posted 8 May 2003 in Volume 6 Issue 8
Five minutes with… Jaguar Cars
Jacquie Bran, project manager with the Knowledge Management events team, talks to Trevor Harkin, knowledge manager for Jaguar Cars, about his experiences implementing a knowledge-management programme incorporating a variety of diverse approaches and tools.
When and why did you first consider incorporating knowledge management?
Knowledge management has been a requirement for some time. We began with a demand for a knowledge repository and then a ‘book of knowledge’. Over the past decade, however, the emphasis has been on solutions with IT being the enabler. Our KM strategy is one of incremental change rather than outright transformation, and we have various examples of pilot programmes. For example, prior to officially launching our new portal we looked for volunteers to be pilot users. This gave employees the unique opportunity to get first-hand experience of using the portal and feed back their views; it was an extremely important and valuable exercise. No prior knowledge or experience of portals was required – in fact, the less knowledge pilot users had the better, as this enabled us to judge the success of the training material.
What have you done to encourage and promote knowledge sharing in your working environment and what barriers have you faced as a result?
We have a number of resources open to employees to share knowledge: these include e-rooms, the enterprise knowledge base, intranets, local drives, the content-management server, net meetings, portals and, in some cases, bespoke applications provided by the IT department. In order for employees to choose the most appropriate method to present information online to fellow employees, we developed the business-to-employee intranet toolkit, a self-service site that is now the first stop for employees looking for knowledge-sharing tool. By using a set of decision-making criteria the employee is directed to a certain tool; this then enables knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer.
Employees are encouraged to implement the correct level of security on each site, as sites in the product-development arena obviously contain sensitive and confidential information. The intranet pages and portals are all designed according to a company template, which aids navigation as users move from one site to another.
How did you progress to implementing an infrastructure to support KM and what changes were necessary to ensure its success?
We used tools that had already been developed and that employees were already familiar with. This helped us in keeping development costs to a minimum and also in reducing roll-out time. Training has been provided where applicable, either online or in a classroom setting.
What was the reaction of your workforce to changing working practices?
The reaction from those within the product-development community has been extremely positive. The culture within product development is one of continually learning so changes have been embraced. At each milestone in the product cycle, programme teams review learning from prior programmes and lessons learnt. This installed discipline and philosophy has eased the introduction of new working practices. Recently we also introduced measures of success (metrics) to monitor the effects of lessons learnt.
What are the main lessons learnt and are there any new milestones on the horizon?
The main lesson we have learnt is that our employees and company infrastructure are capable of supporting knowledge-management techniques, even though employees don’t tend to refer to them as such. We haven’t published an official company definition of KM, as we think this would be of limited value. The important thing is that knowledge is being shared. We do not need to pull every system under the knowledge-management umbrella; rather, we encourage collective working and collaboration at every level and aspect within the organisation. The secret of our success lies in transparency. It is important to understand that not all initiatives will have an immediate cost benefit; it may simply be improving relationships and communications between several parties or a reduction in product-development time.
One of the most common difficulties lies in providing a logical and intuitive structure to the variety of delivery methods that a knowledge-management programme incorporates. To understand the view from academia, we work closely with local universities to establish any new or fresh approaches to implementing KM. This also helps us to assess the impact felt by employees from various KM initiatives. In the longer term we need to understand the overall knowledge capability of our suppliers and how they are accumulating knowledge; this may in turn be one of the criteria for future supplier choice.
Trevor Harkin is knowledge manager for Jaguar Cars. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org