After last year’s presentation about ROCK – Retention of Critical Knowledge – there was a great expectation to hear again from Aw Siew Hoong (Ash) and the work Shell is doing on knowledge management. At the 2012 KM Singapore conference, Ash talked about lessons learnt and how what are the key elements to make them work for business.
According to Ash, there are three key elements that need to be taken into account to make lesson learnt effective. First, lessons learnt are not about technology or databases but they are about people, “engaging people positively and early enough” in the process. Second, lessons learnt, as most other KM initiatives, need to be backed up and actively supported by Senior Management, otherwise there won’t be the uptake that is necessary for them to work. Third, capacity is important in terms of people that can take care of the back off and make things work in the background.
Ash goes on elaborating more on the process followed by Shell to do lessons learnt, where they have been using an existing methodology from the Risk Assessment Group that allows to quantify every lessons learnt applied in terms of cost avoidance or cost savings. Like it or not, top management in every organization things in terms of cost savings – having a system that allows to quantify lessons learned in terms of costs has proved to be very successful for Shell.
Storytelling is potentially a simple yet effective knowledge management practice within organisations. However, the knowledge manager is often confronted by how difficult storytelling can be, especially as its artistic aspects tend to be emphasised by consultants in the professional storytelling business.
During the second day of the 2012 KM Singapore conference Karuna Ramanathan, Head of Centre for Leadership Development for the Singapore Armed Forces, offered great insights on what storytelling can strengthen KM practices in organisations, and what are the techniques that can be used for effective storytelling.
According to Karuna, stories and storytelling don’t have to be confused with the “artistic, oral tradition”. Organizational storytelling is about practices, processes and systems. Amongst the different uses of storytelling for organizations, Karuna has identified nine potential uses, such as heritage, memory, measurement, strategic communication and showcasing.
Finally, Karuna concludes by sharing one of the techniques he uses for storytelling. This is based on the 5 fingers of your hand: you start the story by telling your fear in the past; the you move to your concerns; the middle finger is about your frustrations; the pointing finger is about the lessons learned; lastly, the thumb up is for ending your story always on a positive note.
One of the most interesting presentation in the first day at KM Singapore was given by Patrick Lambe from Straits Knowledge.
Patrick started from the failure of the transit system in Singapore in December 2011 to illustrate very important failure points in other kinds of organizations. One of the lesson from this case was that the traditional model of controlling organizations and information flows does not work well when a crisis is large scale, complex and fast moving.
What does this mean for knowledge management?
According to Patrick, the first important lesson to reflect on is the increasing important role of social media: especially in crisis situation, information is picked up and shared much faster through uncontrolled, social media channels rather then the formal crisis management mechanisms that are now in place. Secondly, the role of knowledge management in these situations seems to focus much more on knowledge sharing capacities rather then traditional information management functions.
As a consequence of these lessons, senior management in organizations needs to understand how important the capacities of knowledge sharing processes are, as well as the competence to be able to deal with the external social environment.
Praba Nair, Principal Consultant in KM and Change Management, KDi Asia offered participants at the 2012 KM Singapore conference an overview of current KM practices in Asia – and the lessons learnt from his extensive experience in different countries of the region.
According to Praba, looking at countries such as India, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines, what emerges is that knowledge management is quite alive and there’s a growing interest in it by large as well as small and medium organizations. By the same token, many government bodies are encouraging organizations to adopt KM practices, through direct funding or other types of support. Some organizations are reporting tangible results through the adoption of KM practices.
However, substantial differences exist in terms of how KM practices are supported across different countries. In some countries like Thailand an official decree mandates for all government agencies to implement KM; on the other side of the spectrum, companies in India and Indonesia make larger use of incentive systems such as recognition and awards for employees who champion knowledge management. Both approach produce different results depending on the specific context
In the second day of the 2011 KM Singapore conferencePatrick Lambe from Straits Knowledge offered great insights on how organisations are often prone to follow negative patterns and take bad decisions, in spite of the talent of the individuals that form them.
According to Patrick, organisations are subject to what he defines “programmed behaviours”: some patterns of behaviours are handed to us by our culture and pushed to us by the situation we are in. Patrick identifies some ‘tyrannies’ that determine negative pattern behaviours: amongst others, the tyranny of plans, of culture, and of infrastructure are often the cause of negative patterns.
How to avoid this situation?
For Patrick, the first step is to be aware and accept that these tyrannies exists and negative pattern behaviours do happen. Secondly he stresses how leadership teams need to be more aware of the programmed behaviours that they themselves are exhibiting, especially the phenomenon of “mutual ignorance“. This occurs when we are just imagining what other people wants and act on those assumptions rather than exploring how other people are thinking. Senior leadership drives the behaviour of an organisation in lots of ways. That way they should become more “questioning of each other and more interested in the drivers and motives of colleagues”.
The last presenter at the 2011 KM Singapore event was Aw Siew Hoong (Ash). Ash is Knowledge Advisor at Shell Global Solutions and in this role he oversees KM strategy development and implementation, and change management. In his presentation he shared with participants how Shell is addressing the issue of retaining tacit knowledge of its employees through the ROCK process.
ROCK (Retention of Critical Knowledge) has been running since 2005 and basically it consists of a structured interview process. According to Ash, not all the tacit knowledge of Shell’s employees needs to be captured and ROCK starting point is to identify what’s the critical knowledge that needs to be retained and passed on. Once this critical knowledge has been identified, the process deep dives into the experience the person has and the tacit knowledge is brought to the surface.
ROCK has proven to be very successful so far especially in the sense that the people to whom knowledge is transferred enjoy the process and find a lot of value in it.
Gary Klein was the international keynote in the second day of the 2011 KM Singapore conference. Gary is the author of Sources of Power (named one of the best books of the millennium) and Intuition at Work. He is a research psychologist renowned for his pioneering work in the field of naturalistic decision making.
In his presentation, Gary highlighted the importance of capturing tacit knowledge that experts have. Experts see “patterns we don’t see” and we have mental models more sophisticated. How to capture this tacit knowledge is essential and very difficult at the same time.
According to Gary, one possible way to succeed in the efforts of expertise retention is through storytelling. Stories are a medium for communication and representation; they are not just mere illustrations but are the way “you calibrate what’s in the bullet points.” Moreover, stories can rescue us from the problem we often encounter when different people mean different things with the same words. Through stories, these difference can surface and we can have a richer dialogue.