What KM can learn from start-ups – 5, build a good product

Last week I started a set of blog posts likening KM implementation to a business start-up. Here is number 5 in the series. 

The Lean Startup Methodology
Lean Start-up methodology, by Rebeca Zuniga on Flickr

This blog series uses this analogy of a start-up to inform KM implementation. It reviews 5 common reasons for start-up failure and suggests ways in which KM programs can avoid these failure modes. These common reasons are taken from  a great article by David Skok , and are as follows:

  1. Little or no market for the product; 
  2. The business model fails; 
  3. Poor start-up management team; 
  4. Running out of cash; 
  5. Product problems.

Ensuring the Product meets the market need

The final reason that start-ups fail is because they develop a product that doesn’t meet the market need. In our case, the KM product is the management framework we introduce to the business, comprised of roles and accountabilities, processes, technology tools, and governance.

This failure mode often happens when the product is developed in isolation from the users, and turns out to be not what the market wants. An approach commonly used to avoid this pitfall is the Lean Start-up or Agile approach, where products are developed through an iterative series of prototypes. “Minimum viable products” are released to early adopters in cycles of Deploy, Measure, Learn, and the learning from each cycle is used to improve the product for the next cycle.

A minimum viable product is the simplest version of a product that will still add value to the customer, and the design team then use customer feedback to elaborate the product further. The piloting phase of KM implementation can use a similar approach.

KM Piloting has 4 objectives:

  1. To gain learning about the application of the KM framework, which can be used to improve the framework and so develop it into a product that fits the market need; 
  2. To test the market; 
  3. To demonstrate value through KM in order to justify further investment, and 
  4. To create success stories and user testimonials for marketing purposes. 

 In order to satisfy the first of these objectives, it makes sense to pilot, as early as possible, a minimum viable KM framework. This will not be a single KM tool, as one tool is not a framework. Instead it will be a complete but bare-bones management framework. And in order to satisfy objective 3, the bare-bones Framework should be applied to solve a real business problem. 

 For example, one organisation set up a simple KM framework to address problems in Production Engineering. A volunteer community coordinator set up monthly discussions using dial-in conference calls among a dozen enthusiasts around the globe, to discuss an identified agenda of critical knowledge issues. This minimum system added real value and solved several problems, and over time was extended to become a community of practice of several hundred people with a dedicated portal, software, meetings, roles and governance.

 Starting small and growing allowed the KM Framework to be tested at every step, and ensured that the final version of the Framework was exactly what the users needed in order to add value. The product grew to match the market need.

Use an Agile piloting approach to ensure your KM Product is tailored to the market

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Selecting KM pilots to address non-Quality

Among many interesting discussions at the KAConnect 2018 conference was one on selecting KM pilots focused on reducing the cost of non-quality. 

Participants at KA connect 2018

The conversation was, as many KM conversations are, about Value.

The annual KAConnect conference is for the Architecture and Engineering community, and many of the architects were struggling to find value measures that KM could help with, especially as many of them are billed on a day-rate basis, and so have no direct incentives to be more efficient. Helping them to deliver their work faster would save the client money, but would not impact the profits of the firm.

One insightful suggestion was to address the cost of non-quality, which we discussed on this blog last week. Non-quality, in architectural terms, results in write-offs (doing extra work at the firms expense to correct errors), rework and change requests. A Knowledge Management pilot project aimed at reducing write-offs and rework would deliver real value to the organisation, and act as a proof-of-concept for KM.

This pilot would need to look analyse the causes of write-offs and rework, identify how many of these causes were knowledge-related, identify the critical knowledge which would reduce write-offs and rework, and then put in place an approach to ensure this knowledge was available to the teams at the point of need. The approach need not be complex – a “minimum viable” solution may be enough – but provided it was targeted at the critical knowledge, and focused on reducing the cost of non-quality, it could be an excellent showcase for the value of KM. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

3 key roles in a KM pilot project

To achieve success in a KM pilot, there are three major roles that need to be in place.

Blickling Hall, Gardens and Park
Blickling Hall, Gardens and Park by Martin Pettitt, on Flickr

KM pilot projects are when you take Knowledge Management out into the business, and “try it for real”. They are a public road-test for knowledge management, and a crucial step in your implementation, You can’t afford for them to fail.

In order to ensure success, you need to set up 3 key roles.

The first role is that of the business sponsor, who acts as the customer for the project within the business. They play an active role in setting the direction, providing resources, and agreeing objectives and deliverables. The business sponsor is likely to be the manager of the business unit, and it is crucial that they be committed to the success of the project.

 The second role is that of the local pilot project manager. This person will be accountable for delivering the results of the project. It is important that this role is owned by somebody within the business, so that the project is seen as internal to the business, rather than something “which is being done to us by outside specialists”. The KM person should never be the pilot project manager.

 The third role is that of the knowledge management adviser or supporter, who works closely with the local project manager in implementing the project; providing the knowledge management processes tools and technologies. The knowledge management adviser will be a member of the KM implementation team, and provides learning from the pilot project back to the KM team. They may work full-time on the pilot project, depending on its complexity and scope.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

How many KM pilots do you run at once?

KM Pilots are a key step in agile KM implementation, but how many pilots do you run?

