Your Experts and Your IT Department – Data Integrity Best Practice

ilya-pavlov-87438  Somewhere in your organization whether it’s on a mainframe, in the cloud, resident on someone’s PC or in a paper file somewhere, just about every piece of data lives, breathes and is waiting to be put to good use.

Even in the best circumstances, often your data inputs are not easily accessible or completely accurate.

As organizations begin to understand the importance of data integrity in an age where data is your company’s gold mine, it is a good time to engage your experts across the organization to verify and bolster your current information assets.

Your data adventure has a few distinct phases:

  1. Locating all relevant data for all parts of the organization
  2. Organizing and archiving it for easy access
  3. Updating as necessary
  4. Migrating everything to your most recent platform – new forms, new enterprise software
  5. Ensuring that your data migration involves people at every stage who can ensure the integrity of your data and the integrity of the way it is handled – from subject matter experts to IT professionals and archivists
  6. Analyzing information collection and storage methods so the way it is collected is consistent and can be retrieved in a logical way – this includes making sure your data fields are named clearly, your forms are clear and your files are logical
  7. Giving IT the responsibility for locking down sensitive data and making it tamper-resistant, including establishing audit trails
  8. Engaging legal to make sure you are handling data correctly in the case of any information that is subject to laws, rules and regulations – this can save you millions or even billions of dollars in fines, lawsuits and such

Your information is your organization’s most important asset. Your data tells you what you are doing right, where your problems lie, what your customers think and how your employees are performing – just to name a few items. If you have a problem or question, you already have the answers. The key to thriving is to make sure you can find what you need, when you need it, in a form that is usable.

No time is too soon to start to review your information collection, storage and retrieval practices, and establish some guidelines to make increase the value of your most important asset.

Are you engaging your experts to make sure your information is accurate?

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

 

As Human Interface Rides into the Sunset, the Industrial Internet of Things Comes to Town

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The Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT is emerging as a business imperative. The IIoT is the interconnectivity of all parts of your process with a central brain that monitors business health from whether a machine is running properly to tracking shipments in transit in real time. You name it, and it can be connected, monitored, measured, adjusted, scrapped or recalibrated. All without human intervention.

Just the data derived from this information is priceless, which is why companies are jumping on board to integrate smart systems throughout their organizations.

What does this mean for Jack who ran that machine for 35 years and knew by the sound and smell whether it needed repair? Yes, it means you don’t need Jack anymore. Sensors can do that now, and probably better than Jack, because they can be calibrated to read things like vibrations and other leading indicators of trouble on that machine. But that doesn’t put Jack out of a job. Jack just needs to consider a new career in IT.

A friend who works for a pharmaceutical company has developed a sensing device to help customers monitor inventory. When he presented the concept to investors, they were excited not just about the tech behind the device but more excited about the value of the data that could be collected across the supply chain. When sensors are providing accurate feedback on a regular basis- no matter where they are installed – that information has the potential to be priceless.

In an article in IT Business Edge last week, author Carl Weinschenk discussed the results of interviews with several company exeuctives and found there is a lot of excitement about the business potential of the IIoT to eliminate waste, serve customers, increase efficiency and productivity and reduce downtime to name a few benefits. The hurdles remain, and chief among them is to find people who can operate the IIoT…it,s very clear that the great difficult we’re seeing is finding people with the right expertise…In some parts of the technology stack, it’s not too difficult (especially connectivity), but in others it’s still quite difficult, wrote one respondent.

A lot of currently embedded technology is not connectivity-friendly and most companies will require a complete integrated upgrade to take full advantage of the potential. Vendors, suppliers, and other related systems must be considered. And then, of course, there is the need to secure of all that valuable information generated by an IIoT implementation.

Just like other leaps in technology and progress throughout history, this one will take a lot of experts with different skills sets than the experts you have today. Competition will be fierce when all your competitors can make split second decisions based on real time data.

It’s time to groom the next generation of experts who will have skill sets relevant to the IIoT much the way industrial engineers of the World War II generation introduced all new management techniques and organizational structures to support the evolving workplace of the mid-20th Century.

