Podcast 2: Capturing the Right Knowledge at the Right Time

Welcome to Episode 2 of the Working with SMEs Podcast. Today, Nathan Eckel and I talk about 4 questions that commonly arise when we talk to corporate executives about managing the knowledge of their internal experts. (Listening time: 16:25)

Listen as Nathan and I drill down into these four questions:

1. Are we talking to the right experts?

2. What knowledge should we capture that is most important to the business going forward?

3. What knowledge needs to be captured immediately as opposed to eventually?

4. If we have limited resources or limited time, which experts should we speak with first?

Are you using your valuable, finite resources to capture the right experts?  Please comment below!

Corporate Advisory Council Conference

Twice a year dozens of professionals in the field of e-learning travel to Bloomsburg Pennsylvania to attend the Department of Instructional Technology and Institute for Interactive Technologies’ (IIT) Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) Conference.

The three-day event provides corporate professionals with an opportunity to see the latest in e-learning software, learn the latest thinking about learning and to become educated in instructional technology as well as give back to the field. The event allows professionals in the field to directly interact with students who are preparing to become instructional designers and developers. The students prepare a 20 minute presentation and are then asked questions by the Corporate Advisory Council members, in turn, the students and CAC members interact, exchange ideas and learn about the field in the energetic three-day event.

Date: April 12, 2017
Time: TBD
Event: Corporate Advisory Council Conference
Topic: 3 Clear Strategies for Finding , Capturing & Transferring Retiring Expertise
Sponsor: Department of Instructional Technology and Institute for Interactive Technologies
Venue: Bloomsburg University
Location: Bloomsburg, PA
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.

Respecting Your Learner’s Need to Know and the Value of Just-in-Time Learning

batteryacidstains

If you have ever been deeply engrossed in a subject, you know that life is constantly presenting you with opportunities to learn more about it.  Everything I do somehow relates back to something I am learning and writing about.  Yesterday, for example, my microcassette recorder wasn’t working. Yes, I still use it occasionally, and in this case I wanted to listen to a tape I made many years ago. I use the microcassette  infrequently enough that when I investigated the cause of the malfunction, I found the batteries had leaked into the battery compartment and the contacts  were corroded.

I “YouTubed” a video on how to properly clean the corrosion. The video was 3 minutes long. The solution was simple.  Dip a cotton swab in clear white vinegar and gently wipe the battery compartment clean, being careful not to get any of the leaked battery acid on your skin, and careful not  to drip any liquid into the device. Wipe the vinegar off the contacts with a paper towel. Soak another cotton swab in water and wipe the inside of the compartment to remove any traces of vinegar. Dry it with another paper towel. Done.

That probably took you about 20 seconds to read that paragraph. But it takes about 3 minutes to watch someone actually perform all those steps in real time.  Three minutes is a long time to watch this process.  After about one minute, I found myself checking the remaining time on the video and figuratively tapping my foot wondering when the heck this video would be over. But I knew if there were two remaining minutes, there must be more to it so I better watch the whole thing or I might miss something crucial.

I learned two things yesterday.

1) I learned how to clean the battery compartment of my microcassette player and

2) I learned just how impatient we have become as learners.

If I –  someone who was educated in the pre-YouTube era, someone who reads 300-page books to learn one critical point  –  if I didn’t have the patience for a 3 minute video, imagine how short the attention span of children who graduated from baby rattles to baby iPads by the time they were one year old.

The Post-9-11 Workforce

Those children born post-9-11 are entering the workforce this year en masse as they turn 17 and graduate from high school. Your employees of today learned to swipe an iPad to get the answer before they could drink juice out of a cup without a lid.

The other day I lunched with a woman who will be retiring within a few years who shared her experience of younger workers.  She works in a medical technical field in a hospital.

I will paraphrase her comment only slightly. “They ask me a question, and they only want to hear a quick answer. They don’t want to know why or how or the context. They just want to get right back to checking Facebook or looking at Instagram.”

I do not want to castigate younger employees. Quite the opposite,  in fact. I am suggesting that perhaps as we consider how all people learn today, what captures and keeps our interest, how we think and what we need to know to do our jobs,  that we respect the effect of our all-info, all-the-time culture on the way we expect to receive information.  After all, I can’t even sit through a 3 minute video without looking at my watch and wondering when the YouTuber will get to the point.

