K Street Newsletter :: Directions

May 2020    |    VOLUME 18, ISSUE 5

Staying Sane

Because of Covid-19, a lot of people are working from home for the first time. It's not as easy as it sounds, particularly if you'd like to hang onto some semblance of sanity. At Knowledge Street, we've relied on our home-based offices since we started the business in 2003, so it's old hat to us. But we understand the way the work-at-home life tends to blur boundaries...let's do the first cut of that new marketing campaign, and then get the chili into the slow cooker. Or fold some laundry. The dogs could use a walk. We all want a good work-life balance, and it's harder to achieve when everything happens in the same place.

This article offers three ideas for navigating the work-at-home life, and it's interesting because none of them are about work. The first is to plan your meals so you can minimize trips to the market. Looking at the big picture can also reduce waste and give you an area for positive process management. A good thing when our lives involve so much that's beyond our control. And leave some room for take out, as a treat for yourself and to help your local restaurants. The second tip is to get enough exercise. We can't go to the gym but we can still come up with things to do every day. There are gazzillions of exercise programs on the internet. Finally, take regular breaks. That's one of the best ways to establish some structure in a world where the time of day (and even the day of the week) seem almost meaningless.

 

Another Chance for KM

Over the last dozen years, many companies have established the infrastructure needed for remote work. Those that haven't are now in a bit of scramble. Workplaces are locked down and local and network folders are being force-migrated to cloud drives, SharePoint servers and other document management platforms. It might be a turbulent transition, but there could be positive long-term benefits. If the new information repositories are structured properly, information will be easier to find. And organizations will be better positioned to harness the value of the knowledge they're creating and storing.

Capturing knowledge also reduces risk in the event that key personnel are taken out of the mix. This article suggests that companies appoint knowledge champions with a deep understanding of the selected platform. The champions should be allowed to establish a structure, and communicate the storage concepts to all stakeholders. We've always believed that a well-structured knowledge management system offers competitive advantages, even if to many it seems like too much work. Covid-19 is raising the stakes here. So in that way, the virus represents an opportunity for building a new foundation.
 

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Street Smarts 199: Ask good questions.

From childhood, most people learn that success is a matter of getting the right answers. It continues into adulthood, since that's where the reward mechanisms lie. In fact, people who ask too many questions tend to make their colleagues uncomfortable. We'd rather get an answer quickly and get on with business than explore the nuances of conventional wisdom. As the pace of decision-making accelerates, it's increasingly important that people are willing to take a breath and ask. "Why are we doing this, again?" Peter Drucker said that companies should regularly examine their operations, with that question in mind. If we weren't already doing this, would it still seem like a good idea?

There was an interesting blog post at the Harvard Business Review that considered this topic in some detail. It presents four kinds of questions that lead toward different sorts of outcomes, and opposes a general rush to judgment. That's particularly applicable given current events, as individuals and organizations work to re-imagine a new normal for the post-virus world. To make good decisions, we need to ask the questions that really matter.

 

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Imagining the New Normal 

The news this week is focused on how and when business will reopen, as the nations of the world try to restart their economies. However, that's not going to be as simple as flipping a switch. Over the last two months, companies have learned that the work still gets done even if people aren't in the office. Some companies, and some industries, may gravitate toward the way it used to be. Others may find that working from home is the way of the future, something that could have a dramatic impact on the corporate real estate market.

According to this article, people are learning that a Zoom meeting can be just as effective as a face-to-face meeting. Maybe even more. Facebook has announced that most of its employees will be allowed to work from home through the end of the year. Google's parent Alphabet has similar plans. It's hard to predict what will happen, but most companies are imagining a staggered return, based on the availability of testing and contact tracing. They'll use that information to decide which employees can come back to the office and which should continue to work remotely. In the end, though, it's unlikely that companies will pressure people to return to the old office-based model. A year from now, the whole idea of "working" may be something completely different.

Sharing the Knowhow

If there's a positive aspect to the corona virus epidemic it might be the way that volunteers have stepped forward to address what needed to be done. One of the most visible examples is the new cottage industry of mask fabrication. We'll leave the reasons for the mask shortage out of this, because the cool part is how so many different DIY tutorials popped up overnight, letting individuals and teams do something useful. Right here in north Jersey, the Summit Area Sewing Squad has produced more than 10,000 masks for local hospitals.

The CDC may have the most authoritative how to, but it's far from the only one. There are "no sew" videos using socks or T-shirts. There are ideas about incorporating coffee filters for additional protection. Another tip suggests ways to add a metal nose bridge, something that can deal with lens fogging for people who wear eyeglasses. And folks are going beyond mere protection to consider the fashion potential of this new accessory, letting their creativity go wild. It's a great example of a collaborative work effort, empowered by social networking and the internet itself.

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