Tuesday, 14 October 2008

LtF Chapter 4 Getting the environment right

Last chapter for this week and we move on to managing the environment in which KM will take place.

First on the list is tackling barriers to sharing. One of these that will immediately ring bells for health folk is that of technology. This is a barrier to a variable extent in the NHS. My organisation has a good
setup technology wise in terms of the base position though our knowledge sharing tools could do with some work (more on this later). However, in common with most workplaces, there is some work still to do on equipping everyone with the skills to make the most of this. Things definitely get more difficult technically speaking when we move to collaboration with colleagues in other organisations in our patch. Another barrier identified in the text is that of a culture of not asking for help - not sure how much this applies in health. Certainly health librarians have a culture of seeking help from peers.

The discussion in the book of systems for sharing at BP sounds like a major set up. However most of use operate in a Microsoft world due to the national agreement. In terms of the Reflection Point the big problem I see in my organisation is the profusion of places that people can share information. By my count we have no less than three organisation wide points where people can share documents. There will then be a multitude of other departmental and team based systems. Resolving these into an effective system with good information retrieval will take some doing but would undoubtedly address issues around information sharing.

The book then turns to processes and specifically working with peers - either to peer review, peer assist or in sharing groups. Some of these remain to be defined. Within the reflection point an example I can think of is work in my organisation to training a group of people to act as catalysts for service efficiency improvement. This is can be a case of fresh eyes / perspectives and sharing knowledge which fits with these ideas.

Considering behaviours we need to think about how people can be encouraged both to seek and offer help. This is something I plan to take up within my directorate structure as there are a number of functions involved in the kinds of roles where we will be more effective if people ask for our assistance. An example of a positive feedback for those seeking help would be to ensure that the quality of evidence in support of a clinical policy was noted when it was submitted for approval. Other behaviours discussed are active listening (helpful) and challenging assumptions (harder).

Leadership is another part of the environment for consideration. The questions set by the Centrica directors are good ones. I would be happy to see these in action consistently. Supporting new starters in the organisation with more than just corporate induction seems like another excellent idea. This could be applied within health library networks (perhaps growing from the London Health Libraries induction) and might be a means to address some of the knowledge gaps created by staff turnover.

A number of examples are then discussed: a school, change at BNFL and the UN AIDS programme. I found the school example the most powerful in terms of the examples cited and the impact that sprang from them.

The chapter closes with a recap of the main seven threads to consider when preparing an environment for knowledge sharing / management. I find it interesting that in contrast to the chapter that treats technology first this is relegated to the final point on the list.

I am out of the office for a couple of days either side of the weekend so expect a later posting date for next weeks two chapters.

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