Posts Tagged ‘“matthew loxton”’

Will this be the Year of SharePoint?

January 12, 2011

Most of my blog posts avoid discussing products and technology, and while I hasten to add that I really do love the techie side, the point is that while the technology is really cool and makes a significant contribution, it has a very short shelf-life and is never going to account for more than 30% of the success factors.
Technology comes and goes and mostly needs massive hype and spin to make it crack open the budgets and get the dollars rolling out, which inevitably leaves a lot of people embarrassed or frustrated, and disillusioned by the whole Knowledge Management idea because they equated it with a specific brand or technology .

So I tend to focus on the other 70% more or less stable side of the equation, which includes human behavior, organizational structure, and all those other bits that make up the socio-behavioral complex.

However, something is going on in techieland that is worth talking about – According to Global360, the adoption of Microsoft’s Sharepoint will hit 97% this year and has already reached a user-count of 130,000,000.
Of course they are very bullish on the topic because they sell Sharepoint stuff for a living, but still, even in the 90’s when Knowledge Management was something many software vendors and gurus were proclaiming as the next big thing, nobody ever thought that all the products put together would get near 97%, and 130 million licenses is a big number in any language.

Towards the end of 2010 I briefly flirted with a company that pretty much only does Sharepoint add-on’s and seemed to be doing just fine, although I thought they were way too focused on plumbing and pipes i.e. the software and technology, and far too little on the human side – which is where the action really is and why this time Knowledge Management may be rising as never before.

During 2010 I actually tried to stamp out SharePoint at a previous employer, but failed, and now I am a strong advocate of Sharepoint adoption (yes Christy, I am).
So what led to this Damascus Road change of heart?

Epiphany

At the start of 2009/2010 SharePoint was just another (yet another) file-sharing toy that users had discovered and had started to put things into – just like the wikis, Lotus Notes groups and folders, fileshares, portals, and all the other bits and pieces that proliferated over the years and slowly gathered dust under layers of corporate accretion. We already had an order of magnitude too many file-sharing/storage methods, most of which were hidden and not spidered by the corporate search engine, and some of which were backed up onto expensive RAID while other repositories should have been but weren’t.
There was also already a huge investment of time and money in Alfresco, and I didn’t want to simply attenuate focus on another contender.

However, as the year drew on, and just before I left, I had changed my mind and was actively pushing for adoption.
Why did I change my mind? – It was simply that there was a strong user desire that was capable of pushing through the resistance.
My view is that when users put that much effort into something, then that enthusiasm should be supported and guided where possible and not left to rust out in the cold.
A KM solution is less than 20% technology, and over 70% culturally determined in my view, so where you find a high degree of engagement and desire from users, especially where it will help to form Communities of Practice, then this is worth supporting.

… and it seemed that SharePoint wasn’t going to go away anytime soon.

What can SharePoint do for YOU?

Well, it’s a bunch of code that costs money, so it can eat some of your budget and keep the IT guys out of mischief for a while.
It can also be a reasonably good document repository with passable workflow for approval and control and reasonable version-control, which means with a modicum of effort you can shift files that were lying in a nice orderly canonical structure on a server into another nice pile in SharePoint. Naturally you can start corralling all those stray files and index them, but of course that was possible with canonical file-shares too.
SharePoint also allows searchable Knowledge Bases to be built, but before you get too excited about that remember that retrieving hundreds of hits that are infojunk is no better than not getting any at all.

What it adds that canonical file taxonomies can’t however, is folksonomies via tagging that give multiple taxonomical hooks to a single file, and it can provide a far more social environment for people to access than regular traditional fileshares could – and this is where SharePoint can bring you real value.
By bringing information closer to people in a more natural ecology than before, SharePoint can make a real contribution to your operation.
It also allows add-on products that build out the social side, and can bring learning, socializing, chatting, and people’s biographical pages to cohabit in an informational ecosystem that plays far more naturally to our inbuilt preferences.

