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Community Contribution

The Cla Maturity Tool Can Be a Pocketknife For Internal Communication and Knowledge Management

Apr 22, 2024
Elizabeth Kemigisha

WI-HER is fully remote, and while this allows us to have staff located all over the world, it can create challenges in regard to maximizing collaboration efforts, knowledge sharing, and building a learning culture. 

Before establishing a structure for knowledge management at WI-HER, some of the information and teams were siloed, with most of us running our specific project deliverables and not actively sharing with each other, which affected information flow, coordination, and collaboration.

Our teams were conducting activities efficiently and capturing and utilizing the learning to improve program implementation, but there were also coordination challenges on who should share, when they could, and what platforms to utilize for the different audiences that was affecting the company’s knowledge sharing culture. This was among the top challenges we had been facing at the company level.  In undertaking a company-wide knowledge management (KM) initiative, we applied the CLA maturity tool, which allowed us to take a 360-degree view of our work, leading to improved collaboration and organizational effectiveness. Here is how we adapted the tool for our needs and created a safe and inclusive space for discussion to create an improved KM strategy and plan for moving forward.

CLA framework orientation

WI-HER’s KM Associate conducted a staff orientation on the CLA framework, providing a safe space for the teams to discuss the different slices and brainstorm how the direct components could be applied within the company. Staff were invited to think through where both their individual project teams and WI-HER, as a company, were on the continuum of the different slices. This orientation triggered introspection  among staff on their specific roles in KM.

Virtual discussion groups

All WI-HER staff, including the technical, finance, and operations teams, were divided into groups and assigned to different slices. The KM Associate facilitated in-depth discussions within each group. For the most part, individuals in the groups were selected according to their roles, with a good mix between both headquarters and country teams. 

In these virtual discussions, the facilitator served as a discussion moderator, using active listening techniques to encourage open and honest discussions. The KM Associate used guiding questions from the maturity tool to guide the conversation, which included providing staff with an opportunity to spell out their understanding of the different concepts in the slices and share where WI-HER fell on the continuum. They also critiqued existing strategies and initiatives, leading to suggestions for what we could do better.

As a fully remote organization, where most of the staff have not met in-person, the  CLA maturity tool provided a valuable format and structure that fostered the creation of a supportive environment, whereby WI-HER staff could share their opinions and ideas in an open, collaborative and productive manner. By applying the tool during our preliminary work of designing the company’s KM strategy, together we unearthed rich insights into various areas, including how we can improve collaboration and coordination among staff and project teams who were operating on opposite sides of the world.

Improving internal communications

Insights from these discussions were utilized to improve our internal communication. For example, staff shared how they wanted to receive information internally and the challenges they faced when it came to contributing to content calls. They also shared what content they wanted to see shared within the company, including recommendations on platforms. The insights provided us with context, and we have since designed personable initiatives that staff are happy to engage with. 

Additionally, we improved collaboration by designing spaces for staff to share and learn from each other. For example, we designed and implemented learning sessions, such as the ‘know your project’ initiative, where projects are given a platform to discuss their updates, including the challenges they face. This initiative improved the staff's understanding of the projects in our company’s portfolio and led to better cross-learning.

Reimagining the company’s mission, vision and values

The application of the CLA maturity tool as an assessment birthed our need to reimagine the company’s mission, vision, and values in a staff-centered manner. Working with all staff, we co-created, tested, and launched WI-HER revised mission, vision, and values. By using the CLA Maturity tool, we critiqued previous statements and how they influenced company culture, while also allowing staff to incorporate their ideas and share how they could live our mission, vision, and values out through their day-to-day activities.

Development of the company’s KM toolbox

The KM Associate created a structured toolbox using the insights and input from staff. For instance, we learned that while staff were learning and adapting at the individual and project level, the company could benefit from a more systematic and intentional approach in order to improve knowledge retention and reuse. The toolkit now includes a learning agenda and after-action review templates to support the teams in generating, storing, and using their newly acquired knowledge for learning and adaptation. Staff agreed that there was a close linkage between pause and reflect activities, and adaptive management and that starting these at individual, then project, levels would translate the culture upstream to the entire company. To do this, the teams agreed to utilise the tools in the KM toolbox like peer assists, WI-HER Knowledge cafes, and targeted external events to disseminate the learning and showcase their skills and experiences. 

Implementing the CLA maturity tool as an assessment tool for internal communications and KM strategy building was not an audit, which we stressed to the staff. Rather, this exercise created a safe space, where everyone could share their honest opinions, and feedback. It also provided an opportunity to draw from our diverse experiences and backgrounds to assess the company’s current way of working and how we can move into a future characterized by openness, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

About the authors
Elizabeth Kemigisha

Elizabeth Kemigisha MPH, leads WI-HER’s knowledge management efforts where she is drawing from various tenants of Communications and Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) to standardize knowledge sharing and facilitate learning for the staff at the project and company levels. Elizabeth has a background in applying social and behavior change (SBC) principles and frameworks to the design and implementation of various interventions in health, agriculture, and energy. Elizabeth is also a member of the secretariat for the African Society for Social and Behavior Change.