​When narratives focus on problems, how they occurred, how they were solved and why the solutions worked, it is called “sharing knowledge”. This knowledge sharing can spark action, support shared values and get people to work together or become open to new ideas. Storytelling os an effective strategy for sharing organizational knowledge.

​APHL collected stories from senior public health laboratory scientists to:

  • Pass on their wisdom to a younger generation of laboratory leaders
  • Share information on how to deal with laboratory challenges among contemporaries
  • Recruit new scientists into the field
  • Help the public to better understand the public health laboratory’s role in the public health system

Read Stories of Knowledge Management

(Click the heading to read the story.)

A gold mine of information: A story of how to use the shared Member Resource Center 

“As part of a work group, we came up with a paper. We needed to track data to support the paper and find a comparison base. We needed to track data from when the state started screening for Sickle Cell Disease.  I remembered an article I had read, but it was a very old article and I had thrown away all my paper copies where the data was mentioned.  I also remembered APHL Consolidated Annual Reports. Someone suggested to use the Member Resource Center to search for the article I had lost.  After looking through many of the uploaded reports, I found a 1973 paper with the list of the states starting testing at that time. They had information on phenylketonuria (PKU) test and The Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) at that time. The reports I found were pictures of the articles as these where formerly offered in paper.  The reports are consolidated since 1963 and each state has submitted them in electronic version now. It is a huge amount of data and APHL has access to that information! I was able to use the data for our group paper and make a better case for our work to compare years. Our report paper on Hemoglobinopathy is now in progress. The data was there, but it’s nothing until it’s transformed and shared”
-Retired Laboratory Director of Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Public Health Laboratories.

No riddles left behind, a story of implementing KM to save resources

“A couple was working at our lab, they were husband and wife. They decided to leave the lab. They planned on leaving a few months apart. They were moving to the west coast. They indeed did move to the west coast, but the information that had accumulated and not been captured was so important that one of them had to be retained for four more months to do all the information download and to help manage the lab while new staff got hired, trained and familiarized with the procedures which are now written down to pass on. Financial resources, time and human resources could have been saved, had we used Knowledge Management tools to capture all the knowledge the former staff had acquired.”
-Retired Laboratory Director of Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Public Health Laboratories.

You don’t think you know more than others? Think again while using Knowledge Retention Tool

“Retaining institutional and technical knowledge is critical. A person who worked for 40+ years at our laboratory was getting ready for retirement. When a person works for so long in a lab setting they don't think that what they know is unique. They feel everyone knows what they know. But, once you sit down with that person and engage in a conversation, the perception is different.

When you start the right conversation, little “nuggets” of information that a person can hold throughout a lifetime of experiences start coming out and you realize how critical they are. There’s technical knowledge and there’s history. The staff person was surprised to find how little things like why changes were made were as important as the change itself. Collecting this information of procedures and why changes occur, keeps you from going back and reinventing the wheel over and over again.

Thanks to the Knowledge Retention tool, the organization was able to retain the knowledge of this staff member.  This tool helps keep things going. People are moving to other positions, retiring, going on extended leave and it’s important to know what that person does, so that others can do their job when they’re gone. It’s important that we have some sense of what that person does and where their stuff is and who they work with. This retention tool uses questions that are completely different to an exit interview. It is very important to know that this tool asks about the relationships people had and where they found the information that they needed to do their work and where did they go to answer questions when they needed answers.

What the tool captures is tacit knowledge. It’s not about whether they liked their job or not, it is a different conversation. When this tool was used to capture 40 years of experience from a retiring staff member, the person appreciated the conversation.  Feeling like we all were willing to remember what that person was remembering and it placed value to the work done for so many years. It is important to take the time to capture all this information. The conversation you have with previous staff can guide the conversation with the future staff doing the same job.”

-Retired Laboratory Director of the Minnesota Public Health Laboratory Division, Department of Health.

Considering yourself an agent of change, a story of mentorship to improve processes

“As a mentor I am constantly immersed in Knowledge Management.  I have used a variety of KM tools like surveys to collect information and data, gather feedback to find out what's working, and to evaluate opportunities for improvement. I use check lists, templates, and management plans to lay out training structure. I have used KM resources to guide policies for applying model practices and create standardization across organizations. For all of these processes, I've developed focus groups, created teams, led dialogues and had face to face time to transfer information.

Another tool that has helped me is the network drive, which I use to store information and data in a structured way. As I mentor others who may want to become champions in their environment, I remind them that the way information is stored, how it is stored, where it is stored should be a well thought out process that involves Knowledge Management (KM). Just naming the files, subdirectories and so on, can help manage information. For example, the APHL Knowledge Retention Toolkit is used when someone is leaving, to pass on knowledge, for mentoring interns and to guide to off boarding or training new staff.

There are many tools to manage KM, some are for gathering and understanding the information, and some are for sharing. In the process, you manage how information is being collected, you manage how it is presented and you are constantly doing problem solving. On some occasions you're even building the tools and developing techniques. Fine tuning the approach on how to share with audiences helps avoid reinventing the wheel. The more you use tools the more you can customize the tools to your particular situation.

In my case, I use KM a lot and pass on what I have learned to my trainees.  For example, I had a staff member who wanted to grow skills in Lean to become a champion in his institution, which includes formal training, a hands-on learning process, application and mentoring.  In these trainings I started with basic project assignments and then I shared the tools. We met weekly to go over a simple subject, process improvement for example. We looked for something with narrow scope and over time, we progressed to more complex projects like how to store, gather, present and share information. We also spent time problem solving and exploring the tools. We expanded the tools and included my own knowledge.  I, as a mentor was growing- finding new ways to do things based on my trainee’s experiences. In sharing approaches with each other, we developed best practices.  We started modifying tools and we realized we needed something new. We began developing training materials with a proactive approach, considering short-term and long-term outcomes. Then, we talked about training opportunities, and what we learned.  There was a lot of sharing and discussion, including professional networking opportunities in the Lean community.

I consider myself a mentor and a leader in change. KM makes me more efficient. KM is applied in the way we do things; it is not a separate part and it can make everyone more efficient.”

-Director, Office of Organization Development, State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa.