Working with Retiree-Experts and an Encounter with a Growing Business Niche

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Experts who know home construction or music production are not usually experts in how to package and sell their services. So when they are facing retirement – whether or not by choice – the desire to continue to serve often burns within them. If you are that retiring expert, how do you offer your services outside the structure that your old job provided?

A 2013 survey by AARP showed that 23.6% of new businesses were started by entrepreneurs 55 to 64 years of age expecting another 15 to 20 productive years. I have personally worked with several vital octogenarians in the past few years who were still actively contributing while taking steps – such as writing books and building training programs – to preserve their legacy.

Some retiring experts find a way to offer their services ad hoc to friends and former colleagues. But others get more deliberate about creating a business of their own. In fact, retiring experts have created a boon in a niche market teaching business skills to people trying their hand at entrepreneurship in their second career. Experts retiring from one field seek other experts who know modern marketing, sales and revenue-generating techniques to handle the business details for them. Last week, I attended a conference of about 200 experts – many of whom were building retiree or second-life businesses – sponsored by a company based in Montreal that teaches experts how to handle the business end for themselves.

Combining Expertise and Business Acumen

Often, successful enterprises are based on the subject matter expertise of person and the business acumen of another, and that combination can make a big difference in the world.

Think Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. We know one name so well and the other…not so much. Jobs and Wozniak are the dream team responsible for the first personal computer and the company that came to be Apple. Jobs knew computers but he really understood business, marketing and his customer. Their dynamic pairing demonstrates that many great businesses are built on an expert who joins forces with an entrepreneur who can envision the possibilities.

The experts at the Montreal conference each paid close to $20,000 for business support over the next 12 months from this team of business building experts. Obviously, this company found a lucrative niche by filling in that business knowledge gap helping experts to monetize the value of their specialty, and for both parties I imagine it is a good deal.

Not all experts want or need to monetize their expertise commercially. Sometimes the satisfaction of passing on your hard-earned knowledge in front of a college class or in journal articles is more than enough reward.

But for experts who are looking to build a business on a lifetime of knowledge, there are people building businesses to help you. AARP can’t be wrong. With nearly a quarter of new businesses started by entrepreneurs of retirement age, any expert with a passion can live the entrepreneurial dream in the second half of life.

Perhaps we can start a club: E. R. A. Experts of Retirement Age.

Are you in a corporation losing its expertise to retirement? Your expert may thrive in retirement. Let me help you review your knowledge management plan so your company can thrive after they leave, too. Contact us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com

 

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

 

 

In an Age of Over-Regulation, Are Compliance & Safety Mutually Exclusive?

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In going through my old blog files, I found this item from another website where I was writing about five years ago and thought it particularly relevant for our SOP, compliance and regulation series. So without further ado, this blog asks the question: In an age of over-regulation, are compliance and safety mutually exclusive?

In aviation, safety is always the primary concern. In fact, aviation’s safety record is so stellar that it is considered a model for healthcare. That is quite a testament.

However, a retired pilot friend recently bemoaned that the emphasis on FAA rules and regulations has overtaken concern about safety, and aviation is not better for the change.

“Now we’re only concerned about compliance. We have a cast of thousands as support staff. When I started flying in 1964, Part 91 federal regulations were about 30 pages. You could memorize it. Today, it is hundreds, if not thousands, of pages and nobody can possibly know everything that is in there. We are less safe today than we were 50 years ago,” he complained.

Making and keeping track of all those regulations costs aviation a lot of money. It requires a boatload of federal regulators to oversee them, and costs private carriers a bundle of money to hire people to monitor every jot and tittle of the laws. One misstep, and they can shut you down. And, he opined, neither the passengers nor the airline employees benefit from this over-regulation.

Will Healthcare Follow Aviation Again?

Just about everyone in healthcare knows about the vaunted aviation checklist, and how it has become standard procedure in many operating rooms today. Books are written and consultants make good livings just teaching the checklist approach to safety. The checklist is a great tool. Healthcare is better for following aviation down that path.

