Tacit KM Transfer Mechanisms

Why can one mining site have 80% fewer people issues, or one team produce 200% more productivity than others? Six Sigma is a process used in certain environments to “reduce” inefficiencies. Even then, projects are run and there are still major differences in specific people’s performance.

The fact is that while procedures in business are essential, unfortunately the “Outlier” results – that is, the ones that really make the difference – are not written up because they are found by high performers who don’t spend all their time writing. They are busy getting results!

So how could you build a live system or process for capturing and then replicating the informal or tacit smarts of your internal talent? Check out this great little conversation on companies transferring internal smarts via technologies.

If you want to be able to propagate these kinds of smarts, you need to create a process by which to do so. In the age we live in, in most cases, this process is going to look like a specific technology – SharePoint or some form of intranet or capture system. You can do it manually to start with and this can work great also.

Consider the following five points to enable you to capture and propagate “Key Informal Business Smarts”:

  1. Have you looked at your top five major project issues /key deliverables/client issues?
  2. Do you know who is best at what and why in these areas? The cop out is to say, “Oh, John has been here for ages and she is just a natural.” The value is to work out what he does that makes him “a natural”. For instance, notice that when he has an issue with his work he calls Steve in product development and who resolves the issue within 5 mins. Compare this with the rest of the team whose issues go into a queue somewhere and take days to resolve. Hence he gets things done 5 times faster.
  3. How often do you have team meetings to discuss an area where someone is clearly much better than the others? By the end of the meeting, you can ensure that everyone now has access via new knowledge skills and behaviours to the strategy being used by the high performer.
  4. If you have these meetings, great! Do you then get one of your team to spend 5 minutes typing up the learnings, choose some keywords then putting them into a searchable database? This enables others who were not at the meeting or new people coming into the organisation to access these smarts. You can use a ranking system on the database so people can rank the value they get from each document or recording.
  5. Do you bring the smarts to life by using a forum/blog or wiki-type entry moderated by one of your best people? Not all high performers want to help, mostly because they are never asked. However, ask a high performer if they would like to help the rest of the team get better. If you have treated them right over time, they’ll jump at the opportunity.

The ability to transfer the “Intangible” smarts of your business – the ones that are making the biggest difference today – can transform your business. You need to be willing to acknowledge that there are better ways of doing things. Consider that in many cases team meetings cover current issues like what’s going wrong, who’s started or leaving, and focuses less on the things that are making a large difference to the results today.

Consider what you’re not doing and change it!

Identifying & Replicating Talent

The issues of talent management are ones that organisations face every day. How do you go about:

  • Developing it, keeping it?
  • Working out what and who it looks like?
  • Finding where the talent lies?
  • Figuring out if your internal talents are flexible enough to be able to send where and when you like?

A good brief on where we are as regards talent and organisational change in the market was posted by Peter Cheese from Accenture – see below.

High performers are at times also high maintenance; you can’t just string them along because often, if you do, they’ll walk! In the past 10 years, we have seen several times that the high performers in organisations are the least liked by their CEOs, senior managers and sometimes even peers.

This can occur for many reasons. Some of the common ones are:

  • They are so focused on getting their own results that they don’t care about others
  • They have no need to prove themselves to others and hence do what they like
  • Often they are happy to speak their exact mind and do, sometimes leaving a trail of blood

So what can or should you do to manage your organisation’s talent and how?

