Let me share a little personal experience to set the stage for the article. When I started in the IT industry in the late 90s, I was surrounded by a technical community that was moving at light speed, and every day was a new discovery. The Internet was alive and allowing businesses to blossom. People knew technology was the way to enterprise, but it was a daily trust-fall exercise as many leaders did not understand exactly how to make it work. So, people like us were employed to perform the duties of translators of the tech-speak language. Any type of knowledge we shared was considered a view into a world people knew little about. So, obviously we could do no wrong, or at least we thought so…. Sharing too much, not enough, or with poor quality began to backfire. We needed to re-group.
Although sharing knowledge was not new (we used to look up schematics on microfiche), it was a leap from how we used to do it. Technologists were now embracing the idea of empowering the non-techies with means to support themselves. This step in the maturation process began de-mystifying the technology and created a huge demand for knowledge, thus increasing the need for knowledge processes and systems to keep the information easy to find, current, and clear. We needed process, a plan, and a strategy.
Sharing knowledge has transformed the way we communicate with people, improve efficiency, and build trusting relationships. Companies are now leveraging knowledge to improve the adoption of new products or changes to existing products. So, we have the WHO (consumers of a product), WHAT (information), WHERE (location of information), WHEN (as information is needed), and HOW (work instructions). Now we need the WHY!
Many of you reading this article have read, taken a class, or even gotten certified around the Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) methodology. KCS centers around four main principles:
Abundance: Share more, learn more
Create Value: Work tasks, think big picture
Demand Driven: Knowledge is a by-product of interaction
Trust: Engage, empower, motivate
This article is not about diving in deep for each on of these principles or about the KCS directly, but I will demonstrate how these principles and core concepts will be realized when you focus on the WHY.
Let’s jump in. It is important to understand what the WHY is. You could consider this part of the Six Sigma Root Cause Analysis 5 Whys or even being a parent and continually being asked why after ever question you answer. If your mind went to either of these, you’re not far off. The WHY is about bringing clarity to the reason or purpose. The WHY is about being transparent, or even vulnerable, with your readers in order to build trust, increase value through relevancy, and increase demand for information.
In a study published at BYU by Brad R. Rawlins titled Measuring the Relationship Between Organizational Transparency and Employee Trust, this relationship between transparency and trust can actually be measured! For those of you who are excited read on about these algorithms Brad Rawlins used, let me shatter your enthusiasm right here. I won’t go into that level of detail in this article, but you can read the article in its entirety at the link provided. I will use this article to demonstrate that there is a direct correlation between transparency and trust within the business environment. It is not just a feeling that this relationship exists; it has been proven!
To continue with the relationship between transparency and trust, one of the statements in the article that strengthened my position on the WHY is that with transparency comes an increase in accountability. I love this because one of the biggest reason’s knowledge sharing, knowledge bases, and KCS programs fail is because they do not have owners. Without ownership, you have no one accountable, no one passionate about making sure their product gets delivered!
Let’s talk about adoption. Most of you work very hard to assist employees with consuming services that are deployed, and\or consuming them in the way that is the most productive or efficient. You may also have new cybersecurity awareness programs in place that are changing the way employees think about daily tasks.
As you deploy new products or services, the Prosci Flight Risk Model details that resistance to change is automatic and expected. So, we know that some employees will adopt new technology or changes quickly, but that others might be hesitant or actively resistant. Communication is how we work to combat each of these groups of employees. Effort is placed on finding ways to build trust and confidence, so the change can be more widely adopted and reduce the number of employees who actively resist the change. You see where I am going, right?
OK, you’re now hooked on the topic of transparency builds trust, trust drives accountability, accountability requires ownership, ownership is fueled by passion, passion builds relationships, relationships focus on value, value means content is relevant, and I could go on, but you can see how transparency is a good thing!
So, let’s talk about how to apply the WHY into your current knowledge management program! I have pulled together some tips for how to incorporate the WHY into your articles:
- Find articles or communications that are constructed to enforce a policy or standards. For example, “Employees will make IT purchases using process 123 found on intranet page wherever.somewhere.com.” It would be helpful to have a WHY statement here, something like, “We want to ensure your request gets fulfilled as quickly as possible. Filling out the request forms will help reduce follow-up emails to you and will allow us to process the request quickly.”
- Some of your standards may be related to commodity hardware. Employees would like to know WHY you have selected the types of hardware. “X is the laptop standard at ACME Manufacturing due to the availability of product that meets our demand cycles, along with the quality and configuration options that meet the needs of employees at ACME Manufacturing.”
- Changes to process are a great opportunity to spread the WHY. You may insert a sentence or two prior to the actual change itself stating “In an effort to focus on continuous improvement, the process below is being changed as it does X faster, compared to what we used to do in Z.”
- Releasing a new product is also an easy place to insert the WHY. Change for change sake is the easiest way to increase the number of “active resistors” in your organization. Explain to your employees why the new product is better, more efficient, or more cost effective. Take the speculation out of it; tell them why!
- I bet you can think of more…add your own bullets and share these with me!
I have tried, I have failed, and I have tried again. Although not fully at an “arrived” status, I have learned many things throughout this journey:
Keep it simple. You don’t need to create a WHY team to get this done. Find out the important products or services that could use some help as we described above and start there!
Be creative. My team was rolling out a new intranet page and they created a video to release it. One of the first sections they recorded was about WHY. Not just why we are making the change, but why it is so important!
Measure customer satisfaction. If you measure customer satisfaction, you should begin to see how the WHY has impacted your readers.
Seek feedback. Service teams are always ready to receive feedback! Review analytics on your knowledge articles and ask people who visited or read articles.
As we continue to work with technology, the rate of change continues to grow. Keeping our employees or customers informed will always be in high demand and will continue to be delivered through multiple mediums. As you manage your knowledge management program, in whatever form, don’t forget about how transparency builds trust and how trust will drive demand. Although having all the knowledge available to people will drive demand, explaining WHY something is important, or WHY changes will be made will make the information relevant and increase the value it brings to the business you serve.
Explaining WHY something is important makes the information relevant and increases the value it brings to the business you serve.
Kevin Kwasiborski is an 18-year IT veteran with more than 15 years’ experience leading teams around IT service and asset management. He has worked in several industries from B2B to healthcare to consumer electronics. His professional passions are people, technology, and learning new things. Kevin focuses on leading by example, being humble, driving a culture of optimism, and inserting crazy wherever possible. Personally, his biggest passion is his family.