One thing that you can use it for that probably dwarfs everything else if you have an organization with more than 150 staff, is to make people searchable in terms of their skills, training, and experience by adding them as knowledge artifacts. Why this isn’t done more completely baffles me, because a “facebase” was something we were experimenting with long before Bill Gates brought out Windows.
Using technology like integrated search and content management to help find people should be a no-brainer.
The point is to give people a page that can be modified to suit their tastes but that contains scrapable information that says what they are good at, trained in, and willing to help with, along with their availability and rules of engagement – how to contact them, when, for what, etc. If you tie this in to the more modern B&N/Amazon idea of “what I am reading”, and also to what articles they have authored you can do some magic that goes far beyond a semantic web will ever get.

Allowing the thought leaders to emerge, and to allow people to see what informational sources they are producing is probably worth the investment, but add to that the ability to see what informational sources they use and how they rate them, and you will have as close to a miracle as ICT can deliver.

Life After SharePoint

Not that I go in for predictions much, but until exobiology produces something better, humans are always going to be way faster at finding semantic information than machines. Long after Microsoft is just an historical footnote, people will still be the fastest way to get meaning out of information, and that’s what knowledge is all about.

This is SharePoint’s year, and with it an opportunity to use technology to support and sustain very ancient and effective human abilities to share and create meaning – we should not let it slip by.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management expert and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge assets to work.

My 2010, a year of blogging

January 6, 2011

Today marks my 1st anniversary of blogging, and 2010 was an “interesting” year, as they say.

I changed continents (again), and took on multiple roles in addition to being a global director of Knowledge Management, and wound up job hunting – but not in that order.

My roles this year included my main job, that of a director of Knowledge Management, as well as unofficial Chief Learning Officer which saw me in many meetings with universities and vendors of learning materials, head of Localization & Translation in which I inherited a recently emptied department and a strangled budget, and made friends with several translation vendors across the world.
Another role was that of program manager of the offshoring and outsourcing activities that took me to India, and involved building a team of over a hundred software engineers while I also managed the contract and relationship of a similar-sized group in Bali, tried vainly to move some outsourcing to South-Africa, and celebrated the building of a 15-person team in Chile.
During this time I received a few “what are you doing” phone-calls from the Australian embassy in India, and many people avoided me in case I was looking to offshore their job.

In July I my relationship with Mincom ended, and having waved goodbye to Brisbane, found myself back in Denver and job hunting.
Since then I have interviewed with dozens of firms – been hugely interested in some, horrified by a few, and left others feeling vaguely relieved not to be working there and having to breathe in their toxic culture on a daily basis.
Some interviews ran into several months and included large panels only to end with me as the runner-up, while others ended in a fizzle when the budget vanished, the position was cancelled, or the VP herself resigned after missing several chances for an interview.
Some had really sharp and focused job descriptions (HP, Invensys, and Philips for example), some had a copy/paste smorgasbord, and some had job descriptions that were a complete mystery.
Some organizations were clear and transparent about their process, others seemed to be playing it by ear and making it up as they went along.

Generally, the people were nice but clearly unsure about what they are trying to achieve – one guy spent 30 minutes posing an elaborate scenario that he fed me piece by piece until we arrived at the answer he apparently had in mind. According to him this was the first time anybody had given the correct answer but he was seemingly unhappy with that so I didn’t get the job.
Maybe just as well, all things considered.

I often wonder how much a firm’s recruitment practices are a reflection of what it is like to work there, and what effect recruitment practices have on their clients.
According to a few research papers I read, it is and it does.

Keeping Busy

Besides looking for a permanent employer, flying around for interviews, and making copious resume modifications to satisfy recruiters, I blogged on KM-related topics, networked, and read several IO Psychology and KM textbooks from cover to cover. Some people have hobbies, some play golf, and I read textbooks – go figure.

