Tag Archives: share

Respect at work


Respect at workRespect is in many organisations a core value, but how can you explain something this essential to you colleagues? Respect is hard to explain because we are used to be treated with respect. My experience at a construction site to taught me that respect at work starts with treating each other as equals, open communication and sharing information. This in order that your colleagues can think along and take initiative. You steer on results and now the ‘how’.

Respect is something many organisations have in their core values, but what does it actually mean? Many times I have tried to find the correct formulation and an example that suits, but we were always stuck after the “for getting respect, you first need to give respect” tagline.

Respect is hard to explain because we are used to be treated with respect. It was only after doing something completely else, that I experienced what it was to be treated without respect. That’s why it’s hard to explain respect from my current employment because I have almost always been treated with respect. But sometimes I come in a completely other environment. One where I don’t have prior knowledge or training. One where I don’t have acquired experience in the field. It is a construction site. At my home or at a site where friends or family are building or redecorating their house.

On a construction site, I’m a newbie. The palms of my hands don’t lie: I’m used to desk work. On a construction site I have the knowledge of a newbie and I act as a newbie. Surrounded by experienced experts I do my best to help and assist. In some cases I’m treated with respect, in other cases I’m not.

Some examples of being treated without respect:

  • When I don’t do my work good enough, work is taken out of my hands and done by the lead himself.
  • I cannot understand the professional because he uses jargon I don’t know.
  • When I don’t know something, the professional acts as if it’s common knowledge and I’m missing out.
  • Knowledge and information is only shared if really needed and only at the time needed.
  • The professional is telling me in every detail exactly what to do instead of allowing me to fill in my work myself.
  • I’m only told the next step in line and don’t know how the end result should look like. This makes it impossible to think along, find solutions and take initiative.

To summarize the above, the other party is not treating me as an equal. I’m happy to admit that all of this didn’t occur on one occasion, but is mere a summary of everything I experienced during the years. I must also admit that in some cases I was ready to heat my head against the wall.

So how should you treat your colleagues with respect?

  • Treat them as an equal. (this is were our first punch line “give respect to receive” dissolved)
  • Keep communication open and share information.
  • Offer the opportunity to think along.
  • Offer the space to take initiative.
  • Steer on output (results) and not on input (the ‘how’).
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Share your own champagne


Sharing knowledge, even when you are many not immediately pulling together

Champagne farmThe Blanc-Sec family has been running the drape farm for years. After the death of his mother, Rose, Vin Blanc-Sec takes over the business. Vin is up from 5 AM making the necessary preparations for the day. In the AM he mostly works from at the farm, but the afternoon is in on most days fully booked with meetings with potential customers. A busy schedule, but that’s because of the Blanc-Sec family’s number one product: Blanc-Sec Champagne. Recently voted top 10 in best champagnes.

The recipe of the Blanc-Sec Champagne is a good kept family secret for years. And so is the production process. Only members of the direct Blanc-Sec family can have access to the full procedure. This resulted in a good champagne recipe which meant big business for the family.

But times change, and so does taste. Younger people are looking for another kind of champagne. The Spanish cava is gaining ground and pushing the classical champagne products from their throne. Vin came aware of this fact when he went to his nice’s 18th birthday party, where there was cava all round, but the family champagne was not to be found. As smart as Vin was, he locks himself up in the lab together with the memos of his mother and decided not to come out after he found The New Taste.

There was cava all around, but the family champagne was not to be found.

Some trials and unsuccessful experiments later, Vin decides to give up. He can’t get his production process tweaked like he likes to and decides to call in a family meeting to discuss the issue.

“I’m incredibly stuck”, Vin sighs, “I just can’t seem to find the right flavor.”
“Did you try another grape to …” his uncle asks, but Vin interrupts: “Guys, I think it’s time to seek for help”.
“What? Are you crazy?”, his brother shouts, “We’ve been doing this for years!”
“Now now,” his uncle responds, “let’s just hear Vin out for a moment…”
“Thanks,” Vin says, “I think it’s time to cooperate with our neighbours. Yes, our competition.”

A moment of silence passes.

“We cannot do this on our own. The whole sector needs innovation.”
“If we do not cooperate, we loose. Just look at the growth in popularity of cava!”

The discussion went on for a while (and we will spare you the details), but eventually they agree.

“Let’s give it a try and see what we can learn!”

With the permission of the rest of the family Vin takes up contact with the other major players in the champagne industry. While many reluctant at first, they decided they needed to cooperate to bring the cava popularity to a halt and become market leader again with tasteful champagne products. The champagne farmers set up a community “Champagne For All” and make a vow to help each out in these times of need.

And the results are remarkable. As it turns out, Vin’s closes neighbour, Mark Eting, is an expert in designing fancy labels for the bottle in a very efficient way. Vin decides to give his champagne label an update, but with still a reference to its ancestry. In return, Vin can also help along Mark with his experience in the field of process optimization.

They all benefit from the knowledge exchange, but still keep their independence on the champagne market. You could say they all got a step forward together.

Are you working as single champagne farmers or as community?

In each organization not all departments are pulling together. Each has different targets and different approaches. But when your organization wants to transcend mediocrity and become a market leader, you need to get them to work together. Are you all working together, for the same goal? Or are your departments acting like single champagne farms in your region?

Setting up communities is one way to increase cooperation in an organization. Communities are more than online forums and also encompass face-to-face interaction in the form of meetings, offline forums, conventions, inspirational talks etc. If several departments are all doing the same work, it might be interesting to set up communities to exchange best practices and lessons learned. Each department has his specific context, employees and customers, but there will be added value in exchanging information.