But is healthcare going to benefit by following the FAA down the road to over-regulation? We can trip on our path toward safety by using regulations as stumbling blocks instead of using some common sense rules to pave a smooth road to improved quality and performance.

So Many Rules They Can’t Be Followed

I recall a conversation from a training class at a major pharmaceutical company. We were training hourly line employees on procedures that affect product safety. To a person, they had one complaint: standard operating procedures were becoming downright cumbersome and made it very difficult to follow, let alone implement, them.

One veteran employee said when an incident occurs, someone writes another procedure and adds it to the book of procedures. Nothing else in the book is deleted or changed, and so it is becoming nearly impossible to follow. In fact, the employee complained that SOPs are written in response to each incident, meaning that many new SOPs only relate to one isolated incident each. The SOPs are losing their meaning and rationale. It is just a jumble of unrelated knee jerk reactions to specific incidents.

The employee concluded the company was creating more problems than it was solving by having a procedure manual that could not be followed. There are now so many rules to follow, the rules can no longer be followed, the employee complained.

Is All of Healthcare Headed Toward Unwieldy SOPs?

With the passage of the Accountable Care Act, known colloquially as ObamaCare, many believe that we are headed down a path of over-regulation. Where common sense and good medical practice once dominated the industry, healthcare practitioners (formerly known as nurses and doctors) are overwhelmed with rules regarding how they practice, to which the actual art and science of medicine is taking a backseat.

At a recent visit accompanying a friend to a physician’s appointment at a hospital center, we observed that we were two of only four people sitting in a new waiting room with 25 chairs, two large receptionist desks – one that seated four and another with 12 stations – and a physician accompanied by a nurse and a receptionist carrying around a brochure rack deciding where to place it. Let me say that again. A highly skilled specialist was carrying around a brochure rack with his nurse and receptionist trying to find a place for it.

In this brand-spanking-new hospital wing where our doctor’s office had been moved since our last visit (from a very modern, extremely functional office building now sitting vacant in the parking lot), we also observed not one – but two – printers behind the one receptionist desk and a wall of file drawers. We filled out our medical information on a clipboard, which we have done for each of his visits for the last three years, to have it inserted into his manila file folder.

Sigh.

The Trend Is…

By personal experience as well as professional observation, the trend is toward more regulation, more staff to assure compliance with the rules, and an ongoing steady stream of physical and electronic paperwork to track patients and processes in all sectors of the industry.

Instead of continuing to ramp up our regulatory oversight into the stratosphere, perhaps it is time to – if I can paraphrase my retired pilot friend – throttle back and re-evaluate what we are really trying to accomplish.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

 

Falsification of Data: Truth or Consequences

justthefacts  By Peggy Salvatore and Terry McGinn

Sometimes expert knowledge isn’t really knowledge at all. In fact, if your data sounds too good to be true, it just might be.  Sadly, for reasons of human sloth, greed or carelessness, sometimes the experts who supply your data are giving you bad information – and they know it.

In Finding Your SMEs, we discuss times when you may be dealing with conflicting expertise or when you may be asked to ignore some information and favor other information in your documentation to please a stakeholder. In those cases, you aren’t dealing in bad data. Rather, you are dealing with differences of opinion.

That’s an honest debate of the relevant facts.

Falsifying data to purposefully mislead someone is different than simple disagreement among experts.

When you are dealing with falsified data, there are no facts. There is no honest debate. There is only an intent to deceive. In regulated industries that depend on quality data to remain in legal compliance, falsified data can have many bad outcomes including products that are substandard, dangerous or deadly. Your best defense is to know your regulations and how to work with them because, remember, you can be guilty simply by omissions.

Remember Volkswagen? What About Your Drugs?

