members that are working in different physical locations.
Sarah also is in the management team and has to make sure that all the management decisions are spread among the team.
She also needs to make sure that all the knowledge about the CRM system development that just finished is stored and available for future hires.
Next to that, she has some project on the move on customer experience, is in contact with the legal department and has to get those leads coming in...
“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
What do you want me to do?
Let's assume you value your customer, you want to perform at your best. Maybe because you love to please him, maybe because you know that going the extra mile for the customers means more revenue and happy shareholders. Then what do you need?
Leverage team knowledge around the company.
Learn that copy-pasting is not evil: it is smart and efficient.
Manage and value knowledge on people level. Share and monetize knowledge on company level.
Make sure every employee knows what to say when she interacts with clients (all employees do!).
Internal communication is about leveraging the knowledge that exist in your organization and make sure it gets to all the people.
It will however always be the people who make sure it is used to generate better results.
They will loose less time with searching information.
They will get better results with their new knowledge.
They will perform better because they feel valued about their knowledge.
You will benefit from it when they leave, but even more when they go that extra mile.
So go out and do something with it!
“Words should be used as tools of communication and not as a substitute for action.”
One part of the solution.
People gather knowledge, but a lot of knowledge in an organization is made on the lines between two or more people. Social is also in KM more than just a buzzword.
Organizations should capture all the knowledge, meaning that they should adapt their processes, systems and tools around this.
Make it as easy for people to formally share knowledge as it is to tell a story in the coffee corner.
Let processes help you in value and make this information available to all employees.
Make sure your tools let people give feedback on the generated knowledge in order to evaluate it, make it better and keep it up to date and relevant.
You will gain a lot of time, money and competitive advantage.
And here KM impacts directly your bottom line.
And that is why we are here.
This is why JOINED! developed a methodology to help you share the knowledge in your organization:
Map information and knowledge (both Internal & External flows).
Value the above.
Define strategies to capture and share the knowledge.
Select tools to make this all come alive.
Train people in project management communication (for local and fragmented teams).
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
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