Knowledge Sharing: ‘Nice-to-Have’?
In many companies, knowledge sharing is considered a kind of side “nice-to-have” activity. Often it is put at lower priority than daily development of devices and projects that must be sold. There is a wrong belief in the background: knowledge is never considered directly linked to Companies fundamentals, like annual revenue.
In my view, this is a mistake.
Let me tell you about a real episode I witnessed directly, showing the intrinsic and concrete value of knowledge sharing.
In a multinational company, two different Business Units, belonging to the same macro-group. Each of them was developing similar devices but for different markets. R&D teams were also separated, while fabs almost totally shared, due to the high cost of the machines in the production line.
Absence of exchanges of information and collaboration? Bad results
Aggressive targets were set for both BUs, year after year, by top management. Both markets were significantly growing, the positive trend had to be exploited to the maximum. Many times, customers were different, even if , as previously said, developed devices pretty similar. Along time, among two groups, a natural competition started to be evident, exactly like the not-so-friendly relationship among related BU Directors.
Could seem unbelievable, but even within huge dimension companies, decisions might be taken on subjective and personal opinions, not even based on facts but on mutual dislikes, or instinctive impressions. This happens much more frequently than expected, especially where the culture of organization and R&Rs definitions, is still not well developed. Infact, internal structures devoted to control and coordination should avoid any risk.
Over time, among two groups, the fracture was more and more evident, at each level even among technical teams, incredibly developing devices independently, even referring to identical technology!
Two events change the entire modus operandi
Top management was aware, but not really taking care as long as financial results were in line with company goals… until two events came to break this mindset:
- Fixed costs of devices development started to explode: absence of coordination lead to lack of rationalization of expenses related to all tools for prototyping and qualification.
- A powerful customer, intercepting both markets came to request a product, under development in both BUs. Even Marketing and Sales were separated, and customer contacted just those belonging to one BU only. Long story short, result was a disaster: device matching customer specifications was developed by BU not contacted by customer itself. Even if Company got know-how and capability, several months passed without clarifications and agreements… even on prices both BUs were competing (in secret), without a clear communication, decreasing
overall margin! Useless to say, also company image was damaged: the episode showed externally a complete disorganization.
Knowledge Sharing: KPI!
Which useful takeways could we get from what described ?
First of all, a good Management should spend time to create a “human weakness-proof organization”. Internal competition or even personal dislikes should never impact significantly on final key company results finale. It is necessary that R&R definition lead to entities devoted to control and supervision, as individual decisions are risky, by definition. Obviously, equilibrium must be always a target vs excessive bureaucracy. In general, Processes efficiency should be always included in global KPIs.
Internal competency could be a nice idea to increase proactiveness for sure, but once again info exchange should be a key starting point in all regular evaluations.
As we see all over the world, information is power, both in technical or management environments. This is obviously more true in a company. Infact, along any development, people make mistakes, partial view evaluations, an internal humus is created, it is what we generically call “experience”. Sharing all these info is always useful for other teams, at least avoding to waste time and money, by trying fallacious paths.
Knowledge sharing should be always concretely incentivized, by organizing dedicated bonus. Ideally, dedicated roles should be introduced in any units.
KNOW-HOW IS MONEY, TO SHARE…
Know-How is money to share. It must be part of company mindset: info are concrete as a real device, any detail contributes to build what is defined as know-how, a set of knowledge useful by definition. Paradoxically, even the awareness of the uselessness of an info, or the absence of a positive result are useful bit to store. Knowledge calls knowledge, it is an ineluctable and inexhaustible process.
FROM MULTINATIONALS TO THE WORLD
As I tried to explain in a previous article (https://www.bizanalysis.org/en/praise-of-the-multinational), one of the merits of a multinational companies is that could represent a “social lab” to be exported in the external world.
Interesting, for example, what appears from telecast “The 77 percent” on DW TV. It’s a kind of daily news dedicated to African youth. Here clearly appears that lack of knowledge is the main detractor to development. Most people does not have experience and knowledge, not just money, to create activities, start-up, companies, richness. Actually, absence of know-how is blocking the “explosion” Black Continent deserves.
Knowledge sharing is the real democatic model to be targeted, to allow a uniform growth worldwide. Many times we forget that, in any group of work, best results come in a proactive environment , a win-win mindset, in which everyone can give the best.
Instead, imbalance favouring few persons, brings to ephemeral victories, short term advantages. Whenever a team is not growing, defeat is for everyone.
Luckily, this is becoming a widespread thought: as example it is interesting the experiment of www.free-lessons.org, a web platform allowing experts to share knowledge, for free.
Donating knowledge is properly equated to the ordinary benefit of money.