22/08/2011 Leave a comment
I have just listened to a radio programme and was stuck by one particular response given by a financial analyst. When asked to comment about the European Union and current financial difficulties of many member states the analyst ended his response with the following words “and this is because one size does not fit all”.
This is a phrase I have heard many times and from many organisations. It is often used in the context of some Change Management activity, and given as a reason why an initiative will not work/not work here. When this reason (see my blog on the 5 Whys for a suggested technique – http://ianwooler.wordpress.com/?s=5+whys) is questioned the responses often include:
- “our function is different and needs more flexibility that the ‘one size’ approach allows”
- “the ‘one size’ approach appears overly bureaucratic”
- “getting our staff to follow the ‘one size’ process will be very difficult without sanctions”.
Common to all of the above is the perception that much of our daily work activity is unique to us and our given situation. Whilst there is an element of truth in this view, there are also many daily work tasks and activities that very similar, if not the same, as those completed by others.
Knowledge Managers will have come up against the challenges of helping their organisations to identify, capture, codify, and share Good and Best Practice. They will also be aware of the challenges of getting this Practice to be re-used and enriched and that a barrier to re-use can be the perception that ‘one size does not fit all’.
So what can be done? An organisation without an element of structure and control and the requirement for its employees to follow defined standard approaches is at risk of duplication of effort and inconsistent delivery of products and services; whilst an organisation with too much structure and control, and very rigid and fixed methods of operation, might lack the mindset required to deliver innovation and improvement.
The answer lies in understanding your organisation (some need more structure and control than others) and its drivers, key processes and environment. Knowledge Managers can assist here by helping their organisations to identify ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ processes/activities – i.e. those where a ‘one size’ approach is fit for purpose, and those where an element of flexibility is required. The answer also lies in knowing when the balance is right/wrong and in deploying the relevant knowledge management tools and techniques to support/address this.
So, and for example, whilst a ‘one size fits all’ approach might be beneficial to Expense Management, a more flexible/fluid approach is required to facilitate Knowledge Transfer (follow this link for my training course – http://www.tfpl.com/training/courses/coursedesc.cfm?ID=TR0005&did=2). However, organisational life is never that simple and within both these examples there is a ‘balance’ to be struck. Knowledge Managers can help facilitate this balance by thinking (and explaining using stories) about the complexity of specific organisational activities and knowing when the balance should lean more toward a ‘one size’ approach and when it should not.