The first four phases of knowledge management are all about identifying and creating meaning and then making that meaning usable. Knowledge management is a set of epistemic actions, creating knowledge through interaction. This interaction is a way of creating a partnership between what happens in the head with everything in the world – Work-as-Imagined and Work-as-Done.
There are really four themes to a set of epistemic actions:
Foraging: Locating resources that will lead to understanding
Tuning: Adjusting resources to align with desired understanding
Externalizing: Moving resources out of the head and into the world
Constructing: Forming new knowledge structures in the world
Locating resources that will lead to understanding
Searching happens when you need information and
believe it exists somewhere.
Searching depends on how we articulate or
“Tell me more.” Probing happens when the information
you have isn’t quite enough. You are probing when you take the next step,
move to the next level, and obtain more salient specifics. Probing is about
drilling down and saying “show, explain, and reveal more about this.”
We can probe to reveal new patterns, structures and
relationships. It brings to light new information that helps us to reconsider
what we already know.
Animating is when we initiate and control motion in
an information source. It includes learning-by-doing.
Collecting is how we gather foraged information and
tuck it away for future use.
Adjusting resources to align with desired
Cloning lets us take information from one situation
and use it in another.
Cutting is the way we say “this matters”, that “I
need this part, but not the rest.”
Filtering reduces complexity by reducing clutter to
expose salient details.
Moving resources out of the head and into the world
Annotating is how we add context to information. How
we adapt and modify the information to the needed context.
Connecting bits of information together. Forming
Introducing new knowledge into the world.
Grouping idenpendent yet related information together.
Forming new knowledge structures in the world
Producing a new, separate structure from the
information that has its own meaning and purpose.
Taking information and breaking it apart into usable
The art of creating meaningful order.
Changing the way the information is represented to
The format is pivotal. The difficulties we have in quality are really not much different from elsewhere in society in that we are surrounded by confusing documentation and poorly presented explanations everywhere we look, that provide information but not understanding. Oftentimes we rely on canards of “this is what is expected,” “this is what works” – but rarely is that based on anything more than anecdotal. And as the high incidence of issues and the high cost of training shows, less than adequate.
There is a huge body-of-knowledge out there on cognitive-friendly design of visuals, including documentation. This is an area we as a quality profession need to get comfortable with. Most important, we need to give ourselves permission to adapt, modify and transform the information we need into a shape that aids understanding and makes everyone a better thinker.
Work-as-Prescribed (and work-as-instructed) is the creation of tools and technologies to help us think better, understand more and perform at our peak.
Locus of Understanding
Looking at the process at the right level is key. Think of Work-as-Prescribed as a lens. Sometimes you need a high-powered lens so that you can zoom in on a single task. Other times, you need to zoom out to see a set of tasks, a whole process, or how systems interact.
This is the locus of understanding, where understanding happens. When we take this position, we see how understanding is created. Adopting the locus of understanding means going to the right level for the problem at hand. When we apply it to Work-as-Prescribed we are applying the same principles as we do in problem-solving to developing the right tools to govern the work.
An important way to look is distributed cognitive resources, which means anything that contributes to the cognitive work being done. Adjusting the locus of understanding means that you can, and should, treat an SOP as a cognitive resource. Some of the memory is in your head and some is in the SOP. Work-as-prescribed is a cognitive resource that we distribute, routinely and casually across the brain and our quality system in the form of documents and other execution aids.
Other tools, like my favorite whiteboard, also serve as distributed cognitive resources.
So, as our documents and other tools are distributed cognitive resources it behooves us to ensure they are based on the best cognitive principles possible to drive the most benefit.
As an aside, there is a whole line of thought about why some physical objects are better at distributed cognitive resources than electronic. Movement actually matters.
Taking it even further (shifting the locus) we can see the entire quality system as a part of a single distributed cognitive system where cognitive work is performed via the cognitive functions of communicating, deciding, planning, and problem-solving. These cognitive functions are supported by cognitive processes such as perceiving, analyzing, exchanging, and manipulating.
The tools we develop to provide distributed cognitive activity strive to:
Provide short-term or long-term memory aids so that memory load can be reduced.
Provide information that can be directly perceived and used such that little effort is needed to interpret and formulate the information explicitly.
Provide knowledge and skills that are unavailable from internal representations.
Support perceptual operators that can recognize features easily and make inferences directly.
Anchor and structure cognitive behavior without conscious awareness.
Change the nature of a task by generating more efficient action sequences.
Stop time and support perceptual rehearsal to make invisible and transient information visible and sustainable.
Aid processibility by limiting abstraction.
Determine decision making strategies through accuracy maximization and effort minimization.
Plan for the flow of information: Think about paths, relationships, seams, edges and other hand-offs. Focus on the flow of information. Remember that we learn in a spiral, and the content needed for a novice is different from that of an expert and build our documents and the information flow accordingly. This principle is called Sequencing.
Break information down into pieces: Called, Chunking, the grouping together of information into ideally sized pieces. When building Work-As-Prescribed pay close attention to which of these chunks are reusable and build accordingly.
The deeply about context: How a tool is used drives what the tool should be.
Think deeply about information structures: Not all information is the same, not every example of Work-as-Prescribed should have the same structure.
Be conscientiousabout the digital and physical divide: Look for opportunities to integrate or connect these two worlds. Be honest of how enmeshed they are at any point in the system.
We are building our Work-as-Prescribed through leveraging our quality culture, our framework for coordinating work. Pay attention to:
Shared Standards – Ways we communicate
Invisible Environments – Ways we align, conceptually
When design process, procedure and task documentation leverage this principles by build blocks, or microcontent, that is:
about one primary idea, fact, or concept
labeled for clear identification and meaning, and
appropriately written and formatted for use anywhere and any time it is needed.
There is a common miscomprehension that simple means short. That just isn’t true. Simple means that it passes a test for the appropriateness of the size of a piece of content of providing sufficient details to answer a specific question for the targeted audience. The size of the content must effectively serve its intended purpose with efficiency, stripping off any unnecessary components.
We need to strive to apply cognitive thinking principles to our practice. The day of judging a requirements document by its page length is long over.
Do not ask this question during interviews. The answers are always inane, the question is inane, it is a waste of precious interview time.
We cannot plan for the future. If we could I would be living on a space station, painting giraffes as my 4-year-old self anticipated. For those wondering, I have no space station or giraffe in my life.
There are just too many factors beyond your control that will shape job options–global economic trends, political elections, and technological changes, just to name a few. Please do yourself the favor and avoid committing the hubris of thinking that anyone can determine their professional glide path.
What we can control are the options we choose now to give ourselves more options in the future. A better question is “What do you want to learn in this job and how can we help make that happen?”
A RACI chart is a simple matrix used to assign roles and responsibilities for each task, milestone, or decision. By clearly mapping out which roles are involved in each task and at which level, you can eliminate confusion and answer the age-old question, “Who’s doing what?”
RACI is a useful complement to a process map, since it can get into more detailed and specific activities than a high-level process map. Think of a process map at one level of abstraction and RACI as the next level of detail
What does RACI stand for?
RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Each letter in the acronym represents a level of task responsibility.
When to use RACI
RACI’s are best used in procedures as part of the responsibilities section or to start each section in a long procedure.
RACI’s are great tools that can help:
Design or re-design processes more efficiently by highlighting decisions
Clarify overlapping, redundant, “bottle-necked,” or inconsistent responsibilities
Structure and distribute responsibility and authority