Some people take a break from work when they are between jobs, I mostly designed questionnaires and wondered about Communities of Practice.
I also thought about Sharepoint a lot – can you believe it, 130 million licenses and likely to hit 97% adoption rate this year?
Again, go figure!

As part of a Master’s in Knowledge Management I covered various maturity models and although I really liked the KMMM by Lange & Ehms, the K3M by Liebowitz & Beckman, and the various KMMI attempts, they all seemed to be heavy on the Conservation side and light at the Innovation end. I also felt that they neglected the point made by Argyris that processes will inevitably obscure and hide those systematic problems that are essentially never spoken about – things that we become systematically blinded to by the way we measure and think. As a result I built my own KM Maturity model based on the Carnegie-Melon CMMI, with two added layers bookending the CMMI, and blogged incessantly about the implications of Argyris and his Single and Double Loop Learning concepts. The blog about externalization and avoidance I was sure might get me lynched by recruiters.
Seems I must like Argyris, because he comes up in my blogs more than any other author.
Owing to my longtime interest in IO Psychology and research methods, the offspring of the KMM was a questionnaire instrument (currently in Beta), which of course lives on a KM wiki (CoP-M).

To get a better way to benchmark and examine the current state of KM in an organization, I developed a KM & OL Climate questionnaire called the KMOL-C which is now in its RC2.1 version with an RC-3.0 in planning.

During this time I also started thinking about starting my own LLC, firstly because even providing pro bono consulting in the US means one is vulnerable to being sued personally.
Secondly it would allow me to do paid consulting and contracting.
I am still stuck for a company name however, so feel free to suggest one.

Having Fun

Mostly I read textbooks for fun, but I also had many enjoyable discussions, debates, and arguments with HR people on LinkedIn – Since I was dealing with them a lot it seemed logical.
I also played with some new applications – bibus an opensource equivalent to EndNote, Qiqqa a nice CAQDAS tool for qualitative interviewing, R a free statistical package that means I can’t afford SPSS or SAS, and ggobi a graphical add-on for R. No spinplots like VisualStats had, but VisualStats seems to have stopped.
I added all my books to GuruLib – mostly by using a webcam to scan in the ISBN barcodes.
Using R, I pulled correlation numbers for a survey I did for a LinkedIn discussion and discovered that self-identified HR people are more than twice as risk averse as operational managers.

Reading academic papers was very enjoyable, and in case you think they are all boring and filled with indigestible facts and arcane theory, here is one I particularly enjoyed:

My most favorite piece of research findings was this one about penguins (Meyer-Rochow & Gall 2003)

Now besides the fact that next to ducks, penguins are the next funniest animal, there is something inherently funny about research that clocks the speeds and distances of penguin evacuation.
Also, knowing that penguin poop is more dense than blood but less dense than honey, and is ejected at pressures that approach that of a car tire, is just fascinating.
The paper also won an IgNoble award in 2005

What’s in Store for 2011

I hope to register my own LLC soon, start a PhD, and get a job with a really interesting and innovative company, and I hope to use my survey instruments with several organizations, volunteer time to worthy organizations, and stay healthy.

More to the point, I hope to carry on enjoying knowledge management, IO Psychology, and discovering interesting ideas and people.

… and blogging, of course.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management expert and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge assets to work.

Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning – How does your firm shape up?

December 8, 2010

I was going to publish a different post today, but the excitement of having responses to a questionnaire got the better of me.

This week I put up the first release candidate after doing beta testing of a KM/OL climate survey questionnaire designed to measure the Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning beliefs and activity in an organization.

The sample frame was mainly KM/OL people, so there are some inherent biases that limit the degree to which the results could be generalized to the whole working population and all firms – one would for instance expect KMers to be active in social networking, to use Twitter, and probably have a blog or a web page. However, there are still many aspects which would be generalizable and which indeed stood out in the survey results, such as whether the performance appraisal system in use “makes a big contribution to helping [them] learn and develop” – to which a full 50% of respondents said it didn’t. This alone should be a wake-up call to HR and managers, because if your performance appraisals don’t drive learning and development, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

It is a “hair on fire” kind of thing.

