Monday, April 10, 2006

Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture

A critical factor for knowledge and experience sharing is that management creates trust amongst employees, and between employees and management. It should be noted, though, that this is a long-term goal. The fear that information can be interpreted and used against individuals has been acknowledged in other aspects of software engineering, for example in measurement. A solution to this problem is, for example, the one proposed by the Experience Factory (EF) approach. EF clearly states that data collected by individuals must be anonymous and should never be used to judge them.

The core values promoted by the EF for establishing a sharing culture are based on the fundamentals of learning. In order to improve, employees need to learn from past experience, and in order for employees to learn, the organization needs to create a learning environment. The characteristics of a learning environment are that it is allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. Experience is not hidden or traded, but freely given to the employee who needs it. Experience is collected, not in order to replace, degrade or evaluate people, but in order to help them (e.g., help them remember; help them collaborate; and help them organize, spread and share data, information, knowledge, and experience). People are encouraged to share experience and help others, and are rewarded based on how much they share.

Learning and improvement can only occur in an environment where it is possible to obtain feedback about the outcome of various activities. A learning organization creates feedback loops on several levels and the design of the experience management system must allow, and even enforce, feeding data back to the system. An example of feedback loops is an honest dialogue between employees in the organization. Another way of creating feedback loops is the principle of iteration, i.e., the work is iterated and improved in steps. Iteration also facilitates removing defects early in the lifecycle.

An example of EF implementation can be found at Fraunhofer Center For Experimental Software Engineering, Maryland (FC-MD). FC-MD has implemented the EF in order to leverage its employees’ knowledge and experience. FC-MD uses several strategies to set the right culture in order to encourage employees to share and use knowledge and experience. The first strategy was to establish corporate core values that explicitly address and support the core values of an experience factory. Another strategy is to weave experience-related activities into the regular work process and leverage what employees are already doing. One example of such activities is the project presentation, where project managers actively collect experiences and present them to the rest of the organization. The project presentation is packaged in a way that helps new employees learn about projects and facilitates project analysis. In order to show that management supports these activities, a special project account has been set up to which employees charge all activities related to the experience base, so that these activities do not increase the cost of their current projects. Employees’ contribution to this initiative and to the experience base is a criterion for the individual annual performance evaluation.


yours friend said...

can u please help me get an invitation for orkut
i came across ur blog looking for!
looking forward...

Sachin Sinha said...

I guess for the invite to go, you need to leave your email address

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