It happens over and over again. You roll out a slick new tool for collaborating and sharing knowledge. At first, everyone is fired up. People start posting questions and sharing information.
After a few months, even if you avoided the dreaded Peanut Butter ‘One Size Fits All’ approach before you rolled out the tool, it all fizzles out. You have to scroll through dozens of posts with variations of the same question, each one answered by different people instead of everyone improving one answer. Most of us don’t bother scrolling past the first page, even if really good and relevant information is hidden just beyond it. Soon the new tool joins the overcrowded virtual graveyard where poorly implemented but good ideas rest in permanent zombie-land. Not officially dead, but not showing any signs of vibrant life.
Why? In an organization, if it isn’t part of everyone’s job to validate or improve the information content they interact with, every subsequent person is doomed to waste time looking over inaccurate, incomplete or just plain wrong information. Addressing this inefficiency alone can gain your group 5-10% productivity.
Knowledge-sharing has to become part of everyone’s job.
Here’s the thing though. For knowledge-sharing to work, people have to want to share information, and it has to become a part of how they do their job, not something to be done later, by someone else. That’s the missing link.
To want to share information, you have to address the ‘What is in it for me’ from the perspective of each group of knowledge sharers. For the front-line customer facing team, this could be, “Why should I share information if all you are going to do is to eliminate or outsource my position?” It turns out that this is actually quite easy to answer. It is quite frustrating to ‘delight the customer’ while wrestling with outdated or incorrect information and trying to track down who knows what as you try to address the customer’s issue.
To make knowledge-sharing part of how people do their job, follow simple procedures. If you have to ask someone something that hasn’t been shared yet, jot it down in complete thoughts, not complete sentences, in a template others find useful. Make it available for others to use. (Don’t have a template? Download the free and very popular Klever Content Standard.)
Why would this work? Because the people who interact with the information you put in also follow simple procedures. If they see something that needs to be edited and improved, they do so immediately if they have the privileges. If they don’t, they jot down a note of how it could be improved from the point of view of the person receiving the information, and it gets flagged for the right person to update the information.
Tip: Worried about ‘wrong or incomplete information’ being given out? Think of the hundreds or thousands of interactions your customer-facing organization has every single day. Think of how many off-the-cuff variations of statements are made each and every time as people compensate for poor knowledge-sharing. With this simple technique, you can quickly converge to the collective wisdom of your organization. Errors are quickly squashed and everyone benefits.
Advanced tip: For sophisticated workflows, you can run rules off document states.
If all this sounds like it is easy to talk about but complicated to do, Klever has a solution –Knowledge Sharing Skills Everyone Can Master – it is a highly-regarded online training that answers the two questions (What’s in it for me? and How do I make it part of my job?) with specific interactive guidance on how to do it. All in about 30 minutes.
Tip: If you are trained in Knowledge Centered Support (KCS), this augments what your teams have learned. If you haven’t it gives your teams some of the key principles of this very popular knowledge methodology in a short, easy-to-consume format.
Question for you: What do you do to train and reinforce your team to make knowledge sharing a part of their everyday work?