Knowledge Management Site


One of the challenges organizations face is workers’ reluctance to share knowledge. This reluctance is fostered by the belief that retaining knowledge increases a person’s value to the organization. Another common reason for not sharing knowledge stems from personal issues such as insecurity. At times, organizations are also to blame. They create an environment of secrecy and a closed work atmosphere. In such situations, employees feel that if they share any work-related knowledge, they might hamper their job security.

In this Discussion, you will analyze ways and reasons that will help increase knowledge sharing among employees.

Based on your reading for this week, answer the following questions:


1. What role does leadership play in creating an environment that supports knowledge sharing?
2. Which tools may be used to encourage workers to share knowledge? 

With these thoughts in mind: 

Due by Thursday March 17, 2016 a 300-400 responsethat expresses your thoughts.

Practical Knowledge Management from Leading and Learning Organizations

In this chapter:

• A simple process for continuous improvement.

• Why learning whilst doing is at the heart of a knowledge culture.

• How to introduce the discipline of reflection and learning.

• Who should participate.

Lessons from Lara Croft

ave you ever watched a child playing a video game and marvelled at how fast they learn? I find myself doing exactly that with my nine-year-old nephew, Simon. I

watch transfixed as he weaves an impossible path through a j ungle or labyrinth, cheating death by stopping exactly at the edge of each precipice, knowing exactly how far, when to jump, what to jump on and where all the bonus energy jewels and poison potions lie.

Perhaps this is all easier that it looks. ‘Your turn uncle Chris!’

There goes my reputation for being the cool uncle – seventeen seconds of running, some of it backwards, and then straight down over the edge of the first canyon.

I

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So how do they do it? I spend a fair proportion of my life work- ing at a computer – I was doing it before Simon was born; yet I’m the one who appears totally inept with JungleRaider Ill, or whatever it was …

How children learn continuously

It wasn’t until I watched Simon tackle level sev- enty-eight (it was a long game!) – the one that he’d never tackled before, that things became clearer.

‘That wasn’t supposed to happen’ … ‘What if I try this?’ … ‘There was a jewel here in the last level’ … ‘Supposing I jump up here – oops. OK, up there then. Yeesssss!’

Once he was in new territory, he switched from remembering the right sequence, to learning. Continuously learning, doing, testing, checking, learning some more, until he cracked the challenge, and then onto the next level.

The challenge for business world

That’s the behaviour that is so often missing in business. People are happy enough to remem- ber the right sequence – to know the rules of the game. People are happy to work on an

important project, and not ‘come up for air’ until the projec close -out. Sometimes, they need to be able to learn quickly. and adapt in order to improve. It’s not good enough to wait for the end of the project for the review to draw out the lessons learned, something needs to change now. Wouldn’t it be grea· if that sort of learning was routine in your organization?

Learning from the US Army -the After Action Review

For many years, the US Army has been applyi..: a short, sharp process known as an ‘After Actior Review’ (AAR) to improve their ability to learn ;~ the midst of action and improve teamworking One of the main drivers for this was their experi- ences in the Vietnam conflict.

At the peak of the conflict, it became apparent that foot soldie. _ in the field had far more knowledge about what was going

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~ an headquarters. AARs were introduced to pass timely, relevant earning within and between teams of soldiers at times when aiting for a full evaluation report would mean waiting too long .

..,..o quote from the US Army handbook: A Leader’s Guide to After ction Reviews, which is readily accessible on the Internet:

An after-action review (AAR) is a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards, that enables soldiers to discover for themselves what happened, why i t happened, and how to sustain strengths and improve on weak-

nesses. It is a tool leaders and units can use to get maximum benefit from every mission or task. It provides:

• candid insights into specific soldier, leader, and unit strengths and weaknesses from various perspectives;

• feedback and insight critical to battle-focused training;

and • details often lacking in evaluation repo r ts alone.

hen do you hold an AAR7

common misconception regarding AARs is that – ey should only be carried out at the end of a “ormal project or discrete piece of work. This is ot the case. AARs are actually designed to aid

· eam and individual learning during the work rocess and can be conducted after any identi –

-able event. An event can be either an entire small action or a ~iscrete part of a larger action e.g. a shift handover, a project lanning meeting, a key meeting or a visit to a community.

