Storytelling for knowledge sharing saves half a million dollar

On 6th Oct this year I wrote a blog titled Storytelling: If NASA can, you can which highlights how a credible organisation like NASA uses storytelling as a Knowledge Sharing tool. Soon after publishing the post, I shared it on LinkedIn. Within a few mins got a comment from a reader, ” So, what are the stories told at NASA for Knowledge Sharing “ My response was , ” I am not sure but I will look in to it”. So, I did and here is what I found.

NASA has a few knowledge sharing platforms one of which is ASK Magazine

There are more than 70 knowledge sharing stories you can find in the magazine  but I wanted to share one that is special ?

Why is it special ? Soon after this story was published in ASK Magazine. Marty Davis ( The narrator ) got a call from a lady who applied all the learnings from the story and saved half a million dollar. Now, isn’t that the purpose of knowledge sharing !

Another thing to note is that the only reason the reader picked up on the story as something valuable because – she felt just like Marty Davis ( the narrator ) whilst reading the story. If NASA had used Marty’s experience and created the process ( the normal corporate way)  She would have never connected with the process but she connected with the story and that is why knowledge sharing with storytelling is effective.

The story is narrated by Marty Davis who has been a project manager at Goddard Space Flight Center for almost 30 years. He’s been in charge of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program (GOES) going on 10 years. Mr Davis will retire soon. Marty Davis is a perfect example of one of those people we hear about in government agencies with a wealth of knowledge in his head and unless someone bothers to try and capture it, this knowledge will go when he does. But not at NASA because NASA will capture this story.

Here is the Story about Tangled up in reviews told by Marty Davis

As we all know, here at NASA requirements keep coming. Not surprisingly, they seldom go away. Reviews, for instance. Over the years we have seen many additional reviews laid on us. There are at least a dozen reviews in the life of a project. While I don’t mind doing a review — if I feel like I’m getting value out of it — when these things are thrown on helter skelter and there’s never a look at combining or refining them, then each new review feels like just another requirement, another hoop to jump through, which is frustrating because you’ve got to spend time and effort preparing for it.

What I wanted was something quite simple, to combine as many of the reviews as possible.

So, these are the 3 things I did

1
There is a saying, “the devil is in the details,” and as it turns out that’s where the fighting often occurs too. Many of my colleagues agreed the status quo needed to be changed, but when I began spelling out how I wanted to do it, I could see I was going to have to fight for my way.Some of our management at Goddard thought I was too involved in specifying what the composition of the review team should be. Indeed, I did specify the composition, but getting good people was the whole point as far as I was concerned. I was assigned an internal co-chair and recommended an external co-chair, and I told the internal co-chair that he could have 7 members including himself, and I said the same to the external co-chair. I also said to them, “Neither of you can duplicate the same technical specialties.” If one of them had a thermal person, the other could not. If all this sounds imperious, well, I’ve been at NASA going on close to four decades and when you’ve been here that long, you learn that to get what you want sometimes you have to get into the details.
2
Another thing that raised their hackles was that I wanted to bring outsiders into the review process right from the start. To my mind, internal reviews have only limited value. With internal reviews, you do a presentation, you answer questions, they give you requests for actions, and then they go away and you sit down and try to answer them. You mail them to somebody and they tell you whether they are unacceptable. What I wanted was something more like how External Reviews are conducted, where you give a half to a full day of presentation and then the review team identifies where they want to meet one-on-one. You’re being reviewed to a greater depth in selective areas. Something in the presentation that piques their interest is identified as something to review in more detail.
3
While all this was being vetted by management, I did something else that gave people pause. I decided to go ahead and incorporate this approach into my reviews right away. I saw no point in waiting, as we still had several more reviews ahead and there are benefits, I believe, beginning at any point in the project. I put together the review team and we tried it out. My feeling was, let someone stand up and stop me. We held the first review using this model in February. The charter for this integrated independent review team (IIRT) was to find anything that could go wrong. The review lasted for two days, one day of presentation, one day of one-on-one, and then a caucus with the review team.

 

KEY LESSONS 

Storytelling SingaporeEnsure that project reviews are for the one being reviewed and not for the reviewer.They very often come across as blame game and reviewers demonstrate authority. That is not what the review process is. The desired outcome is -a better project.
Storytelling SingaporeReviews should encourage joint problem solving rather than just reporting. To do this, ensure that the review process is viewed as feedback from independent and supportive experts.
Our next blog is about the project manager who saved half a million dollar via applying the learnings from this story. Storytelling for Knowledge Sharing is simple and effective
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Why the QR Code? The answer is in the request below we received from a regular blog reader.

"I attended your story telling course some time back. And I've enjoyed keeping up my knowledge with your blog. You may not have realised however, that the Whole of Government is implementing Internet Seperation. Hence I'm not able to access the links to read your articles. Could I suggest including a QR code in your emails so that I can use my mobile to scan it and gain immediate access to the article? It would be most helpful"