Build Your Business Muscle with Targeted Knowledge Management

Chubby wrestler

If you throw a lot of training at a problem, you might be getting some results but they may not be the exact results you need. Too much training with too few results is a sign that your corporate learning might be top-heavy with learning programs built to solve ill-defined problems that don’t focus on clear business solutions.

You can tighten up your flabby programs when you clearly identify your knowledge gaps and define the exact behaviors that will close them. Then make sure those gaps align with your strategic plans.

In fact, LinkedIn Learning’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that executives want learning leaders to more closely align training programs with business objectives. Business leaders are overwhelmingly asking for learning to reflect business imperatives and make an impact on the business.

Leadership Craves Impact and ROI_LinkedIn

All of this begs the question: What is the best way to design your corporate knowledge management efforts to align with your business objectives?

The answer to this question is evolving because the technology to create a robust internal corporate knowledge management is improving all the time. While the tech exists now, you still need to have a clear vision of the knowledge you need to capture to get you where you are going.

Just to get started, here are a few overarching ideas to consider as you create your knowledge management plan.

  1. Be clear about where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. And yes, tomorrow means your 1-year, 3-year, 5-year and beyond strategic plans. These plans get fuzzier the farther out you go because a lot is changing on the ground but it is good to have some general ideas about where you would like to be.
  2. Figure out who your experts are that know how your business runs and thrives today. Some of them will be retiring and some of them will be the bright bulbs you just hired. Identify the things you need to know and the people who know it.
  3. Finally, begin to consider the best ways to capture the knowledge you need to know to secure your current position/customers/contracts/business and what you need to capture or acquire to meet your long-term strategic goals.

Yes, that’s a lot to think about. So over the next few months, we’ll start to dig into each of these areas in more detail. Stay tuned.

Use 6 Structured Questions to Identify Critical Corporate Knowledge Needs Today and Tomorrow

jack-b-758025-unsplash

One of the core ideas in Retaining Expert Knowledge is to make sure you are spending your valuable, finite corporate training resources capturing the knowledge that is most critical to maintaining and growing your business. That critical knowledge is information to keep your current customers coming back and the information you need for growth and innovation.

Capturing knowledge is more than just a preventative measure against future loss. It also means identifying information to solve current problems and gaps.

Some of that knowledge is in the heads of your employees and needs to be part of your training assets. Identifying the right experts and the right knowledge that you need to capture today requires looking at what is going on in your organization.

On the other hand, some of the information you need to solve current problems or anticipate future needs may not be in your organization today. The sooner you know what you need, the sooner you can begin to go out and find it.

Here are a few suggestions for asking yourself some structured questions to help stem the tide of knowledge loss and for initiating your hunt to bring in information and expertise you need to excel.

  1. Diagnostic Inquiry: Do you have a current and obvious knowledge gap? What are the problems you are experiencing today? What do you need to know to bridge the gap and solve the problem?
  2. Metrics: Which metrics are you trying to impact? Which ones are difficult to move? What do you need to know to be able to take actions to positively move the needle on those hard-to-move metrics?
  3. Performance Analysis: What are employees not doing today that you would like them to be doing? What are employees doing that you would like them to stop doing? Are there tasks that need to be done to which no one is specifically assigned? Are people assigned to tasks that have no real value (busywork)?
  4. Urgency and Frequency: How often does a certain problem occur? How much of your business does it impact? Does it impact your biggest customers and your largest orders?
  5. Location: Where does a problem occur? Does an issue exist in one business unit or at one site? Is the issue across the entire company? Does it happen only under one particular leader or manager?
  6. Scope and Impact: What is the immediate impact of the problem? What is the size of the problem? Is it a shortage? Does it indicate too much of something exists somewhere? Does it impact the whole organization (cultural and broad) or is it isolated to one area, unit, site?

By applying your data-gathering efforts in a structured way, you can be sure you are identifying the information you need to solve problems that are affecting you today and can impact you tomorrow.

Do you conduct a structured knowledge scan in your organization? If so, what methods do you use?