  • Work out what you are measuring with. Some organisations use Psychometric Tools to analyse and draw conclusions as to who is the best. Some of these tools actually specify behaviours 1-7 as good and 8-10 as bad. Or “this” works, and “this” does not, hence Joe is better than John.
  • Understand where your workforce is ultimately headed. Have a workforce planning model that works for your business needs. At times, organisations don’t even know where they are headed with regard to recruitment. How many people who are talented are about to leave or have just arrived? There is little knowledge on where the best recruits are going to come from, and hence it’s tough to plan for the future.
  • Make sure you have a formal process of recognising who your best people are and where they lie. Have this process be one that is not one-dimensional, e.g. It should not rest on a high-level manager saying, “Great, that guy is talented.” Decisions should be made scientifically such that it takes several different internal opinions, stakeholder reviews from different divisions, and external client feedback to recognise who is “really talented.” The ability to road map the exact distinctions around why high performers have been so successful should be based on your organisation’s specific context and not necessarily on broad-based “Role Success Maps” that often have gaps in terms of your industry.
  • Have ways of replicating how you are going to find more and more of these people. Consider that often the industries where they may be working may not be the same as your own. How can you behaviourally interview these people in a fail-safe manner? For example, when Microsoft recruits senior managers, they may interview candidates 5 or 6 times, including one-on-ones with 5 different people, and then panel interview them at the end, putting candidates under such immense pressure during the final phase that they know who truly is talented under pressure.

A formal and scientific model of Talent Management in big companies is essential to make sure you keep, recruit, develop and retain not only high-performance individuals, but also high-performance teams. One of my long-term clients is considered an expert because he knows his people inside and out. Long ago, my client recognised the best performers and what they offer, having mapped what they do best and where they can then mentor others. This person’s ability to subsequently replicate these talents, which of course lie in different areas across the team, enabled him to gain significant and continuous improvement.

Time & business results

I have friends you can’t meet for morning tea for 8 weeks because they are booked out. Others, you can consistently book a catch-up with so long as you give them 7 days notice and that’s that, every time. Then there are people who will be available tomorrow at 3pm or Friday at 9am and any further out than that and you can forget it!

TIME – Why is that the case?

Is it true that the person booked up for 8 weeks is more important, successful or has more happening in their lives than those you could get an appointment with tomorrow?

INTERESTINGLY IN OUR EXPERIENCE, NO!

Funnily enough, some of the leaders of the biggest organisations in the country operate very much in the now. If it weren’t for some very smart assistants, things would look very different. How might this information influence you and your team’s ability to get results?

Is everybody different around time? What kinds of people are similar and why? We will deal with only one part of this major body of work that up until now been badly under-researched.

How do I know? Well, all the time I see organisations facing people issues where certain portions of populations are extremely reactive and others are the opposite, far too slow to react. Where do you sit? How about your best people when you are “Managing Your Talent”? Are they reactive or more strategic? What’s needed more in your environment?

“Your interpretation of time is not a right or a wrong one. However, if you are too extreme either way with regard to your specific work context and what’s required, you can really lose out.”

What should you do to ensure your thinking around time fits with your business role? Here are three suggestions to consider with regard to the people in your workplace.

1)In a fast-paced sales or back office production environment, you probably want to be able to move quickly and hence timeframes are almost certain to be shorter.

2)In a strategic planning or IT implementation environment, it might pay to have a medium-term time perspective. However, watch out! Get this to be more a long-term perspective and that $500 million dollar IT rollout can easily blow into costing twice as much.

3)In Strategy & Planning roles in major organisations, the people involved are better to have a really good understanding of time in the long term. But they still need to be able to partner with the people on the floor conducting the rollout.

So what if you’ve got people in completely the wrong place?

What if you have people (even managers) on the floor who think learning a set of specific behaviours will take 3 months when your best manager considers it can easily be learnt in 24 hours? A problem in many IT, HR and L&D departments is that when major rollouts occur, the third parties always talk about giving things some time… until the budget’s blown and the business is locked into making even tougher decisions!

When sick where do you go?

The other day for the first time in my life I could not breath while I was going to sleep, I had been to the swimming pool that day and the chlorine was incredibly strong in the children’s pool where I’d been. My symptoms were almost exactly like that of an Asthmatic shortness of breath and no matter how hard I tried no air was getting in?

At the time I though wow – that’s interesting, then what am I going to do, not wanting to wake my partner I got up and Google’d the symptoms. Amazingly I found at least 5 websites with some really serious detailed and well researched answers.

