Lessons Learned: That’s What I’m Talking About…

KM on Two Levels 
by Paul McVinney
Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

The Baldrige Program is a public-private partnership dedicated to performance excellence. They educate business, government, and nonprofit agencies about the practices of best-in-class organizations, provide tools and criteria for organizations to assess themselves, and they recognize national role models with the Baldrige National Quality Award for performance excellence. (http://www.nist.gov/baldrige)

You may not know that KM is part of their assessment criteria. KM, along with measurement and analysis, are a scorable part of the assessment criteria. A recent post on the Baldrige blog struck me as a great example of KM in action on two levels. (http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2016/03/29/amid-struggles-of-rural-health-care-one-hospital-stands-out)

First, the subject of the blog, is how the Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg, Tx described their approach to improving their performance in all categories like patient safety, general surgery, financial performance, and many others. It wasn’t enough to set a tough goal in each category, they had to adopt a specific approach to understanding where they were and how to improve. That’s where KM came in. Besides being a specific element of the award criteria, you’ll read how many improvements around the hospital employed KM practices we’ve read about.

As for the second level, Hill Country’s experience is now an example others can learn from. The blog just hits the highlights, but the hospital leadership will readily explain what they did to those who are interested. A great example for organizational learning across the industry.

If you’re in the health care business, will your company learn from them? I’m not sure because other factors come into play as constraints or barriers to KM. More on those in another blog.

Paul McVinney
KMPartners.net

Lessons Learned: That’s What I’m Talking About…

Hospital - surgery team in the operating room or Op of a clinic
Knowledge makes the difference in your care

by Paul McVinney
Partner at Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

I recently ran across an article from US News, “Risks Are High at Low-Volume Hospitals,” that was very informative from a KM perspective. US News is in the business of rating many different kinds of institutions, and in the course of analyzing data for hospital rankings, they found a trend that confirmed what other studies have also found. “Low-volume hospitals,” where doctors only occasionally see similar patients, put patients at higher risk. “Patients are more likely to die or suffer complications when treated by doctors who only occasionally see similar patients rather than by experienced teams with more patients and established protocols.”

Staff in high-volume hospitals have seen all the common complications before. They understand the symptoms and know how to quickly deal with them with an array of staff, protocols, equipment, and facilities. Their knowledge makes the difference… a shocking difference: As many as 11,000 deaths nationally from 2010 through 2012 if patients who were seen in low-volume hospitals had been seen in high-volume hospitals.

This is yet another example of the power of knowledge, underscoring the importance of knowledge management.

Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

301-257-5186

Lessons Learned: That’s What I’m Talking About…


What is Knowledge Management?

By Paul McVinney

Partner at Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

Business people shaking hands, finishing up a meeting
When people get together they talk and share information

Knowledge management or KM is an abstract concept, but one that’s essential to sustaining a successful organization, be it a for-profit business, a nonprofit organization, or a government agency of any size. KM centers on relationships: relationships between individuals, groups, and organizations. When people get together, they talk and share information, or they engage in a transaction of some kind. After that exchange, each comes away a little smarter about the other person or organization. Knowledge management is about the organization getting value from what was learned at the individual or group level.

For example, if you’re in sales and a customer complains about a quality problem, getting that feedback to manufacturing is KM in action. If you’re the director of a center at a university and your outreach efforts improve alumni donations, bringing that to the university so everyone could revamp their outreach efforts is KM in action. If you’re a manager in the state tax department and you oversee a software upgrade, getting everyone in the collection and audit divisions trained on the new software so everyone is proficient is KM in action. If a manager pairs an experienced worked with a newer employee so the old head can mentor the newbie and pass on what they know about the business, that’s KM in action.

The transaction or exchange in each of these case are different. The follow-on actions in each case at the organizational level are also different. But they’re all examples of an organization using some new knowledge to improve its effectiveness.

While KM centers on people and results in organizational improvement, there are some related concepts aren’t KM. First, information technology or IT isn’t knowledge management. There is an aspect of knowledge capture, storage, and retrieval that enables KM, but limiting KM to what computer systems can do is incomplete. Second, quality control and process improvement are not KM. Each of those is critical to organizational improvement, and a KM effort could trigger process improvement. But a KM effort could also trigger changes in the organization’s budget, organizational policy, training programs, facility redesign, supply chain changes, changes to customer engagement, and more.

