Inside Knowledge Magazine /Knowledge Management Magazine Archive
Volume 14 Issue 1
The customer is always connected
Way back when frown lines and Tupperware weren’t on my radar, I remember organising my first holiday abroad as an adult. Everything was done in the real world. I spent far too much of my time sat in front of someone with a perma-tan and a mega-watt smile, pawing through shiny brochures. And if anyone had mentioned online check-in, I would probably have spent a few minutes looking for a floor marking to stand on.
Of course, it’s so much easier now. And that’s a great thing. With a few clicks, we can select and book our destination, obtain a map to our accommodation and peruse the local restaurants.
Then there’s pre-ordered currency, which is all about ease and efficiency. I recommended this to my friend ahead of a recent trip, then cringed in embarrassment a few days later, when the agency helped itself to £700 of his hard-earned cash, despite having flashed up an error message saying his card transaction couldn’t be processed. No euros have exchanged hands thus far and he has spent a few thankless hours on the phone, trying to prove that something has gone wrong – and being passed from pillar to post.
Mistakes do happen, but will the agency investigate this one, or will it just happen again? Is there a knowledge repository full of lessons learned; perhaps a checklist of action points for when a customer registers a complaint? Or, maybe a list of experts who know how to trace the transaction and resolve the issue as efficiently as possible. My friend isn’t annoyed yet, but he is twitching – and will probably not use the same organisation in the future.
With all this talk of tweeting, blogging, publishing, collaborating and breathing through the medium of web 2.0 (all undeniably fantastic), it’s easy to forget that while KM has evolved and extended its reach to the masses, it is fundamentally about making our organisations leaner, faster and more profitable.
Yes, we are sharing so much more information at work, but it all serves the same purpose in the end – client satisfaction. Doesn’t it? The most tuned-in, transparent and innovative business is still going to fail if it doesn’t shift its products and entice people back for more. So, that means taking control of the supply chain and business processes.
Heineken has been using KM in its many different guises to streamline its supply chain – from the malting of the barley, through to the pop of the ring pull – for many years. It has reacted to its market at various points along the way, to ensure that it remains on top if its game. As a result, it is one of the most successful companies of its kind in the world. Cheers to that! You can read about its knowledge journey on page 27.
If you have a story that you would like to share you can contact me at the usual address, email@example.com. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the magazine.
Case study: The Hunterian Museum
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London is a free public museum that houses the collection of the eighteenth-century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter FRS (1728-1793). Forming the centrepiece of the museum, the collection is stunningly presented in eight floor-to-ceiling glass vitrines. These contain human and animal anatomical and pathological remains, skeletons, wet preparations in jars and dried and preserved tissue. The collection is testament to the skill and dedication of Hunter and his efforts to improve our knowledge and understanding of the structure and function of the human body, and how it is affected by injury and disease.
Case study: Pfizer
Pfizer, the worlds largest research-based pharmaceutical company, spends in excess of $7bn annually on research and development (R&D) across 11 therapeutic areas in research centres across the globe. Within each therapeutic area are a number of separate projects, each working to identify new medicines to treat a specific condition or disease. The people working on each project come from different disciplines (for example, chemistry, biology, clinical, safety), may be members of more than one project and may move between projects depending upon their skills and the requirements of the project. This results in a complex, ever-changing matrix of individuals, who may not even be co-located at one site but who all need to share information to drive decisions
Case study: Heineken
For many, the word Heineken will immediately conjure up images of a nice refreshing beer. Its core brand and its company in fact, family name are well established in the international beer-brewing industry. Heineken owns a global network of distributors and breweries and is currently one of the worlds leading brewers in terms of sales volume and profitability. Its principal international brands are Heineken and Amstel, but the group brews and sells more than 170 international premium, regional, local and specialty beers and ciders. Currently, the company employs more than 70,000 people in more than 65 countries around the world.
The need to capture critical knowledge gained at key points throughout the supply chain has been recognised at Heineken for more than ten years. This encompasses all business processes from the malting of barley and the brewing and packaging of beer, to the storage and distribution of the end product, including all quality and process control procedures.
Out of the sidings: Part II
Arup and MTR Corporation have collaborated to design and implement a world-class knowledge and information management (K&IM) programme in the Projects Division (the Division) to aid Hong Kongs multi-project railway expansion programme. With 12 months from concept to reality and now 14 months in use, the programme is embedded in the organisations workflow and is proving itself as a valuable tool for the Division to meet its objective of excellence in project management.
Last months article set out the business imperatives for knowledge management (KM) and focused on establishing the vision, developing the requirements, and building early buy-in. This article looks at encouraging participation and collaboration.
Readers working on similar programmes will hopefully benefit from our approach to the building of active communities of practice (CoPs) and establishing knowledge sharing as part of an organisations culture.
The Gurteen perspective
I have just come across a knowledge management (KM) tool that I had not heard of before, despite it being around for ten years or more.
I have not read about it in any KM book or blog, or heard it talked about it in a conference. But it is one of the most powerful, exciting tools I have come across. It comes from the international development world and is called positive deviance (PD).
PD is an approach to behavioural and social change based on the observation that in every community there are individuals or groups (so-called positive deviants) whose behaviours and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers even though they have access to the same resources and face similar challenges.
Rethinking the knowledge lifecycle
Over the past year Ive spent a lot of time studying social movements as part of my continuing quest for novel approaches to better understanding (and branding) of knowledge management (KM). Blessedly, my time feels well spent since the field has been a wellspring of inspiration. During my research I came across a white paper, The Four Stages of Social Movements, written by Jonathan Christiansen in 2009. This had me thinking about or, rather, re-thinking the KM lifecycle.
Although I am quite familiar with traditional knowledge lifecycle models, which illustrate some variation of the identify-capture-organise-disseminate process, these have always seemed to be more about knowledge and less about KM.
Have you ever been given a pot of homemade jam? (Thats jelly, for our US readers). Perhaps you won some as a prize on the tombola stall at a school fair, while secretly hoping for the Champagne?
It usually comes in a recycled jar, carefully labelled by hand often in the spidery handwriting of somebody elses Aunt Agatha. If youre anything like me, youll smile dutifully, and put it away in the dark corner of a kitchen cupboard for a few years. One day youll rediscover it, and put it straight into the bin (or, if youre unscrupulous, offer it to the tombola stall at the next school fair).
The trouble is, I dont know Aunt Agatha. Im sure shes a very nice lady, who thought she was doing a wonderful job of preserving those blackcurrants for the future. However, I have no idea about her jam-making prowess, whether she thoroughly checked the ingredients for bugs or mould or whether Ill reach the bottom of the jar and discover her false teeth.