Improving Productivity – Suggestions from PMI

If you have not wandered through the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) knowledge center, you have missed an excellent source of best-practice thinking on a variety of issues relevant to project and corporate management. Recently I reviewed an article by Pradeep Patra, PMP and Sunitha Bartaki, PMP of Tata Consultancy Services Limited that I thought was interesting. The article titled, “Productivity Improvement Using Ten Process Commandments” can be found in its entirety here.

At the beginning of their article, they note that productivity improvement is never ending, as discussed in writings on Kaizen and the philosophy of continuous improvement. Productivity improvement initiatives can also be costly. Therefore, their first recommendation is to develop and use a cost of quality (CoQ) to evaluate the impact of changes designed to improve productivity.

Their productivity commandments are:

  1. Leadership commitment
  2. Manage change — Absolutely, I agree. Productivity improvement requires change and to succeed at managing change requires the active support of visionary leaders. (see previous posts on change management: Change Management Strategies, Role of Project Managers in Change Management, and Planning Your Organizational Change.
  3. Organize and plan — can I say, “duh.” However, they continue the “organize and plan” discussion by recommending that the organization create a prioritization of changes — just like ranking software change requests — and that individuals create and monitor early warning signs of problems as part of risk management. OK, that is a very good thing for all organizations to do.
  4. Reward people for contributing to the productivity improvement process.  You have to incentivize people if you want them to change and try new things.
  5. Train the leadership team, participants, customers and clients. The better stakeholders understand the productivity improvement process, the more valuable will be their support and contribution.
  6. Create a process improvement framework for project managers, engineers, process managers and support personnel. If the cultural change required is significant or the suggested improvement costly, complete pilot studies or small implementations before spreading across the entire organization.
  7. Measure key variables –  this goes without saying for any initiative you try to implement.
  8. Assess and evaluate — “evaluate what you want because what gets measured gets produced.”
  9. Improve communication – I have written several posts on the importance of communication.
  10. Focus on benefits — measure cost savings following these do’s and don’t’s:
    1. Do: assign representatives from finance to validate the initiative and remember to include soft benefits that indirectly affect profit, like customer and employee satisfaction.
    2. Don’t: make productivity improvement another name for cutting costs, nor set unrealistic targets that doom the initiative to failure.

Although the recommendations seem simplistic — and you have heard it all before — the suggestions for a successful productivity improvement initiative are valid.

Finding a Content Management System Solution – Part 3

In part 2 of this series, I talked about selecting a content management system (CMS) and including the needs of people (stakeholders and users). I shared several great questions to ask when choosing a solution. So after you have done all the work of finding, selecting and implementing a CMS you can relax and take it easy – right ?  Sorry, a good CMS does not stop at the launch of the solution; in fact, many people would say your “journey into the land of Knowledge and Content management” has just begun!

Your organization has invested time and energy into picking and implementing the right CMS and you want it to be effective and improve the knowledge retention of the organization.  Do these software products do all this by themselves?  Of course not – Now you have to provide on-going processes and people to maintain and adapt your CMS to the changing environment.

If the goal of your CMS is to provide knowledge, lessons learned or any organization-valued information, then the content that it manages must have several qualities:

  • Currency – is the content current or so old as to be useless
  • Relevancy – is the content relevant to the needs of the users
  • Accuracy – has someone validated the accuracy of the information

These qualities do not happen by themselves but rather are part of the on-going processes, maintenance and support that you must provide.  I find that many Knowledge Management or CMS initiatives don’t include critical maintenance support. It is unfortunate that this happens and why CMS solutions like SharePoint, often get a bad rap. There are several things to consider for the on-going support, use, and effectiveness of your CMS:

These qualities do not happen by themselves but rather are part of the on-going processes, maintenance and support that you must provide.  I find that many Knowledge Management or CMS initiatives don’t include critical maintenance support. It is unfortunate that this happens and why CMS solutions like SharePoint, often get a bad rap. There are several things to consider for the on-going support, use, and effectiveness of your CMS:

  • Knowledge management staff
  • Training
  • Documented, updated and utilized processes
  • Culture and Change Management
  • Executive support

Staff and training
If you have not planned for staff that is responsible for the on-going maintenance and support of your CMS then you may be in for a train wreck.  I shudder to think of the future of the World Wide Web or a giant CMS that no one thought about maintaining! There is a lot of stuff to be found on the internet – but just try to find the “right” piece of information – that is hard to do. And how about training for users and stakeholders on how to use the CMS processes and tools? I assume that you will change processes over time or add new features… and what about new staff coming into the organization?

My recommendation is to put training time and resources for transition and maintenance into the CMS plan. Ensure that everyone has an initial class in using the CMS and document marking. Place someone in charge of the CMS and make using and supporting it part of employee reviews. Reward the staff members who make the system more effective through their efforts.

Processes
An effective CMS is not a one-time and you are done effort. Require training to show employees and team members how to use and add to the document store covered by the CMS. Quarterly or semi-annually, assess the performance of the CMS using quantitative and quality measures. Include questions on employee surveys about CMS use and perceived value. Take action when the results of performance analysis indicate less use or value than desired. Consider conducting an external review of your CMS’s performance from trained knowledge professional after implementation.

Culture and Change
To maintain a CMS and continue to receive benefits from a more sophisticated way to management organizational knowledge, company culture — the way we work here — will need to change. As I have said before, changing a culture is not easy. For those individuals pushing for using a formal CMS system or tasked with implementing and promoting it, I suggest modeling, training, rewarding and practicing patience.

Executive Support
No major cultural or programmatic change can happen in the absence of executive support. Formal support in terms of resources for designing, initiating, implementing and training are essential. Informal support, which can often be more powerful, happens when senior managers use the CMS system and can talk knowledgeably (and with data) about the system’s benefits. An enthusiastic executive champion can sway undecided or reluctant employees to try.

I hope your CMS or KM system can provide the kind of effective solution that organizations are looking for today.

________________________________________________________________
Some additional resources:

Knowledge Management—Emerging Perspectives – short article on KM by Gene Bellinger

Defining and designing the performance-centered interface: moving beyond the user-centered interface – Great article on making your solution a “performance based” system. (Another copy is located here: http://www.cognitive-technologies.com/whitepapers/files/Performance_Centered.pdf

Content and Knowledge Management resources list – provided by Ingistics, LLC

KMworld – online site for the magazine

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