::lerhaps you have recently commissioned for market research , r secured an important contract?

erhaps you have just completed a series of interviews for a ew recruit?

~ ents suitable for AARs simply have a beginning and an end, an entifiable purpose and some metrics on which performance can

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be measured (for learning after the project is complete, see Chap- ter 9 ‘Learning After Doing’).

How do AARs work?

AARs are a simple way for individuals and teams to learn imme- diately, from both successes and failures, regardless of the length of the task in question. The learning is by the team, for the team. The format is very simple and quick- its a ‘pencil and paper’ or flip chart exercise. In an open and honest meeting ,

usually no longer than twenty minutes, each Four simple questions I participant in the event answers four simple

questions:

• What was supposed to happen?

• What actually happened?

• Why were there differences?

• What can we learn from that?

Team learning, and building trust, and team integrity are equal objectives of the process. Our experience was that the simplic- ity of the process and the low time requirements were key to its acceptance. To quote from a supervisor at Toledo Refine ry in Ohio:

‘Therejlre times when you think “we don’t have time to do this”, then you do it and you think, “we don’t have time not to do this.”‘

What a fantastic quote! We often struggle to break into peoples ‘ routines when we introduce new initiatives, processes and ways of working because the burden is simply too great.

Let’s try something before we go any further in this chapter.

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Take a few minutes and reflect on something that you did yesterday. Can you imagine it? Can you remember what was said? How did you feel?

Now answer the four AAR questions:

• What was supposed to happen?

• What actually happened?

• Why were there differences?

• What can you learn from this?

What does that tell you about what you could do differently tomorrow?

That is what you can get from a small amount of personal reflec- ion. Just imagine what a team could achieve by taking time out

t o reflect similarly on what they have achieved.

AARs are simple to remember and simple to use. Because of this ease of use, they became quickly adopted and implemented by operations staff at several different parts of our business. We used the following guidelines when introducing AARs to BP.

1 Hold the AAR immediately

AARs are carried out immediately whilst all of the participants are still available, and their memories are fresh. Learning can then be applied right away, even on the next day.

In BP Vietnam, AARs were held immediately after every meeting with the Vietnamese authorities, as a means of building up knowl- edge of the negotiation process.

Reflect on what happened whilst the memories are fresh

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‘Each team had a fifteen minute debrief using the AAR format, after each discussion with the government. This was a very powerful tool within the team. They could look back at what they did, and change what they doing the next day.’

Bruce MacFarlane

Try and plan the AAR to fall within the allotted time for the event, so it doesn’t appear as an add-on. Include it in the agenda of a meeting, rather than introducing it as an afterthought.

2 Create the right cl imate

The ideal climate for an AAR to be successful is one of openness and commitment to learning. AARs are learning events rathe r than critiques. They certainly should not be treated as personal performance evaluation.

There can only be one poor performer in an AAR: the one who is not candid about both things that went well and things that

did not. ——. ‘Pin your stripes to the door’ I Everyone in the event participates, and every-

one is on equal footing. The US Army describe a notion of ‘pinning your stripes to the door’

– that is, everyone’s view is equal – and within the construct of the AAR process, junior soldiers feel completely free to comment on and challenge the actions and instructions of senior staff.

This openness is seen as a vital part of the process of building team integrity. For this team integrity to flourish, there should no spectators, no management oversight – just participants who have earned their right to comment by being part of the action.

3 Appoint a facil itator

The facilitator of an AAR is not there to ‘have’ answers, but to help the team to ‘learn’ answers . People must be drawn ou t .

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both for their own learning and the group’s learning. What you are trying to get to, is what the army call ‘ground truth’ and a facilitator should be able to guide the team to this point – navigating towards some of the unspoken issues.

Facilitation is an important role for drawing out the learning

Sometimes, however, a facilitator is needed to set the climate of the meeting. The facilitator ensures the meeting is open and that blame is not brought in. He/she must also make sure the process is quick and simple, and owned by the participants. One of the key success factors in the AARs is that everyone has a chance to speak.

