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First activity of the day

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By guest blogger Sarah Jansen

Arthur Shelley facilitated an ongoing inter-connected conversation where attendees split into six or so groups and each was given two discussion topics to explore. The full list of topics was:

• Performance
• Staff turnover
• Lost knowledge
• Aging workforce
• Constant change
• Work-life balance
• Relationships, stakeholders and networks

• Efficiencies
• Growth
• Organisational politics
• Restructures
• Competition
• Reputation and social responsibility
• Context
• Culture
• The unknown

The groups came back together and each was given one minute per topic to précis their discussion for everyone. All topics were written up on a flipchart and as each group spoke, Arthur drew lines connecting the different topics. Once people had presented, the discussion was opened up to comments and challenges from the rest of the attendees.

Here are some gems that came out of the conversation:

• Performance and the unknown: if you don’t know your staff well enough, you may not understand what their skill sets and preferences are. You need to build relationships and trust in the workplace to learn what you don’t know about people.
• Sometimes staff turnover is good; the key is what happens to the knowledge, and this depends on culture and processes of the organisation about how knowledge is shared.
• Slow growth can be a good thing as mergers, acquisitions etc can be destructive due to trying to merge different organisational cultures and staff insecurity.
• Rather than seeing former employees as “dead to us”, companies should be focusing on keeping that connection/relationship going as an opportunity for growth.
• Many organisations have a culture of secrecy and innuendo and only a tiny number of people having knowledge. If you can change this to a culture of sharing, it will lead to better growth and efficiency. Knowledge is not power unless it is shared. To foster an organisational culture of knowledge sharing rather than knowledge holding, create recognition systems for good sharers, have your senior people walking the talk and recognise them for good sharing behaviours, enable teamwork and conversations, encourage learning networks and communities of practice which building knowledge around specific topics by sharing and collaborating.
• Most organisations have “sages”: people who have been with the company for years, often decades, who have built up a big parcel of knowledge. They are seen as indispensable so when they move on, staff worry but soon find that the world still goes on. We need to strive for balance between having gurus, advisors, mentors etc, and sharing knowledge. A lot of companies are moving their gurus from operational roles to moving among different areas of the business spreading their knowledge.
• Mentors teaching new people the old ways could be a problem. You need to be able to let go of the old knowledge you don’t need.
• If employees don’t trust the organisation, then that will bleed into the marketplace. If you can work on that by applying good tools and improve things, you will improve your relationship with the consumer. Being socially responsible from the inside of the organisation will improve the market’s perception of it as being socially responsible in the community, improving its reputation.
• Maybe knowledge is its own worst enemy. If we shared knowledge, we wouldn’t need to manage it. (I think this might just be an issue of terminology.)

By the end of the session, the flipchart looked like this:

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