- A Business Practice Design Example
Rick Dove, Paradigm Shift International, www.parshift.com,
|Don Dauterman, President of
Durametal in Portland, OR, emailed me after reading our
column on Managing Core Competency Knowledge (Dec '97). They sell specialty
niche-market metal castings. Tricky stuff. They have a
few wizards that easily fashion a part-design and process
solution to a unique customer need, but they can't spread
these guys around enough. So they want to capture this
deep process insight and give it to the rest of their
customer engineers. Don's been told that the solution
comes in a box of software - knowledge management
software - that knowledge management belongs to the
Information Technology department. After all, knowledge
management is just an extension of information
He doesn't feel comfortable with that assessment, however, and neither do I. The dialog is in the February Guest Speaker section at www.parshift.com, so we won't repeat it in this limited space. But we recognize that the Information Technology solution to knowledge management is seducing many unwitting (or maybe just lazy) people today.
Don't get me wrong - technology is a good knowledge management answer sometimes; but not in Durametal's case, and not in the case we've been dealing with here - both are about creative competency - and competency is more than a bucket of knowledge - it is the insight to apply the knowledge effectively.
These last few columns have been designing a core-competency renewal and training system to a set of specifications that surfaced in a workshop last year at GM's Pittsburgh plant - which has unique competency at small-lot, high variety metal fabrication. This plant wants to infect a broad cross section of employees with the unconscious competency of a few.
Like a soap opera, we're in the middle of a continuing story. If you've just tuned in some of the context won't be evident, especially since we are now going to justify the design of seven business practice activities we detailed last time (Feb '98). The library at www.parshift.com will fill in the blanks for you.
Questions: Do the proposed activities actually address the issues we are concerned with? Are any of them superfluous? Are they sufficient to dispatch all the issues successfully? These questions must be answered for each of the 12 issues that constitute our design requirements specification - especially if we have to justify why an Information Technology software solution isn't adequate.
The accompanying table is a design tool that we use to relate the seven functional activities to the issues that they address, and to the RRS design principles (Feb '97) that they employ. For now we will focus on the issues only, and discuss the employment of RRS principles next time.
Capturing Hidden Tacit Knowledge - Like butterfly collectors, we don't want to put our captured specimens in a box, but rather display them side-by-side in a similar format so that their individual merits and uniqueness are immediately obvious. To this end a key activity is to package as metaphor models the knowledge we find. This local metaphor model display format (Oct '97) also channels the activity that analyzes a local case for principles into the tacit knowledge areas with explicit probing questions. The structured analysis process uses a template of eight change-issue areas and a template of 10 fundamental principles to probe for hidden tacit knowledge, and to help relate that tacit knowledge and its personal representation to common fundamental principles. The third contributing activity is the rotation of student and mentor roles. As a mentor you attempt to cast your tacit knowledge into communicable terms, and in the process develop an appreciation for what you don't know about what you know. As a student you develop and exercise a communication mechanism and vocabulary that helps you cast what you don't know into a coherent knowledge representation. A few times around the loop and you have highly mobile insight patterns.
Creating Student Interest and Value - This issue is hit square on the head with the activity to establish personal values, the lead-off exercise for every workshop. The principle-based correlation shown in the accompanying table is readily seen in the last essay's considerable attention to this activity (Feb '98).
other activities play important roles here as well. Having to design a
business practice arouses interest in people impacted
by that practice, and gets a ho hum from people only
indirectly affected. Similarly, choosing which case will
be used when you analyze an external case for ideas lets
you put your time where your interests lie. Passionate
minds will do a much better job of analysis and design,
but more importantly, they will do a better job of
learning. If the company is faced with a
pressing problem that the next workshop must deal with,
then populate that workshop with people who care about
that problem. If other students are waiting in the wings,
run them in a parallel workshop. Let the workshop group
decide from among management suggestions as well as their
own candidates which problem to attack and what external
cases look interesting. Remember, going to the movies is
always enjoyable when you get to pick the movie - but if
your dragged off to someone else's choice its often just
that - a drag.
Competency is more than a bucket of knowledge - it is the insight to apply knowledge effectively
Accuracy - Three of the seven activities contribute
to this issue. When the group analyzes a local case
for principles it may well be a case that has been
analyzed in that past - producing different and more
learned perspectives with time. Rotating student and
mentor roles on a re-analysis brings different depths
of insight to bear as well. And of course the QA
committee plays a vital role here in its review and
selection for quality of all results.
©1998 RKDove - Attributed Copies Permitted
Essay #039 - Originally Published 3/98 in Automotive Manufacturing & Production, Gardner Publications