For more information, go to the Industrial Internet Consortium.

Photo by Greta Scholderle Moller on Unsplash

Lean Leadership and Knowledge Management: Perfect Together

In this blog, we sometimes talk about the fact that vital, growing organizations are learning organizations. The lifeblood of a learning organization is knowledge management. For learning to sit at the heart of your organization, leadership needs to recognize and promote knowledge management at all levels. Our guest blogger today is Lean practitioner  and author Robert Camp who talks about the qualities of Lean Leadership and how they support a learning organization.

Guest Blogger: Robert Camp

The longer I practice Lean the more I appreciate how great a role good leadership plays in an organization’s transformation.

LEADERSHIP: Honestly, I can think of no other single factor that makes or breaks a transformation so readily.

A LEAN LEADER:

- LEADS FROM THE FRONT

By that I mean they make the time to learn about Lean themselves and make the decision to proceed. No successful transformation can be approached with a “do as I say” attitude. You’re asking people to change, and leading from the front means you have to change first and demonstrate your personal commitment.

- REQUIRES SUBORDINATES TO COMMIT

Lean can’t succeed without a personal commitment from all leaders. That commitment can’t be provisional or halfhearted.  Once subordinates have learned what Lean is all about, they need to commit to personally practice and support it. If they can’t or won’t, they’ll need to leave. PERIOD.

- CREATES ENVIRONMENT

You can demand people to change and they will do exactly what’s required, but no more. You’ve won their hands, but not their hearts. Only by creating an environment in which subordinates are led to embrace lean can real change take place. That brings us back to leaders lead by example and coach good performance.

- CASCADES LEAN FROM THE TOP

Most organizations are in a rush to save/make money, so they begin Lean at the bottom of the organization, where money is made. That won’t work.

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For Lean to work, employees at each level need to see their leaders demonstrating it first. That means Lean behavior has to cascade down from the top. Anyone who tells you that Lean can work from the bottom up, or the middle out, has never seen a transformation to the end. There’s only one way. Top down!

- EMPHASIZES PHILOSOPHIES OVER TOOLS.

Because the tools save money, everyone’s in a rush to start with the tools first, but tools only support the philosophies. If practitioners don’t understand how Lean works, any gains made with the tools will be short lived.

It doesn’t take years to learn the philosophies. It takes a lifetime, but you can begin your use of a tool as soon as the connection has been made between the tool and the philosophy it supports. Those connections are well covered in “The Toyota Way.”

Lean becomes the WAY you manage, HOW you manage and ultimately, WHY you do everything.

- KNOWS LEAN IS A MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Lean isn’t something you do in addition to managing your company. It becomes the way you manage. Lean isn’t something you layer on top of everything else you do. It becomes how you do everything. In time Lean becomes why you do everything.

One would think profit or revenue would suffer, but the opposite is true. Lean management leads to a state, a mindset, of continuous improvement; not only reducing the cost of today’s product, but becoming more aware of your customer’s needs and creating products and services to meet or exceed those needs.

- LOOKS TO THE HORIZON

Like all great leaders the Lean leader’s focus is often on the horizon. They are scanning for new ideas, new technologies, new products, etc. Lean leaders don’t spend their time perfecting today, they are constantly on the lookout for things that will enhance their future position in the market.

- HAS PROFOUND RESPECT FOR OTHERS

Fanatical Fans return to do more business and bring others with them. Lean leaders understand that neither money, nor machines, nor technology, nor anything else makes fanatical fans of their customers. They know that only people do that. Whether it’s their suppliers, their employees, or their customers, Lean Leaders recognize the dignity of the people they lead and serve in all they do.

That doesn’t mean Lean leaders are soft. Part of recognizing the dignity of people is to continue to challenge them, to continue to hold them to high expectations. Lean leaders don’t just arbitrarily set new challenges. They collaborate with their suppliers, with their employees, with their customers, always looking to improve. Because the leaders set the standard by embracing change first, others are more open to accepting new challenges and even recommending them.