.. but first some technical points.

Questionnaire Design

This is a questionnaire, not the result of a magical truth-serum, so there is some margin of doubt as to whether people are telling the truth or fooling around – that said, people are usually quite serious about giving their point of view, and there are ways to detect horseplay.

The sample is small: I had 20 responses to the beta, and 21 to the RC-1 version of which I deleted three either because they were incomplete or because the person was clearly just walking through the questionnaire to see what was in it. With 18 responses there isn’t a lot of generalization that can be done, but it certainly is enough to generate some “hey, what’s this!” moments.

Finally, this is a fast-track survey that I designed in just a few weeks and I didn’t have the luxury of a team of analysts, survey technicians, statisticians, and a trove of existing question items with a known behavior and pedigree. I borrowed some questions from Dubrin (DuBrin and Dalglish 2003), Debowski (Debowski 2006), and some previous work I have done over the years including a survey on eLearning use which I blogged about a while back, but on the whole the question items have little provenance and so one cannot compare this survey too finely against other or previous research uses.
From the beta version I also got a few good ideas from the test respondents, so a big thanks to them in helping me create this instrument. Without their help this would have taken far longer and been far more difficult.

Bottom line, this instrument is a marvelous (says I) tool for identifying trends and issues within a single organization, but you cannot at this point draw any conclusions about industry trends etc. from it.

Now, let’s look as some of the more interesting findings from the sample we have, and discuss what the implications would be if this was your firm.

Let’s start with the big-ticket items.

Frowns and Smiles

Only 27.8% of respondents said that their manager would smile if they saw them doing self-study during work-time, versus 33% that said they would frown, and 39% that said they would be neutral.
This is actually a bit of a disaster, as my previous research showed – if people think their manager would smile, then they not only keep their skills up to date by improving them at work, but they also do it on their own time. In contrast, those that think their manager is neutral about it, do far less at work and none at home, and those who think their manager would frown tend to do nothing about their own professional development at all.
What I found previously was that there is no correlation between what staff think their manager would do and what the managers report they would do – managers almost to a person think they would smile and be supportive, but their staff typically think differently, much of which is based on whether the manager themselves put visible effort into their own ongoing professional development.
Simply put if the managers do not model learning behavior, their staff presume that learning is not valued.

Apropos of which are the 28.7% who thought their managers did not “make a visible effort to improve their own knowledge and skills” and the 33% that couldn’t tell.

If you don’t fix this in your organization you had better like high staff turnover, low levels of discretionary effort and under-performing morose staff, because you are going to have a whole heap of it!

Sharing

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that teamwork makes the difference between success and failure, and that when it comes to knowledge, sharing behavior is a critical component of achieving that end goal of maximizing shareholder value.

That is why it is alarming to see that while 61% feel at ease to access others in the organization for help and guidance, the same percentage feel that it isn’t true that “Knowledge-sharing is incorporated in the regular staff performance reviews”

So let’s get this right, we think it is important, our people want to do it, but we don’t make it part of how people are measured?
If your performance reviews don’t measure behavior that you definitely want, then what exactly is the point of a performance review?

HR, are you awake?

Organizational Assets

Here’s an IQ test: your company relies on some fancy factory equipment that costs about $100k a year in lease and maintenance and you have several hundred of these machines but don’t keep track of what they are and what they can do.
Is this a company that is going to survive over the long term?

Well over 60% report that their firms do not maintain “a current database of knowledge and skills of all employees”
Ok, so let’s get this straight, the assets that account for about 80% of a company’s value and we are in the dark about their location or capabilities?

HR, are you awake?

Organizational Learning

This one gets interesting.

