Author: Yogi Schulz
You encourage knowledge sharing publicly but privately you’re disappointed by the results to-date. Is it time to throw in the towel? Likely not.
You overcame your initial skepticism about the value that knowledge sharing can deliver to your organization. You made prudent investments in supporting technology and you improved your data management practices. The few minor successes that you attribute to your knowledge sharing initiative have left you frustrated.
Now what? Here are a few low-cost ideas that you can quickly implement to strengthen your knowledge sharing initiative and achieve the value you’re not seeing.
Improve information accessibility
How easy is it for your staff to find the information when they need it? You’ve probably installed a product like SharePoint Portal Server to make it easier to share knowledge. Sometimes the missing ingredient is that the scope of the information visible is only a fraction of the available resources. Sometimes the impediment to value is a loss of discipline in keeping the visible content current. Both problems are easy to fix with a little management attention.
Provide time for unstructured interaction
In the pressure to do more with less, was the opportunity for unstructured interaction among staff an early victim? However, the companies that are making the time are making strides in their industry. One of our clients recently took a team on a field trip. Renting the bus and buying lunch was cheap and easy. The unstructured interaction both on the bus and off was invaluable. Sometimes deploying a tool like MSN Messenger widely is enough to foster knowledge sharing.
Use the Tools you Have
Is your staff making use of Microsoft Office for knowledge sharing? Many organizations are using only a fraction of the functionality they’re paying for. For example, the Shared Workspace and Track Changes features of Word make it easy for teams to collaborate on tasks like design and proposal development. The Insert Hyperlink feature of Outlook makes it easy to avoid generating multiple versions of documents and then losing version control. This feature also avoids cluttering up Exchange Server with many copies of useless documents.
Does your staff believe they are recognized for their knowledge sharing contributions? Behaviors that we don’t recognize will fade away. Perhaps a hokey award like a plastic banana peel trophy for the most unusual idea of the quarter will generate the smiles that will strengthen your organization’s culture. Another idea is to formally list knowledge sharing contributions as part of the annual review process or the bonus calculation formula.
Skill and experience profiles
Does your staff have a good sense of what the skills and experiences of others are? Typically staff is only familiar with the capabilities within their immediate group. A client in the energy industry was able to bring world-wide talent to bear on a drilling problem. This knowledge sharing turned a looming multi-million dollar disaster into a profitable producing well. Building and maintaining individual skill profiles is an inexpensive activity that can bring large benefits.
Knowledge sharing, like other business functions, relies on enabling technology. Once the technology is in place, the value achieved from knowledge sharing is directly related to the reinforcing leadership behaviors that management exhibits.
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Basex’s report is available at http://store.yahoo.com/bsx/msftcollab.html
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Microsoft’s Retail Partner team sought to create a secure extranet site that would make Microsoft’s vast amount of product marketing information more readily accessible to their product resellers. To accomplish this goal, Saltmine developed custom VBScripts, which draw data from different sources and update the database nightly. The site has been so successful that we have leveraged its data to develop localized Retail Partner Web sites and product-specific sites, such as the Xbox Partner site.
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