A View from Blue Grotto

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Next Six Sigma?

Who would know who to call if your entire computer system crashed one day?

Scott Thurm of the Wall Street Journal framed the idea of knowledge management in very practical terms in his January 23, 2006 article titled: Companies Struggle to Pass on Knowledge …“Trying to make conversation during a recent elevator ride, I asked a package-delivery courier whether it was more efficient to start at the top of the building and work down, or start at the bottom of the building and work up. "It depends on the time of day," he replied.”

When you hire staff they often arrive on the corporate doorstep an empty vessel. And, during their time in your employ, no matter how brief, they gain knowledge.

In addition to salary and benefits, think of the costs to your company for hiring, training and often retraining. You may even have a program that financially supports employees going back to school for continuing education or even an advanced degree. Then, think of all the time your employees spend on the front lines, with your customers, your vendors, and their peers in your industry.

That brings us to this current buzz word - knowledge management.

Who does what inside your company? Who knows whom? How important is this information to the growth or success of certain elements of your business? Regardless of the tenure of your employees, they gather day-to-day information that may be critical to your operations.

A competitive advantage may soon become not the employees a company can retain, but rather retention of the information that moves your business forward. The example of the delivery man may seem innocuous to many, but not if your business is UPS, or FedEx or the local messenger service.

Many companies are facing this new reality – that every scrap of knowledge, from the delivery man, to the CEO, is an important piece in the puzzle of a company’s internal working knowledge. I thought Thurm’s example of Raytheon using peer-to-peer coaching was an intriguing idea. It illustrates the fact that many do not fully comprehend how much, and how valuable, the information they’ve accrued can be to others – teams working on unrelated projects, sales and accounting projections, human resources’ understanding of unique capabilities needed in job applicants…the list is endless.

The Blue Grotto team has built a reputation on helping clients to successfully document and communicate their best practices. We love that it has become the new buzz word. My prediction? That knowledge management programs will be the Six Sigma of the next decade. Your company’s internal knowledge has intrinsic value to your future success. Email me with ways your company maintains knowledge continuity.

Link to a complete copy of Scott Thurm’s article http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06023/643015.stm

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.