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered that many VW cars were outfitted with software programmed to falsify data during emissions testing showing the cars met carbon dioxide emission standards. The brand suffered substantial damage and the company was exposed to up to $18 billion in fines when it was discovered the cars actually emitted up to 40 times the allowable amount. This attempt to defraud the public resulted in massive car recalls and a loss of company credibility along with profits.

Money lost. Reputation lost. Environment damaged.

In biopharmaceuticals, clinical trial data is the stuff upon which the Food and Drug Administration makes decisions about the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products. Does data get falsified there, too? Unfortunately, yes!

A 2001 study showed that falsification of scientific data used in FDA evaluations of experimental drugs was not uncommon, and it ranged from falsifying the identities of clinical trial subjects and their physical exam results to creating duplicate records to achieve the desired number of trial subjects.

It still happens today.

Just a few weeks ago, a Kyoto University research group headed by Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka was found guilty of fabricating all six main data figures in a study published in Stem Cell Reports. The study claimed it had modelled the blood-brain barrier in vitro using pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Yamanaka, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering iPS cells, reportedly was going to donate his salary to the university as a mea culpa but the damage to his reputation will live beyond his paycheck.

Bad data can hurt – or even kill- patients and it exposes the biopharma research companies who rely on quality data to potentially billions of dollars in fines and, at the end of the day, the delay or loss of up to a billion dollars in research and development for a product that can’t be supported by strong, reliable data sets.

Is Your Data Subject to Tampering?

One of the ways to ensure that your data is valid is to have strong processes in place for data collection and auditing. Long before an FDA or compliance inspector finds a problem with your product or process, you can lock down your documentation with well-written and faithfully executed standard operating procedures.

By taking some strong action today, you can implement steps to avoid harm to your brand reputation, delayed or denied product approval, heavy fines, jail time and, of course, harm to patients.

If you would like to discuss your process for developing and implementing standard operating procedures, write to us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com and schedule a no-obligation appointment for a review of your organization’s data integrity vulnerabilities.

Terry McGinn has worked in regulated industry for many years and has experience in written procedures that will help pass scrutiny of a regulatory authority inspection.

Back by Popular Demand: More on Writing Standard Operating Procedures

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3 Tips for Creating Transparent SOPs

Co-written with Terry McGinn

Each company in a regulated industry is required to follow written procedures.  The written procedure describes how steps or tasks are to be followed to achieve the desired outcome or result.  Having these steps identified permits the distant or precise way to achieve the end of your process or practice. 

Knowing the critical nature of having written procedures, your standard operating procedures and best practices need to follow a few procedures of their own so you can replicate what you do across your organization.  In other words, your standard operating procedures need to be transparent and streamlined.

One of the many purposes of the SOP or best practice process is to ensure that the process flow can meet expectations. Done well, your standard process or procedure should result in a quality product or achieve the desired result every time.

Knowledgeable and trained  personnel must have the SOP available to follow because no matter how many years’ experience they may have, even experts get stuck for a variety of factors. In fact, some experts know their jobs so well that they think they can skip or modify steps, take shortcuts, or do it from memory. This is a red flag!

The SOP should be written in a logical process flow that will allow someone looking for the cause of a failure later can pinpoint where  a difficulty arose. Reviewing the SOP with someone internally or externally who is checking or auditing your procedure should allow them to identify what and where things  went wrong.

When you have a point of failure, an examination of the SOP should indicate gaps or problems that can include one or more of a host of issues including materials, equipment, environment and much more. Often, a failure can point to the source of your complications by reading the SOP against practice.

A well-written procedure or best practice document will:

  1. Be written to describe the flow clearly to anyone trained on it
  2. Include every essential step without including extraneous steps or materials that can and should be accessed elsewhere
  3. Always be followed by everyone from the new hire to the veteran employee using the current SOP

Expect you will have changes to your SOPs on occasion. Expect you will need to review your documents periodically according to your SOP. And expect that when you have a clean, clear, streamlined SOP process that your errors should be few and easily identifiable.