- CONTINUES TO LEARN AND GROW

Lean leaders don’t end their growth once they’ve embraced Lean. They continue to learn and grow. Moreover, they create an environment in which everyone continues to learn & grow. That is why Lean organizations are frequently referred to as learning organizations.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

If you have recently embarked, or are thinking about embarking, on the road of Lean, ponder these words, as they will have profound impact on your life.

 

To learn more, visit Getting to Lean or contact Robert Camp at Robert@gettingtolean.com

From the Twitterverse: The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills

Capture Okay. I admit it. I love Twitter. I often find out what is happening in the world by following news and information threads.  See #RedSox, for example. But not this week.

The Twitterverse is teaming with inspirational quotes, opportunities to peer quickly into the minds of others (for good or ill!) and creates a place for community and conversation.

The other day I caught this quote from Einstein posted by a Boston University professor:

Told of Edison’s view that a knowledge of facts was vitally important, Einstein disagreed. “A person doesn’t need to go to college to learn facts. He can get them from books. The value of a liberal arts college education is that it trains the mind to think. And that’s something you can’t learn from textbooks.”

Einstein’s quote was never more true in this age of burgeoning information. Replace the word “books” with “the internet”, then replace the word “textbooks” with “a search engine”, and it is obvious that this sentiment is truer today than when it was spoken nearly 100 years ago.

This dramatic uptick in information is evident in the way companies choose  which information to store and transfer, and affects the types of skills and training that the modern corporation must encourage to grow and prosper. Today, a company’s money is well spent on teaching discernment about the relative merit of almost limitless information and on educating employees about the application of the relevant to the task at hand.

Translation for your corporate knowledge management plan:

1. Discern what information is critical and particular to your organization

2. Spend your finite resources to preserve and transfer that information to your employees

3. Spend the rest of your training dollars teaching people how to think, discern, and apply what they know to your challenges

Take it from Einstein.

[Thanks to Boston University Professor of International Studies Vesko Garcevic for the Tweet. Follow @VeskoGarcevic ]

 

Until Robots Make Humans Obsolete, What’s Your Plan?

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According to futurist Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, he estimated back in 2001 that knowledge will double every 12 months in this century. With such rapid proliferation of knowledge, it begs the question how long experts remain so and what bits of information are important, essential, need to be captured and carried on – or really have any value at all – in light of the rapid progress in robots and artificial intelligence.

For those of us who follow developments in the training world, you know that we are learning how to train robots.  Research is making the leap so that robots can now acquire learning that builds on prior knowledge – you know, the same way we silly old humans learn.

If you believe the future is here, you are right. However, if you believe you still have to operate in the present, you are also right.

For those of us still living in the pre-AI world, we need to continue to contend with the issues of human knowledge capture, retention and transfer between generations of workers for the ongoing success of your enterprise. What and how you capture, preserve and transfer information will change over time, which is a different discussion. For now, consider that you have knowledge under your roof that is the lifeblood of your organization today and preserving it against an imminent loss of expertise remains crucial.

Making a Plan to Retain Human Knowledge Until the Robots Take Over

If your experts flee to retirement or leave your organization for any other reason, you are still vulnerable to losing their valuable knowledge, skills and attitudes to fulfill your mission effectively, efficiently and in a cost-responsible way today.

What are you doing right now to make sure you keep your expertise under your roof even if your experts leave?

Here’s what you can do about these issues in your organization today:

  • Raise awareness. Speak to your organization’s decision makers to help them analyze their risk of losing valuable expertise
  • Get a plan. Explore methods to help you dissect your organization for areas where you are vulnerable to losing your critical experts
  • Work your plan. Identify and capture intelligence from individual experts in your organization

Think about it. Until the robots take over, you still need to rely on the humans that got you where you are.

In my book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge From Retiring Subject Matter Experts in Your Organization Before They Leave, I lay out a pathway to dissect your organization, find your experts, decide where to spend your finite resources to preserve knowledge and explore options for preserving and transferring knowledge in an age of rapid change in technology and the way we learn.

