I recently saw on the BBC website that additional travel restrictions have been imposed on eight areas in the UK including where many of my family live.
This has been in place since Friday, but nobody knew about it. There was no announcement it was simply posted in a subsection of a governance covid advice page. But since as far as anybody was aware there had been no change, there was no reason to visit that page.
This reminded me of that classic paragraph from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy;
“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”
How often in our organisations do we make this same mistake? We make a change, but we don’t inform the people who need to know about the change. We may update our standard operating procedures or knowledge management systems and assume that is enough.
The problem is that once we know how to do something we don’t need to read the instructions anymore, so we will never see these changes. Many organisations are full of people doing things the old way as they have no idea a new way exists.
If we want people to do things differently, we need to tell them about the change not just expect them to find it for themselves. Sometimes when we don’t inform people properly it is an oversight. But other times it is a deliberate choice, perhaps we can’t afford the time out for people to learn the new way, or maybe we think it will be unpopular and we don’t want to make a fuss. But surely, if it is not worth the effort of informing people then it is not worth making the change in the first place. If people carry on doing things the old way, then we have not delivered a change.
Knowledge management is key to a successful business, but for it to work effectively we need everybody using it, not just the new starters. We need to find ways to ensure that this is a tool for delivering not only learning but enabling change and improvement.
When our knowledge management systems become the equivalent of a locked filing cabinet with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’ then they are helping nobody.
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Insight & Quality Specialist
25th May 2021