The following quote illustrates the power of this factor when working with a multicultural team:

‘Generally the British are the only ones to speak, so facili- tation of the AAR is crucial. I made them answer the AAR questions round the table. You have to try and make the team leader shut up! I got a Vietnamese or a Norwegian to answer the questions first. Obviously I couldn’t facilitate all of the meetings, so I excused myself from the process. I said “AARs are for the people in the team , I am here to facilitate the conversation”. I turned up to the AAR, and made sure the person leading the AAR was not the team leader. Then I pushed my chair as far back as I could, but ensured everyone had their say.’

Bruce MacFarlane

4 What was supposed to happen?

AA Rs are very straightforward. The facilitator starts by dividing he event into discrete activities, each of which had (or should ave had) an identifiable objective and plan of action. The dis-

cussion begins with the first activity: ‘what was supposed to appen?’ An important discussion follows until all have shared

~heir understanding of what was actually supposed to happen.

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This is often the most revealing part of the process. Unless there was a clear, well-communicated and unambiguous objective and plan, then it is likely that different members of the team have different understandings of what was supposed to happen. In this event, a successful outcome is unlikely.

Facilitator’s notes: try asking people to quickly write down their own personal understanding of what was supposed to happen on a scrap of paper. After a couple of minutes ask them to read it back to the group .

The question ‘what was supposed to happen?’ should be equiva- lent to ‘what were the objectives of the activity?’ For exam- ple, when reviewing a team meeting, ‘what was supposed to happen?’ may be better treated as ‘to decide, and gain team buy-in, to the 2001 strategy’, than dwelling on details such as ‘we were supposed to start at 8.30, take a 15 minute break fo r coffee’ etc.

5 What actually happened?

Understand the facts – not the opinions – about what really happened

This means the team must understand facts about what happened – the US Army refer to this as ‘ground truth’. Nothing sobers an exag- gerated view of an event more than one’s own words or actions played back for all to see an d hear. Remember, though, that ‘ground truth’ is there to identify a problem not a culprit.

Facilitator’s notes: this part of the process is vital and can be contentious at times, as people move from theory into reali ty – don’t rush it. Sometimes people will dwell on the mundane aspects of an event when there may be a deeper underlying issue that they find difficult to talk about as a team. If yo can encourage one person to make a more personal disclosure about how they felt rather than simply what happened, it ca have the effect of ‘unblocking’ the process, allowing more oper exchange to occur. These first two questions establish the fac ts.

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challenge people if they start moving on to opinions, ask them to save them for the later questions.

6 Now compare the plan with reality

The real learning begins as the team compares the plan to what actually happened in reality and determines, ‘why were there differences?’ and ‘what can we learn?’ Typically, the responses to these two questions blur, but ensure all the major differences are expressed. Successes and shortfalls are identified and discussed. Action plans are then put in place to sustain the successes and o improve upon the shortfalls. We have used these after train-

ing courses and the learning is much richer than from a series of i ndividual evaluation sheets. People learn something from the differences in perspectives of the others in the group.

Facilitator’s notes: try asking people to quickly Set in place some write down one key learning for themselves to actions to embed what take away from the meeting. Often the act of has been learned writing it down will help the participants focus on what’s important and memorize the learning fo r future events. It may be necessary to question quite deeply during this section, repeating the question ‘why was this?’ in order to get to the underlying reasons.

7 Recording an AAR

ecording the key elements of an AAR clarifies what happened an d compares it to what was supposed to happen. It facilitates sharing of learning experiences within the team and provides the ::>asis for a broader learning programme in the organization.

AA Rs generate summaries of learning points, which can have igh value for the team. That value is often specific to the team

·n the particular context of the event being reviewed, hence in ur experience, AARs are not shared widely – they are primarily earning for the team.

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It is useful to capture a record of the AAR points and agree,- actions to remind the team of the lessons that were identified . – typical example of this is a two-day meeting or workshop. At ti’e close of day one, a participant conducts a fifteen-minute AAR ~­ the outcomes of that day, and the learning points are capturec on a flip chart. At the start of the second day, this flip chart is referred to by the team as a reminder, enabling them to buil the lessons of the previous day into their current activity.

