Research Cycle 2

Wiki Globe

Working as a researcher by oneself would be easy in terms of knowledge management.  One would only need to manage the self-knowledge repository.  Working in team environments is entirely different than going at it by yourself.  There are different personalities, work ethics, and ways of dealing with stress and there are plenty of other intangibles that are beyond the scope of this research.  So how would a group of co-workers improve upon collaboration and knowledge sharing?  It has been argued that in order to transfer and share knowledge throughout the organization, companies should seek to establish communities of practice.  CoPs are social networks that are formed within the organization to assist in the transfer of knowledge (Ensor, Cottam, Band, 2001).

How do we get employees to further share their knowledge within their team dynamics?  Moving forward from cycle one where we introduced a blog/forum, I asked myself the question:

"How would introducing a Wiki to our internal community of practice with personal interactions further facilitate knowledge sharing?"

For my second cycle, I wanted to have the service managers (those who managed a specific technology, e.g. Web content, IM etc.), our internal community of practice that reported to my manager post their processes on an internal Wiki on our SharePoint site.  Their knowledge is the key to their daily performances and if the department captures this knowledge somehow, then the idea would be that everyone in the team would benefit from learning something new.  The knowledge will also help each individual in answering questions from other departments or business units if that specific service manager was out of the office.  In such a fast-moving economy, communities of practice enable companies to improve performance for a variety of reasons.  For example, CoPs offer companies an alternative way to handle unstructured problems and also to reduce rework and reinvention of the wheel by enabling members to more easily reuse existing knowledge assets (DeTienne, 2004).

Data Collected for Research Cycle 2

Cycle two was initiated in early December, 2009 and is ongoing.  For research purposes, Cycle two’s data will be collected until the last week of March of 2010.  I sent out an email to my department on November 24, 2009 and attached the Wiki usage documentation.  The document explained the goals and expectations to the department.  I also created a welcome page for the department, with instructions on how to create the Wiki.  

Figure 1 Welcome to the Wiki with instructions

From December 2009 to March 30, 2010, there were 29 Wiki entries.  Seven members of the group contributed to the creation of the Wiki in itself.  Although there were only seven creators, most of the staff contributed to the contents of the Wikis, although not all. 

Figure 2 Wikis created by the team

The other relevant data that I have collected included items such as:  Revision history, Wiki Site visitation (the number of times the site was looked at), email correspondence and meeting notes that I took when I had the face-to-face meetings with the service managers.   

Here is a graphical breakdown of Wiki's created from December 2009 to April 2010.

 

Figure 3 Chart of Wikis created

Data Evaluation

Upon reflection from Cycle 1, I wanted to be more interactive for this current cycle.  I asked my manager to let me use 30 minutes of his weekly staff meeting to discuss with the staff the weeks to come, and the Wiki goals that I had for the team.  I wanted my manager to also be more interactive and supportive with the Wiki/Blog/Forums. The first Wiki was created December 1, 2009.  It was a starter Wiki that I thought was a good icebreaker for the group to participate in.  It was called the “Acronym Wiki.”  The idea of this wiki was that it contained abbreviations of Business Units and internal corporate shortcut phrases that a new employee or even a seasoned veteran could reference.  

The face-to-face Wiki meetings officially started on December 15th, 2009.  I had a 1-hour discussion with my co-worker and he was confused about what the expectations of the Wiki were.  We then discussed several ideas and from that meeting, he understood what was needed from the Wiki, and in turn the meeting also cleared my thoughts as well.  I was clearer on what I needed to do with each individual from then on.  

The face-to-face meetings would occur until I have at least met up with all of the co-workers that reported to my immediate manager.  Our group included team members from the United Kingdom (UK) so I had email correspondences with them instead of the usual face-to-face.  In certain meetings, I found myself explaining the process to my co-workers and they seemed to understand the goals that I was trying to accomplish.  There were also times where I faced some pushback from my co-workers.  There was a sense of ownership or barriers to sharing.  Some of my co-workers would just not look me in the eye or would state that they did not have time to do such a thing or say “I’ll take a look at it when I’m free.”    

I found that some of my co-workers would be more diligent in creating the Wikis and some were not.  Strangely, one of the evidence that I collected pointed to the UK participating more than the US counterparts.  We only have 2 direct reports in the UK, and of the 29 Wikis created, they themselves created 13.  In the US, we have 9 direct reports scattered in California and in Illinois, of the 16 Wikis created in the US, there were only 5 authors, one of them being me.  I also kept in mind that I did not have a face-to-face meeting with our UK counterparts.  Is there a cultural difference?  Do our UK counterparts manage their time better?  

