Even in times of VUCA and fluid learning there is still a case to be made for documenting and sharing certain ways of working or particular adaptations that have been made to standardised processes or software platforms.
The Cynefin Framework describes different domains very well. Whilst in the Obvious / Simple Domain we can rely on Best Practices, we need to use Good Practices in the Complicated Domain. Whilst developing software falls into the Complex Domain, using the software falls “merely” into the Complicated Domain. Some might even argue it falls into the Simple Domain. It takes time and expertise to understand the cause and effect within the software but once understood it is manageable, it can be documented and adapted.
And this is exactly the context in which a recent client engagement took place. The client was in the process of rolling out SAP and other operations software in its factories worldwide. To support this rollout a network of experts was initiated and nurtured. These experts (EE) were the first point of contact for end-users and an important connection between people on the shop floor, IT teams and Global Domain Leads (GDL). Across the different factories the software was adapted to local specifications and requirements. More mature rollout sites had started to further adapt the systems. In most cases only few people were aware of those adaptations and improvements. Thus, the idea was to raise awareness of the local adaptations and inspire and motivate others to evaluate and potentially implement those adaptations as well.
The client asked me whether I could provide any recommendations for encouraging people to share good practices. In my experience this is more difficult than one might assume, as it depends on the context of the system the people work in (because here we are in a complex domain again). Instead of handing out recommendations, I tried to assume the perspective of an expert and what he might think and feel when being asked to share good practices with others. Best option though, would have been of course simply asking various experts, but that was not possible when I collected the below thoughts and ideas.
Below is a list of potential hurdles and how I would address them and try out different avenues.
|ID||Potential Hurdle||Potential Remedy|
|1a||"I don’t understand what a good practice is"||Collect examples of what a good practice is and present them.
Ask GDLs to provide examples and name EEs they know had a good practice / idea in the past but potentially not documented. Get in touch specifically with these people and ask them individually to contribute. Don’t ask the group! This only creates group-thinking, where everyone thinks that others will contribute! Offer help to these individuals in writing the good practice, so they don’t have to think about the format and can save time.
|1b||"I don’t have a good practice"||This obviously might be true. However, I would ask people to think about what they might be doing differently to what they learned in the trainings. Ask them what they might have changed in the process in the past three months. Ask them what end users have frequently asked about and based on their requests, EE might remember what they changed in the process to make it easier for end users.|
|2||"I am not sure whether the thing I changed / do differently constitutes as good practice"||See 1a|
|3||"I don’t know what happens if I do share good practice (positive)"||Explain what happens if they submit a good practice
- Recognition - from whom? e.g. line manager, factory director, sponsor, senior management? Explain How.
- Example: Good practice booklet featuring the person’s good practice. SVP will sign a copy.
- Example: SVP doing another video after the Community Jam naming the individuals.
- Person will be highlighted at Community Jam
- Person can present his best practice idea on stage or in a world café or other suitable formats
- Internal Communications Department will write an article on the intranet about the Community Jam and link to the good practice and name some of the contributors.
|4||"I don’t know what happens if I do share good practice (negative)"||Person might be afraid of being contacted by others, might be afraid he needs to present it at the Community Jam, might be afraid of being called out in front of a large audience, which makes him uncomfortable.
Explain clearly what will happen / not happen.
|5||"I don’t know in what format, what channel, with whom I need to share the good practice"||Suggest a format / template, channel and contact person.
Make it as easy as possible to contribute. Even suggest to take 30 minute of their time for interviewing and then you writing up the good practice.
If there is a template, what are the headlines?
Are there categories for good practices?
|6||"I don’t have time"||This usually means, it is not a priority. Make it desirable and easy to contribute.|
|7||"I don’t care"||This is just a statement on the surface. The true WHY they do not care is below the surface. (see 3, 4, 8, 9, 11)|
|8||"I don’t share with people I don’t know"||This is obviously a catch22, because most people will only meet in September at the Community Jam for the first time. Try to understand current connections. Highlight the recent visit to one of the factories and support given there. If you know someone from locations that did a visit at another location, make it personally and try to argue that his good practice could potentially benefit person XYZ at the factory he visited. Another idea: Try to make it more urgent. For example, in the past 6 months we had X number of new EE come on board (drop some names in some locations). Thus they are new in their role, need to learn a lot and want to learn a lot. Most EE will remember the time they were onboarded and new in their role. Thus, there is now an emotional connection because people can relate to these new EE and their situation. It is all about making people care by making it personal and relate to the needs of others.|
|9||"I don’t know what personal benefit I have from taking time to contribute"||Recognition, appreciation, gratification, line manager support
I would not think of financial rewards or incentives.
|10||"I don’t know what benefit my factory (factory manager, line manager) has"||Think about how the factory can benefit from having a good practice from their factory appearing in different channels. Same approach as in Hurdle 11. Play to the selfish behaviour of a factory director.|
|11||"My line manager wants me to focus on other things"||How can we make sure the line manager supports this? For example, highlighting what is in it for him. That could mean, wherever the good practice is mentioned, it also mentions the line manager. It is about social currency and also becoming visible within the organisation and potentially being recognised! Play to the selfish behaviour of people!|
As you can see from the above, there is not a set of recommendations that can simply serve as a blueprint and be copied and pasted. Every context is different in the end. Thus, it is also about trying out and experimenting with the different ideas and thoughts I gave above. Assuming a user-centric approach (using Design Thinking principles and tools) though will help to come up with suitable solutions to a problem or even better to the underlying causes of the problem.