Today’s society is marked by a knowledge-based economy. Technological innovation and the information revolution are going at a tremendously fast pace. Everyday, new content is published and new (disruptive) technologies come into the picture. It may even feel overwhelming, as it’s almost impossible to keep up with the latest trends just by yourself. However, staying up to speed is of vital importance to staying ahead in today’s competitive world. And that’s exactly the reason why knowledge sharing is so embedded not only in our vision, but in our entire community!
That's why Johan crawled into his pen to tell you all about his experience with knowledge sharing within Archers.
“As a company, your biggest asset today is your knowledge. Knowledge that’s represented by your people”, Johan starts.
“In my personal experience, many organizations perform knowledge management in a non-structured way. Frequently, these initiatives are simply not sustained and therefore not durable. With the result that these initiatives often don’t meet the expectations.”
The reasons are many:
A contribution to knowledge sharing is often seen as an obligation, resulting in people doing the bare minimum of what they are expected to do.
Knowledge sharing is only done by a few people who see this as a way of pure self-development.
There’s no good structure or process in place
People are expected to make contributions during their own time.
“By joining Archers, my experience with knowledge sharing opened up as they handle a totally different approach then I experienced in the past”, Johan continues. “For a consultancy company, it’s a challenge to keep in touch with its employees. That’s why I was immediately charmed to join the Archers community when I first heard about their approach on running knowledge management initiatives.” Johan states.
Embedding & investing
“To me, the key to the success of our knowledge management approach is ‘embedding and investing’. From the first day Archers was founded, knowledge management has been a critical part of how we operate. Sharing knowledge is simply woven into the DNA of Archers.
Every month, we get together and spend a day working together on different trending topics: microservices, API security... These so-called Archers Knowledge Days - AKD’s are a perfect time to exchange thoughts, to get to know each other on a deeper level, to challenge each other and get inspired...” Johan explains.
“We explicitly embed this day in our schedule. At first, it was a challenge to combine this with client demands and expectations. However, after they realized the massive amount of added value that came with these days, they realized it was very beneficial for them as well and they quickly supported this.”
“And it doesn’t stop there. One day a month is already a significant investment, but to be able to really take it to the next level, every member of the community gets the opportunity and time to learn and grow within a preferred topic. But best of all? We are all encouraged to do this during working hours. Hello work-life balance!”
A no-brainer for Archers as we believe in the long term investment in people and their personal growth!
Have a plan
“We don't just do something. There is a plan that helps us organize, prioritize and deliver. During the
fourth quarter, we start planning the next year. By forming this plan, our understanding of the
business world grows and it becomes clear which strategic topics we need to invest in. Next,
everyone gets the chance to choose their preferred field of interest to work on together with other
community members. Depending on the type of topic, the actual deliverable can be a wiki page, a
presentation, a webinar, a blog... the possibilities are endless!” Johan concludes.
Everybody joins in
“We make it a key aspect of our knowledge management effort to include everyone - from seasoned
architects to fresh graduates. Resulting in varied teams, from technical or platform experts, to
architects and functional experts. The younger generation learns from the experts, and visa versa.
We strongly believe that, regardless of your level of expertise or age or interest, everyone can make
a contribution to the community!”
To state this, Johan refers to the book "The Pragmatic Programmer" by David Thomas & Andrew Hunt. In this book, there is a chapter called: "Stone Soup and Boiled Frogs". The main essence? Each individual adds something to the soup. However small it is, everyone contributes something to the result. Resulting in more motivation to bring your knowledge and expertise into the group.
“What I also appreciate a lot, is the fact that you’re not expected to ‘fit in a box’. I am an architect, but so much more at the same time. And that’s just fine. I am always asked what I want to do in the next project, so we can take the next steps together..”
Evaluate and reinvent
Today, Archers has grown from a very small company founded by one person to a scale-up with 20
full-time members (and counting!). Logically, the knowledge operation has evolved along with this
Johan explains: “In the early stages, everyone worked on a small set of topics that were mainly focused on further defining and elaborating our vision and strategy. Later, we started organizing ourselves in what we called knowledge tracks and assigned topics there. We had about three tracks that we identified and team members joined their preferred track. Every month, a status update was shared with the whole group.”
“However, we noticed that it was not always easy to collaborate across different tracks. Besides, as our community grew, the topics grew. Very soon, we started noticing that many overlapping content occurred. That’s why we decided to change our way of working by moving away from tracks while keeping the topics at the same time.”
“Our monthly Archers Knowledge Days are far from repetitive or boring”, Johan states “as we have a
lot of variation in content and delivery. For each of these days, we always have a massive list of
topics that people want to discuss or present.
The content itself can be anything: customers' cases, personal experiences, a brainstorming session, a workshop, a speaker or anything that helps us broaden our knowledge. I learn so much from it every time!”
Valuable & valued feedback
“We make sure that when people take the stage, that they are provided with the necessary feedback.
Often, we get into interesting discussions where the opinions do not always align, but that’s exactly
what makes these days so educational and valuable!”
“There are so many benefits to our approach, both for the individual as well as for the company”
Johan concludes, “our knowledge base is continuously expanded, reviewed and updated. Secondly,
it supports employee retention. Our approach not only ensures that the knowledge base is in great
shape, but also supports personal growth. Besides, people have the freedom to propose topics and
content that not only supports them with growing in their field of interest, but also in their career. As
consultants who often work for clients, then a monthly day of activities also binds the people
together and builds our culture.
Last but not least: the company vision is not defined top-down, the entire community builds on the vision and strategy and embodies this towards our customers and the rest of the world.”
“Since I joined Archers, I grew faster as an individual than I did in my entire career. We grew into a community where you only have to give a little, but where you get so much in return. It’s like a library: you write one book, and you get endless books in return!” Johan closes.
Convinced that our way of knowledge sharing will make you grow as an individual? Eager to join a growing community? Let’s meet!