The team managed a total of 29 Wiki entries within a four-month time span.  There are currently 4 more service management items left to Wiki upon.  We’ve had a couple of service outages and vacations in the past couple of weeks so my immediate manager sent out a reminder email to the team soliciting participation to the Wiki.  

Reflecting Back on the Second Cycle

As I started on my second research cycle, I kept in mind the things that I did during the first cycle.  I was not active in facilitating or getting my co-workers to participate.  By not being participatory, I believe that my co-workers were not taking the blogs/forums seriously.  I took a step back and wrote down the items that I could do in order to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing.  So for the second research cycle, I decided to start a face-to-face meeting with my co-workers.  I wanted to have a sit down with each member so that I could explain to them the goals of the Wiki and how it is supposed to work.  By having the face-to-face meetings, I hoped that this would assist them in gathering their thoughts around what they could provide onto the Wiki and I was there to help them in creating the Wiki in case they did not know how to create one or know how to even get to the site.  I started scheduling a weekly one-hour meeting with each service manager from that point on, each week meeting with a different co-worker.  

My initial thoughts were that I would meet with my co-workers and they would then see the importance of the Wiki and then produce a Wiki for the company within a week or so.  They indirectly knew that my immediate manager supported the initiative.  We even had bi-weekly status meetings with my manager to explicitly talk about my status with my projects, which included the Wiki.  During my a one-on-one with my immediate manager, I suggested that he be more active in the forums and also send out a reminder email out to his direct reports so that it would remind them to post their Wiki entries.  I eventually met up with all of my co-workers (except for my UK counterparts) and some started authoring Wikis and others did not.  The initial participation was higher than that of cycle one, but lower that what I anticipated. 

After meeting with the service managers, I thought more about the actions that I just took with my co-workers.  Participation was still marginal, but my UK counterparts were more active in creating their Wiki entries than my US counterparts.  I noticed that I did not meet face-to-face with my UK counterparts and so I wanted to know if it was actually me that was the barrier to collaboration.  From December to the end of January, we had 11 Wiki creations, 5 of which were created by me, 1 from a US peer and 5 from our UK folks.  I then started sending out reminder emails as well as walk by reminders to the group.  

Upon further reflection of my actions, as I recalled from past personal experiences, I never gave anyone a due date on when they should get the Wiki’s created.  I needed to stress the importance of the Wiki and then ask the co-workers to give me some sort of date that they would have this Wiki created so that they would be accountable for that date.  Without accountability, people tend to not take things seriously where I work.  I then reconnected with members that have not created the Wikis and got them to commit to a due date so that I could report this to my manager in the future.  I thought that by doing this, and being more forceful, it would be better than being the nice guy.  By not being forceful, people generally do not take you seriously and will not do what you ask of them because they have no incentive to do so.  As a result, from February to the end of March we had 18 Wiki contributions, a 7 Wiki increase from the first two months.  

There were a couple of things that I’ve learned from this cycle and from investigating into the subject that changed my perspective on knowledge management and collaboration.  First of all the most important item that I thought was a barrier to sharing was that some of my co-workers felt that knowledge is indeed power.  If they shared what they knew, they thought that it would make them less powerful or less valuable to the company.  During the time of the research, my organization was going through cost savings by slashing jobs, the last standing employees wanted to feel that they had something tangible to hold on to and would thus keep them from being laid off.  People view knowledge as a method of securing their job.  So they're reluctant to share (De Long & Fahey, 2000).  Secondly, I believe that another barrier was the organizational culture of the US verses the UK teams.  The UK team was eagerly sharing their knowledge with the US team, but in contrast, the US team did not really share their knowledge with the UK team.  I found this surprising in my research.  Strangely enough, I did not physically meet with the UK team and they participated more than the US team.  A wide range of cultural factors has been identified as conducive to different processes of knowledge management, such as prioritization of knowledge, critical attitude toward existing knowledge, trust, care, openness, proactiveness, innovativeness, entrepreneurship, warmth, support, risk and reward (Zheng, 2005).  Trust was a factor in the participation of this cycle.  I’ve learned that with all the layoffs, cutbacks and off shoring of resources, the employees did not trust management and the organization.  Our team has lost its core group of employees within the past couple of months and was reluctant to participate.  Where lack of trust exists, a great amount of sharing will not occur. 

Heading into research cycle 3, my intentions are to have a couple of interview questions for all of my co-workers.  I will ask them the questions to see if I can gather their inputs into ways of making our collaboration and knowledge management better and more successful. 

-> Go to Cycle 3

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