For this jubilee – which we did not really, unfortunately, celebrate – 15 people turned up, including six new members. For the first time, the gathering was – very nicely – hosted by the Safety Net Support Facility Project.

In the first hour, waiting for participants to come, we organised a speed dating/networking exercise so everyone could meet (almost) everyone else.

We continued with a mini Open Space session to generate ideas for topics that matter to us. Considering the small number of participants we clustered some topics and came to the following selection for this gathering, and ran them as two parallel sessions of 55 minutes:

  1. Session 1 (3-4pm)
    • KM basics (a presentation by Sara Seyoum) combined with ‘what is/constitutes knowledge’ (Gashaw Kebede)
    • Peer assist ‘Converting tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge – the case of SNSF’s leaving staff members and job rotation’ (Etsegenet Awash)
  2. Session 2 (4-5pm)
    • KM strategy (Gashaw Kebede)
    • Sharepoint for third-party KM (pros & cons) + Documentation & availing it for users in a user-friendly manner + technology that works in Ethiopia (to share knowledge…) (Elshadai N
      egash & Nadja Shashe)

KM Basics / what is knowledge

The presentation by Sara Seyoum 'KM essentials for the knowledge age' is available online on the Facebook group page.

Some discussion about a definition of KM touched upon the following:

  • Technology and tools to capture, share and use
  • Proper standardisation of documents
  • Sharable
  • Creating/identifying from high expertise to low expertise
  • Documentation, sharing institutional activities
  • Identifying, storing valuable information
  • Nadja's definition: Kowledge understood in the academic sense as proven insight/finding about the world, that is in sharable form and therefore can be transmitted in between people.
  • General connection: Program to enable people to collectively and sytematically share and capture knowledge.
  • KM basics theory: Nonaka - tacit to explicit (SECI model)
  • Tacit/Externalisation - When people leave they take their knowledge with them if they are not shared through externalisation (creating a capture of that knowledge)
  • Use socialisation to turn the most valuable information into tacit knowledge (google's round circle)
  • Use office culture to change staff attitute towards taking in new knowledge
  • Build suitable infrastructure to capture & share knowledge
  • Find strategies that makes it easy for staff to share their knowledge amd receive it from others - What are strategies and how can we adpt them to our office?
  • Internally - What are the obstacles in sharing knowledge within our local office?
  • What are we doing for induction of new staff?

Peer assist ‘converting tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge – the SNSF case’

Some experts can do things well but they can’t explain very well.

Original case brief:

Towards the end of last year, a member of SNSF's KM team left his job. As a result, we observed some gaps, as we believe that there were some specific knowledge and skills that could have been captured while he was working for the office; other than this staff member training other staff on these specific skills, conducting exit interview and preparing handing over notes or terminal/final report, what could we have done to retain his tacit knowledge, especially the 'how to' part?

Proper handover has been done but he left the office. His expertise is not captured well e.g. skills, doing analysis, planning etc. was not done very well. He was doing some work that required specific skills and licensed software, but he was not excited to share it with anyone who was here. He was less inclined or motivated to share… What can motivate?

Round of clarifications…

  • Q: Have you tried asking him to share his knowledge?
  • A: I have asked him to give me the software he was using while he was working here. His answer was acceptable at some level but I felt my approach was not good. Otherwise he would have shared. I asked direct questions: can you share this with me?
  • Q: Is it about a particular licensed software or something else?
  • A: If he would share, he felt that some specific skills made him unique and he was not so inclined in sharing. He wanted to retain his unique position etc.
  • Q: Isn’t there any other way to acquire his knowledge or attain his knowledge?
  • A: The project is a three-year project and we are building the capacity of a government programme. It’s KM for our stakeholders. Getting a training etc. or some skills for own staff is not a priority. It was a lesson in retrospect… Other people couldn’t produce the same quality and people are coming back to me to work on these charts etc.
  • Q: Did you try to replace him with a person that has the same skills as him?
  • A: His responsibility was shared among the rest of the staff?
  • Q: Do you have any experience sharing activity at the office between staff?
  • A: In the IT field we have an experience sharing gathering on MS Office, smartphones, proper use of PCs, use of IT based sharing tools  etc. There is some Coaching activities in other fields.
  • Q: How many offices do you have?
  • A: We have the Oromia regional office here and we also have a regional office in other regions, no other country office. It’s an independent project in Ethiopia. We have a shared folder / drive / ftp sharing etc. / a website / an intranet site. We have a lot of IT tools to share. Learning & Sharing events are not happening, only with IT.
  • Q: Proper handover – what does it look like?
  • A: He gave us  his working folders, reports at hand, and materials he developed in PDF format. 3 weeks’ notifications. But we didn’t do anything else.
  • Q: Did you do any exit interview?
  • A: No we didn’t do it at that time (Nov. last year). We’ve introduced that now as part of document management.
  • Q: Were you working separately or not?
  • A: Together, very much… but he just wasn’t so inclined to share his information.
  • Q: Who is your manager?
  • A: We have a manager but we didn’t take this as an issue to the manager. We all reported to the same manager.
  • Q: Do you have ‘knowledge sharing’ in your ToR?
  • A: It is mentioned between the lines (team orientation)
  • Q: Was there any man-woman relationship dynamics to resisting the sharing?
  • A: He just had some resistance to share… Gender dynamics was not an issue but the manager did feel that this might have been some issue. I was supposed to help him etc. and give him the stuff that he wants.
  • Q: Did/do you work in pairs with other people?
  • A: Mostly as a team
  • Q: When he asked you for some help did you provide it?
  • A: Yes. E.g. helping him with IT routine. He wasn’t asking any other information but usually about phones (Android phones)
  • Q: Is there any coaching happening?
  • A: Some staff are coaching others on any issue. The coach suggests coaching.


