^z 11th June 2023 at 3:43pm

About three years ago, Bob Buckman (of Bulab Holdings) gave a talk about how his company operates. Buckman's mannerisms and delivery were low-key, but his content was striking. Some tidbits:

  • Cultural change in his outfit really began about 1984, when they consciously started to focus on sharing best practices, sharing knowledge, creating a true learning organization, and giving unlimited opportunity to individuals. Currently (1998) they have over a thousand "associates" around the world, 72% of whom have college degrees (up from 39% in 1979); they speak over 15 languages and operate in 90 countries. Investments in technology let people work remotely and still form a single virtual organization. Only ~14% of personnel are in fixed locations; the rest roam, using dial-in access to shared discussion spaces and databases. The company leases laptops and turns over its entire equipment stock every 2-3 years. The technology cost is ~$7.5k per person per year, ~4% of revenues.
  • Key corporate goals:
    • "Build relationships of continuity and trust with the customer."
    • "Have everybody effectively engaged on the front line with the customer."
    • "Change from hoarding knowledge to gain power, to sharing knowledge to gain power."
  • "Explicit knowledge" (documents, databases, artifacts, etc.) forms only ~10% of the company's base; "tacit knowledge" (people, relationships, networks, etc.) is ~90%. (See ^zhurnal 23 October 2000)
  • An ideal knowledge system has direct connections between many individuals — to reduce the number of links in the chain — so that anyone has access to all corporate knowledge at any time, and anyone can enter knowledge into the system. The company runs 24 hours/day, and every individual can work at the best time and in whatever language is best for the local customer.
  • As the span of influence of an individual expands, the power of the individual expands, and that increases the value of the individual — and thereby helps the organization as a whole.
  • The company's Code of Ethics is basically a common value system that helps everyone treat each other with dignity and respect, so that mutual trust can develop. People have to be "proven proactive knowledge sharers" to get promoted. Open communications make entrepreneurs (and "smoke-blowers") obvious to all. (Re anonymity in corporate shared fora, "We don't encourage that. ... If you can't see the source, [it] doesn't permit receivers to develop trust in the source.")
  • The technology that you need to do all this is simple. Start with basic old email; give everybody a home page; build threaded discussions around important questions and organize them into shared corporate knowledge. Focus on helping the person at the front line help the customer.

Bob Buckman's conclusion: culture is paramount. He estimated that "... ~90% of your effort is culture change ... ~5% is technology ... and ~5% is magic that comes out of the woodwork." He counseled that to succeed, "You must translate this into new voluntary behavior, or else it's just talk. ... You have to work out new procedures; you have to make it real. ... You need to protect pioneers who stick their necks out. ... Command and Control is a philosophy of management; to give it up seems to be giving up power ... but you surprisingly gain power [when you release the reins]. ... [People] need to have the freedom to contribute ... [you have to] make heroes out of those who do neat stuff ... give them opportunities ... things they don't expect to receive."

His final advice: "Start simply!"

(see ^zhurnal FutureSymp)

Friday, April 13, 2001 at 05:51:33 (EDT) = 2001-04-13


(correlates: MyValentine2004, DeptOfRedundancyDept, IdeaChampions, ...)