Know the Knows

When developing training programs and cultural initiative sit is useful to break down what we really want people to know. I find it useful to think in terms of the following:

  • know-how: The technical skills to do the work
  • know-what: The ability to perform functional problem-solving, to adapt the process and innovate
  • know-who: networking and interpersonal skills, with social/emotional intelligence, for empathy or social network capacities
  • know-where: institutional and system knowledge of how the work fits into a larger ecosystem
  • know-who/how: strategic and leadership skills, for political ‘ nous’ in setting agendas, managing institutions, mobilizing resources;
  • know-why: creation of meaning, significance, identity, morality, with practical intuition for creative arts, sports, everyday social exchange.

To build all six elements requires a learning culture and a recognition that knowledge and awareness do not start and end at initial training on a process. We need to build the mechanisms to:

  • Communicate in a way to continually facilitate the assimilation of knowledge
  • Incorporate ongoing uses of tools such as coaching and mentoring in our processes and systems
  • Motivate the ongoing enhancement of learning
  • Nurture the development and retention of knowledge

We are striving at building competence, to be able to grow and apply the knowledge and abilities of our workers to solve problems and innovate.

Training, Development, Knowledge Management, Problem-Solving – these are a continuum but too often we balkanize responsibility of these in our organizations when what we need is an ecosystem approach.

Management Review – a Structured Analysis of Reality

What is Management Review?

ISO9001:2015 states “Top management shall review the organization’s quality management system, at planned intervals, to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, effectiveness and alignment with the strategic direction of the organization.”

Management review takes inputs of system performance and converts it to outputs that drive improvement.

Just about every standard and guidance aligns with the ISO9001:2015 structure.

The Use of PowerPoint in Management Review

Everyone makes fun of PowerPoint, and yet it is still with us. As a mechanism for formal communication it is the go-to form, and I do not believe that will change anytime soon.

One of the best pieces of research on PowerPoint and management review is Kaplan’s examination of PowerPoint slides used in a manufacturing firm. Kaplan found that generating slides was “embedded in the discursive practices of strategic knowledge production” and made up “part of the epistemic machinery that undergirds the know-ledge production culture.” Further, “the affordances of PowerPoint,” Kaplan pointed out, “enabled the difficult task of collaborating to negotiate meaning in an uncertain environment, creating spaces for discussion, making recombinations possible, [and] allowing for adjustments as ideas evolved”. She concluded that PowerPoint slide decks should be regarded not as merely effective or ineffective reports but rather as an essential part of strategic decision making.

Kaplan’s findings are not isolated, there is a broad wealth of relevant research in the fields of genre and composition studies as well as research on material objects that draw similar conclusions. Powerpoint, as a method of formal communication, can be effective.

Management Review as Formal Communication

Management review is a formal communication and by understanding how these formal communications participate in the fixed and emergent conditions of knowledge work as prescribed, being-composed, and materialized-texts-in-use, we can understand how to better structure our knowledge sharing.

Management review mediates between Work-As-Imagined and Work-As-Done.

As-Prescribed

The quality management reviews have “fixity” and bring a reliable structure to the knowledge-work process by specifying what needs to become known and by when, forming a step-by-step learning process.

As-Being-Composed

Quality management always starts with a plan for activities, but in the process of providing analysis through management review, the organization learns much more about the topic, discovers new ideas, and uncover inconsistencies in our thinking that cause us to step back, refine, and sometimes radically change our plan. By engaging in the writing of these presentations we make the tacit knowledge explicit.

A successful management review imagines the audience who needs the information, asks questions, raises objections, and brings to the presentation a body of experience and a perspective that differs from that of the party line. Management review should be a process of dialogue that draws inferences and constructs relationships between ideas, apply logic to build complex arguments, reformulate ideas, reflects on what is already known, and comes to understand the material in a new way.

As-Materialized

Management review is a textually mediated conversation that enables knowledge integration within and
across groups in, and outside of, the organization. The records of management review are focal points around which users can discuss what they have learned, discover diverse understandings, and depersonalize debate. Management review records drive the process of incorporating the different domain specific
knowledge of various decision makers and experts into some form of systemic group knowledge and applies that knowledge to decision making and action.

Sources

  • Alvesson, M. (2004). Knowledge work and knowledge-intensive firms. Oxford University Press.
  • Bazerman, C. (2003). What is not institutionally visible does not count: The problem of making activity assessable, accountable, and plannable. In C. Bazerman & D. Russell (Eds.), Writing selves/writing societies: Research from activity perspectives (pp. 428–482). WAC Clearinghouse
  • Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. Jossey-Bass
  • Kaplan, S. (2015). Strategy and PowerPoint: An inquiry into the epistemic culture and machinery of strategy making. Organization Science, 22, 320–346.
  • Levitin, D. J. (2014). The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload. Penguin
  • Mengis, J. (2007). Integrating knowledge through communication: The case of experts and decision makers. In Proceedings of the 2007 International Conference on Organizational Knowledge, Learning, and Capabilities (pp. 699–720). OLKC. Retrieved from https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/wbs/conf/olkc/archive/olkc2/papers/mengis.pdf

Procedure is Work-as-Prescribed

Written procedures with their step-by-step breakdown are a fundamental tool for ensuring quality through consistent execution of the work. As a standardized guideline for tasks, procedures serve many additional purposes: basis of training, ensuring regulatory requirements are met, ensuring documentation is prepared and handled correctly.