From practice we know that setting up communities is not easy. Information exchange cannot be forced and the “What’s in it for me?” is not always very clear. Communities is give and take, you know. Our advice is to give your communities at work a gentle push, but don’t force it upon the users because they will reject. Give the active members a pad on the back and reward people who are sharing knowledge and helping others. If you are  thinking about how to attract more participants and increase participation, try to reverse the question: “Why should I be interested to join?” If your content is rich enough, the added-value and the  “What’s in it for me?” will be clear. This will attract more community members.

How do/would you stimulate information exchange in you organization? Please share 😉

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Kanban used for knowledge sharing


In the aftermath of the financial crisis, times remain hard and organizations struggle with balancing resources vs savings. When work volumes decline, head count will follow and this creates a knowledge gap. Profiles become more generic and the work floor needs to invest in knowledge building without budget for it.

We already described the use of kanban for setting priorities in “From push to pull for task assignments”. In this post we describe how almost the same kanban system can be used for building a shared knowledge base.

Example kanban board at kanbanflow.com

Example kanban board at kanbanflow.com

Kanban

The first steps to kanban are that teams make flows (value streams) of the work that progresses during their job.

To illustrate, typical IT work progresses from ToDo via Develop/Build to Test.

ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

The Kanban technique makes the whole process visible, but also adds certain constraints:

  • The number of concurrent tasks can be limited per phase, project and/or person.
  • There is priority queuing before tasks are taken up by the team.

An example of limiting concurrent tasks per phase:

ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

x

2

2

2

3

4

4

4

Priority queuing adds a step before the normal flow actual starts:

ToDo

Priority ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

x

4

2

2

2

3

4

4

4

The advantage of priority queuing is that it can be used together with the customer, but it can also be used for sharing knowledge.

Building a knowledge base

People tend to have the tendency to pick tasks that they know, that are familiar to them. The pitfall here is that after a while you get very specialized profiles. In good times this isn’t a problem because there’s work enough for everybody, but when times get rough and your team is decreased…

To overcome this pitfall, make the agreement with your team members that they also have to pick up tasks which are not their specialty. To give focus, you can assign one or two extra systems, languages, environments, … they can take up. To assist them in the process, assign a coach from the team which has the needed knowledge.

Make sure you follow-up in your team huddles to check what their experience is and where the approach can be adjusted.

Have fun!

Additional reading

Kanban & scrum – making the best of both

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Improve team flexibility and continuity with skills matrix analysis


A skills matrix (also refered to as knowledge matrix) is a map or index of the team skills, listed by each team member and cross-referenced with the different areas or expertise.

The skills matrix is used for mapping the current skills, identifying potential harmful situations and taking action.
Uses for a skills matrix:

  • A skills matrix comes in handy when a new member joins the team and you want to get him up to speed.
  • When a team member leaves the team, the skills matrix can be used to identify possible knowledge gaps.
  • The skills matrix can be used proactively to guarantee team continuity.
  • Identify knowledge sharing and development needs between team members.
  • Installing cross-functional teams (in cross functional teams, team members have no specific speciality only, but a more generic profile).
  • Check the impact of key persons leaving the team: will it be a problem?
  • Increase team strength & flexibility, but also team spirit (eg. during the huddles team members will know each others areas better).
  • Create a RACI for the different areas of expertise: who are the SPOCs? Who are the experts to be consulted?
  • Identify which roles in the team need which skills (eg. soft skills vs. technical skills).
  • Set development targets.

Why do you need a skills matrix?

You need a skills matrix when you pick up following signals:

  • Estimations for new assignments are not made when key persons are not available.
  • Estimations for new assignments need to be approved or checked by key persons.
  • Permanence is difficult to arrange.
  • Statements like “if person X leaves, we will be in real trouble”.
  • Difficult arrangements for team continuity during the holiday periods (eg. summer vacation, Christmas).
  • Single Point of Confusion instead of Single Point of Contact.
  • Unclear responsibilities.
  • During a huddle, team members have no clue whatsoever what the other team member is talking about.

Skill matrix analysis

To score skills you can determine the criteria yourself:

  • None, insufficient, basic, good, expert
  • None, trained, coached, lead, training given, coaching given
  • Scoring on behaviour types

You can also use weights for both a horizontal and vertical analysis:

  • Horizontal: the extent to which every area is covered by different team members and expertise levels.
  • Vertical: the extent to which each team member is covering different areas and taking on different expert roles.

What can we learn form a skills matrix:

  • New team members will color red over the whole line. Use the skills matrix to set priority and focus for training purposes.
  • Identify key persons which are dominant in certain areas. Make sure these areas are also covered by more team members.
  • Identify knowledge gaps in certain areas.
  • Which team members have certain expert knowledge in areas which we don’t have (eg. Java knowledge in a .NET team).

Ready, set, go!

Setting up a skills matrix without taking further action is like creating a risk matrix without a mitigation strategy.
If you invest the time & effort to create one, don’t just hang it on the wall, but use it to take action and improve your team strength!
Next to each skill assessment you can add a target for the team member in that expertise area. Not all team members will have/need the same targets.

Further, the skills matrix is outdated from the click you use to close the file. People learn all the time.
So plan a recurrent update and action time slot in your agenda to check the progress.

Additional reading

http://management411.net/skills-matrix-scoring-a-simple-management-tool-to-move-your-organization-in-the-right-direction/

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