Volume 10 Issue 9 June 2007
Incorporating Enterprise Information magazine
Hitting the target
How to make communities of practice work
CASE REPORT MASTERCLASS NEWS UPDATE THE KNOWLEDGE
Jerry Ash investigates Patti Anklam examines New KM leader at KPMG US... Sam Marshall reveals
how Fluor coordinates the ins and outs of David Gurteen says 'just do it'... the key to making
communities of 13,000. network management. plus the latest events... collaboration work.
20 Case report
Fluor is a serial award-winner for its knowledge-management
systems. Jerry Ash examines the strategy that has made Fluor
such a famous name in KM.
hether self-selecting or past 100 years, Fluor has become a employees
handpicked, a community global leader in providing services find written
of practice (CoP) often and technical knowledge in five main practices, procedures,
creates a new version areas – oil and gas, industrial and templates, job aids and even career-
of the corporate silo – a virtual silo. infrastructure, government, global path information. Likewise, they can
Topic, subject matter, location, purpose, services and power. Its products and connect with experts and engage in
educational background, choice, social services include designing and building discussion forums to address real-world
mores, bias and many other factors factories, refineries, pharmaceutical project challenges in real time. It is
determine the composition and character facilities, power plants, telecoms and both a repository and a place for virtual
of a typical community. Some are transportation infrastructures. communities and communication.
subtly skewed, others appear like gated John McQuary, vice president and
communities. Indeed, some are virtually Competition requires corporate KM knowledge management (KM) lead
estranged from the greater community. The nature of Fluor’s business, not at Fluor, says the company neither
Hence, CoPs can be as limited as to mention the globally competitive commands nor cajoles employees to
the silos they are intended to transcend. market in which it operates, drove participate in the Knowledge OnLine
It is, therefore, not often you find a the need for knowledge sharing and system or to join communities therein.
company with a true, open, enterprise- collaboration across the organisation “But it would be very hard for them to
wide, inter-disciplinary knowledge- and across boundaries, resulting in a perform their work without accessing
sharing system that really works. company-driven KM programme. the system,” he says.
But at Fluor, staff anywhere in the That’s right; it’s an open knowledge-
world, in any unit or function can log sharing system, but constructed, owned Top down; no apologies
on and have access to corporate-wide and managed by the company – quite Transforming the corporate culture
content, experts, discussion forums and contrary to those who believe that into one in which knowledge-sharing
more. They only have to be a member knowledge-sharing cannot be managed, is done naturally – and globally – is
of the greater Fluor community. least of all from the top. hard work, says McQuary. “You do
With 40,000 employees in 25 Well, think again. Almost all of have to maintain some flexibility, but
countries on six continents, Fluor Fluor’s professional employees (21,000) you also have to remain firm in what
is one of the largest publicly traded are members of Fluor’s knowledge you are trying to achieve, and you have
engineering, procurement, construction, communities. There are 43 online to remain true to the core values and
maintenance and project-management communities that are part of the Fluor fundamentals of your knowledge-
companies in the world. Over the Knowledge OnLine system. In them, management programme.”
The goals of the knowledge At Fluor there is a central KM team Each community also has a
management programme and culture of seven, but only two are assigned knowledge-manager responsible for
need to be clearly supportive of the full-time to KM. Those two maintain maintaining the content and people
core business, he adds. “Unfortunately, the technology platform for Knowledge connections through the online
there are too many failed OnLine, the centerpiece of the community. Like the community leaders
enterprise-wide KM system. and central staff, KM responsibilities
The rest are part-time. are either part of the job description
Other team members or fulfilled by volunteers. In total, there
focus on improving are 200+ people globally providing
community explicit support for what looks like a
performance and corporately managed system.
McQuary himself Member’s eye view
splits his time The top down structure provides an
between the enterprise-wide framework. Beyond that,
KM programme the challenge is to make sure the structure
and technology and the content of online resources and
strategies. communities are based on a ‘member’s
The central eye view’ – that is, seeing everything from
KM staff are the perspective of the user.
the enablers, the Something may make sense while
architects and global self-contained in one community, but
managers of the from a member’s eye view (and across
system. But the system the enterprise), it can be confusing.
itself is truly global, “A good example is an experience
not only in scope, but in we had with our administration
attempts process, too. community. The group identified
at KM where The majority of the 43 global subject-matter experts (SMEs) in three
the programme was knowledge-communities fall into two areas – department administration,
given to a consultant to implement, categories – functional and business executive administration and project
technology was thrown at the problem, line. Functional communities represent management,” says McQuary.
or the organisation was not committed the project-execution functions and Within the administration
to the leadership requirements and departments, such as engineering, project community, these categories made a lot
cultural change necessary for success,” controls, procurement and project of sense, but from an enterprise-wide
says McQuary. management. Business-line community perspective, project-management SMEs
Even if the organisation does not examples include upstream oil and gas, would be identified in the project-
fall into this common trap, trying to life sciences, and mining and metals. management community. “What the
create an enterprise-wide knowledge- The global excellence leader for administration community was really
sharing culture is still challenging. For each function also fills the role of identifying was experts in project
a start, global scale requires global a community leader. The leader’s administration,” adds McQuary.
