McDermott Consulting is a specialty consulting company, led by Richard McDermott, author and teacher on knowledge-based organizations. We bring you fresh ideas combined with over 20 years experience in organizational change. Not theory, but proven, practical hands-on help. We collaborate with your staff so they can sustain the capabilities we introduce.

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The Next Generation of Organization
We are in the midst of a sea change in the structure, form and operation of organizations as companies shift into truly global forms, with widely distributed and highly integrated structures, global supply chains for both knowledge and material, knowledge delivery systems that are fine-tuned to the work that needs t be done, and organizational structures that are, at the same time, integrative and flexible. Many organizations developing new ways to balance operations, customer focus and practice development, increasingly using semi-formal communities, collaborative networks and self-organizing crowds as core elements.

McDermott Consulting helps you understand how to take advantage of the new models of organization that are emerging, design what works for your organization and help you implement them so they are effective.

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Cognitive Science, Knowledge & Consciousness
Many of the key distinctions in the field of knowledge management, such as tacit and explicit knowledge, are based on good common sense. But to understand how to organize information for use, deepen expertise, enhance decision-making and increase innovation, requires more than common sense. You need to understand how experts think, how decision makers seek, see, and sort information, and how people combine ideas or fields to generate innovative solutions.

 

Drawing from research in cognitive science we take a new perspective on designing approaches to sharing and developing knowledge. For example:

  • To "retain" expertise we don’t capture or transfer "expert knowledge." Instead we help experts make their unconscious thinking visible to protégées and teach expertise how to coach protégées.
  • To help decision makers, we analyze their knowledge needs and create "rule of thumb" frameworks that follow their decision making needs. Because long term memory is organized by natural knowledge structures, this provides a much more useful support to mature, practicing professionals than step-by-step procedures.


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Organizational Change and History

Digital enthusiasts sometime argue that E2.0 will usher in a new era of organization. While digital infrastructure is an important component of the current change, we know from the history of major social and organizational change that the type of shift from multi-layered, integrated organizations to more network structures involves many factors.

 

For example, the success of the Lowell textile mills, the first major industrial factory in the US, was the result of a new technology – the power train – combined with a new, willing labor force (the eldest daughters of large rural families), the Lyceum movement that interested those young women in moving to the city, a set of supervised boarding houses (with strict rules) established by the mill owners, an association of mill workers that gave the women a social network to rely on which spread into the country-side. Combining the technical and human infrastructure was key to the success of the mills.

 

The same is true of the change we currently face. Based on our research into the networks, communities and large scale business network design, we help your organization understand the integrating mechanisms, governance, tools and the impact and opportunities of larger social changes.

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From Knowledge Management to Knowledge Impact
What if we completely shift focus from managing knowledge to improving the impact knowledge? Most knowledge management strategies are based on an overly simple distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge. And most end up with self-service knowledge libraries to organize and store explicit knowledge and some form of communities or networks to share tacit, undocumentable knowledge. While this approach has its place, it leaves each knowledge professional on their own to weed through great quantities of information to find what is useful.

 

We take a different approach. We believe effectively managing knowledge begins with understanding its impact; increasing coordination, deepening expertise, improving decision-making and enabling innovation. Each of these impacts involves different types or combinations of knowledge, tools, frameworks and activities. McDermott Consulting helps you develop a specific knowledge management approach for a specific impact.

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Change as a Natural Step
There is much good work on organizational change. Like personal change, organizational change requires focus, engagement, discipline, progress, collaboration with others and some sense of reward. But change does not need to be a struggle. In our research on change, we found that change can build on current habits, activities and beliefs and feel like a natural next step. In any organizational intervention, we look not only to good practice, but to what staff will feel is the right, natural next step.
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Virtual or Face to Face Collaboration
McDermott Consulting is fully equipped to provide products and consulting services on a virtual basis through video and collaborative tools. Richard also travels extensively and can join you at your organization.
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Clients/Industry Specialization
We specialize in industries in which knowledge is a key component of the organization, where knowledge is rapidly changing and where individual and organizational expertise are critically important to competitive advantage.

 

High tech
Research and development, rapid technology change, integration of highly sophisticated knowledge into manufacturing characterize many high tech companies. Clients include:

  • Ericcson Research Canada
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Digital Equipment
  • Agilent
  • Celestica (engineering)
  • New England Telephone

Oil and Gas
Because of the large capital investment required for oil and gas exploration, as well as the extreme technical Working with Shell Oil we helped develop some of the first knowledge strategies and communities of practice. Now our work in the industry has expanded from knowledge work design and communities to retaining and developing expertise. Clients include:

  • Shell
  • Mobil
  • ExxonMobil
  • Schlumberger
  • Phillips Petroleum
  • Anadarko Oil


Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceutical development is big science in every sense of the word. The volume of data on the impact of compounds is tremendous and the interaction of compounds with the body are extraordinarily complex. Drug development requires collaboration across internal organizational boundaries and increasingly between organizations. Building internal and external collaborative networks and organizing very complex information so it can be used efficiently is critical to efficiency in the industry. Clients include:

  • Pfizer
  • Aventis
  • Sonofi-Aventis


Environmental Professional Service Firms
This growing niche of professional service firms, where knowledge, tools and approaches are rapidly changing and developing. Understanding how to meet a strong and changing demand for knowledge and professional expertise in this field is a challenge that requires balancing operations, practice development and customer focus. Clients include:

  • MWH
  • Environmental Resource Management
  • Conservation International

Development and Government
Creating collaboration between development agencies, governments and NGO’s across wide geographic boundaries is critical to effective development programs. Creating networks, supporting decision making and innovation can be particularly in these organizations. Some clients include:

  • The United Nations Secretariat
  • The United Nations Development Corporation
  • The International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • The World Bank
  • The Center for Disease Control
  • The European Commission
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • The Local Initiative Support Corporation

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About Richard McDermott
Richard McDermott is a leading author and consultant on designing knowledge organizations. He is one of the founding thinkers on communities of practice, co-author of Cultivating Communities (Harvard University Press) and author of over 3 dozen articles on communities of practice, expertise development, and sharing good practice. His articles have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, the California Management Review, the Journal of Knowledge Management, the Cutter IT Journal, The Knowledge Management Review and others. He served as subject matter expert for six international studies, including the largest quantitative study yet conducted on how communities impact business and individual performance.

 

Dr. McDermott is a frequent advisor to senior managers and speaker at international conferences on how to improve the productivity of professional staff. He has a PhD from Brandeis University in social theory, social psychology, and organizations, combined with over 20 years of practical experience in organizational change.

 

Dr. McDermott is a Visiting Academic Fellow at Henley Business School and an Associate of the Knowledge and Innovation Network sponsored by Warwick University.

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Personal
Richard lives just outside Boulder Colorado. In his spare time he enjoys participating in his spiritual community, hanging out with his two teenage daughters, and galloping horses through the open fields, over small jumps and down blustery beaches.

 
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