Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, what it initially did was spend millions of dollars industrialising the existing mess while simultaneously disenfranchising the local subsidiaries – time to hire a new sheriff! – Or could this be a case for distributed cognition?
Building a Knowledge-creating Organisation
Intuitively it seems rational to believe that if technicians pool their knowledge and stop solving the same problem from scratch a thousand times every day, that’s an improvement that everyone could buy into. Eventually that was proven to be true, however unlocking that truth involved a three year culture metamorphous – going from the caterpillar of “I am what I know” to butterfly of “I can know so much more when I share my knowledge”. The two states are as different as caterpillar and butterfly and the transformation is almost as mysterious. The role of the knowledge worker is converting know-how from the tacit to the explicit for customers who then re-form it to tacit for themselves. During this process pertinent individual knowledge is discovered, packaged and verified for future consumption at the group, organisation or inter-organisation level. This explicit knowledge has been filtered from the corporate body of tacit knowledge under the guidance of the consumer to create the corpus of Compaq-specific solutions. In this process the unit of analysis moves from the level of the employee to the business unit (TSC) – very reminiscent of Hutchens’ cockpit but on a much grander scale.
Cognitive Artefacts – The Knowledge Article
How representations are transformed and propagated through the systemBefore the introduction of KCS we created thousands of solutions (articles) every day, after KCS that reduced to 10 to 20 per month, but with about 16,000 reuses of existing solutions. The graph shows the remarkable take off in reuse after a full year of practically no progress. Why did reuse go from about 200/month to 14,000/month in just six months? The implementation of KCS was planned and deployed firstly in a pilot group to hone the principles and processes and to work out how best to manage the change. The pilot explains the first six months, when reuse actually dropped due to the effort to seed the database with representative solutions. The second six months is much more interesting. This is the centre-wide transformation from reactive individual call centre agent to knowledge creating teams. There is a slow adoption phase where the reuse rate goes from about 2:1 to 5:1. As this happens the whole dynamic changes and both employees and customers experience the impact of distributed cognition – the result is remarkable, reuse rockets to 1,000:1.
Two years into the project the Dublin TSC merged its database with the North America TSC and began to reuse their solutions. At the same time the US technicians had access to EMEA solutions. The Dublin teams were immediately able to consume knowledge articles from NA but the US team was not able to reuse the EMEA content despite its being 100% English language and the user base being identical. The reason: KCS in the US never elevated from the technician level to the team level.