Contact us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com to schedule a call to discuss capturing expertise as part of your knowledge management plan.

Photo courtesy of Davide Ragusa on Unsplash.

 

The Ultimate Knowledge Management CQI Process for Organizational Leaders

imagesQC7VSL6F.jpg     Knowledge management is an ongoing, living process.

Ideally, it is part of the knowledge management component of your larger business continuity strategic plan. Using the concept of continuous quality improvement, these six-steps reinforce the idea that your knowledge management process is iterative; you will revisit your decisions in the future, make new ones, and change your tactics to align with evolving business strategy.

Also, it is helpful to recognize that parts of the cycle are always in play somewhere in your organization. As you think about your knowledge management plan, consider the 6 Steps of CPI Knowledge Management framework to review the value of the assets you will dedicate your finite resources to preserve.

6 Steps of Continuous Process Improvement Knowledge Management

  1. Discover and uncover KSAs. Drill down to identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that make your company unique by uncovering your Competitive Advantages.
  2. Categorize critical information. Distinguish among critical information that makes your company, product or service unique in the marketplace, essential information that is general to your industry but necessary to operations, and non-essential information that is nice-to-have. Identify critical KSAs for business continuity.
  3. Search for internal experts. Find your internal experts who are the keys to your success and possess your critical information.
  4. Capture and preserve critical KSAs. Work with your internal experts to capture your critical knowledge, skills and attitudes using methods that authentically capture them and preserve them in a way that they can be transferred and replicated later.
  5. Transfer critical KSAs. Choose the best methods for transferring specific types of knowledge, skills and attitudes to others, especially relying on technology that you can reasonably expect will be available and usable in the future.
  6. Evaluate and refresh. Review your current critical KSAs against the backdrop of your long-term strategic plan considering the rapid pace of change. As you identify new critical KSAs, repeat this process to capture, preserve and transfer updated assets with the aid of your internal experts.

No, execution of this plan is not easy. However, your discipline in capturing your internal expertise is the lifeblood of your current and future success.

Each of these steps is more fully explored in the book, Finding Your SMEs.  Workshops and consulting are available to help you integrate this process into your strategic plan.

If you would like a copy of the 6 Steps of CPI Knowledge Management diagram, write to me at workingwithsmes@gmail.com and I will email a copy to you.

Please comment below and share your knowledge management challenges as we are always learning together.

 

 

Mass Layoffs and Your Knowledge Capture Plan

bench-accounting-49908  Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting a webinar to ITMPI, an organization that provides project management support for IT professionals. Our topic was Three Strategies for Capturing Retiring Expertise, and as is always the case, I learn a lot from the participants. Yesterday, the questions gave me a glimpse into some of the challenges they face.

In particular, some companies need to capture knowledge from large groups of people at the same time due to anticipated layoffs. When one company is encountering an issue, I expect other organizations face it, too. That makes it a ripe topic for discussion here.

Several large organizations I have spoken with over the past few months are doing mass knowledge capture assignments, one with 6,000 internal research scientists and another with engineers across a national system. These knowledge transfer challenges require process and standardization to make sure the work is done consistently and catalogued in a logical way. Most of this work requires tedious planning and particular execution.

The issue presented by yesterday’s webinar participants goes beyond those of systemized planning, organization and execution because the question is: How do you gather knowledge from experts en masse in anticipation of a round of layoffs? No matter how well you plan your knowledge capture efforts, you will encounter some resistance and resentment due to the nature of their separation. Most likely, some of the experts you are working with under these conditions are unwilling and unhappy.

In Working With SMEs, we discuss ways to handle The Reluctant SME and other experts who do not have the time or inclination to share their wisdom. But the problem of capturing knowledge from a group of people who are being separated adds a layer of complexity to the interaction.

While you can’t overcome the feelings of employees who are being laid off, you can implement a few strategies to help you work with them in a manner that is sensitive and respectful of their situation. They are, after all, facing at least a job change and at most a period of unemployment. They aren’t happy campers, but you can help set up a campground that smooths their transition.

