Signs of Failed Knowledge Culture

Every now and then I encounter interactions and communications that lend suspicions the team members are not managed from a knowledge culture mindset.  Reactionary behaviors are typical in so many shops to appear to be the norm.  Very similar to the stressful read from the famed novel, The Phoenix Project.

It’s unsettling to witness.  I espouse the necessity of a knowledge driven IT culture.  Equal bits of knowledge worker, knowledge management, and DevOps.  It’s unlearning bad behaviors and replacing with knowledge-based behaviors.  Teams who understand this dynamic see workflow acceleration.  Teams who do not understand…frustratingly do not understand and are friction prone.

This article talks about my top five signs technical teams show symptoms of failed knowledge culture.

#5.  Don’t understand the purpose of Tactical meetings.

“Why do I care what desktop support is doing?” or “I’d rather get an email, this is a waste of my time”.

Death by Meeting is a schematic for managing meetings.  The purpose is to ensure people are communicating together and tactically.  Intentional leadership is necessary to build a values-based culture.  This includes having a meeting.  In the above examples, these comments indicate not just a missing values culture, but missing alignment to IT or business goals and missing identifying their contribution to those goals.

For example, desktop support might want to know what systems engineering is doing that week, especially if it may impact that team.  Proactive knowledge replaces reactive behavior

#4.  Not tracking key performance indicators.  Metrics vs. KPIs.

“These reports mean nothing to me” and “Just another TPS report…”

There is a stark difference between generating metrics and the purpose of a key performance indicator (KPI).  Tools are usually great a cranking out metrics of every kind, useful and otherwise.  However, KPI’s tie to goals.  And if you’re not measuring team performance against KPIs, then you’re not measuring performance.

For example, I argue total tickets closed by technician is a KPI.  I challenge better KPIs measuring performance are average time a ticket is closed, ticket aging, and authored knowledge article reads, preventing the ticket from being opened in the first place.  Performance is often more important to measure velocity of success versus quantity of success.

And if you’re not surfacing team KPI performance in tactical, leaders are missing epic opportunities to cohere the team.

#3.  Argumentative as to medium of how KPI’s should be consumed in Tactical.

“Why do I care how much CPU the PROD environment consumed last week?” or “How many laptops are in inventory” and “We need to eliminate the noise”

Couple of key points to make.  First, I recommend teams starting out that getting members in the habit of measuring by reviewing metrics is a first key step.  Metrics quickly replaced with KPIs tied to IT and/or business goals.  Leadership is responsible for developing KPI targets.

Second, there is no right or wrong way to approach the consummation of KPIs.  That building phase usually manifests as PowerPoint slides or a reporting website from the tool.  I lean slides as I like to treat as a meeting with minutes and keep for historic purposes.

Third, cadence and tone of the meeting being set, there will always be overlap or measures, arguably, less valuable to few people.  As teams cohere to common KPI, it’s not horrible waste of time to spend a few seconds listening to KPI from follow teammates.  Use to recognize the work and appreciate milestones.  Moving the team in the same direction often requires acknowledging.  Nevertheless, leaders should ensure it’s being done reliably and consistently.

#2.  Doesn’t understand the knowledge culture fundamentals or values.

Lessening fire fights by lowering reliance on technical constraints is a key point made in the Phoenix Project.  There are two team member behaviors that I’ve witnessed that hinder lifting burdens from constraints:

Behavior #1, “Don’t want to do it”.  Shifting left, or moving towards self-service knowledgebase, is a cultural shift.  Some team members won’t get aboard the train to promote knowledge cultures.  They don’t want to write, they don’t want to share, and shifting left is met with skepticism.  Come to work and go home and/or “been doing it this way (unhealthy) for XY years” is the key behavior trait.

Behavior #2, “Don’t have the time”.  Expectations continue to heap on IT pros, true.  But, leveraging as a crutch to get out of their responsibility is a nasty behavior.  Often citing, “too busy” to embrace new policies and processes.  Too busy to write standards and knowledge articles.  Too busy!  Yet, first off to lunch, first to leave for early weekend.  First to waste time is the key behavior trait.

Leaders need to coach with expectations defined.  Else, release the team member.  Caustic cultures catch on like wildfire.  So, its critical team members have the right attitude, so to focus on goals and not the bad culture.

#1.  Leadership not aligned; how can employees be?

Be skeptical of the unread IT leader.  If Phoenix Project, DevOps Handbook, or Measure What Matters wasn’t on their read list, how can knowledge culture take root?

In my experience, I’ve been told culture is nice, but not as important as revenue, customer needs, senior leader desires, or what ever the fire of the week is.  In other words, leadership conditions itself based on treatment amongst the peer group or top-down treatment.  Culture does start at “the top” and if leaders do not embrace, there is no chance.

Looking at most successful companies, “culture” is king influences revenue, customer needs, and how leadership treats itself and direct reports.  Few companies realize good working cultures due to leadership not aligned to knowledge values and the consistency to stick with it.

What are you doing to drive knowledge culture?  Are you pushing positive proactive knowledge behaviors with your team?

\\ JMM

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