persistence pays off in the manufacturing sector
A focus on measurement
At the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., an official KM initiative began in 2010 with a strong focus on measurement and results. It even calls its pilot projects “disciplined experiments.”
“Like any experiment, you have a hypothesis and you set out to test it. We still do disciplined experiments as we expand the program,” says Dean Testa, leader of the Knowledge Management Office in Goodyear’s Research, Development, Engineering and Quality (RDE&Q) organization, which has 2,700 employees globally.
“The first thing we started with was business objectives, to ensure that the KM program will produce value and provide return on expectation. We don’t do KM for the sake of KM,” Testa says. “We are in it to make sure the company makes better, faster decisions to provide value back to the company and ultimately to shareholders.”
Goodyear is a project-driven organization, with people working at defined functions. Within projects, each function operates according to specific checklists and project management processes. “The focus was to embed KM into those processes in places where we saw gaps or heard of opportunities when we studied other organizations,” Testa explains.
One of the KM Office’s efforts is called “Collect and Connect.” Collect is the systematic approach to pulling knowledge together and being able to identify where it came from and the context in which it was collected. Connect focuses on access, sharing and reuse of information. As part of that effort, the KM Office has studied the communication and training preferences of baby boomer and millennial generation employees to better understand how they are likely to gather and share information.
Testa stresses that Goodyear focuses on technology tools last in its thought process. “We talk about the three legs of the stool—people, processes and technology—like a lot of people do, but ultimately culture is the biggest component,” he says. “We talk about tools last. That is an enabler.”
However, they did discover that there wasn’t a good fit between their IT platforms and their KM goals. Testa says the company had multiple IT platforms that weren’t connected, “but we were fortunate because at that time Goodyear was beginning to invest in SharePoint for the Enterprise. The two efforts were running in parallel coincidentally and it turned out to be a really good fit, because we did have gaps in the variety of tools we had before.”
What distinguishes Goodyear’s KM program is its focus on measurement. In fact, it won a KMWorld Reality Award in 2016 for its measurement efforts. Goodyear turned to graduate students at Kent State University and later at Georgetown to help devise a KM maturity assessment that the company conducts every other year. “They helped devise, conduct and analyze the results from that maturity assessment,” Testa continues. “They conducted focus group interviews afterward to validate the results. So, we have made steady progress that we can measure with that assessment. We have done that three times now.”
The organization’s value pyramids provide a visual representation of progress that builds from activity to value-based measurements. The KM Office creates a value pyramid for each key initiative and provides updates as new levels are reached.
The Goodyear KM Office executives are eager to take advantage of external collaborations to learn even more about evaluation. “At the beginning, we were looking at examples of how to start up a program. Now we are looking at how to grow and enhance the program and measure value,” Testa says. “The diversity of organizations we collaborate with enhances our learning, just as internally, cross-functional collaboration enhances our results.”