Communicating your direction for knowledge work

Apart from being aware of competitive intelligence and what it takes to be on the cutting edge, it is imperative that you establish an engaging and powerful argument for change. This articulation helps set a target in which people can organize and tailor their behaviour, priorities and learning. How you choose to tell your story or direction will depend to a large extent on the personality and receptiveness of your people.

Here are three approaches for communicating your direction. The final choice or mix will again depend on the nature of your business and how you can grab and hold people s attention.

One popular way to help communicate direction is for leaders and decision- makers to articulate what their priority business needs are. The benefit of doing this is that it gives a sharp focus for knowledge work and innovation. As you would expect, the measures can be very idiosyncratic depending on the business. In a public health business such as a hospital, the needs could be as simple as saving lives. Alternatively, you could choose a host of other metrics such as better response to patient needs, minimizing infection, helping patients feel a little less lost in the system in order to help provide a measuring stick for growing competitive advantage or contribution to society.

If you were studying an international consulting organization like Ernst and Young, the drivers for improved knowledge work would include smarter use of existing knowledge, higher customer satisfaction and attracting and keeping talent.

Other common metrics in use in many businesses include:

  • increased productivity and profitability

  • reduced time for a product or service to enter the marketplace

  • reduced wastage, error and duplication

  • greater social responsibility, duty of care and environmental management

  • stronger alliances and relationships with business partners .

It is also worth noting that the measurement and evaluation of knowledge will be discussed in Chapters 14 and 15.

The second way of helping shape a direction for knowledge work and innovation is to communicate a vision of the future. Here you develop a story of what your future will look like if you act as a smarter business. The two examples from Buckman Laboratories and Hewlett Packard show how a short story can have enormous impact. In both cases, the visions have had a profound and lasting impact on how these businesses have progressed in the area of knowledge work over the past decade .

Bob Buckman, the CEO at Buckman Laboratories, in 1988 provided a template for the future of the business by spelling out what he was expecting in the area of cutting-edge knowledge work. He wanted a system and knowledge management practice that met the following criteria:

  • It would be possible for people to talk to each other directly to minimize distortion.

  • It would give everyone in the company access to the company s knowledge base.

  • It would allow each individual in the company to enter the knowledge into the system.

  • It would be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

  • It would be easy to use.

  • It would communicate in whatever language was best for the user .

  • It would be updated automatically, capturing questions and answers as a future knowledge base.

Within a division of Hewlett Packard the senior leadership of their consulting team developed this vision:

Our consultants feel and act as if they have the knowledge of the entire organization at their fingertips when they consult the customers. They know exactly where to go to find information. They are eager to share knowledge as well as leveraging others experience in order to deliver more value to customers. We will recognize those consultants that share and those that leverage others knowledge and experience as the most valuable members of the HP team.

As you can see both case studies provide a structure by which people can shape their behaviour.

The third approach to shape the direction for knowledge and innovation is quite different. Here you describe the behaviours that are no longer acceptable. This identification sets in place criteria or a benchmark for monitoring unsatisfactory performance, particularly if this intention is backed up by reward and recognition systems that encourage better behaviours and discourage serious neglect.

A list of undesired behaviours could include:

  • Great ideas are not shared with the people who matter.

  • Mistakes are repeated because they were never recorded and learnt from in the first place.

  • Vital knowledge is stored by too few people.

  • When people leave the critically important wisdom of the business is lost.

  • People struggle to find out what is known in the business. They are unable to plan.

  • There are limited opportunities to share wisdom across the business.

  • There is no innovation, training and skill development.

  • Control and command dominates.

  • Customer relations are poor.

  • You always win sales by dropping your price.

Having identified these behaviours, you are then much better placed to undertake regular reviews of shifts in performance levels to measure improvement, deterioration or the status quo. Here testimonial quotes can also be a wonderful supplement to the review. Real-life testimonials or narrative stories can give enormous weight and substance to the view that positive change may be occurring. This process of digging up the real-life proof will be explored more in Chapter 7.

Winning the Knowledge Game. Smarter Learning for Business Excellence
Winning the Knowledge Game. Smarter Learning for Business Excellence
ISBN: 750658096
Year: 2003
Pages: 129 © 2008-2017.
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