Although the vast bulk of innovation and growth comes from learning from mistakes, 50% of respondents say their firms do not treat mistakes as learning opportunities and a further 22.2% don’t know, 50% also say that they focus on fixing low performance rather than replicating high performance, and to cap it all 55.5% report that each time their team encounters a problem, they seem to start from scratch to solve it, with the balance reporting that they feel only somewhat that they learnt from previous experiences.

Put that into perspective with the 72% that feel that their firms celebrate “the Superman who saves the day rather than the person who prevents a situation in the first place” and you have a picture of an organization that doesn’t learn or even know what to learn from, reinvents the wheel constantly, and then celebrates disasters.
Remember, you get more of what you celebrate, so if you make a big fuss of people doing heroic things rather than preventing the need for heroism, you will get more occasions that are a crisis and require a hero.
If you ever get the feeling that your company seems to lurch from one disaster to the next, this is probably why.

Work Health & Safety

With over 60% reporting that their work environment was characterized by “interruptions, noises or other distractions” you have accidents waiting to happen, low productivity, high stress, and of course, higher costs.
Research into medical mistakes shows that a huge proportion can be laid at the door of interruptions, and I have no doubt that the same applies to other fields and activities.

HR, are you awake?

Now that you are feeling depressed, you might wonder if there was any good news.

The Good News

Firstly, people seem to be experts in what they do, with over 80% reporting that they regard themselves as an expert in their subject domain, 78% know who the other experts are in the organization, over 60% make the effort during breaks to discuss their work with others, and 50% report that they get good ideas from customers and business partners.
Furthermore, not only are 68% passionate about what their organization is trying to do, but 89% say that having specialized knowledge has cachet in their organization.
Over 77% say that they keep up to date with what goes on in their area of expertise and also regularly attend external seminars and events in that regard, while over 60% go as far as presenting papers or delivering addresses in public on their subject area.
Nearly 80% indicate that they feel at ease in asking for clarification in the event that somebody in the firm said something they didn’t understand, which truly is a triumph of culture.

Of course this is somewhat offset by the fact that 60% also think that doing your job well means not having to care about what goes on in the rest of the company and 56% think that in their teams if something works ok there is no need to experiment to make it better – a surefire way to become obsolescent by embracing creeping conservatism, and it also means that 20% feel inexpert at what they do, 22% don’t know who the experts are, 40% make little effort to talk about what they do, and a stunning 50% don’t see customers as sources of knowledge.

… but then who’s perfect, right?

Web2.0

The use of web2.0 technologies like blogs, twitter, tagging, etc. was high in this sample, but that was to be expected and was even a bit low – fewer had their own web pages than I would have expected, and a some don’t even subscribe to podcasts.
In a more typical cross-section of a workforce, this would be lower, but it would be important that there was some activity in this region and a solid training plan behind teaching people how to use the technologies without making a fool of themselves, exposing the company, or getting themselves dooced.
If your senior staff and SMEs aren’t using podcasts to get domain-specific information while they are on the road and sitting in planes, trains and automobiles, then it is an early sign of trouble.

Conclusions

Knowledge management isn’t about buying a product – it’s about what you do with the knowledge at your disposal, and whether you put your knowledge assets to work in achieving your organizational goals – and whether your bad knowledge management habits work against you, is all up to you.
Whether your staff are keeping themselves at the peak of their game and know who to contact and feel free to do so is as much part of being competitive as having a good product but, is often neglected.

This post covered a survey tool that has been developed to measure the knowledge management beliefs and habits within an organization, and by using the current respondent data as if they were all in a single company, provided an example of what it might discover and where the critical areas might be.

The survey questionnaire is made available under a copyleft attribution basis free of charge, and the author can be commissioned to provide guidance and assessment.
You can try KM/OL climate survey questionnaire out online.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Please contribute to my self-knowledge and take this 1-minute survey that tells me what my blog tells you about me. – Completely anonymous.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management expert and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge to work.

Bibliography

Debowski, S. (2006). Knowledge management. Milton Qld, John Wiley & Sons.

