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From the Sponsor’s Desk – Charlie’s Best Practices Book

“Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.” – Dalai Lama

How good are you at your job? In your craft? Whether you’re a CEO or CXO, a project or change manager, a business analyst, a software developer or QA, an IT or business manager or fill other vital roles in your organization’s operations, I expect you have a wealth of knowledge and insight that contributes value every day. Some of that knowledge is undoubtedly shared locally, even widely. However, I expect some of your know-how is unique to you. Think about that unique insight. Could it contribute to your colleagues’ and teams’ performance if they also had that knowledge? Would it deliver greater productivity? Better quality? Increased value for stakeholders? Contribute to a culture of sharing and collaboration? Garner career recognition and advancement opportunities? Something to think about! And a good reason to continue reading about Charlie’s best practices book.

I have a friend. Let’s call him Charlie. He’s a civil engineer. He has been involved in designing, building and operating municipal waste and fresh water systems for decades. The infrastructure he oversaw has been around and will continue to serve the community for decades. These facilities cost tens of millions of dollars to deliver and need to stand the test of time. They serve millions of residents who depend on consistent, reliable, safe services. A design, construction or operational mistake can take months or years and millions of dollars to remedy and jeopardize lives. The stakes were significant.

When Charlie decided to retire, he was managing a mishmash of water systems that had started life as independent installations supporting villages and towns. As the area grew, those previously standalone facilities were merged and interconnected to serve new customers, provide better backup and recovery capability and reduce overall operating costs. He dealt with a few failures, problems and threats over the years and learned a thing or two about what worked and what didn’t.

Charlie worked with over 20 managers and their staff along with a multitude of consultants covering everything from soil dynamics to pumping technologies. He liaised with other water system managers and stayed up to date with current and emerging best practices in the industry. He recognized he had unique and vital insights into the area’s water services. He wanted to share that with the current and future management and staff to better serve the growing residential and industrial user base. He wanted to leave a legacy of lessons learned!

And so Charlie wrote Charlie’s Best Practices Book. He discussed the idea with his boss who loved the concept. It took Charlie over two years to complete, at over 60 pages. He covered the history of each of the water systems, some of the difficulties that were encountered along the way and how they were addressed. He described the overall system’s current state with maps, blueprints, diagrams and commentary on known issues, risks and vulnerabilities. And he included his ideas for future developments and improvements, again with narratives, maps and diagrams.

Charlie admits that his book was an opinion piece. His boss and all his managers received a copy. When Charlie visited his office after retirement, the book was visible on many desks and in many offices. So it may be adding value daily. But Charlie doesn’t really know.

Unfortunately, there was no time before Charlie left to institutionalize the learnings and directions into ongoing operations. When I asked Charlie if his old boss would ensure that a design proposal was vetted against Charlie’s material, he thought probably not. Although, he did think his old boss might do the review himself.

I reviewed Charlie’s Best Practices Book and was duly impressed. It includes information that wouldn’t be apparent to the uninitiated – a newly employed engineer or recently contracted consultant for example – and provides ways out of certain complexities that, if overlooked, could lead to local failures or more extensive catastrophes.

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I’m not an engineer and I don’t know a lot about water services. But, there is no question, if I was engaged to do work for this municipal water services organization, I would want access to this book. A similar repository would be invaluable for anyone contemplating or involved in a change to any process, structure, system or service in any industry – aerospace, agriculture, banking, insurance, manufacturing, nuclear power, retail, etc. In fact, Charlie’s rational for his book is the very reason I wrote my books – to share information about practices and frameworks that will help organizations deliver change successfully.

So here’s a challenge to you – share your wisdom! And here are some thoughts on how you can go about that.

  1. Record your insights – Take stock of what you know, what works, what doesn’t, what you’d like to see happen and record it. Put it in a document, a video, a diagram, a blog. Use whatever helps you get the knowledge recorded and whatever will help it get consumed.
  2. Don’t wait until you retire – Do it now! Make it an ongoing exercise. Take stock monthly, after a project, before your performance appraisal, whenever makes sense for you.
  3. Make it incremental – Iterate the exercise. Add to your knowledge base. Include new ideas and insights, change things that need to change, delete stuff that is no longer applicable.
  4. Do a peer review – Socialize your material. Start out with close friends and colleagues. Ask team members for feedback, additions and comments. Take it to other parts of the organization to get their reactions. You can keep it informal or formalize it with sign-offs and version numbers, as you see fit.
  5. Institutionalize the best practices – Take it to your boss. Take it to your boss’s boss. Take it to the standards and practice body in your organization. Formalize the content, format and delivery vehicles and change mechanisms. Establish KPI’s for your book’s contribution and measurement mechanisms to gauge its effectiveness. If you’d like to take your best practices to this level, see my previous post – Leaving a Legacy of Lessons Learned.
  6. Take it to the world – Be the next Wikipedia, or parts thereof. Write and publish a book or three. Start a blog for interested parties. Create and manage a web site. Start a new organization to share the word – a PMI or ACMP equivalent for your discipline, perhaps with a supporting body of knowledge. Or contribute to one that already exists.

So, as you tackle your next project or venture, consider sharing your knowledge with others on a more formal basis. Feel free to use the story of Charlie and his book and the points above to motivate you. Feel free to use Project Pre-Check and its three best practice based building blocks covering the key stakeholder group, the decision management process and the Decision Framework as a model. Or find your own way. But please, SHARE! It is a way to achieve immortality.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has willingly shared their experiences for presentation in this blog. Everyone benefits. First time contributors get a copy of one of my books. Readers get insights they can apply to their own unique circumstances. So, if you have a project experience, a favorite best practice, or an interesting insight that can make a project or change manager’s life a little easier, send me the details and we’ll chat. I’ll write it up and, when you’re happy with the results, Project Times will post it so others can learn from your insights. Thanks.

Drew Davison

Drew Davison is the owner and principal consultant at Davison Consulting and a former system development executive. He is the developer of Project Pre-Check, an innovative framework for launching projects and guiding successful project delivery, the author of Project Pre-Check - The Stakeholder Practice for Successful Business and Technology Change and Project Pre-Check FastPath - The Project Manager’s Guide to Stakeholder Management. He works with organizations that are undergoing major business and technology change to implement the empowered stakeholder groups critical to project success. Drew can be reached at [email protected].

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