So why bother with KM? The typical executive or manager might say “I’m busy with a thousand other things. Why should I care about knowledge management?” The answer is pretty simple. All organizations, even ones that rely on a formal program to manage intellectual property like copyrights and patents, are successful because they already do KM to some extent even if they don’t label it as such or do it in a systematic way. If two retailers have essentially the same products, store locations, and quality of employees, what makes one more dominant? The easy answer is that they have a better strategy. But what informs the strategy? How do they know to make certain strategic or operational choices? Studies show it’s that they’re better able to capitalize on certain key facts or trends. They regularly capitalize on what their people know. They’re better knowledge managers.

There are a number of topics that impact a KM program that I don’t have time for in this podcast. For example, people, being as complex as they are, don’t always do what’s best for the organization. They do what’s best for themselves, throwing up barriers to knowledge management. I’ll cover barriers to KM in a future podcast. Also, there are a number of organizations devoted to providing training, professional articles, and local meetings on various aspects of knowledge management. I’ll cover the prominent ones in another podcast.

Let’s recap the main points from today’s lesson. Knowledge management is about the organization getting value from what was learned at an individual level. It’s not the same as IT, quality, or process improvement. Successful companies, nonprofits, and government agencies already do some form of knowledge management even though they may not call it that and may not do it in a systematic way.

Paul McVinney, Partner  Knowledge Management Partners, LLC              301-257-5186

Lessons Learned: That’s What I’m Talking About…

I Am Certified!!!
by Paul McVinney
Partner at Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

I recently completed the Knowledge Management Institute (KMI) Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM) course, a week-long training course covering a world of KM topics. The wide range of topics gave me a great appreciation for the complexity of the situations a knowledge manager would encounter and the various tools available to cope with them.

Why all the tools? To add to the bottom line. From a managers perspective, the company (or nonprofit or government agency) paid to get that knowledge into someone’s head. How should that cost be treated? There are only two choices, as an expense or as an investment. If it’s treated as an expense, then there’s no need for knowledge management. If it’s treated as an investment, then it demands some kind of management to ensure the company profits from it. For nonprofits and government agencies, it’s about mission accomplishment. That’s why many large business have chief knowledge officers. Their role is to ensure that personal knowledge is shared and capitalized on.

From a worker’s perspective, our careers are staked on bringing value to a company’s bottom line. “Personal knowledge management” means keeping ourselves current and ready for advancement in the knowledge economy. The more techniques we have in our mental toolkit, the more value we can bring to our own jobs, to our coworkers, and to our organization’s bottom line.

We learned about many small, no/low cost techniques for getting started with KM, and a number of large scale, proven programs for KM across large organizations. The students were professionals across many industries, like insurance, consulting, and telecom. Students also came from university faculty, public schools, federal government, and included two from the government of Indonesia. There was a great exchange all week between the students and the instructors. The couple of guest speakers that came in toward the end of the week had an incredible depth of experience in large organizations and great advice for everyone, especially in the more relaxed setting over a working lunch.

Of course a one week class won’t make me an expert in all topics, but now I have a much better frame of reference and online resources to tap into no matter the organizational situation I encounter. CKM was just what I needed to keep me moving ahead professionally.

Contact:
Paul McVinney
KMPartners.net
301-257-5186

Lessons Learned: That’s What I’m Talking About…

After Action Reporting: Good, Better, and Best

Learning in multiple forms

by Paul McVinney

Partner at Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

Pretty much everyone who has been in a professional workplace for any length of time has participated in an after action review of some kind. They seem to be accomplished more often in the aftermath of a project gone bad or a crisis that demanded action. They should be done after all actions, successful or not, making them a habit for all concerned. But this blog will focus on how management can make good, better, and best use of these reports. After all, it’s management’s responsibility to leverage individual and team knowledge for the benefit of the entire organization.