Photo by Jack B on Unsplash

 

Succession Planting for Retiring Experts

This article is also posted at the International Federation on Aging website here.

As a newbie gardener, I subscribe to lots of gardening magazines and email lists to get up the learning curve as quickly as possible. This morning, I received an email about succession planting for a bountiful garden all season long. For those who have been cultivating a lifetime of knowledge, we also have waves of harvests. And it seems that the rules for succession planting in our gardens also make sense for succession planning for our lifetimes of contribution to the world around us.

Growing meals throughout the season means consistently looking forward, and reaping harvests from your education and experience means looking forward, too.

Let’s apply the 6 tips for choosing appropriate crops for succession planting to succession planning for your ongoing contribution to the world:

  1. Rotate plants in season. After you have harvested the value of your education and experience in one career, use that bed of knowledge to prepare for your next adventure – be it volunteerism, consulting or starting an enterprise of your own. Your prior experience will help lessen the chance for failure.
  2. Sow or transplant a small amount of seeds at one time at regular intervals. Make sure you have several little projects and interests in play for a well-rounded life. Your new business doesn’t mean giving up your volunteering. One thing may always lead to another.
  3. When planting late in the season, choose plants that can be enjoyed young. When you embark on an adventure completely new to you, choose one that you can enjoy immediately, like learning a few chords on the piano that allow you to play a simple three-chord song for immediate gratification.
  4. Switch varieties for switching weather. As your life changes, or as your mind, body and emotions change, be prepared to try a new hobby, interest or career path more in tune with who you are becoming.
  5. Consider how two plants share a space and interplant complimentary varieties. Think about the people around you, how you can build teams and community, and how you can serve others. Life is more fun lived with and for others.
  6. Transplant and sow directly. Sometimes you want to take skills and abilities from other parts of your life and earlier career paths, and use them in your current pursuits. Some other things can be started from scratch so you can always be learning something new.

Life is, indeed, our garden to nourish, grow and enjoy. With some care, you can reap harvests throughout all its seasons as you continue to mature, contribute and participate while sharing your unique gifts, talents and experiences to leave everything better than the way you found it.

Imagining Knowledge in the Age of AI

K35621_cvr  Artificial intelligence, data, analytics, neural net, computer-human interface…these aren’t the future. They are now. For those of us with a foot in the age of human intelligence and a foot in the age of artificial intelligence, it makes us wonder: so what do we make of what we know, if we (as humans) may become irrelevant?

It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.

This blog will be brief because the idea is huge, and I want to give us all time and space to ponder this one thought.

Humans are finite, at least for now. We have a limited lifespan. For generosity’s sake, let’s call it 100 years. And then we take what we know with us when we go.

Some of us have preserved our thoughts, ideas and creativity for future generations, but let me venture to guess that most of us have not.

For millennia, without that knowledge capture, preservation and transfer, we kept starting all over.

All that changed with the printing press, and accelerated rapidly with video and audio capture. Look at the rapid proliferation of knowledge, now doubling about every one or two years because we are able to continue to build on what came before.

So what is the threat of AI to human intelligence? Here it is…

Computers don’t die. Teach them to think, and they will keep thinking and growing and learning and eventually…well, their intelligence surpasses that of any human simply because their learning curve is theoretically infinite.

This is what all the fuss is about.

I leave you with that.

And encourage your thoughts and debate in the comment section or send an email at workingwithsmes@gmail.com.

Oh, by the way, my latest book, Retaining Expert Knoweldge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload, was published in hard cover on May 10 and you can buy it here. I just noticed that a Kindle version has been added. Thank you for your continued interest!

 

Available Now! Retaining Expert Knowledge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload

K35621_cvr
I couldn’t wait to get out the word that my new book, the latest in the Working with Experts series, is available for sale today!

I’ll be doing some promotions which you will hear about later, but for now here’s the description on Amazon:
Retaining Expert Knowledge: What to keep in an age of information overload covers two major topics central to capturing and transferring expertise in organizations:

  • Methodology and best practices for interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) to capture their knowledge
  • Identifying the SMEs to interview

The more critical problem is identifying the SMEs and the knowledge that needs to be captured.

