Learning Challenges

As with any other organization, ADB has its challenges when it comes to managing knowledge, promoting learning, and embracing change. In 2009, a series of staff interviews, workshops, and desk review on knowledge management revealed 10 of the most prominent challenges to learning ADB faces and the steps that could help overcome them.

Challenges

Respond to donors' agendas on knowledge management and learning
ADB is not immune from increasing donor expectations that development organizations should work smartly as well as hard.

Deliver on Strategy 2020's commitment to provide knowledge solutions to clients
Strategy 2020 identifies knowledge solutions as one of five drivers for change but ADB is still some way away from translating this intention into practice.
 
Ensure leadership support and encouragement for knowledge management and learning
Staff members need clear, supportive messages and mandates on knowledge management from their manager to prioritize activities in this area.
 
Overcome organizational "silos"
ADB is a large and complex organization. Attention needs to be placed on overcoming structural obstacles that can lead to a "silo" mind-set.
 
Mobilize knowledge from inside and outside ADB
Staff members need to appreciate knowledge flows better, recognize that knowledge assets can be found or cultivated inside and outside ADB, and leverage these to satisfy client needs.
 
Strengthen links among the knowledge services of ADB
ADB would benefit from a more integrated system that covers economic and sector work, research, learning and development, and the marketing of publications.
 
Position and resource knowledge management and learning as a crosscutting issue
The cross-cutting nature of the knowledge management function should be considered in securing the best location and increased resourcing for it.
 
Create incentives for staff involvement in knowledge management and learning
ADB's performance management system hinders staff members from committing time to knowledge development and learning. The issue of incentives should be addressed to make real progress.
 
Build understanding of and capacity for knowledge management and learning-from day one
Understanding of what knowledge management means and why it is important is limited among staff members. The development of this understanding should begin as soon as a staff member joins ADB.
 
Maximize learning from evaluation
ADB has taken some interesting initiatives to leverage greater learning from its evaluations, but the balance between accountability and learning would benefit from an increased focus on the potential for learning.

Practical Steps

The challenges may be considerable in scope but they are not insurmountable. ADB has identified specific and practical steps to overcome each one.
 

Challenges Steps
Strengthen links among the  knowledge services of ADB
  • Establishing regular coordination meetings involving knowledge management specialists
  • Collaborating on publications
  • Coordinating research agendas
Position and resource knowledge management and learning as a crosscutting issue
  • Positioning the knowledge management center to emphasize the importance of knowledge management and learning
  • Allocating time to individuals for reflection and knowledge development
  • Establishing knowledge hubs
  • Supporting formal and informal communities of practice
  • Conducting learning and development programs
  • Appointing specialist professionals
  • Investing in knowledge management and learning-related learning and development programs
Build understanding of and capacity for knowledge management and learning
  • Making effective use of exit interviews to strengthen organizational memory
  • Ensuring that the staff induction program introduces ADB's approach to knowledge management and learning
  • Enhancing the professional development curricula for key areas of competence
  • Achieving professional accreditation for learning and development programs
  • Introducing concepts of knowledge management and learning into existing learning and development programs
  • Diversifying the range of the information and communication technologies used
  • Developing the use of online collaborative spaces for teams, projects, and communities of practice
  • Providing learning and development opportunities to encourage creative use of information and communication technologies
  • Developing competencies in reflective practice
  • Developing storytelling competencies
  • Enabling use of tools, methods, and approaches for knowledge management and learning
  • Strengthening team working competencies
Create incentives for staff involvement in knowledge management and learning
  • Acknowledging contributions to knowledge management and learning
  • Recognizing learning and knowledge development as core activities in the time–and performance–management systems
  • Providing time and performance recognition for people who serve as coaches and resource persons and shoulder responsibilities in communities of practice
Maximize learning from evaluation
  • Strengthening the use of project completion and technical assistance completion reports for knowledge management and learning
  • Making more creative use of questioning at concept development stage
  • Incorporating requirements for regular reflection in project planning
  • Encouraging the use of peer assists
  • Making effective use of meta-evaluations
  • Developing and using indicators for monitoring and evaluating knowledge management and learning
  • Emphasizing learning from achievements
  • Making greater use of after-action reviews and retrospects
  • Allowing adequate time for identifying lessons from monitoring and evaluation
  • Maximizing the use of evaluation reports by targeting issues to specific audiences
Respond to donors' agendas on knowledge management and learning
  • Creating a vision of knowledge management and learning that emphasizes their critical importance to development effectiveness
  • Raising the profile of knowledge management and learning
Deliver on Strategy 2020's commitment to provide knowledge solutions to clients
  • Aligning knowledge management and learning with Strategy 2020
  • Prioritizing learning and development programs related to Strategy 2020 and its drivers of change
  • Surveying ADB clients' knowledge requirements
Ensure leadership support and encouragement for knowledge management and learning
  • Building psychological safety and trust
  • Sharing and rewarding learning from successes and unexpected outcomes
  • Building an organizational culture that clearly values work quality as well as quantity
  • Enabling members of diverse groups to better understand each others' professional mindsets
  • Developing recognition that everyone in ADB is a knowledge worker
  • Articulating the learning behaviors that ADB values in its staff
  • Developing coaching and mentoring skills
  • Strengthening expertise in leading learning
Overcome organizational "silos"
  • Using creative information and communications technologies to improve lateral communications across formal structures
  • Making greater use of teams with diverse professional memberships
  • Developing and using staff profile pages
  • Developing thematic communities
  • Making greater use of workshops and seminars
Mobilize knowledge from inside and outside ADB
  • Developing a toolkit for running communities of practice
  • Devising learning and development programs for communities of practice
  • Strengthening communities of practice by providing regular opportunities for face-to-face meetings
  • Supporting the development of informal communities of practice
  • Ensuring that staff profile pages are kept up-to-date
  • Monitoring the use of publications and multimedia
  • Carefully targeting publications and multimedia to specific audiences at the planning stage
  • Opening membership of communities of practice to others
  • Valuing clients as sources of knowledge and partners in learning
  • Developing the knowledge hub concept