Case Study

The customer.

“I don’t know what information I need until I need it”
—Company COO 
This case study reports on the business relationship between our company, KMRM Consulting, LLC, and a medium sized (55 employees) privately owned company that specializes in manufacturing/supply/support to the oil and gas industry.
 
The organization was in the initial stages of launching a continuous improvement initiative. We were hired by the company’s CEO who wanted, in his words, a “snapshot” of the organization’s current processes, procedures and methods of communication. This information would serve as a baseline for mapping a strategic plan for 1.) Increased sales and efficiency, 2.) Better-defined corporate mission and marketing strategy, and 3.) Improved communication.
 
The challenge.
 
Our customer’s CEO wanted to know “who does what, when and how.” He desired an organization-wide awareness of responsibilities and was relying on traditional methods of documenting business processes in order to satisfy these needs. He requested both a paper and electronic deliverable to serve as a record of the company’s knowledge.
 
Immediately, we recognized the biggest challenge facing the organization was system-wide communication breakdowns, which included executive management to department management, management to employees, peer to peer, and organization to customer.
 
Given the size of the organization there is an unusually large number (15) of departments, and each is typically managed silo fashion rather than holistically in a collaborative culture. Due to the complexity of the organization’s projects, it is extremely difficult to track the flow of information through the course of a project’s lifecycle. Many times mission critical information is lost (or buried) when handoffs are made from one department to another.
 
For example, the company’s drafting department requires specifications from the engineering department to complete their drawings, which are, in turn, released to manufacturing. If engineering is behind schedule, drafting inserts “place holders” for key equipment specifications so they can flesh out the drawings. Oftentimes drafting releases drawings to manufacturing without replacing “place holders” with the correct specifications. Consequently, manufacturing begins work on projects with incorrect information.
 
When senior management was alerted to these types of specific flawed patterns of behavior and process flow, the culture of the organization prevented the kind of accountability and self-analysis that would enable them to recognize the cost of mistakes and take measures to prevent them from happening in the future.
 
The journey.
 
Our client relied primarily on e-mail for communication, and although these were archived on the company server, they were rarely referenced because it was nearly impossible to search for needed information in a timely manner. Secondarily, information transfer was attempted in lengthy, hierarchical style meetings.
 
We recognized the need for a new and innovative tool that would enable improved and transparent company-wide communication. We believed new methods of information sharing would facilitate better project management and introduce “healthy” peer pressure and cultural change, which would lead to departmental and individual accountability.
 
Personal interviews were an intrinsic element of solution implementation because they provided: critical insight to interdepartmental/interpersonal dynamics; a crucial understanding of the frustration associated with the adoption of the organization’s ERP system; a heightened awareness that processes thought to be static were in fact dynamic and therefore could not be documented as initially intended. Time invested to achieve the above enabled us to 1.) Put together a successful organization-wide training program and 2.) Do so with credibility and company-wide buy-in.
 
The solution.
 
As outside consultants, we are optimally positioned to provide and implement solutions beyond those the company could see or accomplish on its own. After performing a cost benefit analysis of proprietary software and discussion with the CEO, it was agreed that the organization would begin the journey of implementing cost-effective Enterprise 2.0 practices to facilitate continuous improvement and strategic planning. Social computing technologies were evaluated and a wiki was chosen as the initial tool.
 
Established behavior patterns and day-to-day operations locked the organization into the way they understood/saw/thought about themselves and kept them in an unchanging paradigm. With fresh eyes we introduced a new paradigm and led the way to embracing an improved culture.
 
The implementation.
 
We selected a Web 2.0 platform provider that best fit the communication needs and project management requirements of the organization. We then negotiated terms with the wiki provider on behalf of our client. Finally, we custom-designed the look, applications, and information architecture of the wiki based on our observations and KMRM designed user studies.
 
We then conducted training sessions with both individuals and departments in real time, demonstrating how to use social computing technologies in the organization’s day-to-day operations and work flow. Solutions were integrated across the organization, from the executive level to the manufacturing floor and further, out to the customers.
 
The results.
 
Employees immediately embraced the wiki, finding it not only easy, but also actually fun to use. They constantly found unique ways to use the wiki within their departments, thus improving productivity.
 
The wiki saved the company money by decreasing time spent in meetings and vastly improving employees’ ability to search for and locate needed information previously buried in emails and on the company’s server. Because they no longer had to anticipate knowledge needs, but rather began sharing knowledge transparently, serendipitous solutions surfaced, and the company was able to save thousands of dollars on one project alone.
“KMRM gave us a new perspective and an innovative, custom solution. As consultants, the work Ken and Michelle did was of exceptional value in helping us launch our organization’s journey toward continuous improvement.”
—Company CEO

 

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