To summarize, standard operating procedures and best practices need to follow procedures of their own so you can replicate what you do across your organization.  In other words, they need to be transparent. If they are the opposite of transparent – opaque – they are hard to follow and may result  in errors.

If you would like to talk to us about your SOP process, give us a call for a no-obligation preliminary review of your procedures.

 

Terry McGinn has worked in regulated industry for many years and has experience in written procedures that will help pass scrutiny of a regulatory authority inspection. To have a conversation about writing your standard operating procedures, write to us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com to set up an appointment.  

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Standard Operating Procedures and Accountability: Perfect Together

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By Terry McGinn and Peggy Salvatore

We’ve been getting quite a bit of interest and feedback regarding our series on standard operating procedures, so we’ll continue writing about this topic this week.

After all, inherent in the word “expert” is the idea that something is done correctly. Correct procedures and best practices need to be captured and passed on. Sometimes, though, it seems the only people who care if the SOPs are followed are the experts who wrote them.

Truth is, everyone needs to care. Accountability right down to the last man or woman is absolutely the key essential ingredient in ensuring regulatory compliance.

Train for Accountability

Employees who are tasked with executing the many small, incremental steps are responsible only for their piece of the process. Sometimes in the laser-focus on one task, people may lose sight of the bigger picture. That bigger picture – a safe product going out the door – needs to be reinforced occasionally. Training usually steps in here for both reinforcement and correction. When that fails, the regulatory authorities will notice. Companies get slapped with government warnings and fines at a higher rate than the average person may realize. But if you are in a regulated industry, you know how often you are out of compliance.

Think about dialing the failure point back to its origin. The failure point is when the SOP is not correctly written, understood and applied.

Only then does the employee fail to perform to specifications.

Only then will training have to step in for often very expensive correction.

Only that will happen when an audit reveals you are out of compliance with your SOPs, and the Corrective and Preventative Actions (CAPAs) applied at that point of failure. That doesn’t need to happen.

In a perfect world, it should look like this:

Point of Success

If your current plant is not operating flawlessly as above, identify your points of failure:

  1. How many people are asked to retrain personnel after a deviation or equipment issue?
  2. How many SOPs do you have? Are they overwhelming or conflicting?
  3. Are they easy to understand and do they follow a logical, stepwise process?
  4. After a deviation, is the SOP reviewed?
  5. Are people observing the CAPAs?

And, the big question…

Do your employees feel responsible and accountable for performing their jobs according to the SOPs in place?

Employees feel empowered when they are able to follow well-written SOPs, and when they are acknowledged for contributing to a well-run organization. Points of failure cannot be business as usual. Organizations that accept points of failure as the status quo have a company culture that unintentionally encourages non-compliance.

Maybe that is worth repeating:

Organizations that accept points of failure as the status quo have a company culture that unintentionally encourages non-compliance.

And the road to audit hell is paved with regulatory non-compliance.

The Solution

Dial back your points of process failure to the source.

Ask yourself:

  • Are my SOPs well written?
  • Do my employees feel a sense of responsibility for performing to specifications?

If your answer to either of those questions is, “No” or “I don’t know”, give us a call.

We would be happy to speak with you.

Unlike some problems in the universe, the problem of poorly-written and executed SOPs can be solved. Let’s do it.

Terry McGinn has worked in regulated industry for many years and has experience in written procedures that will help pass scrutiny of a regulatory authority inspection. To have a conversation, write to us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com to set up an appointment.  

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

Do You Use SMEs for Your SOPs?

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Have you ever read an SOP and asked yourself, “Where did this come from?”  Perhaps the steps make no sense to you, the information appears to be outdated or out of context, or it is not clear why you are supposed to perform a task in the way described. That is a poorly designed document.

Your standard operating procedures or SOPs should tell a good story, so let’s look at what happens in a good story.

1. It has a subject: Who is supposed to do the action?

2. It has action: How are they supposed to do it?

3, It has context: Why and when are they supposed to do it?

4. It has an ending: What is the desired result?

If your documentation is poor, you are missing parts of the story.

