Research Cycle 1

Has there ever been a time where someone has asked you a question that you’ve answered already?  This question may be a little more complex than the ones that would just require a simple recollection from memory but would require a five step procedural process in order to solve the inquiry. The challenge is to either remember step by step on how you would answer that question again or find out where you placed that knowledge or shall we say email, document or whatever it is that you are looking for. An organization should be able to learn from past experience and not 'reinvent' the wheel over and over again.

What could be implemented at the work place that would assist in collaboration? In my immediate community (Information Security), we are currently using SharePoint as a document repository.  Our team has not really done anything with the blogs and forums so I decided to research it further. 

So for my first cycle, I asked:

"If I implement a blog/forum and introduce it to my peers, would they contribute relevant information and knowledge so that it could accessible when needed?"

Within my immediate group, we have nine co-workers that report to my immediate manager. My initial work came from researching the technologies that we had at our disposal. Our group had an internal SharePoint site that was administered by a co-worker. The blog/forum area was already created on April 15th, 2009. This was an encouraging development for me because the technology was already implemented and all we had to do was introduce it to the group and train them if needed.

Every two weeks, I had one-on-one meetings with my immediate manager. I informed him of my ideas for my action research and he was excited for me and for the potential this project will have for our team. I wanted him to support my initiative, albeit it was work related as well as for my personal schoolwork. I knew that without management support any initiative within the work place would be difficult to accomplish. The impact of top management and leadership support is greater for knowledge management as it is an emerging discipline and employees may need the added incentive of a total commitment from their organizations top management and leadership (Conley & Zheng, 2009).

As of August 4th, 2009, our blog/forum site officially kicked off with me being the first contributor of a blog.

Evidence used to evaluate the action

Cycle 1 was initiated in early August 2009 and is ongoing.  Since it was the initiation of the knowledge sharing that was the focus of my action research, I am reporting on the outcomes from August to December.

During the August to December time period, I monitored the site for contributions to the blogs/forums. I also had trigger emails sent out to all the people subscribed to the service. I wanted people to opt in if they wanted to be part of the blogs/forums. I did not want people to receive the emails if they did not want to, but they still had access to the area where we kept the information so that they could browse the blogs on their own leisurely time. I provided instructions to the team during a team meeting my manager had held.  I explained the workings of the blog/forums and then left it to them to participate and contribute. 

Data Evaluation

In SharePoint, the administrator could collect utilization reports for each specific site. I wanted to keep track of how many blogs were being posted and by whom and how many people contributed to the blogs by commenting on it.

These were the blogs/forums contributed: 

 

Figure 1 Blogs and Forums Contributed

From August 4th, 2009 until December 30th, 2009, our SharePoint site had 12 posts to our Blog/Forum, 10 of which were contributed by me and 2 by team members (one from my immediate manager).  Of the 12 posts, 3 contained comments by other members of the team. Three of the blogs/forums were actually questions that went out to all analysts soliciting feedback (Analyst Question, Citrix Question for the Analysts, and Wireless networks). Of the 3, all received feedback in the form of a comment.    

A graphical representation of the Blog/Forum posts from August 2009 thru April 2010

 

Figure 2 Blog/Forum posts from August 2009 thru April 2010

During a meeting with my immediate manager on November 11, 2009, we discussed making cosmetic changes to SharePoint.  This is when I sat down and created a Wiki Usage and Blog usage documentation.  In these documents I explained the purpose of the Wiki’s and Blogs/Forum sections and how people should approach using them.  Once I created the document and had it reviewed by a peer, I sent the document out via email on November 24th, 2009. 

One of the immediate goals of the blogs/forums was to share knowledge and collaborate.  I was initially looking for sharing of knowledge from each other’s specialty skills, but the blog/forums ended up looking like it was used for a different purpose.  The trend that I saw was that the blogs/forums were a cut/paste tool for people to share articles pertaining to our specific field of work, instead of my visions of sharing and collaborating of work related issues and problems. 