As you craft training programs to communicate with your workforce, ask yourself if you are you considering our cultural bias to learning new information. Is your approach and content relevant and compelling?

As experienced trainers know, if the learner isn’t paying attention perhaps it is time to revisit your methodology.

 

 

 

The Expert’s Curse: You Need Patience and a Plan

Ignorance isn’t always bliss. For experts in any field, whether they have double PhDs  or have been operating a complex machine for 20 years, the curse is the fact that experts, by definition, know more than they can ever re-tell succinctly.

Abraham Maslow is credited with developing the levels of competence that has true experts at the pinnacle of competence. Maslow said experts are unconscious competents who know more than most people will ever be able to learn about their field. Often, experts are unconsciously competent because they love their field; they think about their work even when they aren’t at work. Their knowledge becomes part of their identity usually internally and often externally.

Expertise Challenges Corporate Knowledge Management Efforts

If experts could stay in one position forever, their job never changed, their company’s mission never changed, the market never changed and technology didn’t evolve, expertise would not be a curse. But in reality, some or all of those things are bound to change over time. And that is when it is important to be able to excavate the expert’s knowledge for preservation, modification and transfer. Change presents challenges to corporate knowledge management efforts.

If your experts are so immersed in their own knowledge that they can’t completely reconstruct it, how can your company manage the wealth of corporate intelligence?

First, companies need to get their arms around the body of knowledge, skills and attitudes that make them profitable and valuable to customers. Many companies today who are facing changing conditions – such as mass baby boomer retirements, corporate downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, competition from nimble startups – are putting plans in place to make sure they preserve critical information.

When preserving critical information, most companies start by working with their internal experts to ensure business continuity. And that is when they encounter “The Expert’s Curse”.

Patience and a Plan

Many companies are finding themselves stuck at the intersection where they have made the decision to catalogue critical corporate knowledge and the place where they decide how to collect it. They need to make decisions about how best to collect it based on what technology and skills sets they must employ to gather information in a logical framework and how best to organize it for effective transfer while overcoming the expert’s resistance to describing their knowledge.

Often the expert’s resistance is simply the result of too much work to do. But many times that resistance is accompanied by a true frustration about how to begin to deliver a stepwise description of their expertise whether it is intellectual capital, processes, procedures or physical actions. How do  you impart what is often a lifetime of study and application – the subtleties, hints, tricks and clues- that lead an expert to make decisions that those with less experience are not as equipped to make?

You can never replace an expert. But you can isolate the unique knowledge they bring to your organization and lead them to re-tell it in a way that allows it to be captured and preserved. You can help your experts overcome their brilliant blessing disguised as a curse. It just takes patience and a plan.

Replace Products with Outcomes in the New Economy

We touched on this idea in an earlier blog, and “this idea” is that to stay competitive in a rapidly changing industrial environment, you need to focus on the business you are really in. The example was Kodak, that once shining icon of great invention that lost its luster when it failed to identify its core mission. Read the Kodak blog here.

Why is this important in relation to your corporate expertise? Simply, you must make a clear-headed decision about whether today’s expertise is relevant tomorrow because you will have to dedicate your valuable, finite resources to capture and retain it. This important decision is cause for some crystal ball gazing, for sure, but it is important work as you decide to put energy, time and money into making training and talent development decisions in your organization.

I was reminded of this critical decision today when I stumbled on this article in strategy+business  titled “The End of Conventional Industry Sectors”.  Here’s the link.

The article discusses how basic industries, particularly in the manufacturing sector, are evolving their business models to respond to a different culture spurred in part by exponential leaps in technology. For example, car manufacturers are reimagining themselves as the providers of on-demand mobility which may – or may not – involve owning a personal mobility device (eg. a car, for those of you following along on the home game).

The call to action to remain competitive is to think of your company in terms of the outcomes that it provides to its customers which may or may not involve the current products and services you offer. Had Kodak expanded its awareness that it was providing memory capture, as opposed to film and chemicals, it might have soared in the age of digital cameras rather than ceding the field to companies that made cellular phones and photocopiers.