As written prescriptions of how work is to be performed, they can be based on abstract and often decontextualized expectations of work. The writers of the procedures are translating Work-as-Imagined. As a result, it is easy to write from a perspective of ideal and stable conditions for work and end up ignoring the nuances introduced by the users of procedures and the work environment.

The day-to-day activities where the procedures are implemented is Work-as-Done. Work-is-Done is filled with all the factors that influence the way tasks are carried out – spatial and physical conditions; human factors such as attention, memory, and fatigue; knowledge and skills.

Ensuring that our procedures translate from the abstraction of Work-as-Imagined to the realities of Work-as-Done as closely as possible is why we should engage in step-by-step real-world challenge as part of procedure review.

Steven Shorrock calls this procedural level “Work-as-Prescribed.”

Work-as-Prescribed gives us the structure to take a more dynamic view of workers, the documents they follow, and the procedural and organizational systems in which they work. Deviations from Work-as-Prescribed point-of-view are not exclusively negative and are an ability to close the gap. This is a reason to closely monitor causes such as “inadequate procedure” and “failure to follow procedure” – they are indicators of a drift between Work-as-Prescribed and Work-as-Done. Management review will often highlight a disharmony with Work-As-Imagined.

The place where actions are performed in real-world operations is called, in safety thinking, the sharp-end. The blunt-end is management and those who imagine work, such as engineers, removed from doing the work.

Our goal is to shrink the gap between Work-as-Imagined and Work-as-Done through refining the best possible Work-as-Prescribed and reduce the differences between the sharp and the blunt ends. This is why we stress leadership behaviors like Gemba walks and ensure a good document change process that strives to give those who use procedure a greater voice and agency.

Quality-as-Imagined versus Quality-as-Done

Assumptions about how work is carried out is often very different from the reality of the work. This is the difference between work-as-imagined and work-as-done. Assumptions about work as imagined often turn out to be wrong because they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding. Steven Shorrock on Humanistic Systems has been doing a great series on proxies for work-as-done that I recommend you read for more details.

The complexity of our organizations implies a certain level of inevitable unexpected variability and thus a gap between Work-as-Imagined and Work-as-Done. Work-as-Imagined reflects how work is understood by those who are separated from it by time or space; it is an over-simplified version of what is actually going on. Work-as-Done takes account of what it means to function effectively, despite resource-constrained circumstances. The analysis of the gap between Work-As-Imagined and Work-as-Done usually indicates that performance variability is present in both desired and undesired outcomes and, therefore, successful outcomes do not necessarily occur because people are behaving according to Work-as-Imagined.

The same concept applies to the nature and implications of the gap between the prescribed quality practices and policies, Quality-as-Imagined, and the way they are deployed in practice, Quality-as-Done.

This gap should be no surprise. Our organizations are complex systems, and complexity can give rise to unintended consequences.

The interesting thing is that quality can drive a reduction of that gap, solving for complexity.

The Influence of Complexity on Quality
Dynamic InteractionsWide DiversityUnexpected VariabilityResilience
SocialInteractions between employeesEmployees with varying skill levels
Employee turnover
Diversity of functions performed by employees
(e.g. multiskilling)
Errors when operating equipment and tools
Unexpected behaviors
Absenteeism
Variability in human labor demand
Unexpected outcomes from
social interactions (e.g. conflicts and alliances)
Employees’ ability to
anticipate risks
Critical analysis of data
Informal agreements between workers to distribute the workload
TechnicalInteractions between production resources
Interactions due to tightly coupled operations (e.g. time constraints, low inventories, capacity constraints)
Product diversity
Diversity of quality requirements
Diversity of client requirements
Technical disruptions
Resource availability (e.g. maintenance staff)
Variability in production times (e.g. cycle time, lead time)
Dimensional variability (e.g. potential for defects)
Inspection readiness
Corrective, preventive and predictive measures
Work OrganizationInteractions between information sources
Interactions between functions
Interactions between processes
Interactions between performance indicators
Diversity in managerial controls
Diversity in relationships with external agents
Diversity of rules and procedures
Variability in the hiring of new workers
Changing priorities (e.g. frequent rescheduling due to unexpected conditions)
Variability in timing and
accuracy of information
Negotiation, partnership and bargaining power with suppliers and clients
Investments on new resources
Multidisciplinary problem-solving meetings
External EnvironmentInteractions between the organization, suppliers, and clients
Interactions with regulatory bodies
Diversity in suppliers
Diversity in clients
Variability in Demand/Need
Variability in logistics
Capacity and slack management
Examples of Complexity Impact