Moving From Full-Service to Self-Service KM

If you work with billable employees, you know there is a constant struggle between how much time they should spend searching for information vs. doing actual billable work. Finding and leveraging past work could increase the firm’s profitability if the re-use can drive down operational time and drive up margin.

From an expense standpoint, do you employ a full-time search specialist to search and retrieve content for consultants, or should the firm invest in technology to enable better, faster self-service?

The numbers are in and self-service should win. Why? Investing in technology does have an upfront investment component to make information more findable but relying on a search specialist leaves the organization vulnerable if that person should move on and take all the intimate knowledge of our work with him/her.

The more billable employees can get their hands directly on content, the more knowledge they have about our previous work, the better equipped they are to present our collective stories in a compelling manner to clients and the more connected they will be to other employees.

The former model connects them to one person; creating a self-service model connects them to many.

Moving from a full-service to a self-service model is a challenging exercise in change management. One that requires the following:

  • Visible sponsorship: A leader’s endorsement is appreciated but visibly promoting and expecting people to engage in new work models and tools goes above just a behind-closed-doors “good idea” compliment.
  • Easy technology: So many platforms exist to enable easy uploading, tagging, commenting and sharing of information. Whatever your platform, it must make people’s jobs easier. Remember that nothing is easier than emailing a search specialist to request they spend time finding and retrieving something you need. But, in the long run, self-service pays back in other ways so demonstrating the simplicity of the process is essential for adoption.
  • Courage (and support) to say “no”: It’s not easy telling someone that instead of searching for them that I will tell you how to do it yourself. Squeaky wheels get the grease, and leadership may be inclined to give in to that person who refuses to post or find information on their own. We must change our behavior to help them change theirs.
  • Reinforce Behavior (again and again and again): Dipping people into one training session and then releasing them into the new frontier doesn’t cut it when changing behavior. In addition to driving people one-on-one to new tools and processes, show success.
    • Try spotlighting a monthly search success to reinforce how easy it is on your intranet.
    • Get champions to live and breath and offer to help those who are having difficulty following the self-service model.
    • Equip managers to hold people accountable for adoption.
    • Be careful with incentives. Incentives sometimes require upping the ante every year to sustain and that, in and of itself, is unsustainable.
    • Appeal to emotion. This is a last resort if stubbornness prevails. Communicate that the new normal is connecting and sharing. If you don’t connect, you’ll be missing the bus!

Making Progress? If Not, Be Worried About Your Employees

progressI am always behind in my reading. I try to stay up but then I fall back. I was reading a short article in Harvard Business Review’s Reinvent January/February issuetoday and I was so struck by one “breakthrough idea” I read that literally a light bulb appeared above my head.

What really motivates workers….recognition? Try again. Incentives? Mmmm…they are important but not quite. It’s progress! And, when researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer asked leaders what they thought, all said recognition was first and progress was dead last.

I feel like shouting this from the mountaintops. Amend every management course. PROGRESS! Yes! Don’t we feel frustrated when action isn’t taken? Or, politics gets in the way? Or, cumbersome approval processes prevent us from moving forward? Yes. This all affects our engagement levels and motivation because our ability to succeed, contribute and create value is inhibited.

So, as managers, and leaders especially, to improve employee engagement and retain high potential staff members, ensure that progress is being made and obstacles to progress are removed immediately.

Ensuring progress means:

  • Breaking down silos
  • Communicating frequently
  • Providing tools and technology access
  • Setting achievable goals
  • Fostering creativity
  • Securing resources
  • Involving your people in decisions

These sound so easy but they can be difficult depending on culture. But, I can’t think of a more important charter for a leader than being able to retain top talent while moving the ship forward in the right direction.

“Switch” Your Thinking

Just recently, I attended a presentation by Dan Heath covering the tenets of his new book: Switch. Focused solely on how to make change happen, I was struck by the simplicity of the methods. Heath spoke about balancing appealing to the rational and emotional sides of the brain as well as ensuring one’s environment is clear of obstacles.

