Leaving your legacy and tacit knowledge sinks

These last 2 weeks, we have been swallowed up in the joy and excitement of the Obama presidency sweeping into town in Washington, with the Inauguration taking place early last Wednesday morning Australian time. Sadly, I was not one of the millions who woke early to watch the celebration, but I certainly caught up with all the news and exclamations of the event the next day.

 But I’m not about to write ‘another’ blog post loving the fact Obama is now in (even though I do) or discussing how his new agenda will push and create great change in this world (which I do hope it does). I actually want to focus on one, quite traditional and, I believe beautiful, act of the presidential handover. I’m talking about the letter the last president leaves ‘the next guy’ on the table in the oval office.


 (Picture from http://www.boston.com/bigpicture)

I first heard about this little tradition a few years back, and can’t quite remember the source although I believe it was in one of the Bill Clinton (auto?)biographies I was reading at the time. Certainly, I am taken by the romance of it all. Everything in the Whitehouse is packed up, the bare bones of what was the epicenter of the worlds most powerful economic and political engine for the moment exposed by the lack of staff, furniture and infrastructure. The oval office is left bare, with only the desk, chairs and basic furniture remaining. There are no artifacts of the former president left behind, except for one letter left on the oval office desk.

The letter is an informal handover, written by the previous President outlining tips/thoughts/feelings and general insight into what ‘the next guy’ is likely to face in the position. The Office of the US president is one that very few people (44 now) ever experience, and so the learning’s they pass on to each other in these letters would provide certainly an amazing view into the life they have just been elected to.

I think it’s just the romantic in me, but this provides a great lesson for us to learn in organisational life. Why isn’t it that we treat everything we do with such a legacy? Why is it that the great new blog you may have started at work, or the amazing project you just managed but now have to move on from is not captured in such a legacy and fashion. Shouldn’t’t it? Why don’t we write notes to the ‘next guy’ when we leave an organisation or position, and wish people all the best? And, most importantly, how do we capture what it ‘felt’ like to be doing the work we have just handed over and what can the incumbent to the role expect in their time in the chair? I know it’s a bit of a reach, and a bit far removed from the idea of tacit knowledge sinks and knowledge management – but I believe if we treated each role with a greater sense of the legacy we leave behind in our time served such knowledge management processes, procedures and databases may not be necessary. I think this is crucial in a new world where intrapreneurship and internal innovation is key. We deal in ambiguity, and handing over the not always implicit things we have learned in that time is a key requirement in the future.

How are you handling it? Have you written that letter yet?

Strategic Tips when applying for Grants

Grant writing. So many small to medium enterprises rely on their ability to generate revenues and cash from grant sources to survive and even thrive. The art of writing a successful grant is one highly valued by such organisations, and even lauded within the industries that these talented people. But often I see many people within these organisations panic and jitter when a new tender hits the press. The thing is, often this frenzied grant writing is misdirected or strategically off topic, even if the grant is successful. What follows are three key tips to consider before writing the grant.

 1) Make sure there is a strategic reason for writing the grant

Grant writing is hard. There is a lot of stakeholder engagement that needs to take place prior, during and often (as the result of diligence and regulation) after the grant has been written. The key thing to remember, however, is that you do not waste time writing a grant. What do I mean by this?


The key, is ensuring that you follow your strategic goals and objectives when writing the grant. If you don’t strategically plan on opening a massive, pirate themed adventure park then why would you apply for a grant to build one? Okay, so the example is quite extreme but it goes a long way to highlighting me contention. If the grant opportunity doesn’t talk directly to your strategic intent and organisation scope, then don’t waste your company’s precious time and resources writing it.

When a grant opportunity comes up, first ask the key questions:

i) How does this match our 3 year organisational strategy?

ii) How does this match the strategic direction of the business unit (or division eg. Marketing, Service etc etc) that would be responsible for implementing the grant.

iii) What is our organisation scope? What don’t we do? Is that what the grant is asking for? 

2) Find partners that can expand your strategic impact whilst remaining on scope

Okay, so you answered the above questions and you have now found a great opportunity! The grant on offer talks directly to the direction your organisation was already moving, meaning that if successful, the affect on your company will be like strapping a rocket to your back whilst roller-blading.

But often those who give the grant request that organisations partner when applying for grants. This is occurring more and more now here in Australia (and I’d appreciate any international readers to confirm the trend abroad). This partnering mitigates much of the risk the grantor faces when giving money to SME who may (or may not) achieve suitable results for the cash. As such, an important factor to consider as you begin to seek a partner is an organisation that can raise your results whilst not forcing you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do (ie – find a partnership that doesn’t involved scope creep.)

So when discussing how to leverage a partnership for your organisation, consider any “friendly organisations’ in your industry or geographic area you are on good terms with. A strategic alignment with an organisation that would otherwise be competitor could potentially increase the results both parties experience.

The other option available to you when partnering is to find someone in another industry whose skills you can leverage to achieve even greater results than if you either trekked the grant alone or partnered with a competitor. An example may be to partner with an advertising, public relations, consulting or legal firm whose skills can assist you with implementing the grant plans or even better. (Remember, now that the grant talks directly to your strategy, engaging a professional services partner will thus provide new services and talent you otherwise may not get exposure to – a huge competitive advantage).

So ask yourself the questions:

i) Who are we currently friendly with, and how could be leverage this opportunity together? Can we cooperate around geography, demographics of customers or vertical alignment?

ii) Who would you love to partner with if money/connections/politics was no barrier to entry? How can you approach these people and why should they work with you on this? What is the shared opportunity?

iii) Is there are larger player in your industry that you may be able to partner with to leverage their brand towards a new opportunity for both of your organisations?

iv) Can you partner with both a friendly organisation AND a company from another industry whilst remaining within your strategic scope?

3) Ensure that you include new resource requirements if successful

A final tip is to ensure that your company has the resources available to actually implement your grant when you get it. Many organisations make the mistake of applying for grants when they are not ready too actually win them, or at least have a good idea of how they will grow to successfully implement the plans they pitched on. So, make sure you ask yourself:

i) Who will project manage the implementation of this new project when we get the grant?

ii) If the answer to the above question is a resounding silence…how are you going to recruit, pay, find someone to run with the ball if no one within your organisation currently can?

iii) Can you move resources around so that an existing staff member can work on the new internal venture whilst you hire someone new to backfill their role?

Good luck and happy grant applying!