As you assess the knowledge that you must capture and retain, consider the gems that reside in departments focused on the customer, especially sales. What do they know about your customers’ needs that may elude the design department that is focused on the body design of the latest model year car? Download the information from your sales and marketing people, survey your boards of directors, ask your CFO what’s rising, what’s falling and do they know why?

Beyond R&D and manufacturing, think about your future customers when you determine the kinds of knowledge that you need to retain and (dare I say?) exploit to remain competitive.

I also want to thank the great team at AmpTech in Malvern PA for hosting our workshop. Thanks to Drew Ortyn, Simon Kassas, Summer Kumar and Natalie Haritonow for arranging everything. We hope to be back with more topics soon.

Answering an Important Question: “So How Can I Work With You?”

Lately, several people who are interested in the Working with SMEs and Finding Your SMEs methodology have asked me, “So how can we work with you? After we buy the book, then what? Am I on my own to figure this out for my company?”

You are not on your own! The books are good starting points for understanding how and why to work with your internal corporate expertise. However, I offer workshops, presentations and consulting packages to help you and your team pull through the ideas, execute on them and get results. If you are in the Philadelphia area, AmpTech in Malvern is sponsoring a public workshop next Friday, January 13 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, 3 Clear Strategies for Finding, Capturing & Transferring Retiring Expertise. You can register here.

If you want to work directly, here are a few ways I can help you today:

  1. Presentations for your organization including a one-hour overview of how to work with subject matter experts geared toward subject matter experts and instructional designers, and a half- or full-day session for decision makers who are concerned about losing valuable corporate knowledge.
  2. Ongoing consulting to pull through finding your experts, working with them and helping you move the process toward completion that includes presentations, relevant workshops to meet your particular circumstances and one-on-one sessions with key personnel.
  3. Do-it-yourself workshops on Working with SMEs and Finding Your SMEs that include presentation materials and a detailed facilitator guide with or without train-the-trainer assistance from someone on my team.

I also have a few projects in development this year to help expand my reach to help more people more easily.

  1. A handbook, Working in SMEville: Tips, Tools and Techniques for Subject Matter Experts and the People Who Work with Them, will be available for sale by the end of January. It is designed to help the training department and subject matter experts with some practical advice drawn from the two books organized quickly and simply in one place.
  2. This blog will continue on Tuesdays, and I am working on creating a weekly podcast that will run on Thursdays in this space with conversation and advice that addresses issues presented by clients and readers. If you sign up for weekly emails, you will receive the blogs and other notifications.
  3. Video classes and presentations on individual topics, both on-demand and live.

Admittedly, the two books can be used as working documents with charts, checklists, diagrams and explanations of the theory behind them for some intrepid individuals to implement on their own. However, I have developed workshops that tie the pieces together and take you through the various processes. And I would be very pleased to work with you to make the plans work inside your organization.

If you are interested in exploring ways we can work together, contact me at workingwithsmes@gmail.com and let’s schedule a discussion.

 

 

 

Does Your 2017 Strategic Business Plan Include Retention of Your Experts? Public Workshop on Capturing and Transferring Corporate Knowledge

Your strategic business plan for 2017 must include a comprehensive assessment of your internal corporate expertise, and a plan for retaining critical assets. If it doesn’t, it’s not too late.

Join us for a second presentation of this public workshop in the Philadelphia area on Friday January 13 based on the book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge from Retiring Subject Matter Experts in Your Organization Before They Leave, where we will look at the kinds of expertise you need to capture and how to make those decisions. We had a lot of great participation at the December session, and we look forward to another exciting exchange of ideas.

I hope you can be there. It will be so much better with you. Here are the details.

Topic: Working with Subject Matter Experts: 3 Clear Strategies for Finding, Capturing & Transferring Retiring Expertise.

Date: January 13, 2016

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Place: Malvern, Pa

Cost: $30 (lunch will be provided)

Seating is limited to allow maximum participation by attendees. We recommended that you send more than one person from your organization to facilitate discussion within your company.