Knowledge Management pilot projects are a core componment of KM implementation. As we explained last month, a pilot project uses KM to solve a business problem in order to test and demonstrate that KM can do what it is supposed to do, and so that you can learn enough to improve and enhance the framework using experience from the pilot.

But how many pilots do you need, and how many can you run at once?

The answer is – you need enough pilots with enough positive results and enough learning that

  • you have fully tested your Knowledge Management Framework, and
  • you have enough evidence to convince both senior management and the knowledge workers that KM adds enough value to be adopted.

As for how many you can run at once, that depends on the level of coaching, mentoring and support resources you have available. Do as many pilots as you can handle, and no more. The process you need to decide which pilots to undertake is as follows:

  1. Canvas the business to find out a list of business issues which KM can help solve. This blog post gives you some pointers which business issues to look at, and you should be able to come up with a long list. 
  2. Rank the pilots against the 4 criteria of potential measurable impact, management support, doability and abiklity to upscale (see blog post for more guidance).
  3. Starting with the top ranking ones, select as many as you can support given the time and resources.
  4. Also try to select a portfolio of pilots that will test all elements of the KM framework.

In BP, for example, with our central team of 12 full-time KM staff, we ran 4 pilots at once. In Mars, with a smaller team, they ran 2 a year.

Choose your pilots wisely and run as many as you can handle until KM is tested, refined and proven

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

How to select a successful KM pilot project

Knowledge Management pilot projects are a crucial part of any KM implementation. But how do you select a good pilot?                                                   

A KM pilot project is an opportunity to test KM in a small part of the business; to see if it works, to use it as a testbed to adapt and improve your KM framework, and to deliver success stories to use in the roll-out phase.

But what makes a good pilot?

First of all, a pilot project needs to use KM to solve a business problem.  The pilot must be problem-led, not solution-led.

  • So “testing a Sales portal” is not an effective pilot, but “using KM to improve our sales figures in Germany” is.
  • “Testing a better search engine” is not an effective pilot, but “using KM to reduce costs in our new product production line” is.
  • “Setting up a Geologists community of practice” is not an effective pilot, but “using KM to improve our geological predictions” is.

The focus of the pilot is on business issues, as the purpose of Knowledge Management is to solve business problems, and the purpose of the pilot is to test and demonstrate that KM can do what it is supposed to do. In most cases, your pilot will cover multiple divisions, or multiple projects, and will look at ways of developing, sharing, transferring and re-using knowledge to solve business issues.

Please note that you do not need to use a very sophisticated KM Framework to solve the pilot. Maybe you can use simple approaches and build a “minimum viable” version of the framework which you can use for testing purposes, and then improve and enhance the framework using experience from the pilot.

How do you find a suitable business problem to solve? The problem must somehow be knowledge-related, if KM is going to help, and there are four

  • Where there is a business critical activity which is new to one part of the organisation, where rapid learning will deliver business benefits. If it is new to only one part of the organisation, then transferring learning from where it has been done before, will give huge benefits.
  • Where there is repetitive activity, and where continuous improvement is needed, in which case knowledge management can help drive down the learning curve.
  • Where there is activity which is carried out in several locations, and where performance level varies, in which case knowledge management can help exchange knowledge from the good performers, to improve the poor performers.
  • Finally where there is an area of the business which is stuck due to lack of knowledge, in which case knowledge management can help develop the knowledge needed to get unstuck.

When you start looking around, you will find very many business opportunities for KM piloting. Your “opportunity jar” will soon be full to overflowing, and you will need to find a way to compare and rank these piloting opportunities. We have a set of ranking criteria we have been using for about 15 years now, which includes looking at the following questions;

  • If the project is successful, can we measure the value, and so demonstrate that the pilot has “worked”? 
  • Is there is strong management support for the pilot, and for knowledge management, within the potential pilot area?
  • If we create knowledge, is it purely for the pilot team or can others use it across the business, allowing us to leverage the results and spread the benefits? 
  •  Finally, can we practically complete the pilot in the required timeframe and with the resources available (money, staff, KM support resource etc)? 

Any pilot where you can answer a strong YES to all of these questions, will be a top-ranking pilot, suitable for selection as part of your KM program.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The "busy trap" in KM

What do you do when people are too busy to implement time-saving activities such as KM?

We know that good KM saves time. But how do you make the time to save the time? This was a conversation I was involved in recently with a client.

This client is very busy. They are short-staffed and work to tight deadlines. They have “no time” for Learning before Doing, and so Do Before Learning.

However much of the busy work they do is wasted, because they lack the knowledge to do it right. As a result, they waste time doing the wrong things, waste time doing things wrong, and waste time reworking everything to get it right.  

Some of the staff we talked to were certain that, with the right access to knowledge, they could do a week’s work in 4 and a half days. But right now a week’s work takes at least 6 days, and they have no time for KM activity. They are in a “busy trap” –  too busy to take the time to do the KM that will stop them being too busy. 
How do they break out of the trap?

The only way, really, is to take a Piloting strategy.

Find one small part of the business which has a supportive manager and a little bit of headroom to invest in making a change. Introduce KM, change the culture, invest in learning, and demonstrate the time savings that result. Use the results to convinces another manager or two to sponsor a second pilot, and a third, and a fourth. Pretty soon the whole business has changed.

A busy business can’t be changed all at once. You have to take an incremental approach, and change it one small area at a time.

View Original Source Here.