One of these explained a breathing technique which it said worked wonders, having nothing to loose I tried it and within minutes was back to sleep. A couple of days later I was speaking with a client about this and he said wow so did you go straight to the hospital and or a doctor?

I said no actually, I turned on the Web and did some research found some answers and alls well!

You might be asking so what, how does this relate to me and my team? Well have a think about it, you think the people in your team are either good or bad, average or superb.

But maybe they are just missing some of the crucial links they need in order to perform at their roles. Often we go running to the doctor or the hospital when sometimes the best possible thing to do might actually be to sit down with some of the smartest people in our own business or teams and ask them questions or log into the web and start google’ing for answers. How do you identify and manage talent in your organisation?

By then linking up the answers your team finds to expert knowledge based information systems often you can then deal with the same problems 100’s of times faster.

Ironically often we rush off to places for solutions when they lie right at our fingertips, what’s your organisational change process and who do you have internally to role it out.

Business results & collaboration

Collaboration is a funny word, and ironically many of us are not to good at it.

Think about it – when someone cooks dinner at your place, who does it, do you share the duties? Often one person will do all the cooking and another all the washing up. Often one person becomes great at one of these two things. In business you often have a similar occurrence.

John is great at the Project Management schedule but never gets it together around creating solid relationships. So his assistant becomes great at doing it, and does it so well John never gets out to see his people when part of his role was to be out on the work front. So how could you use collaboration in a way that it would absolutely revolutionise a team’s results in your business? Being able to identify and management your talent in such a way that the transfer of “What they know & do” starts to occur organically within your organisation.

  1. Look at how often you setup specific learning tasks for the people in your team who are not at the top?
  2. When you have meetings with the team what are the expectations you set?
  3. Do you have a selection of your team sharing the things that made the biggest difference to them across the past month, censored by you
  4. Do all team members leave the meeting with structured things to improve on based on where they are at?

How do you then meaningfully sit with all these people in order to ensure the skills, behaviours and attributes that matter are being learned? By consistently considering these factors organisational change can occur faster.

If some of the above is ringing bells also consider the %age greater sales or production & productivity your best people create against those struggling, and consider what changes could you make to your own style of leadership around knowledge transfer and collaboration.

Intelligence Transfer & Performers

Over the past 12 months it’s been more important than ever to be able to take the very best of the best and be able to box this and replicate it in organisations. Reading up yesterday in the Investor Daily about how many Financial Services Employees had been made redundant from some of the biggest banks in country.

It reminded me of a client that had a person who was right at the bottom with regard to his results. He took the time to speak with some of the very best in the business and had a look at in detail what it was that the very best people had been doing with their clients to get specific business results.

Interestingly enough he also had three things over and above this which I believe should be present in order for any change to occur

  1. He was motivated and wanted to get different results
  2. If he did not get them his job may have been on the line
  3. He did not hurry the process but worked methodically to change just a few small things

Often managers in organisations “Tell” their teams what’s expected but don’t give the “How” around how to make the change. Funnily enough this is often because they don’t believe its their job to “Know” much about the details.

I would argue that you need to be able as a leader and manager to know, what it is exactly that are the things that your best people are doing to make the difference. Often this is not known and we just dump the people who “Don’t work”. The person above went from being right at the bottom to being consistently in the top three performers.

Authoritarian or Collaborative?


So we have a Restructure how do we make it work?

Its 2009 and most major organisations in the Asia Pacific region are currently going through some form of restructure. So what’s best who should we listen to, why and when? Some organisations get it right, that is the performance of their teams usually reduced in size increases significantly. Organisational change, performance interventions and restructures need to be done well so you keep your best and let go of those who want to be elsewhere.

Others get it wrong, often those who think they know what’s needed either intuitively or after what they consider to be significant research, but who ignore the troops and what’s working best inside, often they go with the “latest and greatest” fad or style for the time.

