Establishing a Firmwide Q+A Program Using Synthesis

In this article you’ll learn…

5 Benefits of a Q+A Program
3 Key Roles in a Q+A Program
9 Steps to Roll Out a Q+A Program at Your Firm

“If you can teach people to help themselves you get an additive effect: they not only help each other; they grow themselves as experts. Essentially, you have little experts pop up left and right and they sort of grow on their own. Over time, you raise people up from basic competency towards expert level.” — Jack Chaffin, LMN Architects.

Four years ago LMN Architects hired Jack Chaffin to lead the firm’s transition from CAD-based MicroStation to Revit. They knew they had an expert to guide the process because he’d led similar transitions twice before. Jack’s expertise met such a critical need that after a short while, Jack found that “help desk issues were taking up an increasingly larger portion of [his] energy; taking focus away from other strategic activities” related to the transition.

When it comes to this problem, LMN is not alone. According to research published by Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant in HBR, “up to a third of value-added collaborations [in any organization] come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” As a result, often the people who are most in demand (those with the answers) are becoming increasingly over-taxed by the burden of responding to requests for their expertise. The really scary thing is that in most organizations leadership doesn’t even know who their top collaborators are. As many as 50% of an organization’s top collaborators can’t even be identified by the organization.

Enter a Q+A program. Increasingly, we’re seeing more and more firms successfully implement formal Q+A programs inside Synthesis to identify and activate subject matter experts. We’ve learned from firms like LMN, brainstormed what this looks like at previous Synthesis Workshops, and shared some successful programs through our Office Hours webinar series. In this article we’re going to share the benefits of a Q+A program along with some of the roles and steps necessary to roll one out in your firm.

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Synthesis 5 Resource Center

Synthesis 5 was our biggest release ever—introducing a redesigned search, renovated profiles, and several enhancements to the stream. In addition, Synthesis 5 is based on SharePoint 2013, which also brings along several new features and enhancements. Because of all of these changes, we have created several resources to help your firm successfully upgrade to Synthesis 5. This article brings them all together in one place.

Webinar Recording :: What’s New in Synthesis 5 and SharePoint 2013

Susan Strom, Chad Parsons, and Christopher Parsons led this webinar on June 25th, 2015, which introduces both Synthesis 5 and SharePoint 2013 in detail.

New KA Support Articles

What’s New in Synthesis 5 – A detailed overview of new features and product enhancements in Synthesis 5.

Search Overview + Documentation – Detailed documentation of the new Search Engine we introduced in Synthesis 5. If you are wondering what data sources Synthesis searches or how Synthesis ranks content in search results, this is the article for you.

Search Operators – Synthesis Search contains common Search Operators for manipulating and narrowing down search results such as wildcards, exact terms, and Boolean operators like AND, NOT, and OR.

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Behind the Scenes: How DLR Group Drove a Professional Development Grant Program Using Synthesis

DLR Group PDG Winners

The culture of knowledge sharing at DLR Group goes back over a decade. In fact, it was 2006 when the firm launched its most high profile peer-to-peer network — DLR University (DLRU). Hosted at the IslandWood center on Bainbridge Island, just outside Seattle, DLRU brings together the firm’s senior leaders with rising stars and younger staff for three days of face-to-face knowledge sharing, learning and team-building.

I had the pleasure of experiencing DLRU first hand in August of 2012. The theme of that event was Technology + Innovation. I was asked to share my thoughts on the state of technology-driven knowledge sharing and introduce the firm to our concept of The Connected Practice. In addition to speaking, I stayed for the entire event and I was able to participate in the social activities which make DLRU work — small breakout sessions, walks in the woods, communal meals, and small group report outs.

From the moment I stepped foot on IslandWood, it was obvious to me that DLRU was about connecting the firm across offices and disciplines long before we started using the term Connected Practice. Over the years, DLRU has served as an incubator of sorts for a wide range of innovative ideas and has become a “sought after ticket” for individuals across the firm. To date, over 350 people have participated in DLRU.

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Flat vs. Deep Intranet Hierarchy?

Are you subscribed to the Nielsen Norman Group e-mail list? If not, you should be. Nielsen Norman conducts research, produces content, and runs seminars in the areas of website, intranet, application, and product usability. They are top-notch.

Here’s a link to the mailing list:

Last week, they sent out a really interesting article on website hierarchy, though I think most of this applies to intranets as well. Intranet hierarchy (or navigation) was a big topic at the KA Advance Synthesis Workshop in Boston a few weeks ago.

Susan is currently compiling examples of top navigation (aka top navigation or top link bar) and examples from Synthesis clients. If you are willing to let us include your intranet’s top navigation in a blog post or support article, please shoot us a note at

Recommended Reading: Mastering Organizational Knowledge Flow

I’ve been following Frank Leistner’s blog about knowledge flow for a few years. I highly recommend it to all of you.

Frank believes managing knowledge flow is more important than trying to manage knowledge itself. In addition to his blog, he has also written two books that are worth checking out:

1) Mastering Organizational Knowledge Flow: How to Make Knowledge Sharing Work
2) Connecting Organizational Silos: Taking Knowledge Flow Management to the Next Level with Social Media

Finally, he’s on Twitter at @kmjuggler.

Happy reading!