What’s real work at your work?

Posted by Shawn Callahan - July 14, 2008
Filed in Strategy

Last week I ran a half day workshop to get a group thinking about their knowledge strategy. We got into a conversation about what things constrain knowledge-related practices such as peer assists, after action reviews, decision games etc., and one of the participants hit the nail on the head, “we have our real work and then everything else is an add on.”

So if knowledge practices are not defined as ‘real work’ then you will face an uphill battle.

How might you turn things around? Here’s an approach using Patterson et al’s Influencer model.

Identify the vital behaviours you want to encourage. Search for these behaviours by seeking out people and groups who are already great at incorporating knowledge-related practices and observe them, collect stories about how they get things done. Compare these observations with groups who are poor at implementing knowledge-related behaviours.

A vital behaviour might be: Managers ask how the after action review went and what was learned from the process.

So now you need to encourage this behaviour (and probably 2 or 3 others, not 8 or 10 others). The Influencer model suggests 6 sources of influence to draw on. There are two basic questions that must be answered in the positive for someone to change: Is it worth it? and Can I do it? These two questions are reflected in the two columns in this diagram, motivation and ability.

six sources of influence

1. Make the undesirable desirable. This is all about tapping into people’s intrinsic motivators. For example, in this case you might focus on what it means to be a professional and the upmost importance of learning.

2. Surpass your limits. You can’t expect people to adopt new practices without building new skills. This source of influence is about helping people build their abilities. It’s about giving opportunities to try things out, engage in deliberate practice and obtain fast and effective feedback.

3. Harness peer pressure. If people you respect are doing it then it’s more likely you will do it. Find the opinion leaders and get them on board first. The rest will follow.

4. Find strength in numbers. Actively build your social networks so you can tap into them when needed.

5. Design rewards and demand accountability. Use rewards carefully and only after the other sources of influence have been exercised. Link the extrinsic rewards to the vital behaviours rather than outcomes.

6. Change the environment. Physical spaces affect the way we work. Give people visual cues, create places to work, use the physical environment to reinforce the behaviours you desire.

About Shawn Callahan
Shawn is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

One Response to “What’s real work at your work?”

  1. Dale Arseneault Says:

    Shawn, could this post be any more relevant?!!!
    I think you’re “right on the money” in how you’ve used the term “knowledge practices.” Just that language alone helps talk to “cleints” about not working more or harder, but about working differently / smater.
    Using the Influencer as context for why uncovering and promoting success stories as you have done also helps provide context for conversations with internal Communications partners.
    Good post Shawn. Thanks!