leadership and that begins at the responsibilities include maintaining To coordinate activity, the enterprise-
corporate level, while the focus radiates a global people network, defining wide system is supported from a
throughout the company and down to the practices and procedures for corporate level that includes a core group
every desktop. the function, defining career paths, of common capabilities, such as content
In addition, knowledge management choosing software and maintaining a management, discussion forums and
activity has to connect and be in tune functional development-forum to help member profiles. Member profiles are
with the critical success factors of individuals advance in their careers. members’ opportunity to share knowledge
the organisation, while helping staff The business-line communities each about themselves, helping to connect
do their jobs better. Fluor, like many have a leader who is an executive within people to people and their expertise.
other knowledge-driven companies, the business line, often the business-line Each community is configured
recognises that the purpose of a manager. Thus, the management and and launched using a team of
KM system is to get better results by knowledge leadership of the company representatives for the community
managing intellectual capital. are both parallel and interconnected. working with the central KM team.
22 Case report
“Experience convinced us we
Telling tales would need to cross business lines and
This is one of the winning stories submitted by a Fluor employee during its annual regional boundaries. But if the KM
‘Knowvember’ KM awareness campaign. effort was perceived to be a California
Title: Access to alternatives via Knowledge OnLine saves E1m total installed cost or even US-based initiative, our global
(TIC) and gets Fluor awarded new contract! roll-out would have met resistance,”
Description: This success story encapsulates the key values of knowledge says McQuary. “By launching each
management: global collaboration, client value, re-use and competitive new community on a global basis, and
differentiation, made possible by Knowledge OnLine. Allowed client to make bringing the launch message to just the
informed decision, saved total installed cost and led to new work order. community audience, we were able to
Success Story: I worked on a process study in Kuwait for dehazing of diesel establish enterprise buy-in by engaging
and gas oil to meet the Haze-2 specification at 77°C. Roughly said, this meant only that part of the workforce the
reducing the water content from 1000 parts per million by volume (ppmv) at community will directly support.”
135°F [Fahrenheit] to 100 ppmv at 77°C. The client-design basis was to use an However, with open access to all
electrostatic coalescer and salt-bed drier with a water cooled chiller, to pre-cool the communities, enterprise-wide, the
coalescer feed to 105°F. emphasis on knowledge sharing is
On Knowledge OnLine, we found the salt-bed drier manual. This manual provided crucial. Content has to be scrutinised
valuable information. Among other things, it recommended maintaining an operating to ensure that it makes sense in
temperature in the salt-bed drier at or below 100°F to restrict brine solubility in the crossovers to the wider global
diesel. Via the Process Community forum we asked for designing and operating community. Such scrutiny ensures
experience with the proposed electrostatic coalescer/salt-bed drier design, the effect that Fluor’s KM system is not just a
of operating temperature on the degree of drying, experience with alternative drying blackhole – sucking up information, yet
processes and advice on the most economical design solution for the given capacity: releasing very little in return.
coalescer/salt bed drier or vacuum drying. One of the roles of the central KM
Within three days, three responses where received, from Haarlem [Netherlands] team is to help communities resolve
and the Calgary [Canada] offices. They provided project references/contacts for each communication issues they would not
of the different design options considered. The information underlined the strong otherwise have sensed. KM hierarchy,
effect of operating temperature on salt-bed efficiency: at too high an operating in other words, can be a good thing.
temperature the efficiency of the salt bed is eliminated by the brine solubility in “An enterprise-wide approach means we
diesel. This insight was confirmed by vendor information: “The dynamics of the salt can leverage ideas across communities
bed is such that it is only 30-35 per cent efficient and at higher temperature the and provide some top down direction.
water simply partitions back into the diesel stream.” That wouldn't be possible if CoPs were
Based on this information and project references, our recommendations to the created on an ad hoc basis.”
client were to pre-cool the diesel/GO feed to 60°F with a chiller before being sent “This year, we introduced a
to the coalescer and to eliminate the salt-bed drier. The Fluor recommendation was community-audit process. This leverages
recognised by the client as a positive improvement. Knowledge OnLine allowed the existing discipline audit-processes and
client to make an informed decision in favour of the new concept for the Dehazing tools resulting in minimal organisational
Facility design. Based on the information from Knowledge OnLine, the client asked pushback. It involves an interview using
to visit one of the project references mentioned: an existing refinery. This visit was a detailed checklist over six major areas
arranged through the Haarlem office and is now planned for next month. – organisation, performance, structure,
Value for the client: The elimination of the salt-bed drier saved the client content, communication, recognition
money on equipment cost (TIC reduced by U1m) and operational cost. In addition, and innovation. Preventative and
elimination of the salt bed drier will save a lot of maintenance hassle in future. corrective actions are documented and
Value for Fluor: Client satisfaction: The client is positive about the alternative resulting actions are tracked through
design solution proposed by the Fluor team. They were impressed by the short completion.”