Reflecting Back on the First Cycle

The most important thing I learned from the first cycle was that having the technology in place does not necessarily mean people will use it.  When I first started my first action research cycle, I thought people would have shared the same enthusiasm as I had for new things, change, sharing, and collaboration. But apparently I ran into challenges such as lack of enthusiasm, lack of participation and lack of initiative. One reason for employee resistance to knowledge sharing is that many people view their expertise as an intangible asset they are unwilling to part with.  Put differently, many workers these days view their knowledge or expertise as a source of power that is critical to their value as employees (Nonaka, Toyama & Konno, 2001).

When I first approached my immediate manager with the idea of collaboration and knowledge management as an action research project, he was enthusiastic for me and very supportive.  Once I told him what I was about to do with Blogs/Forums and Wiki’s, his words still stick with me today, “good luck with that!”  Apparently this is not the first time our group has tried to share knowledge, collaborate through the use of web 2.0 tools.  Simply creating a database or introducing new technology does not produce the creation, sharing or transfer of knowledge (DeTienne, 2004).

Luckily, our company already had the SharePoint technology in place so we didn’t have to incur any additional cost of implementing the system.  Internal cost estimates for a new SharePoint 2010 system was in excess of 2 million dollars with the cost of software licenses, hardware, and of course training and administration of the system. 

During this five-month research cycle, there were only two posts to our blog/forum that were not initiated by me and 6 comments.  I do not deem this as a success or a failure, but I do share some responsibility for the lack of direction.  I believe that had I established a specific goal for the blogs/forums that would have set the ground rules for what the expectations were for the usage of the blogs/forums.  As a result I created the Blog/Forum/Wiki usage document (November 24, 2009).  The document contained specific use cases, instructions and expectations for the Blog/Forum/Wiki.  Without a goal, I believe that my peers would not participate as freely with direction.  Our SharePoint site originally had tags that corresponded to our Information Security Policy.  This made it difficult to choose which ones that each blog/forum belonged to.  Once a person created a blog/forum, they would also have to choose which categories the blogs/forums were to go in so that in the future, searching for the blog/forum would be easier.  The site was not too user friendly.  My manager asked me to take a look at the site and make cosmetic changes to it so that it would be friendlier to those who weren’t participating.  

Our SharePoint site originally had tags that corresponded to our Information Security Policy.  This made it difficult to choose which ones that each blog /forum belonged to.  Once a person created a blog/forum, they would also have to choose which categories the blogs/forums were to go in so that in the future, searching for the blog/forum would be easier.  The site was not too user friendly.  My manager asked me to take a look at the site and make cosmetic changes to it so that it would be friendlier to those who weren’t participating. 

Another disappointing outcome of the first cycle was the lack of posts and participation by other members of my team, especially those whom I thought for sure would participate.  I ended up posting 10 of the 12 articles.  Within the 12 articles, 3 of them were posts that were specifically soliciting a response to the group.  So, drawing from that conclusion, I believe that if we were to use the blog/forums in such a way, it would be more beneficial for collaboration.  If I were to ask a question specific to a technology, a process, or policy then perhaps we can get others to speak their minds on what their ideas and opinions were.  Going back to my original idea of the posts, I was hoping that we would use the post to share knowledge and ideas. 

The group ended up using the blog/forums to post website articles and not necessarily post their own specific knowledge.  It was more like sharing what others wrote or articles, instead of sharing what they knew.  

So what could I do better in preparation for my second cycle?  As I move forward with the Wiki, I think that I have to be more active.  Active to me meant being more involved personally with each of the co-workers.  This means I would have to do a sit down, or a face-to-face meeting with each of the members of my team.  Perhaps this will clear up the misconceptions and lead to less misuse of the tool and the intentions I have for the knowledge management and collaboration activity of SharePoint.  Being passive in cycle 1 had led me to believe that I had to change my style and perhaps my approach in order to have more active participation in my group.  

-> Go to Cycle 2

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