Knowledge Management - A Blueprint for Delivery (Computer Weekly Professional)

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As a result of her years of experience with service organizations, Ms. This very pragmatic article describes how the use of a blueprint can help a service developer not only to identify problems before they happen but also to see the potential for other market opportunities.

While the blueprint is most useful to managers developing new services, others can apply the same principles to test the quality of services for which they contract. Your shirt comes back from the laundry with a broken button. An automatic teller swallows your card. Examples of poor service are widespread; in survey after survey, services top the list in terms of consumer dissatisfaction.

Information Security Blueprint

Faced with service problems, we tend to become somewhat paranoid. Customers are convinced that someone is treating them badly; managers think that recalcitrant individual employees are the source of the malfunction. Thinly veiled threats by customers and managers are often first attempts to remedy the problem; if they fail, confrontation may result. The development of a new service is usually characterized by trial and error.

Developers translate a subjective description of a need into an operational concept that may bear only a remote resemblance to the original idea. No one systematically quantifies the process or devises tests to ensure that the service is complete, rational, and fulfills the original need objectively.

What is the state of knowledge management (KM) in project-based organisations?

There is no way to ensure quality or uniformity in the absence of a detailed design. What piecemeal quality controls exist address only parts of the service. There are several reasons for the lack of analytical service systems designs. Services are unusual in that they have impact, but no form. People confuse services with products and with good manners. But a service is not a physical object and cannot be possessed.

A service is not a servant; it need not be rendered by a person. Even when people are the chosen means of execution, they are only part of the process. Outstanding service companies instill in their managers a fanatical attachment to the original service idea. Believing that this product of genius is the only thing they have going for them, they try to maintain it with considerable precision.

They bring in methods engineers to quantify and make existing components more efficient. They codify the process in volumes of policies and procedures. While the outline of a great service concept may be reflected in these tools, the procedures are only fragmented views of a more comprehensive, largely undocumented phenomenon. Good and lasting service management requires much more.

Better service design provides the key to market success, and more important, to growth. Edwards Deming. They make no provision for people-rendered services that require judgment and a less mechanical approach. We can build on the strength of these operational systems, however, to come up with a more comprehensive and workable framework for addressing most issues of service development.

We can devise a blueprint for service design that is nonsubjective and quantifiable, one which will allow developers to work out details ahead of time. Such a blueprint gives managers a context within which to deal with the management and control of the process. A service blueprint allows a company to explore all the issues inherent in creating or managing a service. The process of designing a blueprint involves the consideration of several issues:.

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Identifying processes. The first step in creating such a blueprint is mapping the processes that constitute the service. Exhibit I maps a shoeshine parlor. As the service is simple and clear-cut, the map is straightforward. For more complex services, identifying and defining the processes involved may be difficult and result in a large, complicated diagram. Tax-return preparation or health care, for example, involves many decision points, alternative courses of action, and variable methodologies.

Portfolio management, car repair, and even tailoring require contemplation and observation before diagramming. But identifying the components of a step or action reveals the inputs needed and steps covered, and permits analysis, control, and improvement. It is important to watch out for parts of the service that the consumer does not see, like purchasing of supplies. If an organization claims to be democratic, but keeps its staff totally powerless, it is not only violating its own principles -- and thereby making it less likely it will accomplish its goals -- but also compromising its reputation.

A good management plan helps you accomplish your goals in a number of ways: It clarifies the roles and responsibilities of everyone in the organization so that everyone knows what she and everyone else is supposed to do. Staff members know who they need to go to for information, consultation, supervision, etc. They also know what the boundaries of their own positions are -- when they can do something without checking with someone else, and when they can't.

It divides the work of the organization in reasonable and equitable ways, so that everyone's job is not only defined, but feasible. It increases accountability, both internally when something doesn't get done, it's obvious whose responsibility it was and externally the better the management of the organization, the better it will serve the community.

It ensures that necessary tasks are assigned to the appropriate staff members, and creates a time schedule to get them accomplished. Bills get paid on time, staff members are where they're supposed to be to provide the organization's services, funding proposals get written and submitted, problems are dealt with, and the organization functions smoothly as a result. It helps the organization define itself.

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By developing a plan that's consistent with its mission and philosophy, an organization can be clear on what it believes in and communicate this with clarity to its staff, its target population, and the community as a whole. In this part of the section, we'll go step by step through the formation of a management plan. Decide on a management model or determine what you already have The management philosophy of your organization defines how you view management and how you want your organization to function.

Some common management models are: Classic hierarchy: Authority is top-down, typically from the director or board chair. As in the military -- a textbook example of a hierarchy -- there is a "chain of command. In general, people can act only in a very limited sphere without instructions or express permission from above. Democratic hierarchy : Final authority still resides at the top, but managers and administrators at all levels confer with those affected before making decisions. Many non-profits and some corporations operate in this way, with decisions made at the level of those who actually do the work and see the results.

This model generally allows people the authority to oversee their own work, and encourages incentive. Collaborative management : The whole group -- which usually includes all staff and may include participants as well -- takes part in major decisions, and everyone takes part in decisions which affect her directly. At the same time, everyone has enough authority to fulfill her own responsibility and do her job effectively.

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  • The collaborative model allows everyone to feel a sense of ownership in the organization. A food co-op or other cooperative business often functions in this way, with everyone having a vote in major decisions. Collective management: Everyone takes part in all decisions, and the organization is jointly "owned" by the whole collective as a unit.

    Usually, as a result, consensus universal agreement rather than a majority vote, is needed for a decision to be made. Define the roles and relationships among the board, director, and staff Roles and relationships are crucial to the smooth operation of the organization. There are a number of questions you need to ask as you define these in a way that suits your organization and gives you the management results you want: Where are the limits of everyone's authority? How and when are they expected to work together? On which, if any, issues is decision-making a shared process?

    Shared by whom? What are the lines of communication among them? Can the board give instructions directly to staff, for instance? Can staff contact the board directly about issues in the organization? Or does all communication go through the director or some other specific person?

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    How will disputes among them be resolved? Do board, director and staff agree about how the organization is run? Conflict in this area can quickly cripple an organization. Prepare carefully to hire the right people for management positions If you hire an authoritarian as the director of a collaborative organization, you will have serious difficulties no "may" or "might" here. Explain the organization's management model as precisely as possible, so no job applicant will have any question about what she's walking into, and won't find any surprises beyond the inevitable ones that go with every job if she takes the position.

    Try to structure the interview so it mirrors as closely as possible the management model you have in mind. In this way, you can get a sense of the applicant's comfort with the situation, and of his skill in handling it.

    Body of Knowledge

    This information should be helpful when you make your choice. Ask questions and use probes that really get at the applicant's philosophy of management. What does her past experience tell you?

    Designing a Blueprint

    What would she be willing, and not willing, to do as a manager or administrator? Use the applicant's references well. Ask his former employers and colleagues about his management style, his relationships with others in the organization, the ways in which he might solve a particular problem, etc. Listen to your instincts. If someone makes you uncomfortable or feels "wrong," that's significant: don't ignore it, no matter how great her resume looks.

    If you have a sense of the people you're looking for, you'll know at least some of them when you see them.

    Examine what needs to be managed Whatever the management looks like, there is usually some agreement about what in an organization needs to be managed. People: personnel management People are the most valuable part of any organization, and often the most difficult to manage.