Final Reflection

Electricity is what keeps the lights on, air conditioning cold, computers processing and companies in business.  If the electricity goes out, then the organization will go out of business.  The famous phrase ‘scientia potentia est’ is Latin for “For also knowledge itself is power” phrased by Sir Francis Bacon in his work Medtiationes Sacrae (1597).  In modern times, this term is recognized as, “knowledge is power.”   What his phrase was meant to convey was sharing knowledge is widely recognized as the basis for improving one’s reputation and influence, thus power.  Organizations that are successful in harnessing this power by creating a successful knowledge management system will have a competitive advantage and a sustainable future in the global economy.  

The misconception that organizations have towards Sir Francis Bacon’s phrase was that they deem knowledge within an individual as power, whereas in actuality, it should be knowledge creates a powerful team, or community of practice.  One employee within an organization can’t possibly run an entire organization.  As Bennis and Biederman quotes in their book Organizing Genius, (1997), “None of us is as smart as all of us.”  By sharing knowledge as a team, problem solving and procedural improvement will be further enhanced and made more effective.   

Action research provided me with the structure on how I would approach knowledge sharing and collaboration in my organization.  The action research cycles enabled me to progressively solve issues of sharing and collaboration within my immediate community of practitioners.  Action research is a systematic, reflective study of one’s actions and the effects that I took to my workplace.  Through meta-cognition, I was able to self-monitor and self assess my actions so that I could input new and improved ways of problem solving to improve my own approach so that I could improve my organization.  

Sharing at Work Made Easy

Times New RomanThe life of a consultant is not an easy one.  When you are done with one company, you pick up and move on to the next.  With every new company, there’s a learning curve.  New employees typically plug their laptop into the power outlet and then wait for instructions on what to do next.  The beginning of my career at my current organization was just that, plugged in and ready to work.  Work on what?  I had no idea.  There weren’t any instructions, only the job description that I had in my binder which I brought with me to work the first day.  For my action research, the idea that I had was how would I get this new employee up and running without any supervision?   How do I improve and facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration in my company?   If I assisted in creating a knowledge repository that would capture information in the form of a blog, forum or wiki, would it enhance knowledge sharing and collaboration?  

I’ve been in many situations where I was looking for a form, a document or simply a definition of an acronym.  It was an extremely frustrating feeling of going to your peers constantly so that they can point you in the right direction.  I introduced a blog/forum to the team to facilitate knowledge sharing.  I wanted the team to communicate through the use of this specific technology so that the knowledge is documented and can be searched upon in the future.   After a couple of weeks of low to non-participation, I started wondering why no one wanted to share their problems or issues.  I took a step back to think about why this was happening.  I then realized that I really did not give clear instructions to the team so I then created a usage document outlining the proper usage or direction of the new blog/forum sections in SharePoint.  Soon after with the publication of the usage document and the communication to the team in my manager’s weekly staff meeting, sharing and collaboration increased steadily. 

The first iteration was to throw the blog and forum into the sandbox and see if the team mingled.  The second cycle was more interactive.  I was more active in conducting one on ones with my co-workers to assist them in inputting data, or knowledge into our newest creation, the wiki.  I wanted to be more participatory in this cycle because I did not receive the high levels of participation that I was expecting out of the team.  I thought that if I was in their space/face, then they would in turn produce a wiki entry for the team.  I noted that the participation level was higher, but then there were still some teammates that did not care to participate in the knowledge sharing.  I kept on asking myself why.  Why did some participate and why did others not?  The organization was in limbo at the time and we were laying off employees so I thought that because people deem knowledge as power, they needed to keep that to themselves so that they are looked upon as an asset and thus cannot be laid off.   

After the second research cycle, I began to think about how my approach and my delivery could have alienated some of my team members.  I know that our team really operates as a single person supporting a technology and some of them were not really used to working as a team.  I wanted to explore the way I implemented my solution onto the team and wanted to solicit their feedback so that I could improve upon our site.  From the one on one interview that I conducted with my co-workers, I found out that some were more open to knowledge sharing, some did not want to share in risk of losing their jobs, there were no extrinsic values to sharing and some were actually not interested in the project because they had no incentives from management.   I realized that this collaborative effort was much more difficult than I initially thought.  One size does not fit all and I needed to understand each team mate’s goals so that I could assist them in meeting their goals so that our team would have successful sharing environment.  I needed to be more socially involved with my co-workers so that they could trust me and then share with me, then ultimately with the entire team. 

Lessons Learned

From what I thought was an easy plug in, my action research project was an adventure in managing personalities, technology and organizational restructuring that was beyond my immediate control.  How hard can it be to create a knowledge repository, and have people input their expertise into it so that everyone who has access to it would improve themselves?  I made the mistake of assuming that everyone in my team would collaborate eagerly as I would and did.  I did not create a good enough action plan or business requirement as the corporate world would call it.  A difficulty with action planning is that sometimes people assume that life will go according to plan, which is seldom the case, so they get agitated when the unexpected happens (McNiff & Whitehead, 2006).   I’ve always thought that two heads were better than one and in general, my co-workers would agree.  I was now tasked in showing them how it’s better.

The research cycles taught me that I needed to include my co-workers in the planning process of my action research.  Since I’m not the only user of the system, I needed to have their input into the technology so that everyone would get something out of it.  I also needed to have their buy-in.  I needed to establish a better working relationship with them so that they could trust me and provide more constructive input into the repository.  I found myself asking why this or why that during all of the research cycles.  Reflecting on every decision, outcome and process was key in discovering how I felt about a situation and how I could improve upon the future situations.  As I understood my co-workers in a more intimate way, they too were more eager and willing to share their knowledge with me.  Different types of knowledge that not only pertained to work, but to their personal lives as well.  I feel that my relationship with all of my co-workers have improved as a result of my action research.  

When the individual soul is connected to the organization, people become connected to something deeper-the desire to contribute to a larger purpose, to feel they are part of the greater whole, a web of connection (Fullan, 2001).  My belief was to be the best at what you do.  I was intrinsically motivated at my organization.  How will I get my co-workers on the same page?

Upon completion of the three research cycles, my organization has purchased SharePoint 2010 for the company wide implementation.  Although the decision was not initiated around my research, I was assigned to assist in implementing the system because of my prior research experience.  We are hopeful that the new collaboration system will foster new communities of practice and with new communities, new opportunities for knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The Extension Cord

Plugging the laptop into the wall without purpose will only turn it on.  There has to be a purpose in life.  Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another.  And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives (Pink, 2009).  I will continually reflect upon my practice so that I can assist in fostering change in my organization and more importantly, change within me, which is the heart of Action Research.  I will also extend the extension cord that is connected to the wall so that my co-workers can plug in and we can all reap the benefits of a fully collaborative community of practice.

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