This is about a small daycare in Eastern Ontario. It is a vibrant, loving place with dedicated staff who adore the little ones they care for and has been headed up since it opened its doors in the 70s by a dynamo of a woman named Linda. The daycare serves about 90 children and employs about 15 staff.
Like anyone, Linda would like to eventually retire. She’s now in her 60s and she’d love to enjoy time with her husband, children and grandchildren. At one point, it looked like her daughter might take the daycare over. But her path took her in other directions. Then, it looked like a senior staff member might be the right fit to follow on as the director. But when the school boards opened up RECE positions, she got pulled in that direction. THEN, a former board member even started in the position to slowly take the daycare over as Linda phased herself out – but then that didn’t work out either.
And so, Linda remains as she and the board grapples with the best succession plan after a few failed attempts while everyone hopes no health or personal crises take Linda away suddenly.
What these experiences brought to light for Linda and her board, was the underlying vulnerability that existed because of the daycare’s dependence on Linda. There can be a feeling of helplessness as you search for good options and hope the right person will come up through your ranks or walk in the door, and in the meantime you soldier on, hoping that the incumbent will keep on keeping on as long as you need them to.
What we at Coherent Solutions proposed to the daycare was that during that phase of planning and waiting, something CAN be done. You can underpin your knowledge.
Daycares in Ontario are highly regulated. Reams of paper populate binders and binders on daycare directors’ desks. There are policies on everything, procedures on everything, all mandated by the province. So the daycare wasn’t lacking in documentation for a lot of its core activities. But there’s a difference between having a policy and living it; between having a mission and philosophy and embodying it. What makes this daycare unique is not in its policies and procedures. But none of THAT has ever been documented, and much of it had never been articulated.
And so, Linda, her main office assistant and myself embarked on a project to create a comprehensive understanding of the daycare’s knowledge and make it accessible to Linda, her successor, the board as well as all staff.
We undertook the following 5 steps in our process with the daycare:
- Activities Audit: What are the daycare’s core outputs and how are they achieved. What resources are used? Where do policies exist to dictate process, and where do none exist at all? What has been documented? What hasn’t?
- Tool Design and Build: Our tool was built as a WordPress sub-domain to the daycare’s main website, using a Plug-in called KnoweldgeBase. It functions much like a Wiki – though for the daycare’s uses at this point, only central staff (Director and Admin) can add content, though all users have commenting ability. Access to sections is controlled based on user type. In reviewing our Activities Audit, we determined that the areas of knowledge generally served three groups of core stakeholders, the Director and Management staff, the Board, or the general staff group. The information that was relevant to all formed the core of the tool we created, with the group-specific knowledge alongside it.
- Populate Tool with Explicit Knowledge: Adding the explicit, already documented information was the easy part. This step involved inputting what the daycare already had in various manuals and policy guidelines.
- Populate Tool with Implicit Knowledge: This is where the challenge came: supporting Linda in translating her knowledge into a format that would be accessible to others. Linda was not sure about the process initially: “At first I was intimidated. How could I ever put on paper what I do?? But after some intensive meetings and a few hours of documentation, we had so much catalogued. Now a replacement can come in, refer to the Knowledge Base and step into my shoes!! That is the case for all our departments now – kitchen, maintenance, administration”. Want to know more about helping people make the implicit explicit? Download my worksheet!
- Roll-Out and Review/Curate: Our team taught the staff how to use the tool. As an incentive to use and access it, the daycare’s leadership committed to posting the weekly schedule online within the Knowledge Base (something that staff had previously had to physically come to see in the office). Follow up meetings with the director after a few months of use showed that more content was being added to the Director-section of the knowledge base as Linda identified more undocumented processes. Take up and use has been high with staff and the director using the tool for training purposes and documenting changes in processes as well as for finding information required to make decisions and locating resources.
Think a system like the one at Linda’s Daycare might be right for you? Contact Coherent Solutions to learn more about how to adapt this process to your organization