Knowledge Management @ TCS Chennai

In June '07, I took up an interesting role in my organization. The role was "Knowledge Officer" for a large account. The best part of this role would be that I would be reporting directly to the highest official in the account. I thought this as an excellent proposition to showcase my skills and abilities to the top management of the account.

It was purely accidental. I was simply talking to one of my friend, while his PL who was the KO then, was telling us that he is leaving the role as he was going for an onshore assignment. I asked him if I could take it up. He agreed and after approvals he went ahead and I was into the role.

I got a chance to meet the big boss, who praised the ex-KO and told me that he expected more from me...I was scared, because I didnt knew what the other guy had done.. then the boss gave me some instructions and told that he would spare some 1/2 hr per week for 2-3 weeks and then I would be on my own.

As a first activity, I was asked to prepare myself a team for managing the Knowledge Management activity. The account was already reaching 1000 associates in Chennai itself, so managing such a big crowd was a herculean activity. So a strategy was formulated:

1. Using the existing hierarchy of PM/PMO and get 2-3 volunteers from each PMO domain.
2. These volunteers would in turn help the relationship in the knowledge management activity.
3. Identifying these volunteers.

The third part was most difficult. I needed the guys who are most motivated and would have some time to spare for these activities. As i asked the PM/PMO's to nominate the volunteers, I was also spending some time talking with people who can work for this activity with a passion.

Finally a big team of 12 was formed. Though this number was less, but something was worth to begin with. The team was there, but the spark wasnt.. I needed a lighter to trigger this spark.

I called up some top Knowledge Management guys here in Chennai and asked for some advice. However, that also turned out to be a bit disappointing..

The point was some thing new and interesting was required to be done. If this is not done, I will not be able to ignite the spark. I got few handful of guys whom I could trust ( sometimes personal relationship building helps).. and organized an Idea collection drive.. Though that had failed, but some mark was done, and people realized the seriousness of the business here...

Then started a series of steps to ignite the passion in people. It included:

1. Mass level recognition of people who have contributed to KM - which included distribution of cash and putting up posters across the organization carrying info abt their recognitions.

2. Another series of sessions to talk about importance of Knowledge Management in a organization and as to why should people contribute to it.

The key idea was to bring in your knowledge at center level and get recognized.. This idea clicked and I could see a spurge of activities. What I wanted I got - I could see that spark in almost every one in the KM team.. When everybdy started participating in it actively, the results were imminent. We have a deployment index for KM and when this was calculated, the account scored "Second" in entire TCS. This was a tremendous improvement, as the account never figured in the top accounts for KM ever.

Then started a series of appreciation mails, triggerred by account head in chennai. Though I was happy that something is really rocking now, I wanted to send down this as a mail to the team. Afterall it was the team which was doing the job right ? So how better would it be, if a personal mail from the account head goes to each & every one of the KM team. That I thought was the best that they could get.. and believe me, that was.. because it rarely happens that the account head would send down a personal mail and not cascading it. Everybody was happy because it was directly impacting their appraisal in a positive way.

In a whole it was a wonderful experience. The key lessons learnt:

1. Any team has four types of members:
a. People with Potential and passion.
b. People with not much potential but with tremendous passion.
c. People with potential but not with a passion.
d. People with no potential and no passion.

Identify these people when you are starting a team. Strategies for the different types should be different. Utilize the first two kinds of people to drive passion into the rest of the kinds.

2. Talk and spend some good time with the team members. The best way to get the best out of them is to know them personally.

3. Protocol should be maintained and this expectation should be made very clear. Typically it should be done through body language and not by being verbose about it.

4. Recognition plays a key factor in team building and motivation. Sometimes making a hype of things helps, but should be done in a controlled way. It can also backfire, so prudence should be exercised.

5. You cannot have a team which will not have the fourth kind - People with no potential and no passion. This helps in creating hierarchy and people understand their role better. So dont try to eliminate them but use them in a way to bolster the ego factor of the other kinds, so that they keep on performing good.

This may not be the best formulae to build a team but can serve as a beginner's reference.
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