A nearly perceptible anxiety surrounds the retiring baby boom generation in corporate America today. Many thriving businesses began in the post World War II manufacturing boom. As those knowledge workers leave for the sunny golf courses of Florida, they take with them lifetimes of knowledge and skills that some businesses will never replace.  But it doesn’t have to be that way for your organization.

Join us for the second presentation of this workshop on January 13. Click here to register.

Our host for the event, AmpTech, serves as a provider of expertise for innovators, entrepreneurs and startups.

AmpTech Commercialization Center

As part of the Greater Philadelphia Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem, AmpTech maintains a collaborative environment where start-ups, service providers, investors, academia and local businesses can join together to get products and services to market FASTER. AmpTech bridges the gap for start-ups and corporate innovators by providing a place to develop products quickly and under one roof. AmpTech provides rapid prototyping capabilities establishing an opportunity to pilot various technologies before market launch.

31 General Warren Blvd, Malvern, PA 19355, USA
info@amptech.org   |   484-320-8938
http://amptech.org/

Join us for this popular workshop Friday, January 13 in suburban Philadelphia where we will be discussing managing corporate knowledge assets. Click here to register. Lunch and a copy of the book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge from Retiring Subject Matter Experts in Your Organization Before They Leave are included in the registration fee.

 If you have questions, you may also contact me directly at workingwithsmes@gmail.com.

 

Anticipating Training Needs for the U.S. Manufacturing Sector

Certainly, more than at any time in recent memory, we are in uncertain times. A surprising U.S. election result… Brexit… Cuba. You can feel the global shift. Among all the hype and hyper-nationalism may appear a chance to change course from outsourcing jobs from the U.S. to bringing jobs back.

The U.S. can’t continue our slide into deficit spending without the substantial amount of productivity needed to support that spending. And we certainly can’t sustain a trade deficit that has us buying more from foreign countries than we’re selling to them.

For some companies, this shift signals opportunity. With opportunity comes costs. Some of the costs of bringing back manufacturing jobs will include the cost to train or re-train workers. 

The November issue of TD, ATD’s monthly talent development magazine, featured an article on the cost of training workers. The ATD 2015 study sponsored by Bellevue University and the Training Associates included more than 300 organizations. The study analyzed annual per capita training costs in 4 sectors: finance/insurance/real estate, manufacturing, information and software, and public administration. The average direct expenditure overall for all sectors was $1,252 per employee. However, the expenditure for manufacturing workers at $503 per employee lagged far behind the training costs in the other sectors. The low rate of training expenditure on manufacturing employees was attributed to several factors, among them “less specialized and less rapidly changing development needs” and the fact that more manufacturers are located in China, India and Mexico where “the costs of developing and delivering training may be much lower than in the United States  or other advanced economies.”

If an enterprise is to survive today and thrive tomorrow, it must always be alert for changes in the environment. That includes being able to interpret current events in light of historical trends.  If companies can anticipate a shift to increased manufacturing plants in the U.S., companies will also be gearing up to train those workers.

Right now, I am seeing a perceptible anxiety among manufacturers regarding losing their experienced, legacy employees to retirement and their inability to find qualified employees to replace them. If we anticipate a shift to more manufacturing jobs in the U.S., the need to find and train workers for this sector will become more acute. And, looking at the TD study, it will also become more costly.

The goal of training is to increase the productivity of employees. With this in mind, it is time for companies to consider the kind of training that will support new U.S. manufacturing workers with rapid uptake, skill reinforcement and to do it cost efficiently.

Join us for a workshop this Friday, December 16 in suburban Philadelphia where we will be discussing this and related issues. Click here to register. Lunch and a copy of the book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge from Retiring Subject Matter Experts in Your Organization Before They Leave is included in the registration fee.

Preserving Expertise: Essential for Entrepreneurs and Early Startups

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Are you an entrepreneur or startup at the beginning of your business and product lifecycle?  If so, you might think that it isn’t yet time to worry about cataloging your internal expertise, after all, you are still making it up as you go along. Right? Half right.

The truth is that there is no better time to start to memorialize your business processes and product development methods than from the very beginning. In fact, if you take knowledge management seriously from day one, you are less likely to find yourself in the position that you have to worry about losing key employees. And let’s face it, if you are a young business, you may find some of your talent will be wooed away by competitors or some other interesting project because, by nature, people attracted to startups are adventurous individuals who are often just passing through.