DuBrin, A. J. and C. Dalglish (2003). Leadership, an Australasian focus, John Wiley and Sons Australia.

 

Free Management Help – Pro Bono Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning, & IT Governance

November 2, 2010

I am looking for 2-3 organizations to whom I can donate some of my time and expertise.

Many people offer up time to hospitals and other worthy institutions and while I am sure that manning the gift-shop or providing directions to patients is both useful and beneficial, I am no good at using a cash-register and my sense of direction is probably best not put to the test in this way.

Instead, I am offering my professional skills in IT Governance, Management, and Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning – The general idea is that I can give access to experience, knowledge, and training for free that would normally cost around $150-185/hr.

Who

The typical institution that I have helped in the past has been medical in nature, but the bottom line is that I am looking for places that have a good social story to tell and whose activities have a positive social effect.

What you get out of this

Free consulting and help on issues to do with management, deployment of volunteers, IT governance and policies, building of communities of practice, organizational development and training, knowledge management, and intellectual asset management.

I can help you draw up IT or training RFP’s for example, help you craft IT and Internet policies, and assist in formulating a Web2.0 approach. I can help you get better value from your SMEs and executives, and put in place a training and competency framework.

What I get out of it

I get the warm and fuzzy feeling from doing something socially beneficial and augment that magic triad of excelling at something, being passionate about it, and getting something other than financial rewards for it.
I also get to put my knowledge and expertise to work in a broader context than just an employer, and to spread knowledge management and organizational learning memes.

Maybe I also meet new people, make new friends, and add new stories to my life.

What to do

If your organization would like to take advantage of my offer you can contact me via LinkedIn, reply to this blog, or email me

Silos, Leadership, and CoPs: How to stay on target and build expertise

October 13, 2010

Introduction

Over the years I have often heard bitter complaints about “Silos” within organizations, and have seen many attempts to dismantle or at least de-claw institutional “silos” – sometimes with limited and short-term success, and other times with deleterious results.

In this blog I argue that these divisional boundaries are not just a natural manifestation of vertical specialization common in almost all large organizations, but that they are also vital and indeed necessary for the smooth functioning of the organization itself.
The counterparts to silos, and ways to deal with the downside of silos will also be discussed.

Silos – The Causes and the Upside

Once any group reaches around 70-150 people, it naturally fragments and if you want people to focus on key objectives and deliverables, vertical structures are close to mandatory in order to achieve success.

The reason we need to have a Customer Support division in a vertical structure distinct  from Consulting, Sales, HR, etc. is that each needs to focus on deliverables and goals and not get distracted by what other groups are doing.

Paying attention to the job at hand and staying on track with the KPIs and metrics common to the others in that divisional group is vital to delivering the desired results.
So the silos have to stay – unless you can afford to have people just doing whatever they feel like doing.

A counterargument to this is of course the Open Source or Crowd Source example, where the job gets done simply because people who may only contribute a single thing will do so out of intrinsic interest.
However, while this is clearly a model worth looking into, at this point it is unclear whether these discretionary acts are actually a form of parasitism on the traditional work structures – i.e. people tend to only donate excess capacity to Open Source when they have already secured a formal occupation that pays the bills.

Silos represent one of the few strong points of Taylor’s “Scientific Management” – keeping goals clear, simple, and tightly measured usually results in achieving desired results with a minimum of waste of resources or time.

The Downside to Silos

The complaints about siloed behavior are not without cause and many firms have seen internecine warfare erupt amongst divisions over resources, and all of us must have witnessed poor Organizational Citizenship Behaviors that result from an “us vs them”” sentiment within a company.
It is even quite common to find that divisional goals and metrics are mutually destructive – that the success of one division leads to damage to other divisions, sometimes even to the point that one division will pursue goals in a manner that does irreparable damage to the organization as a whole.
You might even have wondered if that division wouldn’t be better off working for the competition!

