KA Dialog #1 – Part 5: Leverage yourself, and each other.

Archimedes_lever_(Small)

“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.” Archimedes

This post is the fifth in an open dialog with Bob Batcheler of Newforma. Here are links to Part 1: Knowledge management is squishy, Part 2: PIM is like a bunch of boxes… , Part 3: Information Disasters vs. Knowledge Disasters and Part 4: Disaster Prevention and Recovery (PM and KM Style) for reference.

Batch,

Happy New Year! I apologize for the delay in responding to your last post. I spent December on the road talking to all kinds of folks about knowledge management on both a strategic and tactical level, including Newforma. My journal is full of anecdotes, techniques and lists of ideas – many of which I’m sure I’ll be sharing on this blog.

I have a New Year’s day ritual that I’d like to share with you. I have a personal journal and a Knowledge Architecture  journal. At the start of every New Year I brew some coffee (this year I went to Starbucks)  and read through the previous year’s journal entries chronologically. Beyond having a good laugh at false assumptions and worries that never came to pass – I look for patterns that emerge or phrases that repeat. This year, one cluster of phrases from my Knowledge Architecture journal stood out:

“Leverage yourself.” “Leverage yourself and your organization.” “Leverage technology to…” “At its core, knowledge management is about leverage…”

A scan over my blog posts, website, and workshop materials confirms that leverage was my word of 2009.

Knowledge management and leverage

I know what you are thinking. 

“Good for you Chris, after a year of writing you have discovered that the point of learning and using technology is to leverage yourself.  I’m sure that Archimedes would be proud to personally welcome you the last two millennia of human progress .”

Fair enough, but I think that there is more to it. You closed your last dialog post with the following questions:

So, Chris, the question to you is, as you build your business, how are you investing in building KA’s knowledge assets?  Or are the cobbler’s children running around without shoes?

Building a new business  in a recession (the DJIA was around 6,000 when we launched in March, 2009) has led us to deeply embed bootstrapping and leverage deeply into our culture.

As you know, we are a small company with limited resources. While it is true we are growing, the wisest investments we are making are into leveraging our people and their knowledge.

I am also seeing this approach from our customers. Many of them do not anticipate hiring in 2010. They have cut the fat from their budgets, and many have gone further. So what’s left? The prevailing cliché is “doing more with less.” Which is exactly right as long as you move beyond simply repeating the slogan and waiting for change to magically appear.

I believe that “doing more with less” means creating, capturing, and sharing knowledge assets to leverage yourself and your team so that you can work smarter, faster, and more profitably. 

The silver lining for 2010 is that now is a perfect time to invest in becoming a knowledge-driven firm. Let me nail that down with some specific examples on how Knowledge Architecture is leveraging knowledge assets both individually and as a team.

Everyone is their own knowledge manager

My wife, Denise,  serves as my own personal Peter Drucker – asking me Yoda-like questions when I am stuck. Here’s a question that she asks me on a regular basis which is an excellent jumping off point for discussing knowledge management at Knowledge Architecture (and beyond):

WIIFM – What’s in it for me? As in, “what’s the WIIFM for X person?”

For Brian Campbell, a Senior Consultant with Knowledge Architecture, the WIIFM for developing a checklist for performing Deltek Vision – Newforma Project Center (DV-NPC) integrations is to be able to nail every integration efficiently and right the first time.

Why? Beyond the obvious high level of pride that all of us take in our work – we have a couple of structural elements built into our business model which support a knowledge-driven culture. The first is that we run open-book financials and share profits based on firm performance. In addition, all of our integrations are supported for a year under our subscription plan. This means that Brian (and all of us) are personally invested in performing our fixed-fee engagements both efficiently (profit-sharing) and right the first time (preventing costly and embarrassing re-work.)

Leverage that asset

Let’s keep following the DV-NPC integration checklist asset through the organization to see how we can leverage it in marketing and sales.

My primary roles at Knowledge Architecture are marketing and sales, product management, and corporate operations. There’s a WIIFM here for me as well. I obviously need to be able to talk about features and benefits of our products and services when I’m meeting with a potential customer. However, the knowledge asset (checklist) created by Brian also allows me to speak confidently about the process and provide accurate estimates for our fixed-fee services. In addition, our standard proposals and contracts are derived from our methodology.

Furthermore, our debrief after every integration engagement (yes, we do closeout meetings) ensures that our methodology and our marketing materials stay in sync. I’m not selling something Brian can’t deliver and he’s able to update the team on the latest lessons learned and updates to our checklist.

Our continuous feedback loop ensures that I’m not selling something our consulting team can’t deliver and we’re all aware of the latest changes to our methodology.

I suppose this might be described as the WIIFU – What’s in it for us?

Growing the firm and sharing knowledge

As you know, we have recently hired my brother, Chad Parsons, to join us as our Director of Engineering. Chad’s primary responsibilities include overseeing delivery of our solutions, software development, and internal technology operations. Welcome Chad!

One of our top priorities is to transfer our DV-NPC integrations from Brian to Chad. We have a couple new initiatives in the first quarter which are more applicable to Brian’s background, experience, and skillset than Chad’s and we want to free him up.

In order to leverage Brian and Chad appropriately — our knowledge asset is on the move again.

But there is more to bringing Chad up to speed on DV-NPC integrations than handing over the the knowledge explicitly contained in the checklist.  Brian also has experience and intuition (tacit knowledge for the KM geeks out there) which are not so simple to codify in a document. Our tactic here is for Chad to shadow Brian on enough DV-NPC integration engagements so that Chad can take over primary responsibility for delivering them in the future.  And of course, Brian will always be available as a backstop for questions.

Is it inefficient and expensive for us to have both Brian and Chad work on integrations in January and February? The short-term answer is yes. But in the long run we are investing in creating assets and leveraging our people appropriately, ensuring that we are working smarter, faster, and more profitably.

Back to you

The most successful knowledge management examples I saw last year were almost always bottom-up, instead of top-down.  They all had a WIIFM and many times that benefit was the ability for an individual to magnify their personal impact or that of their team by creating, capturing and sharing knowledge.

Which leads me to my questions for your next post:

As a software company who has a five-year head start and thirty employees on us, I’m interested in learning how you are investing in building Newforma’s knowledge assets? How are the lessons learned from both of our companies applicable for our architecture and engineering clients?

 

Best,
Chris

Bob Batcheler is Newforma’s vice-president of industry marketing and product management. Bob’s career as a professional engineer includes time at Black & Veatch and Bechtel Power Corporation. His AEC technology background encompasses a variety of roles at Autodesk and Softdesk. Bob earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Lehigh University, and qualified as a registered professional engineer in Maryland.

Posted: January 3rd, 2010 | Filed under: General, Guests, Most Popular | 3 Comments »

3 Comments on “KA Dialog #1 – Part 5: Leverage yourself, and each other.”

  1. 1 denise said at 1:40 pm on January 3rd, 2010:

    In response to Batch’s “cobbler” question. The family is well cared for–both Chris and I are sporting new boots this season.

  2. 2 Barry Harrison said at 11:08 am on January 27th, 2010:

    I applaud your New Year’s introspection. Too often we fail to take the time to process our knowledge in a useful way.

    I don’t know about 2009, but for me, the word for 2010 is “clarity.”

  3. 3 Knowledge Architecture Blog » Blog Archive » “Game films” as knowledge management tools said at 2:46 pm on March 7th, 2010:

    […] (DV-NPC) integrations to illustrate how Knowledge Architecture invests in knowledge management. In this blog post, I explain how Brian created a checklist to transfer his knowledge of performing integrations to […]