Interview of Sim Sok Hian, KM and Innovation Head of DSO National Laboratories.
by Cor A. Beetsma.
Introduction of Sim Sok Hian.
She a networker, well connected in DSO, Singapore’s foremost R&D organization with 900 research scientists and engineers whose jobs are to enhance SAF’s potency on the battlefield as well as contribute to national security. She is aware of the corporate history, structure and primary work of programs and labs. She provides the invisible connection of people through her informal network and personal touch with TLC: tender loving care.
She believes that KM can provide value to the organization and to the people as long as one remains sensitive to the complexities of work environment and to the needs of people.
1) What is your current KM focus?
We currently interview Project managers, teams and customers to help capture the stories that liven the organization. These project stories or cases can be used for teaching purposes by the senior / management staff. Whether it be a lesson learnt or an experience shared, exhilaration or trying moments, these stories tell of the achievements and challenges faced by the people, everyday. It adds a ‘soft’ dimension to the hard R&D solutions provided to the SAF. Interviewing skills and integrity when handling sensitive issues are important.
The DSO Management team provides good support to the team in various aspects of KM eg conducting cases, giving technical talks. In a project story, we often look for KINETIC (DSO core values) displayed in the course of a project. The chronology of events, corporate structure and climate in which DSO operated at that point in time must be understood as the project rides its phases. We understand the busy schedules of the people and more often than not, will wait for a ‘good’ time to interview. (As proof that she doing a marvelous job: Project managers ask when is their turn and Directors look forward to their staff being given the opportunity to share their views! ed.)
2) How is KM embedded in your corporate structure?
The learning and compliance roles are split (may overlap) as follows:
- KM reminds staff to share, links the people and helps capture lessons learnt.
- HR organizes courses that include senior staff presenting internal case studies.
- Systems Engineering (SE) centre focuses on processes and quality.
Some examples to illustrate the very practical relationships:
1. When new staff joins, induction is organized by the HR team with a key section conducted by the CEO and internal speakers on inspiring topics.
2. Project lessons learnt report is not 100% enforced, but case- interviews/studies by the KM-team and SE audits help bridge the gap.
3. These case studies are presented by the Management team (walk the talk) to target audience, organised by HR/KM. Target groups include Project Managers-to be, potential heads and new staff.
4. SE centre and the KM-team share key findings for promulgation and improvements. The Directors are kept informed on needs/gaps.
3) What are the critical skills of your small KM-team?
The 4-person strong full-time KM unit is symbolic. It provides facilitation when operations ask for CIG’s, cross-centre sharing etc.
1. KM staff (pre-requisites are technical as well as softskills) undergo OJT, are immersed in the organization through pioneering many activities, and thus have a broad understanding of important organization/project issues. The good working relationship built over the years provide the basis of trust in interviews. The team must keep abreast of many changes, be sensitive to issues and ask the right questions.
2. They stay independent, and are seen as a third party which is very encouraging. They provide a channel of connection between senior management and ground staff, cross-disciplinary.
4) How is sharing structured between programs/labs?
This is done informally by initiation of Directors who call their Program Directors/lab heads/staff regularly together. There are also formal support platforms to review or prevent problems like technical risk panels with specialist support, audits etc.
5) Are documents and tools shared across Divisions?
KM maintains a repository of various categories of knowledge eg project executive summaries, lessons learnt/case studies, conference reports, handbooks. The access control is pegged at summary and attachment levels. The SE centre has also initiated a Project Hub on the intranet. It is a workbench that facilitates planning and execution of projects as well as link to designs and technical resources. It is not possible for sharing of all documents and tools across the organization due to issues like:
- Sensitivity of work i.e. most are classified
- Usefulness/Understanding of in-depth technical documents/tools by others due to the diversity of technologies and solutions
When tools are proven, open for sharing and well documented by developers, they can win awards. Similarly, intellectual property (IP) like company trade secrets can be disclosed to internal IP evaluation panels but for restricted use. This breeds good-practice without regulating it.
6) How has your KM scorecard developed in the mature phase?
There has been a shift from measuring contributions at repository levels for trending to monitoring end-result of the projects. (From effort to result of effort.) Customer surveys are used to monitor customer satisfaction with end-products. Ownership of KM is transferred to operations.