Here are a few common sense ways to deal with capturing knowledge from a group of employees who are facing layoff:

1.       Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening by avoiding the obvious, but don’t dwell on it either. You can’t solve the problem but you can empathize with workers. “I know this is hard for you. I (or my wife) was really scared when I (she) was laid off a few years ago.” Feeling understood helps reduce the sting for anyone who is angry, depressed or fearful.

2.       Try to structure their remaining weeks or months to allow for some dedicated knowledge capture time so you don’t add the burden of another task to their regular workload while you are expecting them to continue to do their jobs effectively. Adding one more straw to the camel’s back can only increase their resentment and reduce their willingness to participate in your knowledge capture efforts.

3.       Consider adding a bonus for working with the company to capture information about their role.

4.       When the laid off group is large and concentrated, implement a corporate communications plan that informs employees about the company’s knowledge management plan and any other relevant information they need to know about their remaining time with the company. When people know what is going on, it reduces the rumor mill’s ability to cause strife and increases trust with supervisors and managers with whom the worker has relationships.

5.       If, and only if, the workers may be called back, remain positive about keeping the company functioning and vital during their layoff period so it has the greatest chance of success. 

When you are capturing information from experts who are not just reluctant – but being reluctantly separated from your organization – you face special management issues that go beyond implementing a good process for knowledge capture. If you have faced a similar challenge in your organization and would like to share your experiences, please comment below.

Valuable Knowledge Worth Preserving

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From the turn of the 20th to the turn of the 21st centuries, humankind experienced the greatest leaps in technological advances in recorded history. From horse-drawn buggies to space travel, human intelligence and creativity took us from a plodding, linear existence to soaring, exponential possibilities. Books like Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock first chronicled this geometric explosion of knowledge to Peter Diamandis’ Bold and Abundance took us the rest of the way toward the melding of humans and machines to remake the humanity that brought us here.

No need to recount those books or to re-tread that ground here. Rather, recognize that the same human knowledge and creativity that got us here will get us there. So with the rapid acquisition of new knowledge – some estimates say knowledge now doubles every two years – it is important that we identify our journey and catalogue it individually and collectively.

We live in the greatest transfer of knowledge in all of human history.

The whole of human knowledge is a big bite for anybody, especially you and me operating in isolation. However, taken one person, one company, one organization at a time, we can preserve what we’ve done so we can replicate it. To many practitioners at the organizational level, that is a training function. But a full knowledge capture goes beyond the practical and immediate application of developing a training program for employees to continue best practices. Each organization has a history, a culture and knowledge that went before that may have lost its current relevance but not its importance. It is that broader vision of knowledge capture that this book addresses.

As we rapidly move toward artificial intelligence and computer-generated activities that simulate human functions, it behooves us more than ever to preserve the knowledge, skills and attitudes that makes us essentially human if for no other reason than to create an accurate history.

Having defined your vision and the mission, preserve corporate knowledge, assess your circumstance and judge the value of what you would labor and spend valuable resources to capture.

What valuable knowledge are you preserving?

Please comment below and tell us about your contribution to human wisdom.

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Are Traditional Experts and NextGen Experts Different?

 john-mark-kuznietsov-174918 1950s: The astrophysicist of yesteryear studied in relative isolation, probably in an exclusive school gleaning formulae from weighty tomes speaking almost exclusively among (usually) his limited universe of peers. Very few understood or related to his comprehension of relativity.

Today: The astrophysicist delivers online classes from MIT widely available on MOOC platforms watched by your curious and precocious 12-year-old. Your son or daughter jumps on social media to post a cool link to the lecture.  Friends “like” it or comment that s/he is a nerd or a rocket scientist or give your child some other widely acknowledged nod of approval. The NextGen astrophysicist is in the flow of like minds.

Two radically different cultural and educational milieu are going to produce two very different individuals. An experience of isolation and exception versus an experience of community and commonality will affect the human personality, both how they see themselves and how they see their place in the world.

