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!

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.

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!

Performance Mngmt Why?

Performance Management – Why Get Good At It?

Over the past 10 yeas I’ve experienced many organisations where senior executives shy away from having the “Crucial Conversations”, the reasons are often similar.

“Look I don’t think you really need to “Fire” people, or its not really in our culture, we don’t feel its necessary to force people to change etc”

This entry is about why the better you are at Performance Management the better you’ll be at anything your business throws at you at all, in fact the better you’ll ironically be in your relationships outside the business also. At the end of the day if something in a business or any other relationship is not working if all parties concerned are not wanting to change or pretend they are when they’re not then stop wasting your time. When you consider implementing processes around talent identification and talent management seriously consider how good your best people are around the following areas.

Three Keys to Strong Performance Management

1) Consider a proper format

In some organisations development plans are a waste of breath and hence when someone falls down there is little if anything to benchmark it against other than their peers actual business metrics. This often though may not stack up though, as people often have excuses like, I deal with different clients, products or systems and hence its different for me.

In order for your personal performance development plans to actually be of use, keep them simple make sure you look at things like what are the top three key things to focus on?

  • Why are you falling down on them right now?
  • What knowledge resources or skills do you need to change this by Friday?
  • Are you prepared to make those changes?
  • Can you make them?

Either people can or cant do whats required in a Performance Management setting, lets be honest actually there is little in between. The problem most leaders have is a lack of courage to ask specific enough questions to ensure a proper answer and therefore result from the team member.

2) Ensure its self perpetuating

There is no point spending a whole lot of time working with a person then leaving them to work on themselves around an area only to find that later they go away and on Friday when you check they have done nothing. Performance Management work must be self perpetuating in the eyes of the person receiving the “Coaching” otherwise its nothing more than the kind of serious telling off your parents used to give you years ago at home.

In order to make Performance Management systems self perpetuating consider starting to get better at your own ability to communicate with people over tough things. Look at some managers who are naturally angry people, meet their children you’ll find anger. Then look at how they performance manage and you’ll see it was easy for them, they just had the meeting spoke very loudly and intensely, to the person until they gave in and agreed to everything asked of them. Then they went off and the employee went off to do his/her own thing.

“Problem is they then don’t, and nothing changes”

Many managers in fact believe that people “Cant” change which makes performance management a little tougher. Look at how good you are at your own tougher communication skills, how good are you at telling your best work mate they have screwed up so badly they have almost lost their job?

3) Understand the things that matter

In many cases managers are trying to council a staff member on something they themselves have no idea about.

For example selling 20% more of a product line in an area where the demographic is such that it cant be done. So they coach and coach then find unfortunately that it would have been much better to ask more questions up front, in which case they would have learned more about the problems being faced. The solution may actually be to sell a different product which can often then result in more revenue than that earned prior anyway.

Make sure you get skilled in the use of tough conversations don’t blame your team members, you are the one that needs to be able to coach them, if they are not performing then perhaps you are the one that needs to have a serious look in the mirror first, not them!

Psychometric Tools – Be Careful!

Make sure you get it right so your team becomes what it should be!

This post is going to cover a couple of key things about a tool called the Inventory of Work Attitude and Motivation iWAM and some other general thoughts on Psychometric type assesment tools used in some organisational change programs. When this tool was first introduced into Australasia we used it inside of many large organisations and had some great successes. iWAM had some real advantages over other tools in that it did not try to box people into one of four category types. Boxing people is not in of itself a real issue but when your final aim is actually to either:

  1. Change the behaviour of your teams
  2. Get your teams to learn more about each other
  3. Understand more about your people

Trying to bundle them all into one of 4 or 8 categories can be a great way of setting in stone what people think of themselves. For example tell someone they are best working with systems and processes and not people, how hard are they now going to try to get along with others?

What we liked about iWAM on the other hand is that it gave a scaled story on what the key drivers were inside a person. One of the great iWAM reports ranked people from their highest work preference to their lowest preference. For example some people are very focused on systems at work and perhaps on money or finance issues.

What has amazed me since I started my study into the field of Psychology 18 years ago was that almost all the other Psychometric tools excluding iWAM, seemed to just assume that the way a person behaved at work would be the same as that in other areas of their lives.

However this seemed to be contradictory to most people I knew who may be systematic at work but have a mess at home, or were extroverted sales people at work but at home around their loud partner they were submissive and more introverted.

When you are deciding on a Profiling Tool seriously consider the following 10 factors.

  1. What are you wanting the tool to do in your business or team?
  2. How many case studies does your proposed consultant have of clients you can speak with, who have had success?
  3. Does the consultant you are using have a formal degree in Psychology or a related discipline?
  4. If they are not professionally qualified how can you trust their judgment
  5. Do they have a website with case studies and significant independent research proof?
  6. What are you going to measure as success factors that actually matter to your business?
  7. How can you be sure that when your people know more about themselves this will benefit your business?
  8. Some organisations are talking about Qualitative and Quantitative measurement through tools like iWAM but what does this mean and how did they prove it?
  9. Once you choose a tool can you bench mark team members on the same graph to easily compare peoples strengths and use this information to buddy them up with people who have different ones?
  10. Finally are you going to get a serious return for your investment, one that can be ongoing and used by all your senior management team, and if not why not?

How are your best people going to use this information to get better business results in the next 4-8 weeks? The talent identification and talent management process often uses tools like these to be able to better identify and then use people operating in many cases far below their capability. Just be carefull as often high fliers may not look like this on some tools.

Having worked extensively in this field for many years, I hear over and over of companies that use tools such as those mentioned above and although great at the time they are not continually used. Ironically in 18 years of working with all sorts of different clients we find that 80%+ of the time its the highest performing leaders that are the ones that will refer back to reports generated by these devices.

Good luck in digging out the tools that work if you want to find out some more feel free to look at some of our research at http://www.behaviourchange.com.au/IWAM.html