response time, the quick access of our team to Fluor’s worldwide knowledge and
expertise and the new possibilities it opened (for example, the client visit to an Communication strategy
operating facility). Just as Fluor’s KM structure is both
Our client is so pleased that a new work-order has been awarded to Fluor: a centralised and dispersed through
similar study for the other refinery of the client. This study represents a business community networks, it focuses on
value of U700,000. Once the feed package is approved, to carry out the job would communication at both an enterprise-
even fetch a much higher value for Fluor. wide and a knowledge-community
level, too. An internal-communications
team, which includes two professionals, performance should be the measure. which is, “We will continue to build
provides expert assistance at both levels. Fluor has a few communities of that methods to capture, share and apply
“Not all messages are equal,” says size, but most of them are 1,000+. our knowledge to deliver customer
senior communications manager Tara Indeed, the Engineering Community solutions”. These commitments come
Keithley. “Knowing and segmenting has more than 13,000 members. But with expectations and the KM team still
audiences is key, as well as knowing like in a physical town, the overall has to deliver persuasive results. The
what type of communication vehicle structure of a community enables the team relies on statistics to show the
resonates with each audience segment.” informal clustering of small groups. volume of activity, as well as success
At the enterprise level, Fluor has a You might call them neighbourhoods stories to demonstrate value to Fluor’s
number of different approaches, the most – sub-specialties within a community; management and its customers.
prominent of which is the Knowledge people who have come together to
OnLine login screen, updated twice a collaborate on a specific project; clusters Breaking the rules
week with relevant KM-related news and of knowledge seekers and sharers who After 20 years of intense thought,
stories. Also, Fluor tries to encourage have gained from the give-and-take of study, research, experimentation and
participation in a variety of different sharing; people who find themselves applied learnings, there still appears
ways, including specialised publications together in multiple communities – small to be few absolute rules behind the
for different target audiences: self-forming groups within the formal methods of KM. As soon as a standard
structure that eventually contribute of practice begins to emerge through
KM Network newsletter – Aimed to it. The Knowledge OnLine frequency of use and agreement of
at community leaders and managers; system supports this kind of natural thought, someone breaks the rule
'Share This Knowledge' executive networking with people connections, with a success based on opposite
newsletter – Focuses on KM at an including instant messaging. or modified behaviour.
executive level and is, therefore, sent Face-to-face meetings on a global From Fluor, we can conclude that
to the executive management-team; scale may be impossible in a CoP of top-down design, implementation and
TimeSavers – Provides tips and 13,000 members, but local informal management of an enterprise-wide
tricks on using the KM system and gatherings have real possibilities. KM programme can produce spirited
is sent to all registered members of Otherwise, face-to-face global meetings participation. Virtual communities
Knowledge OnLine (21,000); would be limited to business-line leaders larger than 300 can stimulate personal
KM knowledge-community who routinely get together annually for involvement. Stories can overcome the
homepage – To help non-members other issues, and functional leaders who metric mindset of traditional accounting.
ease themselves into the system; may meet every two or three years. It’s all about how you play the game.
‘Just in Time’ e-mail shots – These Personalising network activity, McQuary’s team uses corporate leverage
generally include a ‘trackable therefore, depends heavily on human where necessary. Communication to
component’ to gauge how many initiative supported by the people multiple and layered audiences delivers
people actually open the e-mail; connections Fluor provides. the right messages in the right places.
Teleconferences; Many KM programmes fall when And metrics work where things can be
Fluor intranet articles. cold, hard return on investment measured, while stories are effective
figures are demanded to support the where outcomes are not just un-
In addition, there is an annual investment of time and money – figures measurable, but immeasurable.
‘Knowvember’ awareness campaign that that are hard to quantify accurately What is measurable, however, is
includes a success-story contest with enough for any accountant’s liking. Fluor’s success as a company in a highly
an executive-judging component, as While Fluor is not as insistent on KM technical and competitive global market.
well as the culmination of a year long metrics as many other organisations, the KM has arguable played a significant
‘KM Pacesetter’ award where employees programme does have to show value. part in that success.
can be nominated by their peers for It helps that its core values fit one of
exemplifying good KM behaviour. the four company values – teamwork
– which means Fluor people must, Jerry Ash is KM coach, founder of the
Care in the community “Respect each other’s perspective, and Association of Knowledgework, http://www.
In the KM field, one school of thought share knowledge and resources to kwork.org. Join AOK to participate in a two-
is that to be effective in creating a achieve excellence, deliver value, and week e-mail discussion with John McQuary,
sense of community a group should grow individually and collectively”. 20-31 August, 2007. Membership is free.
be no larger than 200 or 300 members. These values are supported by John McQuary can be reached at
McQuary contends that actual six main guiding principles, one of John.McQuary@Fluor.com.