Knowledge management is as important for your young business as for a mature organization.

Knowing a few essential tactics for managing your expertise and implementing knowledge management tactics early and systematically can help you avoid playing catchup later.

Consider the following.

  1. People: Some of the best and brightest people who will ever cross your threshold are with you today, bringing their ideas to the party. Make sure you capture the nuances of their contributions to preserve the details of what you hope will become your competitive advantage.
  2. Processes: By implementing a knowledge management protocol in your early stages, you will have a system for capturing knowledge as it is developed, storing it in a way that it can be easily retrieved while you are working and doing it in a way that is user friendly as you onboard your first employees. When you have the technology and system in place upfront, you establish a culture of learning.
  3. Business Acumen: The habit of preserving your processes and methods from day one indicates to investors and early employees that you plan to stick around. It also demonstrates that you are forward-thinking.

Storytime

I was brought on to an early stage startup to document its innovative software application that it hoped to sell to large corporations. The idea was very creative and had a lot of potential to streamline what was then a very cumbersome, manual process. The company founders had attracted some early stage funding from a public entity after undergoing stringent scrutiny. As I began to document the software for training purposes, I uncovered many serious glitches in the program that made it non-functional for actual customers. It turned out that the developers and early business partners could only run tests, but it would not work for in an external environment. Instead of writing software documentation, I spent three frustrating (and ultimately uncompensated) months uncovering the problems and working with the software developers to try to correct the problem.

Moral of the story: When the owner tried to write a technical manual for instructions, it couldn’t be done because the software didn’t work in the real world. Creating training and documenting processes can help you uncover problems before your customers do!

What You Can Do about Knowledge Management as an Early Stage Venture

Learn how to proactively think about knowledge management early in your business lifecycle because all successful businesses today are learning organizations.

Next Friday, December 16, I’ll be in Malvern, PA in Philadelphia’s western suburbs for a public workshop where we’ll be talking about how to determine your competitive advantages, work with your subject matter experts, and scan the environment to preserve your edge going forward.

If you are part of a startup or an entrepreneur, it would be great to see you there to add your perspective to the discussions.  Register here.

Public Workshop in the Philadelphia Area: 3 Clear Strategies for Finding, Capturing & Transferring Retiring Expertise

What are your plans for preserving your internal corporate expertise in 2017? Join us for a public workshop on December 16 based on the book Finding Your SMEs: Capturing Knowledge from Retiring Subject Matter Experts in Your Organization Before They Leave, where we will look at the kinds of expertise you need to capture and how to make those decisions.

Here are the details.

Topic: Working with Subject Matter Experts: 3 Clear Strategies for Finding, Capturing & Transferring Retiring Expertise.

Date: December 16, 2016

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Cost: $30 (lunch will be provided)

An additional session in January will be available to accommodate holiday schedules. Seating is limited. Recommended that you send more than one person from your organization to facilitate discussion within your company.

A nearly perceptible anxiety surrounds the retiring baby boom generation in corporate America today. Many thriving businesses began in the post World War II manufacturing boom. As those knowledge workers leave for the sunny golf courses of Florida, they take with them lifetimes of knowledge and skills that some businesses will never replace.  But it doesn’t have to be that way for your organization.

Join us for the workshop on December 16. Click here to register.

Our host for the event, AmpTech, serves as a provider of expertise for innovators, entrepreneurs and startups.

AmpTech Commercialization Center

As part of the Greater Philadelphia Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem, AmpTech maintains a collaborative environment where start-ups, service providers, investors, academia and local businesses can join together to get products and services to market FASTER. AmpTech bridges the gap for start-ups and corporate innovators by providing a place to develop products quickly and under one roof. AmpTech provides rapid prototyping capabilities establishing an opportunity to pilot various technologies before market launch.

31 General Warren Blvd, Malvern, PA 19355, USA
info@amptech.org   |   484-320-8938
http://amptech.org/

For more information about AmpTech, click here.

If you have questions, you can also contact me directly at workingwithsmes@gmail.com.