Process subject matter experts and documentation experts both play vital roles in authoring and shaping your standard operating procedures and best practices. SOPs are those institutional guidelines that companies write to inform personnel how certain tasks or operations are performed. Especially when you are working in a regulated industry, make sure you are checking in with the experts at each stage of the process.

Or you may not be getting the whole story.

Get Documentation Experts Involved First

Some people only bring in documentation experts when they have discovered a problem with their SOPs after they’ve thrown out millions of dollars of tainted product or recalled millions of dollars in defective merchandise. But that is waaayyy too late.

If you have discovered a problem with your procedure, you needed an expert much earlier in your SOP development. In some industries, mistakes mean life or death to your customers. So we recommend you check your SOPs and best practices with the experts who know your product and industry when you need them most, and that is during the development of your documentation.

How Do I Know If I Need Experts to Develop My SOPs?

If you have ever asked yourself these questions, consider consulting a subject matter expert to assist you with writing your SOPs:

  • Who wrote this SOP anyway?
  • Are my SOPs properly stored and maintained?
  • Are my SOPs secure?
  • Do we have to save the old ones?
  • Do all copies need to be controlled?
  • Do our standard procedures allow me to be more organized when carrying out my routine tasks?
  • Which SOPs am I required to know to do my job properly?
  • Can an SOP contain pictures?

This list contains just some of the issues you encounter every day in an environment that requires you to refer to documentation to do your job to specifications – whether those specifications are government regulations, customer blueprints or professional standards.

Send Us Your Questions about Your SOPs

As we wait here in Philadelphia to settle down from our big Eagles Super Bowl LII Sunday win over the Patriots (just sayin’), we will begin to share more about how to develop written instructions to help your personnel complete complicated tasks and transfer knowledge to ensure regulatory readiness. Terry and I are totally excited by your response to our last blog, and we want to share more information that you need.

Check in with us as we discuss your thoughts and approaches to writing documents that will sustain compliance for you and your company. Continue to send your thoughts to us for discussion. We know you are wanting to know more by the feedback we are receiving.

Still not sure if you need an industry expert? Call us for an evaluation of your procedures.

You can post your comments and questions below or send them to workingwithsmes@gmail.com. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Terry McGinn has worked in regulated industry for many years and has experience in written procedures that will help pass scrutiny of a regulatory authority inspection.  

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

Building Bench: Analyze Your Current Level of Expertise Before Hiring and Training

thZHXF49YI   Guest Blogger Robert B. Camp, Getting to Lean

Any sports analyst can tell you that the depth of your bench (the number and skill of your players), determines your ability to play the entire game with intensity. In a business, the depth of your bench determines your ability to take on new projects, even when you are already working on some major contracts. It also determines the skill level of projects you can take on, and to a large degree, determines how quickly you can grow. In short, bench depth is as important in business as it is in sports.

I once worked with a client that wanted to grow 5X in the next two years. That was a tall order, so before we got ahead of ourselves, we base-lined the current state of the business. Although there were some material concerns, this business was largely built around installation labor of a technical product.

To quintuple in size in just two years, the existing labor force had to be at the top of their game. Moreover, the company either needed to hire or train new employees at a rapid pace, all while continuing to execute on their current contracts. That was a tall order and led us to conduct a rapid assessment of their present employees. To do this, we used a 3 steps process.

  1. We asked every leader to develop a list of the job titles that reported to them
  2. Next, we asked them to develop a list of skills required by each job title
  3. Finally, for each skill, we asked them to establish the expected level of competency required by someone in that job title

Where multiple leaders had people with the same job titles, we cross-levelled the skill and competency expectations across the organization.

With this information, we created a blank matrix of Skills and Expected Competency for each employee.  We then asked leaders to assess each worker’s actual competency in performing each skill. By comparing an employee’s actual competency to that expected, we were quickly able to assess the strength of the employee and the department.

What did we learn through this analysis?