A good way to start is to make sure the after action report is actually written. How often have we needed particular insights, only to realize those people have either moved on or, if you’re able to talk to them, their memory of the event is hazy. There’s no substitute for clear, actionable recommendations from those who have traveled that path before. Understanding their context or environment is equally valuable. Their constraints or advantages can inform your current strategy. Grab them while their memories are fresh, get the necessary context and insights, and store it so it’s easy to find and share.

A better way to treat an after action report is to turn it into a “before action input” by putting it in the hands of project or program leaders who can put its insights to use. Using past lessons as raw material for project leaders and planners is why we write after action reports in the first place. The organization paid for that knowledge once already. So does management want to treat that cost as an expense or an investment? If it’s an expense, there’s no need for after action reporting. Let the next project team make a few mistakes and learn on their own. But if the cost of gaining that knowledge is treated as investment, management must take positive action to gain a return. Using after action reports as “before action inputs” is a great way to start.

The best way to treat after action reporting is to institutionalize the process for maximum effect. Mandate that they be written by project leaders, not just when the project is over, but along the way as well. And not just sometimes, but all the time. Mandate that project leaders point out how they incorporated specific insights or lessons in their current plan. Provide the IT tools and training across the entire organization so these reports are discoverable and in a useful format. Allow individual workers, not just teams or project leads, to contribute their insights. Push the reports to the departments that can adjust their operations to better assist project teams, like Accounting or HR. Incorporate these insights into the organization’s written policies or training programs. Step back occasionally and evaluate the effectiveness of this aspect of your knowledge management program. Fine tune where necessary.

After action reporting doesn’t have to be drudgery or pointless. It has the potential to become an essential aspect of how organizations are managed well, stay relevant, and demonstrate they care about what their people think. Great payoffs for a small effort by all involved.

Contact us at Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

301-257-5186
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Lessons Learned: That’s What I’m Talking About…

Learning in multiple forms
Lessons come from you!

KM Morality
by Paul McVinney, Partner
Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

I usually read nonfiction, as I’m constantly on the hunt for new ideas. Occasionally, a work of fiction catches my attention and I take a break from my typical academic fare. In this case, even a fictional story applies to KM. “The Circle” by Dave Eggers is a quick read with an interesting plot about the world’s dominant IT company; so dominant it becomes indispensable, even controlling.

The typical exchange of ideas on KM blogs with authors’ opinions and readers’ reactions generally stays in the realm of the mind; ideas, processes, context, policies, and the like. Sometimes the comments delve into the emotional aspect of a particular KM topic. Never do comments stray into the “morality of KM.” I guess it’s because we all assume that companies, nonprofits, and governments are essentially moral, or at least any immoral decisions or trends are tempered by external oversight or the ethics guiding the people in the situation. In “The Circle,” though, the company has a dark side, such that the knowledge it manages on a global scale might be employed for purposes known only to the company’s owners. Good thing we don’t debate “KM morality” like that in our real-world blogs!

Despite my being a KM geek and seeing a moral lesson for us in this work of fiction, it’s a good read, and I recommend it if you’re headed out on vacation and looking for something light.

Contact us at KMPartners.net
301-257-5186

Lessons Learned: That’s What I’m Talking About…

Lessons From Within
by Paul McVinney
Partner at Knowledge Management Partners, LLC

When KMPartners blogs refer to books, the typical theme is that the author has an idea or lesson that can be scaled up to the organizational level. The “lessons learned” business is primarily about taking lessons learned by individuals and applying them (not just identifying them) to demonstrate learning at the organizational level. But the main idea in “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl can be scaled up to the societal level. Indeed, Frankl wants his approach, logotherapy, to be broadly known throughout society and applied by psychiatrists.

“Logotherapy,” or meaning centered psychotherapy, applies to individuals and helps them come to terms with the meaning of their life. Frankl had been developing the idea before WW II, and his incarceration in Auschwitz and other camps validated his approach. His personal experience or lessons were key to his survival and he made it his life’s goal to apply his approach on a much broader scale. His personal lessons, codified in the unified approach of logotherapy, allows everyone to apply his lessons to their own lives.

Even if you don’t have a reason to seek counseling or therapy, this incredibly powerful book can show everyone an approach to life that can help put your life in perspective and inspire everyone to live a life of dignity and meaning.

Contact us at KMPartners.net
301-257-5186