Facilitator’s notes: the reality is that in most organization there is a reluctance to share lessons beyond the immedia te team, but there is a willingness to share the corrective actions taken. The key learning points from an AAR are valuable because they are timely – they represent things as they are today, rather than as the product of an audit report. For this reason, it is always worth asking the question: ‘is there anyone else wit whom we could share what we’ve learned.’

Power comes from simplicity

In introducing AARs to parts of BP, people were repeatedly struck by the simplicity of the four questions, and the fact that the US Army had institutionalized the process so effectively. One memorable photograph showed soldiers conducting an AAR (com- plete with flip charts!) in the jungle after a day’s action. What

AARs any time, any place, anywhere …

possible excuse could a refinery operator or a team leader have for not creating the space fo r an AAR? Mitch Bowman from Toledo, Ohio is one such leader who rapidly saw the relevance of AARs to his refinery operations:

‘This process saves a lot of money, big money. A lot of times guys see problems coming before the supervisors. And many won’t say anything because it’s not their job and no one asks. So the problems happen – there is downtime, big losses. The AAR lets those things come out, ahead of time, just because you’re asking.’

Mitch Bowman

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‘ Just because you ‘ re asking’ – that is the key point. AARs create the space – just fifteen minutes of it- to ask the key questions.

On e of the most powerful examples of After Action Reviews aving an impact was in the construction of over one hundred

retail sites- petrol filling stations- across Europe in 1997. BP worked with its contracting partner Bovis on this major project, and Bovis applied the AAR process after each activity. For exam-

le, pouring in the concrete foundations or setting up the pumps. These AARs captured timely lessons that could be applied imme- diately to the next retail site. By the time the construction pro- gramme was completed, Bovis acknowledged that learning tools ike AARs had helped to reduce service station build time by two eeks and reduce the cost by five per cent.

The benefits – faster -o make the army’s learning philosophy more delivery and reduced :an gible, we enlisted the help of retired US costs

r my Colonel, Ed Guthrie. There are times ‘———–‘ . hen the tacit knowledge bound up in a prac- ‘t ioner is far more valuable than any number of written facilita-

-ors guides, so we tracked down the ‘real McCoy’.

Colonel Ed flew with us to several BP sites around the world and captured the imagination of even the most sceptical of engineers wi th his colourful war stories.

Would you like to hear Coi.Guthrie for yourself? Check out the CD for a video clip of ‘Real McCoy’ Ed describing the After Action Review process first hand.

What struck home most to Keith, a member of th e team who accompanied Ed to Scotland, was AARs as a personal he sense of incompleteness that Ed felt if he learning tools adn’t conducted a personal AAR on his day’s

activities. Before the plane had left Edinburgh airport, Ed already had already produced a scrap of paper and started to ask those four important questions.

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Although BP hasn’t embedded After Action Reviews to the same extent as the army, they are widely used across their activities. Whether a refinery operations team, an internal workshop, or a meeting with contractors- every day, somewhere in the company those four questions are being asked.

• What was supposed to happen?

• What actually happened?

• Why was there a difference?

• What can we learn from that?

An After Action Review programme at the Debswana’s Jwaneng diamond mine

Here’s how AARs were applied to diamond mining recounted by lan Corbett of De Beers and Nick Milton of Knoco Ltd.

AARs are a girl’s best friend!

‘Jwaneng, in Botswana, is the location of the richest diamond mine in the world. This single mine, operated by Debswana, a partnership

between De Beers and the Government of Bot-

swana, produces nearly a fifth of the world’s diamond supply, and diamonds from Jwaneng and its three sister mines pro-

vides three quarters of the export earnings for Botswana. Both for De Beers and for Botswana (as well as for the buyers of engagement rings the world over) it is vital to keep this mine in production!

Part of the extraction process for diamonds involves passing

the crushed rock over some screens for washing the rock and

separating into different sizes. There are eight such screens at Jwaneng dense medium separation plant. These screens needed to be upgraded to double deck screens as part of the ongoing optimization process to improve processing capabili-

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ties. While they are being replaced, production throughput is reduced, and that means a loss of revenue as there are no diamonds coming through part of the circuit. So it is very important to be able to change the screens quickly and effec- tively.