  • who in a group needed what training
  • what training needed to be conducted organizationally, and in what order
  • who in the group was most deficient, so we could initially focus on them
  • which skills we needed to concentrate on first and where in the organization those skills were required
  • who in the organization was competent to be a coach/trainer for others deficient in that skill

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COACHING: This matrix can become a tool in the ongoing coaching of employees and the establishment of growth goals.

PROMOTION:  We established an expectation that for an employee to be promoted they first need to demonstrate proficiency in the new job.

Our Results?

You’ll recall this employer wanted to quintuple in size and revenue in just two years. After reviewing their employee training matrix, this employer:

  • knew what skills they needed to hire
  • established that all new hires must demonstrate their competency in a skill before being hired
  • began intensive training classes in areas where the organization had scored poorly

In short, this process allowed the employer to recognize that their strengths rested in the skill of their employees and to begin intensively BUILDING BENCH to grow their organization.

How do you think your company would fare in an analysis like this? Are you ready to find out?

Contact Robert to learn more about how to apply this process. He will be happy to review what is needed to implement a similar system within your organization. And, of course, you can engage him to build this comprehensive Bench Strength system for your company.

robert@gettingtolean.com

 

 

 

10 Tips to Develop Best Practices and SOPs

peter-clarkson-240141 By Peggy Salvatore and Terry McGinn

When we are out in the field as trainers and consultants, we see different companies but a lot of the same problems. You may have heard the expression, “When you’ve seen one company, you’ve seen one company.” That is partially true. While each company and industry has their own culture and way of doing things, some issues are common across companies, industries and cultures.

One of the most common and preventable problems we see around training is that after training is over and best practices are instilled, personnel eventually either go back to the way they’ve always done it or find a different way around the new process. It’s not evil intent, it’s just human nature. Over time, people find a shortcut, an easier way or just forget the right way. And if things appear to continue to get done, nobody notices. That is, until you have a problem like a bad batch of product or find you are irredeemably over budget.

With a few best practices applied to development of your standard operating procedures and some vigilance, you can avoid these common and sometimes fatal (if you are making pharmaceutical products or building cars, for example) mistakes.

Call in the Experts to Validate Your Standards

When you are talking about the development of your best practices and standard operating procedures, you can’t leave the development of these documents to just anyone. You want to engage subject matter experts to make sure that the best practices and SOPs that you are capturing are, indeed, what needs to be happening for your organization to be

  • Compliant with regulatory authorities
  • Meeting your corporate targets (think financial goals, think manufacturing yields.)
  • Building products according to specifications
  • Serving customers quickly, efficiently and courteously, and
  • Making sure your standards are met across the organization.

Deviation is Undesirable

Remember high school? The kid who skipped school, cursed in front of your parents and spit on the sidewalk? Deviance. Not acceptable. Outside the bounds of what good looks like. Deviance is undesirable. Same goes for your business.

You establish the way your products need to be built to meet industry regulations, the way you want your customers to be treated so they come back, and the way your billables and receivables need to be handled so you can operate within the law, remain profitable and provide value to society. Somebody has figured all that out in your organization. Those are your experts. They create the standards, write the best practices and standard operating procedures. When everything is new, it is probably done very close to the right way.

Over time, you are likely to encounter “drift”.  Drift occurs when new people come in who don’t know why you did it that way. They may not even have access to your SOPs. They may be trained or mentored by somebody who deviates and gets by with it. Or maybe they just forgot the right way to do it.

That is why, when you are bringing new people in to your business, train them right the first time and then continuously qualify them. Make sure your procedures are documented the way you want them, check them with your experts to make sure they are current, and have them in a form so they are usable – that means available, applicable and understandable – so you can get people up to speed.

