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The Road to Success

Workplace learning and performance professionals can improve their lot by taking a few simple actions including the simple exercise of asking the right questions based on key information.

Darlene is a knowledge management (KM) consultant. Darlene was invited to meet with the head of KM for ABC MediCompany.

Because KM has such broad potential application, Darlene wanted to be prepared to discuss a number of options for how her expertise could help ABC’s financial performance. Darlene approached her business intelligence research task with the goal of learning as much as she could from a Senior management perspective and of creating an excellent set of questions that would focus her conversation with the ABC KM manager.

Darlene started her research by obtaining copies of ABC’s financial reports. She examined the same financial statements that were presented in chapter 4 to learn more about the company’s profit, position, and cash. Darlene read ABC’s Website and purchased a report on ABC’s industry from bizminer.com. Darlene checked investor research and competitor Websites to find out more information on how ABC compared within its industry.

Knowledge management is often applied to document critical knowledge that senior managers or key employees have gained over many years. Because ABC MediCompany had been around for several years, Darlene found the names of several principals in the company and used search engines to see if she could find any interesting facts about some of the top employees listed in ABC’s annual report. Darlene also read industry Websites and visited a large city library to read some articles in industry magazines. Darlene assembled table 7-7 to summarize where she did her research, the key points she learned, and the most important questions she wanted to ask.

Table 7-7. Summary of ABC business intelligence research.
  Research SourceKey Points and DiscoveriesQuestions
1STEP 1: AudienceAnnual report ABC WebsiteCEO is Ashton Scott. Names of other executives identified.Narrowing the Audience:
  1. Is there a particular Senior- or Mid-level executive who is especially supportive of your role or who is expecting to work closely with you?

2STEP 3: General  General Financial Expectations:
  1. Why was the position of director of knowledge management created?

  2. What are your key goals for helping the company?

  3. Do you have clear priorities, dates, or timeframes for what you must achieve, or is it up to you to propose solutions?

3Annual report ABC WebsiteKey executives are nearing retirement.Broad Financial Impact:
  1. What would be the effect on ABC’s profits, assets, liabilities, or cash flow if ABC were to lose the knowledge of some of its top executives?

4STEP 3: ProfitIndustry magazine articleABC’s competitors are moving to an inside/outside sales team approach where the inside salesperson focuses on capturing and sharing data and knowledge about customers over the phone with salespeople located around the company.Revenue:
  1. How much impact do you believe your competitor’s new sales strategy has had or will have on your revenues in the next one to two years?

  2. Is ABC planning to make changes in its sales strategy? If so, how important will good KM practices be to ABC’s success?

5Industry Website, notes in annual report about potential changes to businessNew regulations will come into effect next year regarding the distribution and maintenance of ABC’s products.Cost of Goods Sold:
  1. How will the new laws affect ABC’s cost of goods sold?

  2. Is it a priority for the KM team to help ABC meet its regulatory obligations? If so, are there dates, costs, or other measures that must be met?

6Industry magazine articleABC has one of the most creative and innovative designers in its field on its staff. Industry insiders cite these people as giving ABC an edge and revolutionizing ABC’s industry in past years.Operating Earnings:
  1. What would be the impact on ABC’s R&D efforts or competitive position if ABC lost the knowledge of its top designers?

  2. Could you describe that impact in terms of changes in quality measures, manufacturing costs, changes in sales, or changes in R&D costs over time?

7STEP 3: PositionBalance sheetInventory has reduced a great deal over the last year.Assets: Inventory
  1. ABC has made great improvements in its inventory levels. Is ABC planning to make more improvements? If so, is KM important to this process?

  2. How would success be measured at each level in ABC’s organization?

8Income statement and balance sheetExcellent return-on-assets (ROA) compared to industry average.Assets: Balance or Ratio
  1. ABC has an excellent return-on-assets compared to the industry average. Is there a secret to how ABC manages this? Does KM play a key role?

9STEP 3: CashCash flow statementABC has significant amounts of surplus cash for the moment.Surplus Cash Flow:
  1. ABC has taken on significant amounts of new debt to generate cash. Does top management have some significant new strategies in mind?

  2. Will any of this money be spent on KM and how would KM be expected to help? Are there any dates or specific measures for your results?

Darlene’s questions allowed her to focus during her meeting for maximum benefit to herself and her potential client. During the conversation, Darlene showed her potential client how to draw a financial value chain. Together, they were able to brainstorm possible financial value chains based on ABC’s priorities and Darlene’s questions. Her potential client was impressed with the conversation because these were exactly the types of conversations he needed to have with his executives.

By talking with Darlene, the head of ABC’s KM could see how to position his contributions and could see how to implement interventions with Darlene’s expertise. As it turned out, ABC’s excellent ROA was partially due to R&D and manufacturing innovations from ABC’s key product designers. ABC wanted to protect this competitive advantage. Top management believed it needed to capture more knowledge from these designers to keep ahead of its industry. Darlene was invited back for additional conversations to pursue exactly how her services could help ABC’s bottom line.



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