Today I had the privilege of moderating one of 6 roundtable sessions Hosted by the KCS® Academy as part of the larger Consortium for Service Innovation. My focus was on Refreshing, rebooting, or restarting a KCS® (Knowledge-Centered Services) program as I’ve had experience in all three spaces (with the addition of launching, of course). Since I have a lot to say on the matter, a blog post to continue those discussions seemed in order….
To begin, let’s take a look at the difference between a refresh, reboot, and restart:
- Refreshes happen to simply remind previously trained participants of the core principles and practices to bring them back in line with “healthy” KCS practices. Refocus on coaching, basics, training.
- Reboots take a deeper look at the structure and processes to implement some changes to improve efficiencies in the program and to address learnings from the prior iterations. Often is a larger scale training based on an existing and running program inclusive of the changes implemented.
- Restarts occur when a program has stopped for some time and needs to begin again. This is often starting from the design phase like an initial implementation would. This is rebuilding from the ground up, taking the learnings from the past and dramatically rethinking how to achieve success. This should always revert back to the core principles as the drivers for the new/updated strategic framework.
For the rest of this, we’ll take a deeper look at rebooting specifically as the most common (though refreshes SHOULD be more common in order to avoid the reboot/restart need, but I digress)…
So, you have a KCS program with some history behind it… but it’s not generating the outcomes you expect and feel like a reboot is necessary to get it back on-track to success. What are the things you should be looking at to ensure a successful reboot as opposed to initial rollout? Great question, I’d be happy to help 🙂
First off: take a deep breath, settle in, and get ready to look at big picture items. Remember: change is difficult and takes time, and culture change takes even longer. Make no mistake, a reboot is 99% likely to be rooted in a need for culture change. So set your expectations appropriately for how long this may take (then double it, at least).
Make no mistake, rebooting is not the same as an initial KCS rollout, but there are a lot of overlapping pieces. You WILL be going back to the drawing board to rebuild, so along with the rebooting specific items, you’ll also want to defamiliarize yourself with the updated KCS v6 Adoption & Transformation Guide. Everything I have to say below will build on that and assume you have this as part of your baseline toolset.
The 3 items critical to any successful KCS adoption;
- Executive Support
- Training that is largely change management
- A solid Coaching program
That said, let’s lean into Phase 1: planning & design:
Your first action is to identify the end goals of a KCS reboot:
- Why is a reboot needed?
- What will rebooting ultimately accomplish?
- How will you know your reboot is successful?
Next, listen. Specifically, ask and then listen to your teams about their experiences:
- Go on a listening tour.
Either in-person or virtually, but specifically set aside time for this as it is essential to hear the specific pain points being encountered by your knowledge workers. But don’t stop there; listen to your line managers, mid-managers, directors, VPs, etc. Anyone directly involved in or a stakeholder of your KCS program should be included. This broadly cast net is likely to highlight areas that are very different than the pain points raised in the earlier identification of why a reboot is necessary. Listen hard to your teams.
- You’re likely to hear similar objections and doubts you’d encounter in an initial rollout, but don’t be fooled; these doubts now have history and experience behind them so they are even more difficult to address or recover from and require a deeper understanding of the real pain behind them which will often come with major program changes to address them.
What you are likely to find is that trust in the existing program has been lost along the way. Tools and processes likely converged against the knowledge workers to generate a feeling of control, or grading against failures that worked to erode trust in the program. The entire program suffers from this, quickly being seen (and felt) as a hindrance or an extra thing to do in addition to solving problems.
Now, we all know that KCS is HOW we solve problems when implemented in an ideal state; it simply becomes embedded into our workflows…. So what can we actually do when we need to get the program back on the rails again?
Once you’ve done your listening tour, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and dig into the work of building out a strategy (again). Yes, revisit your strategic framework, tear it down and rebuild it given what you’ve learned from your teams. I won’t perseverate or drone on about a strategic framework, in deference to the excellent Consortium resource and knowing it will look different for any implementation. But know it is absolutely critical to build and use as your foundation.
Of course, nearly as critical is buy-in. In order to regain buy-in across the organization, you’ll likely need to surgically target specific pain points. In doing so, there’s one thing above all others to focus on, and I can’t stress this enough: in every choice you make, ensure it is squarely set in the foundation of trust. This means trusting your knowledge workers to do the right thing rather than setting processes and tooling based on the fear that people will game the system or are otherwise not trying to do the right thing.
Take this more positive-focused approach in your designs, and pressure test with a broadly scoped group through every step. Ensuring you have built a council of knowledge workers across roles and responsibilities to help drive the rebuild of the program is an essential piece to success here. As KCS Program Manager you are a leader for the council, it is incumbent upon you to serve the council from a “yes, and” thinking space and guide the team to the positive mindset you need all your knowledge workers to embody.