Simple but powerful. This got me to think about appealing to emotion in the workplace to inspire change. I agree with Heath that we make change decisions, generally, with our emotions not necessarily through logic.

If we were totally rational, then none of us would drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes because, logically, we know they are bad for us. My father is a borderline diabetic and when the doctor told him he was not allowed to eat doughnuts because of their lack of nutritional value, my father quickly countered with: “But, what about their emotional value.”

In the workplace, would appealing to emotion work on enterprise-wide changes, like technology implementations? How would we appeal to emotion to get people to submit stories to our knowledgebase?

I think for years I’ve been trying to rationally sell people on the benefits of sharing – reuse, saves time, better quality product, more collaborative, even increased sales but I wonder about selling on emotion. What would that look like?

Heath relayed a purchasing story where the company’s new head of procurement gathered all the 350 different kind of gloves their plants were independently buying and brought them to a leadership meeting. This was his argument for centralizing purchasing. When the leaders saw all the different gloves and the fact that they were paying different prices for the same glove, they make the switch.

COuld we do the same with storytelling and sharing content? Could we gather all the disparate selling techniques and products we produce to demonstrate how one could have benefited from the other? Would this convince people to start sharing? Hmmm….that might be something I try.

Do We Sell or Tell To Get Action?

take.action.tour_Social is here but is it driving people to action? We have spent decades researching and discovering how to communicate, motivate and collaborate with people. We’ve studied generational and cultural differences; methods and techniques; channel and venues. We pour over statistics to make informed decisions. But, is any of this helping us get people to read or listen? I know there are many of you who would have statistics to tell me “yes”!

I learned a long time ago that people pay attention to communications from the top. As flat as we’d like to be, if my manager or anyone in my chain sends me an email, text, IM or blog, I will read it. But, now we have social experts telling us that peer review and peer opinion drive eye-catching interest and translate into action. That we listen to and trust our peers more than our “superiors”. I feel that is true but maybe in a different context.

I personally believe that to motivate different behavior, a message from my manager will motivate me to change but so will a message from a trusted colleague IFthat message has a story I can relate to and a result that is impactful enough. From the top, it’s enough to TELL me what is expected. From my peers, it’s all about SELLing me to get me to change.

Imagine if the tell and sell could be combined in a communication strategy – managers AND peers? I think that would double your success for changing behavior, which is the intended result of most communication strategies.

Real Change?

Every month, I enjoy reading “The Future of the Future” column in KM World. In April’s article, Art Murray wrote part one of a two-part piece on Real Change and how companies should be transforming their way of doing business.

I loved all of his ideas: move from hierarchies to networks, eliminate silos, make learning systemic, focus on systemic improvements not band-aids, and be positive about how to make things work. Common sense tells us that, yes, these are all great ideas to make the organization run smoother and employees happier.

So, why do silos still exist? Why do we implement bandaids knowing they will peel off eventually? Why don’t people share information with each other freely?

In a word…FEAR. I hoard information to make myself more valuable. I don’t share in forums because I am afraid of looking stupid. I implement band-aids because doing something quick looks better than taking time to plan, which looks like I’m doing nothing.

I have spent my entire career championing ground-up, organic change. And, once leaders saw the degree of  crowd approval and desire, that was the tipping point to making that change a reality but it always needed an eventual leadership endorsement to become a business practice.

Lately, I have found that grassroots efforts aren’t enough to tip the scales if leaders aren’t willing to acknowledge and listen to the fear that permeates their employees. I think it takes a brave soul, willing to take a risk, to point out to leadership how to alleviate people’s fears.

I still think real change takes real leadership. Plain and simple. Real leadership is:

  • Setting expectations to share; in fact, hoarding should be disciplined
  • Empowering people to make mistakes…..once
  • Giving time to properly plan and discouraging band-aids, unless they make business sense
  • Assuring people to share ideas; don’t penalize if they are off the mark
  • Empowering people to make decisions
  • Delegating authority with tasks