Improving work culture with knowledge management

Snapshot

Knowledge Management — which incorporates the policies, guidelines, processes, tools, and culture needed to effectively implement change and realize an organization’s goals — is a deep-rooted aspect of any large organization. It can be easily confused with related yet distinct elements such as Document Management, learning, and support documentation. It is oftentimes difficult to define concisely and looks different in every organization.

A large global nonprofit organization was experiencing difficulty getting all of its employees, some of whom had been there for decades, on the same Knowledge Management page. Kalles Group experts helped determine “easy wins” — simple, decisive changes that could bring value immediately — and advised on more complex issues requiring flexibility and behavioral change.

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Challenge

A complex Knowledge Management journey begins with discovery

During a period of change, the client experienced issues with maintaining consistent best practices in finding important documents and onboarding new hires. It became apparent that a Knowledge Management overhaul was necessary to continue meeting strategic objectives and to successfully navigate current and future changes.

What was not clear, however, was where to begin. Some things were obvious quick fixes, but others required the ability to adapt to what resonated with individual people and their unique realities at the organization. In the discovery phase, Kalles Group dove deep into the organizational practices and methods around documentation and rooted out ways to make these more efficient and agreeable to everyone.

The nonprofit’s Knowledge Management weaknesses were particularly impacting the new hire onboarding process. Employees who were just starting out were confronted with a wide variety of perspectives on how to name documents, search for documents effectively, and perform day-to-day productivity tasks — and these perspectives typically depended on how long a person had been with the organization. Things had been changing over the years, but some long-term employees still did things the way they first learned them 5, 10, or 20 years ago.

 

Knowledge Management is more than just standardization — it’s a cultural shift

With information in so many different places and “best practices” meaning different things to different people, the KG team saw a need to standardize things going forward. But Kalles Group went a step further and helped the organization bolster its best practices with behavioral change. Employees needed to view Knowledge Management as an integral (and useful) part of their work as opposed to a burdensome add-on.

Essentially, the KG team was looking to create a cultural shift around Document Management within the organization. Document Management is often thought of as an “extra” task that adds more frustration to an already busy workday. However, this mode of thinking indicates that a team or individual is approaching it the wrong way. When done correctly, Document Management makes work go more smoothly for everyone, and it helps people get out of their own way. This was the perspective Kalles Group sought to instill in the organization’s employees.

Driving behavioral change is tricky because there is often no single, rigid standard that will quickly cover everyone’s needs and preferences. Even for something as fundamental as document naming conventions, different teams will have a different approach for their own specific (and quite valid) reasons. In these cases, it was necessary to approach the situation with flexibility and gain insight into the realities contributing to each team’s preferred protocol.

 

Approach

Making learning accessible through user personas and a variety of resources

To ensure that every team had a clear understanding of the best practices around the technologies used at the organization, Kalles Group consultants took a hands-on approach to moderation, facilitation, and coaching. Learning was a central component of the pilot, with a goal to help all staff members: 1) get the full value from the productivity and collaboration tools and resources they worked with on a daily basis, and 2) adhere to established Document Management best practices.

The pilot team defined use cases and personas to represent various employee roles. These informed the creation of learning resources, quick start guides, weekly trainings, office hours, and other tech learning resources, and they helped guide the technical teams in rolling out new technologies and processes. KG consultants regularly met with stakeholders to ensure that their virtual and hybrid experiences were seamless, inclusive, and intuitive.

 

Designating “champions” to garner robust participation in learning paths

Within the pilot, the KG team established what they refer to as “champions” — knowledge stakeholders who are especially serious about the work and willing to hold their teams accountable for staying on track.The success of the pilot depended on everyone’s participation, so the Kalles Group kept an eye on progress, involvement, and engagement to make sure everyone was on board.

When the consultants noticed that attendance was petering out, they sought feedback as to why. It turned out that people were indeed interested in joining the training sessions, but they were just too busy. In response, Kalles Group rolled out shorter “try-it sessions” in which the organization staff members could get a short demo and practice in just 25 minutes instead of nearly an hour for typical training sessions.

Regular feedback was the fuel that kept the pilot going strong. Kalles Group encouraged everyone at the organization to share their input and help inform next steps. Thanks to regular touchpoints with leadership, the KG team was able to stay on the right path and hit the right marks.

 

Identifying “easy wins” and approaching tougher problems with flexibility

Kalles Group determined a few areas where things could be easily standardized without much debate. One of these was approved storage locations. However, most issues did not lead to a simple, globally applicable solution. In these cases, the KG team provided guidelines and let people adapt them to their own needs.

An example of a flexible solution was with document naming conventions. It was unworkable to tell everyone exactly what to name their files, since different teams do different types of work and create different types of files. However, the consultants were able to offer illustrative examples of workable file naming protocols and build best practices around those. By considering each employee’s experience and how the organization operates, Kalles Group helped the teams make their naming practices more consistent.

 

Results

Consistency in best practices shores up the organization’s ability to navigate change

Knowledge Management and change management are closely related, as an organization’s people need to trust that their learning resources will flatten the learning curve for new policies, guidelines, processes, tools, and culture. With Kalles Group’s guidance, the client has fortified its organizational fabric against the impact of new technologies and new ways of collaborating.

Kalles Group’s adaptive approach has been instrumental in the success of this complex, sweeping project. By placing a premium on regular feedback and high participation, the KG team ensured staff preparedness and stayed on track with the organization’s evolving business goals.

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