I have seen cases in which a Networking Sales group of a company refused business on the grounds that it wasn’t in their group’s best interests, but which resulted in disqualification from tendering on far more lucrative tenders for several other divisions in the same firm.
Likewise I have witnessed a Consulting team achieving fantastic results and plaudits all round for implementations that caused long-lasting damage to the Customer Support group and resulted in severe customer dissatisfaction.
A final example is of a sales-team that overachieved quota, but at the expense of both the Consulting group and the Customer Support division, and which virtually crippled the R&D team for years.

In all these cases the achievement of narrow goals and single-minded focus of one silo caused more harm than good when viewed from the perspective of the entire organization.

A second area of damage is degradation of skills and diminished organizational learning.
Divisions are usually largely homogenous in terms of goals and objectives, but are often diverse in terms of functional expertise – several different divisions might each have similar roles, for example salespersons, project-managers, managers, and so on.
By segregating project managers from each other and embedding them in distinct divisions one achieves better focus, but at the cost of loss of knowledge and reduction in organizational learning.
Mistakes tend to be repeated across the organization and discoveries or innovations in one part of the firm may never be utilized or even known in another.

There are two basic approaches to dealing with the negative side of Silos

  1. Managing them
  2. Balancing them

Managing Silos – The Leadership Way

The conflict can be solved by leadership at the executive level, and senior managers need to be aware not only of where their division fits in the overall scheme of things, but also how their actions impact other divisions. Often the term “Leadership Team” is more a desire than actuality, and unless there is real teamwork between the managers of different interdependent groups, Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) amongst staff is unlikely.

It isn’t enough to just be friendly in the boardroom – OCB must be visible in the actions of the leaders, and embodied in their presentations and memos, and other communications within their group must be peppered with references to cooperative activities and policies, and must contain specific examples of cooperation and interaction with other groups.

If this isn’t done consistently, continuously, and deliberately, an “Us vs Them” mindset in staff is the default that will slowly creep back in as the operant behavior pattern.

Celebrating the successes of other departments is a good example of highlighting that “they” are “Us”.

Balancing Silos – The Community of Practice Way

To solve the problem of fragmented disciplines and the degradation to Organizational Learning, it is necessary to re-connect the areas of expertise in a way that enables cross-pollination and information flow without diluting their departmental focus. The command & control hierarchy needs to stay according to the organizational chart, but a new, informal structure such as the Community of Practice (CoP) should be built in order to let SMEs communicate with and learn from their peers.

A CoP of Project Managers, for example, enables “lessons learned” to be spread beyond divisional walls, and also opens up the opportunity for innovation – such as when PMs in one division mature a process that can be imported as a practice by another.

CoP’s cannot however be created by fiat – you cannot simply decree that one exists and then expect it to flourish. Instead it occurs by intrinsic reward and attraction, and with the support of the organization through provision of time, space, tools, and acknowledgement.

What the formal organizational structures can provide is resource support in the form of infrastructure such as meeting time during office hours, occasional travel funding, stationary and supplies, meeting rooms and equipment, and the like.
The bigger support though is intangible – it is the explicit and tacit acknowledgement of expertise by management all the way up to the CEO, visible respect for the fact that the organization has experts in the domain, and some degree of deference to that expertise.

It becomes visible in simple but powerful messages – like when a management meeting is rescheduled or relocated to a different venue when it clashes with CoP meeting or event. This sends a clear signal that expertise is a highly-valued quality, and that demonstrating one’s expertise in an organized fashion earns respect.
That respect engenders awareness, identification, and a desire to contribute and participate.

Conclusion

Silos are a natural part of the corporate ecosystem and need to be retained, but like any organism, may need to be pruned or trimmed occasionally. Silos can be kept healthy by managing them properly in ways that show the interdependency of each and its relationship to the success of the whole, and by balancing the formal structures of the Silos with the informal structures of expertise to be found in Communities of Practice.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management professional and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge to work.


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