Why does it really matter? Well this entry will argue that you better get it right if you’re to be remembered by your people and your board if you are the one making the decisions. So what different ways of doing things are there and how do you decide so that your “Troops” head in the same direction you intended and performance leaps by 25-40% not 5-10%!

1) School Room Style – We Make the Decisions – You Do What You’re Told – Authoritarian Approach

Use a style that’s become popular in some organisations of late, you decide on what’s best behind closed doors what will in your personal opinion and that of those around you work, so long as the teams get into gear and pull their “fingers” out.

Like when we were at school and were told look you are welcome to do it how you like, so long as you follow these guidelines. But the guidelines were pretty stringent, ironically killing much of the innovation and often the people who may have been genius’s complete their work then don’t offer to help anyone else because they may be worried if they do they may get it wrong when teaching then be in trouble themselves.

So what can happen is little or no change. People end up in an environment of fear uncertainty and protecting their own turfs. Results well you don’t have to be Einstein to understand that when people are scared they are not operating at their best. In fact results drop off and senior leaders use any excuse they can think of, to justify the lack of results.

2) The Collaborative Approach – Old Style Consult the Masses – Trust the People

Another approach taken is the trust the masses approach, where you run a little blind. You know that change is needed but are not 100% sure of the solution. You decide to listen to what your people tell you they think they need. Great in theory but often the blind spots in the team may stay blind. For example if some of your people are scared of approaching major new clients and starting new deals from scratch, they may be unlikely to promote this as the next big area of focus.

Major benefits though come from understanding where your teams feel like they are excelling and where they feel they are falling down. If you have a great relationship with your team and know all the numbers coming out of the system around productivity and or sales dollars, then you can link these across to key behaviours that become of great value to significant and fast business changes.

3) A Combination Process – Knowing Some of the Answers – Consulting on Others

This approach is one that is seldom well used and when it is often swings to far toward 1 or 2 above. Imagine as a leader actually pulling your head in for one minute and acknowledging you don’t have “All the answers” and understanding that your job is actually to find them out.

By mapping what you consider might work, then consulting the masses you can actually create an environment where people really buy into the process. The problem often is we have the answers first then rush in and implement before we have really consulted. Or we tell the people we have taken on their feedback, when we have not, or have listened to 10% of the feedback from the people but implemented only 5%.

The we change the business structure and 12 weeks later it’s a mess, the people are unhappy and no one is any better off. Everyone starts to blame each other and the only way to fix it is for those that made the decisions to get out there and put a rocket up the regional managers …

Ironically this fixes nothing, people end up leaving due to underperformance all caused by a lack of true consultation. So if you’re down that path or can feel yourself heading in that direction what can you do? Call in a major consulting firm like McKinsey, Bain and Co. or Accenture etc, well its one solution, and have them build a roadmap out of where you now find yourself. Guaranteeing you’ll have access to some global smarts in the process is a great way to rest easy until they’ve gone, but then its back to you.

Conclusion

How about thinking first, mapping a solution based on your best internal people, (do you have a talent identification & management process?) reading and speaking with other external people who are cutting edge in your industry. Contacting heads of similar businesses in different countries to build relationships with people who don’t compete in your market where you can share different ideas and research. Build these into your solution, get rid of senior team members who don’t consult or who are not good at building internal relationships with the people at lower levels who actually do the work.

Change your team so that you respect your people from the bottom up not just the top down, start getting granular, don’t accept excuses from senior team members like oh its not my job to know that process, it is there job to get results. Benchmark everything you do so any significant decisions results are plain and simple to understand. If someone rolled out a new process, performance program or new system that did not work what were the real costs and why, what can we learn from those? How many people have we lost due to poor leadership and why were those the leaders we choose in the first place? Then involve your best people in everything you do, ensure their input becomes “How do you run your business”. Stop trying to pretend you “Know all the answers” you don’t. Only through true consultation and understanding of everything your people are selling, processing and facing daily then leveraging this are you going to get that answers that will give you real results.

Good Luck – You Can Do This!