One reason identifying the right experts is now so important is that in the next 10 years, the largest recorded exit of talented and knowledgeable workers from organizations will occur as baby boomers retire. In their wake, they leave their former employers understaffed and, even scarier, under-informed. Identifying the right SMEs is also critical because of the rapid acquisition of new knowledge. Some estimates say knowledge now doubles every two years, so it is crucial each organization identifies its journey and catalogues it individually and collectively.

This book provides managers with answers to the following questions:

  • Are we talking to the right subject matter experts?
  • What knowledge should we capture?
  • What knowledge needs to be captured immediately as opposed to eventually?
  • If we have limited resources, which experts are most important to speak with first?

Every organization has a history, a culture, and knowledge that may have lost its current relevance but not its importance. It is that broader vision of capturing knowledge, which this book addresses. It guides readers on how to preserve corporate knowledge and provides tools to assess organizational circumstances and judge the value of the resources to capture.

Retaining Expert Knowledge is a training resource, but it is also a business resource. As knowledge proliferates and organizational culture rapidly changes, now is the time to step back and determine what has been important to your organization’s success, where the organization is today, and what it will take to stay in the game tomorrow.

Your company houses knowledge, skills, attitudes, intellectual property, trade secrets, company culture, and individuals who will never be replicated exactly as they are today. Because they have demonstrated value in the past and are demonstrating value today, these treasures are worth preserving. This book shows how to preserve these valuable assets today for tomorrow’s successes.
You can buy this wherever you normally purchase your books.

Here’s a link directly to Amazon. 

 

Free Webinar 5/18:Critical Thinking Skills and Your SOPs

chuttersnap-425090-unsplash  Do you teach learners how to handle errors?

With Terry McGinn

Training programs usually teach “the right way” to do something, supplying learners with perfect answers, procedures, methods, policies, information, and so on. That’s good, but as you probably have noticed in your operations or studies every day, it isn’t enough. How often have you heard an employee implementing a “work around” that makes you want to smack your palm to your forehead after all the routing and requested changes (e.g. “You did WHAT in a sterile area?”)

The right way to do things works as long as everything goes according to plan. As we have all learned, nothing always goes according to plan. Every once in a while, you’ll encounter a deviation (and that’s okay). And when you do, what you do is critical. It can be the difference between averting a disaster and creating an issue that won’t pass regulatory scrutiny.

So, while the average training program teaches employees how to do it the right way, a full education teaches your employees how to do it right way and gives them the capacity to think through things that don’t go as planned. Comprehensive SOP training teaches investigational processes as well as correct document procedures to ensure the quality standards for your products are met and the results are recorded for investigational purposes, when necessary. After all, teaching requires building competencies.

But do we teach people how to take the right actions, make better decisions, choose wisely, and handle deviations? Most of the time, the answer is no. The severe impact of mishandled opportunities to make good, independent decisions can result in slow, no or poor actions, errors in judgment, and impulsive or risky decisions. And any of those things can hit your organization’s bottom line or reputation in fines, product recalls, regulatory rejection and more.

Interested in hearing more? Join us for a one-hour primer on applying critical thinking skills in an SOP environment and find out:

  • Why you need to teach learners more than just the “right ways of doing things”
  • Why workers and learners need to learn beyond the “what” to the “why”?
  • What are Critical Thinking Skills and how do adult learners absorb information?
  • Why do Critical Thinkers always learn new things while at work?
  • How is Critical Thinking applied in errors or unfamiliar situations?
  • How can we set up a culture of Critical Thinkers?

Join us for our free webinar “The Process of Critical Thinking About Your Standard Operating Procedures” and learn how to apply critical thinking skills in SOP situations.

Click on this link to register for the webinar hosted by Levy & Levy Enterprises with your presenters Terry McGinn and Peggy Salvatore on Friday, May 18 at 10 a.m. Eastern. And bring your questions. We look forward to meeting you there.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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

raul-varzar-405846-unsplash

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?

neonbrand-349607-unsplash

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

drew-hays-206414

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