This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

KM Chicago: Knowledge retention at UOP

Laura Claggett and Christina Krawczyk from UOP spoke about their ongoing project for knowledge management and knowledge retention.  They presented their case, based on comments of the former CEO, Graeme Donald: "Essentially, all earnings are derived from the knowledge held by UOP employees.  Nothing is more important to UOP than the knowledge it holds."  They also have an imperative to double sales from one billion to two billion in the next five years.  The new CEO holds KM as one of the most important initiatives in the company. 

The program at UOP consists of several components: an expert locator, document management, a knowledge continuity project, and a forthcoming expert knowledge capture project (described below).  The presentation started with how they went about assessing the needs.  They worked from the perspective of the internal customers, holding focus groups and then building surveys based on the feedback in the focus groups.  They then extended the individual surveys to a business unit needs assessment that combined the findings with business unit goals and directives.  The biggest issues identified through this process were

  • Difficulty locating (current / past) info
  • Limited understanding of what exists and where
  • Need access to internal databases (security getting in the way of access)
  • Who knows what at UOP
  • Immediate access to information

With this as a starting point, they have been able to gauge their efforts against these internal needs.  This, along with internal drivers to reuse technology, connect with existing programs (Six Sigma), and tie to the goal of doubling revenue -- to the long-term viability of UOP, frames what the KM team is doing at UOP. 

The KM Team at UOP is small.  Laura Claggett is the manager of the library, and Christina Krawczyk is an information specialist within the library.  KM is one of their many responsibilities.  They also have a director of knowledge management for UOP.  The rest of the KM core team is made up of people who are affected by the particular roll-out within the business units.  They also make intelligent use of other resources and programs within UOP: re-purposing some existing technology, and tying the KM effort together with Six Sigma.  It seems to me that they've made a strong effort to embed the ideas of KM into how the organization works.

More details

One of the ideas that were repeated throughout the presentation is that KM should not be about tools but about value to the company.  I appreciate this viewpoint, as it reinforces the idea that the tools are secondary to the needs of the organization.  In this light, the expert locator and document management components made use of tools they already had within UOP.  With the expert locator, the KM project is trying to push more utilization of the tool to capture information about what people know and do.  They've had some successes with people using the tool, and they plan for the maintenance of profiles to become part of standard processes within UOP.  The biggest sticking points with expert locators are getting the profiles (the first time and long term maintenance), and embedding the usage into the normal flow of business. 

UOP have a document management system that had primarily been used to store their research reports (18,000), which are the core of UOP's intellectual property.  One of the complaints was that people didn't know what was in the system and it was difficult to get access permissions.  The KM project is making it easier to search and find these documents.  Another need was for better organization of other (documented) information.  The KM project is extending the DMS to become a central repository for a wider variety of documents (newsletters, conference proceedings, presentations).

The knowledge continuity project started with a pilot with help from an external consulting group.  The pilot used social network analysis to get a view of the organization (60 people).  The SNA was done by asking two questions: who are the ten people with whom you share information; who are the ten people you contact for expert help.  They've done some preliminary analysis and intend to use this for future discussions around communities and expert knowledge capture.  The other part of this pilot was to introduce the concept of knowledge profiles, where people were asked to use a mind mapping tool (Mind Manager) to describe what they do in their work.  They provided templates to get people started with topics like ideas, communications, contacts, best practices, knowledge resources, project information.  While not everyone "gets" mind mapping, a surprising number of participants reported great value in the exercise.  A number of people have continued using the maps in their daily work.  They've also begun mapping teams.  The goal was to get a better understanding of how people go about their work, though there are some clear connections to the expert locator profiles as well.  Long term, they hope to make the connection from the knowledge profile activities and the expertise locator tool.

The final piece they presented is the Expert Knowledge Capture project to be started sometime this year.  This is a central piece of knowledge retention for UOP, particularly with a high average age of the workforce and expected retirements in the coming years.  Again, they tie the reasoning for this project back to ongoing sustainability of UOP.  The general approach they are planning is to get guidance from the UOP experts around what their successors will do.  They use the interesting language of asking the experts to "leave a legacy" to help motivate the what's in it for me aspects.  They expect that the interviews will consist of focused discussions around the individual's areas of expertise and be conducted by a panel.  The panel will consist of colleagues and probably successors to the expert, so that the tacit knowledge is transferred to the right people and to people who will understand the science behind what is being discussed.  The interviews will also be recorded and documented, of course.

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