The NSW Parliamentary Library is the oldest specialist library of its kind in Australia. The staff of the Library are also specialists, who possess remarkable amounts of knowledge about Parliamentary resources and history. Like many libraries today, a great deal of this knowledge is tacit, with vast amounts of corporate knowledge embedded in comparatively few individuals’ memories.
In the 2014/2015 Business Plan, in line with the Department of Parliamentary Service’s strategic plan, the Parliamentary Librarian set a goal-based activity to “Build a learning organisation”. A project team was formed, and an original plan for knowledge-sharing and capacity-building was implemented. The results have been overwhelmingly positive, promising and even unexpected.
With such a broad (and ambitious) activity, utilising a basic PMBOK (project management body of knowledge) framework was essential in order to clearly define the scope, objectives, approach, stakeholders, team composition and risks of the activity. Distinct process groups of Definition, Planning, Implementation and Review were employed and project management templates ensured the project was methodologically sound while still maintaining the ability to quickly achieve results and test the project’s effectiveness. Three surveys were employed to inform implementation and provide a measure of project impact. Qualitative feedback was gathered through regular team meetings, staff forums and informal interactions.
The first round of the project ran over 11 months, with an implementation phase of 7 months, and focussed on “creating the foundations for a system of structured knowledge dissemination and management”. Major impacts included:
Knowledge sharing: Knowledge-sharing activities increased dramatically, teams displayed increased interaction and curiosity, and expertise was leveraged across the Library.
Knowledge acquisition: Measurable improvements in confidence were seen for specific topics (such as search strategies for Hansard and Parliamentary Papers). Staff also showed increased confidence in abilities to answer questions in areas where topics were not specifically addressed, demonstrating a flow-on effect.
Knowledge capture: The rate of tacit knowledge capture increased greatly and is expected to provide ongoing residual benefits to the Library (for example, for future induction programs).
Core capabilities: The project has contributed to a continuous improvement framework for planning and delivery of projects and staff confidence in delivering training and presentations has increased.
It is anticipated that the Library will continue the project through further “rounds”. By renewing the objectives each round, we can provide the fluidity and flexibility required to adapt to ever-changing needs while remaining true to the purpose of the project and thus consolidate our experience of being a learning organisation.
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