A Traditional Expert will carry the experience all his life of being exceptional, being misunderstood and being isolated from the mainstream. A NextGen expert swims in the social flow connecting easily with peers from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and Germany.

Not All Experts are Astrophysicists

The above example is extreme. Your experts will come from all backgrounds and fields of study. Your Traditional Expert may be the nurse who has been there for 30 years, the machinist who has run that lathe since he graduated from high school or the chemist in your lab who hasn’t looked up from his beaker since Reagan left office. All of them grew up in the same environment of relative isolation and exclusivity in their domain. That is, relative to the widely available, global and instantaneous communication and education of the NextGen of experts who will carry the torch of knowledge forward.

Due to the instantaneous communication and rapid proliferation of ideas, it is estimated that knowledge now doubles about every two years. That, too, changes the nature of experts because no expert remains one for very long.  

These changes have implications for learning, teaching and working styles that impact the way you collect and transfer expertise in your own organization.

Expect a few things from  NextGen Experts:

·         knowledge is widely dispersed and they are open and generous with their knowledge

·         experts commonly explain what they know openly and share it widely

·         expertise is not exclusive

·         knowledge not widely shared is not valuable

·         transfer of knowledge is open sourced and curated

·         learning is tailored to the task, the learner and the environment in which they apply it

What are differences you see between the Traditional Expert and the NextGen Expert? Please comment below.

 

From the Mailbag: Working with Generation Z or Post 9-11 Babies Go to Work

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In this space, we usually focus on the knowledge capture part of your knowledge management plan, specifically working with your soon-to-be-retirees so their expertise isn’t lost to some golf course in Tampa. The flip side of knowledge capture is transferring that information to generations two or three removed. That brings us to the realization that babies born after the year 2000 are entering the workforce this year.

And yes, they are different.

One of our faithful Working with SMEs tribe, Hal Alpiar from bucolic Cookeville, Tennessee, sent us an article entitled “What You Need to Know About Generation Z” with seven helpful tips for maximizing your Gen Z workforce. The article is from AMAC Small Business Solutions dated July 11, 2017, and Hal popped it in snail mail along with one of his cute refrigerator magnets “Are You Breathing?”. Hal is a marketing and training guru who occasionally pitches in around here with advice and support, including his business mentoring.

Here is an excerpt from the AMAC article which you can read in its entirety at this link:

“Much as Generation X didn’t get the same attention baby boomers did, [Generational expert David] Stillman believes the current focus on millennials could leave Generation Z feeling ignored and misunderstood…Stillman says the main thing to know about Gen Z is that they’re not like the millennials.

1.       They want frequent feedback. ..Quick check-ins can be plenty for Gen Z workers.

2.       They seek security…They’re willing to start at the bottom and work their way up, as long as they can expect job security in return.

3.       They’re very competitive…Generation Z employees are more likely to prefer working on their own.

4.       They want to personalize their jobs…The more flexibility and customization your company can offer these workers, the better.

5.       They may be entrepreneurs as well as employees…The ease of starting a side business today appeals to Gen Z’s desire for financial security…Try harnessing Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit to create new ideas , products or divisions for your business – and rewarding them for it financially.

6.       They suffer from FOMO. Constantly scanning social media to see what everyone else is doing, Generation Z is suffused with “fear of missing out”…Gen Z may prefer trying out many different jobs or moving laterally to gain new skills…

7.       They’re “phigital”…They expect your business to have the latest technology (just like they do in their personal lives). If you’re at all behind technologically, they’re not likely to want to work for you.”

As you create your knowledge management plan and consider your methods for information and data transfer, look at your youngest workers’ styles and preferences when you shape your knowledge management plan for Gen Z.  After all, they will be fully in charge of your business by the middle of this century.

Thanks to Hal for thinking of us. If you want one of Hal’s “Are You Breathing?” magnets, email him at hal@businessworks.us and tell him you heard about him at the Working with SMEs blog.

We look forward to your comments below.