10 Tips for Designing Your SOPs

We have developed a list to avert the kinds of problems we see every day. While much of our experience is in the pharmaceutical industry, this list can be applied to many businesses because best practices and common standards make any organization run more smoothly. These are issues we see not just in one company or one industry, but have seen in many companies and industries. We interact with trainers from many companies, and this is what they say, too. Here is our list that you can use for your own SOP development. And while you are at it, see if you can add a few ideas of your own:

  1. Streamline your SOPs. Restructure them to simplify them so you can put your processes to work for you. Make them simple but inclusive enough that you are still meeting standards and regulatory requirements. Eliminate hurdles, extra steps and vague language.
  2. Better educate your personnel. Don’t just throw any training at them to check the box. Actually train them to know what to do and when to do it by developing effective learning plans built by professional adult educators. And you make it easier on yourself when you hire knowledgeable personnel that can hit the ground running.
  3. Use your own staff members to write your SOPs and train your staff. Nobody knows your business like the people in it.
  4. Develop curricula that works. Make sure it is structured to result in the right actions taken at the right time. If it needs a checklist, write one. If it requires a short video demonstration, record one.
  5. Build train-the-trainer programs for your staff so your experts can be better communicators and mentors. Just a few simple tips can make most employees into effective trainers. Also, remember that not all experts make good trainers, so don’t assume your top performers are the right people to be teaching the rest of your staff.
  6. Cut “un-need” time down to only what is needed. Your “un-need” times are those unnecessary tasks and busy work that don’t add anything to productivity or the bottom line.
  7. Keep good talent. Make sure your best people are motivated to stay and perform for you. Some people really are irreplaceable.
  8. Build a future of qualified personnel. Figure out who your future experts are and invest in them.
  9. Reduce CAPA (corrective and preventative action) and rework by building a culture of doing it right the first time. Also, teach people how to investigate issues and problems for corrective action. Always follow the SOP no matter what else is going on. Occasionally re-familiarize personnel with it because the longer they do a task, the more shortcuts and “drift” occur in work. Train on a continuous basis with qualified people and maintain qualifications to make sure they are doing it the right way.
  10. Ensure your training remains current. That refers not only to content but also to style. Your learners are changing and your old training might be correct but ineffective. Update it.

Bonus Item: Train people to begin work right away. When you hire competent people who are ready to do the job, they will want to get up the learning curve quickly and begin to produce, so make sure you give them the knowledge and tools to produce quality work right out of the gate and provide the ongoing training and oversight to maintain the quality of their work.

What is on your wish list for creating SOPs and best practices for your organization? We can help you hire competent personnel, build training that works and streamline your processes so you are doing only what you need. Contact us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com.

Photo by Peter Clarkson on Unsplash

 

Knowledge Management in Six Easy Steps

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Good morning, class.

Yesterday someone asked me the question, “What is the difference between knowledge transfer and knowledge management?” I figure if a veteran in the training industry asked this question, lots of people would appreciate this clarification.

Quickly, we’ll review the concept of knowledge management and how transfer of your internal expertise is a critical part of a valid knowledge management plan but it is not the whole magilla. Today, the best corporations consider themselves learning organizations. Learning organizations are built around knowledge management plans. So to be top drawer today, you need to be thinking about this process.

  1. Identify what your employees need to know and fill in knowledge gaps.
  2. Prioritize what you will spend valuable corporate resources to collect – is this important enough to spend time and money on?
  3. If the answer is yes, collect it. This is the part where you may discover that you need to call in experts to fill in your knowledge gaps.
  4. Store that information in a way that is easy to retrieve using the most appropriate technology to the task.
  5. Then you transfer that knowledge to workers who need it, and we often call this training. Whether it is formal training or not, in some way, take the important information that you have documented and make sure it gets passed on to other people so you keep the best practices going forward.
  6. Finally, maintain this documentation in a way that others can find it, use it, update it and keep it relevant.

“We Need More Training” (e.g. Knowledge Transfer)

Or do you?

