Track Talk Th2

Visualising and Maintaining a Healthy Knowledge Fabric

Mark Micallef

10:15-11:00 CEST Thursday 15th June

As a leader, think about a specific member of your team whose knowledge is critical to the success of the company. Let’s call her Sam. Sam is probably the go-to person for many issues and questions. She knows your company, its context, people and products inside out. Most project managers in your company feel safer if they can include Sam in their team. She’s just great!

Now, close your eyes and visualise the day when Sam walks into your office and says:

“I have really enjoyed working here and the people are great, but I feel that it is time for me to move on and explore other opportunities. I am formally handing in my 2-week notice.”

How does that make you feel? If you’re like most leaders we know, there is a strong possibility that whilst you’re happy for Sam’s career progression, you are also terrified of what loosing her will do to the company. Many thoughts cross your mind. Who will people start going to with questions now? Who will solve customer issues? Who will prevent disasters from happening on the project? What is the best way for Sam to handover her knowledge to others?

Software development is a social and knowledge-intensive activity. On a daily basis, individuals within your organisation are creating, sharing and applying knowledge to achieve the organisation’s goals. This collective activity forms what we call the organisation’s “Knowledge Fabric”, a living fabric of knowledge being constantly updated by team members working, joining or leaving the company. The cultivation of a healthy knowledge fabric should be a top priority for leadership teams of software development companies. If loosing someone like Sam instills fear in you, then it probably means that the knowledge fabric in your organisation is unhealthy.

In this talk, we explore the notion of a company’s knowledge fabric, what makes it healthy or unhealthy, and provide practical guidance on how leaders can visualise their knowledge fabric, analyse it, identify knowledge risks and mitigate them before they reach a critical level. Whilst most knowledge in our organisations is tacit and dynamic in nature, we have developed techniques which enable organisations to analyse human interactions with software development tools and understand “who knows what” within the organisation.

The talk is based on academic research as well as anecdotes from industry experiences.