Round of suggestions…

  • Two issues: first the job was not your job and his skill was not needed and only at the end you found out about the skill gap. You were willing to learn from the start but he was not willing to share with you… What can you do? Hire sb w/ those skills. Another way would be to acquaint yourself with the problem quickly; One person in my job used to have a lot of tutorials and he didn’t want me to share… In my new company, if you want to be trained on sthg, the HR dept’t organises knowledge transfer and anyone in the office can apply for this or that… That culture could be introduced in your office (HR support to organise such meetings and forward ideas).
  • One thing that would really work is to have a back up for each person and tool that you’re using (so you don’t make the back up when the person has left but any time)… You can have monthly/weekly ‘how-to’s’ on tools… You don’t have structured coaching and you have training sessions every month etc. so you can invite people from different sessions to do training on different areas.
  • He used his knowledge as leverage. He might even ask to increase his salary because he knows more. You should have asked him how to do it while he was here. There is a KM policy in my company that states that the person must share whatever knowledge you have. After KM was established every team member knows what others are doing. You might prepare presentations etc. and put these presentations on the library. We need to know everything. You should have a policy…
  • Handover process with exit interview, requirement in ToR and assessment against that, coaching/buddying, on the job sharing, contingency plans for (redundancy plan), description of mission-critical tasks (and skills/softwares etc.), find other people that work well with him. Find lots of tutorials online and ask questions on KM4Dev. The world wasn’t done over a day.

What I will try out practically:

  • KS events – that can be implemented;
  • Inform the manager to revise the ToR: sharing is mandatory;
  • Implement the exit interview template in a way that these skills are captured;
  • Work on coaching;
  • motivate departments to conduct regular experience sharing events

More resources

KM strategy

Gashaw Kebede proposed this discussion topic, starting with the following premises/questions (and some initial responses) proposed by the initiator and other participants:

  • Q: What is a KM strategy?
  • A: A set of activities, applicable plans, principles, resources.
  • Q: Why do not more organisations have a KM strategy?
  • A: KM is a confusing concept, it’s not always clearly related to the overall strategy.
  • Too often there is not enough attention paid to the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?): No rewards, no clear return on investment, so there’s no motivation (for something as difficult as behaviour change).
  • A KM strategy can be used in a too mechanistic a way, as a tick-boxing exercise, which leave people disappointed with a KM strategy that is not really owned further down the line.
  • It is time consuming to generate
  • It is sometimes already happening but not called a ‘KM strategy’
  • It can be too inflexible – organisations might go for principles instead?
  • Q: If they do have one, why don’t they use it?
  • Q: Is it really a good thing?
  • A: Not always! The process (if it’s kept light and leads to good learning conversations) is good, but the result not always.

The conversation tackled a number of key challenges: the necessity of generating quick returns (or losing momentum), the importance of relating the KM strategy to people work and personal/team strategy so they can see the benefit of it, the time it takes to build a KM strategy, the slow cultural change and the low level of awareness for KM.

In the process, the group went over some examples such as the recent KM strategy of UNDP. The group also zoomed in on the Information Network Security Agency (INSA)’s use of after action review, their revision of the KM strategy around the whole organisation - focusing on early wins etc. INSA’s software development team started reading more about KM about four years ago when they were looking for project information and could only spot information about 25% of the projects. They started and developed KM organically along the way, from a document management starting point.

The final observations and insights from this discussion were the following:

  • Using proposal development online can be a useful way to trigger sharing;
  • KM awareness programs might be in order – and sometimes there is no need for KM awareness, or for KM, for that matter.
  • You need top management commitment AND bottom-up consultation and buy-in;
  • Keep the strategy flexible
  • Show quick returns
  • Start with what people are doing (challenges you are facing) “Start from the people”
  • Use champions
  • From from top down to bottom up, use pilot projects and communities of practice (using KM technology)
  • Lead by example!

The conversation is also summarised in the picture hereby:

More resources

Sharepoint, making documentation available in a user-friendly manner, technology that works in Ethiopia

(Notes pending on the group)

See this picture:

Next gathering

The next gathering will take place on Friday 25 July from 2 to 5pm on the ILRI campus.

Probable topics:

  • KM tools share fair (Gashaw Kebede to lead organisation and check our Facebook page)
  • UNICEF's 'communication for development' approach (person to be identified)
  • Social implications of knowledge-sharing / contextualisation... (Nadja Shashe)

And possibly also... (parked from earlier sessions)

  • Organisational learning and KM (Tigist Endashaw) KM of social media (Elshadai Negash)
  • A (possible) peer assist case about taking up the communication/KM lead of the Nile Basin Development Challenge program (Aberra Adie)
  • How to work on comms/KM without internet, as is the case (Frehiwot Yilma)
  • Follow up / feedback from peer assist on moving away from tacit to explicit knowledge at SNSF, around job rotation and departing staffs... (Etsegenet Awash)
  • Follow up / feedback from the peer assist on the KM audit survey (Adrian Young)

Views: 448

Replies to This Discussion

thanks so much for sharing Ewen! it sounded very interesting and I am even more sorry that I was, at the last minute, unable to attend!

 Thanks  Ewen  for sharing the events finding and action forward.the events  remained me the challenges mostly observed in our work place.There is mismanagement of the manual and training materials at woreda and the grass root level and there is no handover mechanism in place .When the staff member leaves the area or the organization to his/her successor.


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