A story that circulates in industry is that when a company has a problem, the answer is “training”. In response, training professionals are called in and their job is to do a needs analysis to determine if, indeed, the answer to the identified problem is training. Often, the training professional will find that the real solution isn’t more training, but some other issue that screams for correction. The other issue is often cloaked as a lack of knowledge, but the real problem may be a poorly structured employee incentive program (you get paid for doing it wrong or docked for doing it right) or a more systemic issue of a poisonous company culture of non-excellence that rewards mediocrity or outright incompetence.

When you’ve transferred the knowledge and you still don’t get the performance that you want, check your incentive plan and look at the culture.

A valid knowledge management plan is one that keeps information current and moving through your organization to the people who need it and use it to advance your business. If you think your knowledge management plan is breaking down at the knowledge transfer part of the cycle, then after you’ve trained your people, make sure they are incentivized to do their jobs right the first time in a culture that supports excellence.

Reading assignment for extra credit: In Pursuit of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. A classic on business quality practices.

Class dismissed.

The Online Course Opportunity and Your Expertise

jazmin-quaynor-392995The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is typically one that is slow or completely non-existent for business. Traditionally, I use that week to do a lot of offline activities to plan for the upcoming year. This year I took two great online courses, and decided to build one of my own in 2018.

First, the plan.

The last few years, I went through Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever online course and found it very helpful in the way it structures your planning process, challenges your assumptions, pressure tests your goals and is full of logical advice. He has captured the course in a book that launches today, Tuesday January 2, and if you grab it now it comes with some bonuses available until the end of the week, Friday January 5. His bonuses are terrific  and will help you apply what you learn in the book. If you are still in your planning stage for 2018, I recommend it. Here’s a link that will get you the book and bonuses.

As part of my 2018 goals, I am going to build an online course to accompany the launch of my next book due out later this year. The book, Retaining Expert Knowledge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload, takes the Working with SMEs series into some new territory. Writing this book met one of my 2017 goals to write a book with a major publisher, and I am very happy about meeting that goal. (More about the upcoming book in later blog posts.) Writing a book is just the first step, however, because it is getting the book and ideas out to the public that is the most important part of the process.

As part of that effort, I am going to build an online course to help readers apply the content of Retaining Expert Knowledge to their areas of expertise and their companies. Which leads me to the second course I took last week.

Executing the Plan

Big plans are accomplished one small step at a time. As Michael Hyatt says in his course (paraphrased), you only need to take the next small step to attain big goals. If your goal is big, hairy and audacious enough, you won’t know exactly how to get there. Hyatt advises that you set goals outside your comfort zone and take the very next small step that you can see, and it will usually appear in the form of resources or some kind of help that you need. That is exactly what happened. I had signed up with an elearning hosting platform, and they offered a course to make the most of your investment.

For three days, I delved into how to use this particular online platform and now I am very excited about building and presenting an online course for Retaining Expert Knowledge.

The course reminded us:

  1. Online learning is mainstream.
  2. Education is now lifelong.
  3. People want bite-sized information.
  4. Information wants to be free.
  5. The size of the online opportunity is about to explode.

Learning from Experts

For those experts who read this blog and the trainers who work with them, that list tells us that we’ve only just begun. As knowledge and information explodes, we have so much to share and people have less time to absorb it. It is a great time to share what you know and do it in a way that you can reach a lot of people.

Massive amounts of information are free or very inexpensive. Because information is free, you have to earn the space you take up in someone’s brain. Keep it short. Keep it relevant. And provide value. Blogs are one of the new “free information” sources, as well as endless streams of webinars, podcasts and more.

That is why when building a course for sale, experts need to build premium courses.  Your Expertise 101 is free, and Your Expertise 301 premium course has some price attached to it as well as support that helps your learners apply the information.

Today is the first workday of 2018. It is exciting to do what we love. And it is equally exciting to share what we love. If you are an expert in some area and have something to share or teach, think about the fact that adult learning is all-the-time, online, bite-sized and much of it is free.

You don’t have to wait to be asked. Get out there and share what you’ve got. People want to know. You can be part of the knowledge explosion.