In 2002, Debswana were in the early stages of introducing knowledge management. One of the tools they wished to try was the After Action Review. At first sight, the AAR looked almost too simple to be serious! But the ease of application appealed to the management team as a good place to start. Jwaneng was just coming up to a major screen change in the

dense medium separation plant. A local KM team saw this as a good opportunity to try AARs. So after the first double-deck screen had been changed they brought together the client base, the contractors, and their own team, and they held an After Action Review.

The first screen change took 190 hours, but by capturing the lessons on how to do it better, and applying these lessons to

the next screen, they were able to change i t in 70 hours. The team were able to hold that performance for the next seven screens, and the collective value of the diamond production they otherwise would have lost was in the region of $1 mil- lion. It was a dramatic result, and not just in monetary terms.

While the mine was very pleased with the financial impact of the AARs, management saw the positive impact on the hearts

and minds of the team as being equally beneficial. The people were suddenly more engaged, energized, and lots of ideas

began for flow. Suddenly lots of people were not only looking for opportunities to improve performance but also seeking ways to apply knowledge management in different aspects of their work.

By Nick Milton and /an Corbett

Let’s move on from the diamond mines of South Africa to the relief and support operations of int ernational aid agency, Tear- fund.

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Learning Reviews in Tearfund

Learning Reviews are the most established tool for capturing knowledge at Tearfund, and have become a part of the culture through their simplicity and immediacy. Astrid Foxen, who heads up knowledge management, takes up the story:

‘We started in one of the operational areas of Tearfund looking at the way we respond in a disaster situation. In 1998 floods hit Bangladesh and we asked the desk officer in our Asia team responsible for Tearfund’s response to undertake a learning review with the key stakeholders. The next time a flood situa- tion occurred in Orissa, India, the lessons learnt in Bangladesh

were used to improve our response. It was important to try it in an area where the results of the review could be quickly seen.’

Learning Reviews at Tearfund cover a wide spectrum of events, ranging from an informal five minutes at the end of a team meet- ing to a formal all-day meeting. The simplicity of the ‘What went well?’ and ‘What could have gone better?’ questions mean that it is easily adaptable, and can be as quick or as long as you need to make it. Informal learning reviews are usually held within a team or cross organizational project team, usually at the end of a team meeting, and are facilitated by the team leader or a delegated member of the team. Formal Learning Reviews are distinct meetings with all the key participants of the event being reviewed. They are facilitated by a trained internal facilitator and a scribe, to ensure that all formal reviews have a written outout that is held on the intranet.

Check the CD for an example ofTearfund’s ‘Learning Review’ template.

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Astrid continues:

‘Staff are usually willing to participate in a learning review, and

are able to see the benefit for their team and the organization,

and also for themselves of sharing their learning and knowledge – it’s one of our organizational values. When we started out it was at the suggestion of a member of the KM project team. The trigger is now the enthusiasm of our staff, and the belief in the effectiveness of the process of the event owner. ‘

Lessons from BP, Tearfund and De Beers

• These are simple to do and quick to get results. The small time commitment can make AARs an ‘easy sell’. They are common sense but not common practice.

• Look at the areas of your organization, and try out an AAR in areas where an activity is often repeated and where the benefit can be seen very clearly and quickly.

• The reflecting and learning together is more powerful than individual learning, it impacts hearts and minds and it builds high performing teams.

• As a facilitator, encourage and support team leaders- both as active listeners and leaders of reviews.

• Pro-formas and templates can help in the transfer of the methodology. It keeps people on track.

• What you learn and apply next time is valuable already, but think about how you are going to share the learning and knowledge gained through the reviews with others. This will not only leverage the benefits but is a positive advertise- ment for knowledge management.

• The discipline of always doing AARs pays big dividends. It is a powerful method of continuous improvement.

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Of all the learning tools mentioned in this book, in our experi- ence, AARs are the easiest tool to introduce. Because of this , they are a great place to start (See Chapter 5, Getting Started – Just Do It, p. 68), if you’re looking for an entry point to intro- duce knowledge management to your organization .

But what about a tool to help reflection after a larger piece of work or a substantial project? Turn to the next chapter, Learning After Doing, When It’s All Over, to learn more about the retro- spect process.