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“Bromine!” I said with a sense of amusement in my voice as we drove down from Mumbai to Pune. “Yes, leaking bromine...it usually causes a mess in the warehouse, and one of my last KM projects was to stem this issue” Rudolf said. I rest my head on the comfortable upholstery and imagine myself in a warehouse and ask – will my KM projects ever reach a warehouse?
Rudolf does have a certain element of surprise value to him. He carries a Canon SLR still camera and a Sony full-HD camera and will start recording you (obviously with your permission) if he hears anything that interests him. How is that for personal knowledge management.
He enters the conference room and starts his presentation with the following statements:
1) Each of you has to share one best practice that you wish to implement in your organization at the end of this presentation
2) Even though the practices that we will discuss today were implemented in the infrastructure and construction sector, they are relevant to all sectors
The presentation starts with the basics of knowledge management [Data à Information à Knowledge], however quickly jumps to highlighting that KM needs to solve business issues. The smooth transition is done with the help of an example in waste management.
He further explains the concept of knowledge management and its strong relation to learning and experimentation. Refer to Figure 1.
Any activity in an organization is executed as a result of knowledge possessed to execute it. When knowledge is readily available, execution takes place. The moment knowledge is unavailable, the activity needs to be learned and perfected overtime, experimented to eliminate risks, which leads to execution. This cycle of learning and experimentation is expenditure.
Figure 1: Relation between knowledge and execution of an activity
Summary of the Case – Knowledge at the Bottom of the Pyramid
The following text is pasted from the mailer that was sent out to the community.
Very rarely a knowledge management initiative impacts efficiency and effectiveness of every employee in the organization – entry level employees being most frequently left out. Instead of the conventional top-down approach, this construction major ventured through unpredictable territory where knowledge was captured, retained, and shared right from the level of semi-literate construction workers, all the way up to project managers.
Rudolf’s presentation will capture creative application of KM techniques like Story Boards, After Action Reviews, Videos, Notice Boards and so on. In addition to the techniques he will also discuss the usage context, implementation and benefits. With a title inspired by CK Prahalad's groundbreaking work, Rudolf will explain his case where a knowledge sharing culture is propogated from the bottom of the organization's pyramid
Concrete benefits from the KM interventions were adherence to work schedules, less rework, improved quality, adherence to safety standards, increased utilization of plant and machinery, and reduced machine downtime. Better communication and conversations also led to improved team bonding among employees.
The Practices – After Action Review, Story Boards and Knowledge Capsules
After Action Review (AARs) – Popularized by the US Army, AARs is a technique where team members huddle on the production floor (and not in a conference room) and discuss four questions:
1) What was to happen?
2) What actually happened?
3) What went wrong?
4) What would you do differently next time?
As small disclaimer by Rudolf – AARs are executed after each event, and not after each project. AARs usually last for 20-25 minutes and are conducted objectively without ranks and individual actions as part of the discussion. As more events are covered, length of the AARs reduce.
Story Boards – Story Board as a concept is difficult to articulate in an article and is best understood experientially in a classroom or in a live situation. Story boards are created by participants in a classroom where an image linked to an event (positive event or a negative event) is displayed on a projector. Refer to Figure 2. The employee with the blue hat represents a contract labourer and the one in yellow represents a company employee. Participants are asked a simple question – what conversation is taking place between them? Points are collated by the facilitator and insights are gathered.
Knowledge Capsules – Knowledge Capsules are recorded videos, three or four minutes in length that record achievement of a recognized employee, an event that needs attention, an issue that needs an innovative approach or an innovative approach that other locations need to be aware of. The popularity and success of knowledge capsules resulted in the client placing cameras in each of the construction sites.
The writer, Alakh Asthana, is part of the core team at Mumbai KM Community, and works as a Manager at eClerx Services Ltd. The last sentence was written in third person to stick to conventions of writing skills, however, if you wish to say 'Hi!' or catch up for a coffee in Mumbai over a quick conversation on KM and Training, do drop me an email on email@example.com