As you’re rebuilding your strategic framework, this is your time to also ensure the measurements for the organization are aligned to the outcomes your program is working to achieve. Misalignment here will spell disaster for any KCS program whether in the short or long term realization of success. But this isn’t just program level alignment, as the measurements for the entire org drive the work being done by the knowledge workers and in-turn drives their focus… after all, you get what you measure. Taking a broader view of measurements in this early stage of strategic redesign will ensure you set yourself up for success later when it comes to implementation and actually seeing the outcomes of your efforts.
Now, because you are working in an existing framework that needs to be rebooted, you are likely to have some additional challenges to avoid large scale disruption to the daily business operations. This in mind, a phased approach is likely best in order to step into change rather than implementing broad-scale dramatic change all at once. Remember when I said that culture change takes a long time? This is where we start some of that with the vision of achieving success only after a lot of work and repetition has gone under our proverbial bridge, and well into the months or years since we launched this exercise. But don’t take that to mean there won’t be smaller wins to celebrate along the way, and you should indeed celebrate those!
Depending on tooling and process challenges, some initial small changes may be easy enough to implement and allow you to begin building the foundation you’ll need to support all the future phase changes you now have planned based on your rebuilt strategic framework. These initial foundational changes are critical for your reboot as they will provide the functional basis for building upon as you grow and expand your reboot to achieve your final goal.
Everything you implement will need to be supported by these foundational elements (all rooted in Trust, remember) , will need to be theoretically sound, and able to be pointed to as we continue to address doubts and misconceptions along the way. Without a solid foundation to back you up, it will be a Sisyphean task to convince anyone that this reboot will be successful.
Those early foundational changes must be core to the mindset shift you are attempting to trigger. Being able to continually point to the changes in support of the overall vision will help to bring dissenters in. Little by little you’ll show how the changes you’re implementing are designed to impact the core pain points or root issues at the heart of their doubt.
Of course, from the get-go (and all through this process) communication is not only key, it is essential. Ensuring clear and transparent communication across the org will be your early indicators of success and allow you to fail quickly and pivot to a better method before you are overly committed to a direction. This is also critical to ensure you are building trust from the earliest stages as you open the two-way street of communication. This transparency and authenticity will begin to help the populace of knowledge workers feel their voices are being heard and action is being taken to address their needs. This is where to convergence of collective ownership and communication comes into play with exemplary outcomes. Done poorly, communication just becomes another ignored email. Done right, communication becomes simply transparent collaboration across silos.
Training and Change Management
Along with over communication, training is a critical piece to any reboot (and rollout) as well. This is going to be an even trickier area for reboots, however, as many of your team may feel as though they know the basics and may become resistant to refresher training. This is where listening to your teams in every step of the way comes in to play once more, as what they have told you will work to your benefit in designing the right training strategies for your phases. You may want to leverage the existing KCS Training provided by (or through) the Consortium, or there may be custom training needs that pops up in order to really get to the resistors and helping to bring them back on board (or hopefully even champions).
This also plays into organizational change management. Ideally, you have an OCM manager to help organize this, but in the event you don’t, well, guess who gets to wear that hat too 😉 Change Management goes hand-in-hand with communications and must be part of your reboot project from the start. This will be essential to help avoid conflicts with other initiatives, but even more so to avoid change fatigue among your teams.
The Words We Use
My last piece is that at some point, as you begin talking to your teams even before rolling out, you may find that changing how you speak about the reboot is necessary. Garnering buy-in once trust has been lost is very challenging, so it may be necessary to adjust and shift the words we use and tactics we take in the marketing of any refresh/reboot/restart. Identifying how this reboot will differ from the prior rollout attempts is essential to help drive adoption this time around. Sometimes this can be as simple as shifting verbiage from something like “driving time-to-publish” metrics to “improving content velocity measures”. Sometimes larger changes may be needed, like downplaying the use of the KCS monicker in deference to simply talking about how good knowledge management practices can be (and in many instances may already be) done in the workflow already. While the concepts speak to effectively the same thing, sometimes using different words helps break out of some of those preconceptions or experience-based associations with negative perspectives, thus avoiding the knee-jerk reactions and opening your teams to listening once again.
I’ll leave you with this great quote stolen from the incomparable Laurel Porter at F5: “any KCS program will likely take at least 3 times to really stick. “
So, your program is doing just fine through its need to refresh, reboot, or restart. It is ok and expected!
KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service InnovationTM. The above content has been remixed/derived from the KCS v6 Practices Guide by Consortium for Service Innovation which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are encountering challenges with your own KCS program, use the Book a call button to schedule an initial complimentary consulting call to see how I may be able to help get your program back on track!
If you found this post interesting, useful, enlightening (or even just plain wrong) I’d also love to hear from you. Use the Book a call button button to schedule some time on my calendar, use the contact form on this site, or connect and send me a message on my LinkedIn so we can continue this conversation!
Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog via the footer form below so you can get posts like this sent directly to your in-box!