“Bringing the brain of the company to the field”: behind the scenes look at the production of our book

If ever there is a great justification for starting a Knowledge Management (KM) programme then the title quote from an interview with John McQuary encapsulates it. KM works when client proposals or solutions draw on the collective wisdom of an organisation.

It’s one of many superb quotes and stories, from the series of research interviews conducted with global practitioners: from Colombia to Australia by way of USA, Canada, UK, France, Belgium, Malaysia and Singapore, for the forthcoming book Patricia Eng and I are co-authoring. In all 18 interviews and more than 40 hours of audio material on KM in Energy, Shipping, Nuclear, Financial Services, Military, Engineering Services, Aviation, Health, Consulting, Manufacturing, Education, Food and Regulatory.

Patricia, who was previously Head of Knowledge Management at US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and my task is now to turn the material collected into, in her words:

” The book I wish I’d had when I started”

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Which is why she and I spent time in Henley-on-Thames last week analysing what we’d heard in the interviews.

Let me take a step back.

It all began when:

I met Patricia in 2014 while I was chairing KMUK and she was a guest speaker describing the KM programme she’d set up and run for the organisation that oversees the US Nuclear industry.  Learning from near misses and from good practices while improving the way ‘newbies’ are inducted into the business had saved her organisation an estimated US$37 million while she was at the helm of the programme.

About the same time I was running Masterclasses on Effective Knowledge Capture and Retention and seeing real interest from organisations who’d recognised the potential risk of knowledge loss from merging, downsizing and retirements or as a result of having specialist skills resident in a small number of individuals only.

After exchanging ideas post conference we felt we had sufficient synergy to begin collaborating on a book focused on “Proven Knowledge Capture & Retention: Between Theory & Practice.”

Though our combined experience is approaching 80 years of business with a significant slug in KM and related activities we wanted to draw on the experiences of great practitioners.

Establishing criteria / identifying interviewees:

We agreed it was important to approach people who’d actually done it and got their hands dirty: who experienced highs and lows and maybe also seen their programmes wither on the vine after they or their sponsor left.

We knew many global practitioners, from chairing and speaking at/ attending KM related events but we wanted to spread the net wider than our own sphere of influence so in effect conducted a virtual “Peer Assist’ with senior global KM’ers and these are the criteria we set for selecting interviewees:

  •  A KM professional that actually built a KM program for an organization they worked in, as opposed to a consultant who was brought in to work on a KM program and then left.
  •  Have spent at least 2 years on the programme.
  •  Primary person responsible for the KM programme – interfaces with executives
  •  Can point to a clear ROI, e.g., productivity or monetary
  •  A KM professional who can speak to what constituted the ROI:

Our thanks go to Patrick Lambe, David Gurteen, David Williams, Karuna Ramanathan, Shawn Callahan and Chris Collison for their recommendations.

Setting up the interviews, thinking about the questions:

In my Masterclasses I always stress how important the interview set up is.  Apart from thinking about the where its always vital to give the prospective interviewee time to think about the answers and to tell them what the process is. Here’s the questions we asked:

  • Tell me about the circumstances and the drivers behind the original knowledge retention programme and who was involved?
  • How did you go about determining what knowledge to try and capture/retain?
  • Give me a brief snapshot of how you went about capturing it.
  • What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
  • How did you convince your management to go for it? ‘Business Case?’
  • What difference do you think it made to your organisation?  What was the actual return on investment?
  • Is there a particular highlight you remember?
  • Having done this if you had to do this over again what would you do differently?
  • And finally what would you tell someone about to set out on a programme to capture and retain knowledge?

We also added:

  • If there is one book you felt helped or inspired you what would it be?

Conducting and recording the interviews:

We had a list which grew from 12 to 18. Patricia volunteered to do the interviews (she is good at it) as we felt continuity in style was important.

We thought about using technology to help with the cataloguing and analysis. Instead we agreed not to transcribe verbatim but to each listen to the interview and make our own notes / key points which we’d discuss face to face in January 2016.

We learned a lot (remembered a lot) about the importance of having technology back ups and also that many corporates don’t allow Skype.  We found that taping the conversation proved good enough for us to listen to and that DropBox was an effective and secure storage vehicle for the tapes.

Analysing & Sensemaking:

And so last week we found ourselves awash with flip charts, postit note, and marker pens. By Friday evening we had a structure for the chapters of the book and a pretty good idea of the examples, stories and quotes that would fill them. Here’s a snapshot of how we went about organising the material:

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What I found interesting, the varying drivers for starting KM across the interview base. Most were due to Risk, a lot were down to Innovation & Process Improvement, some were as a result of the CEO’s Vision and a couple because of Regulatory or Audit findings and a call to action.

And finally:

With an outline (and publisher) in place we can now set about writing to meet the deadline of having a good manuscript that does justice to the insights provided by the interviewees (e.g. KM Bonus Points, ‘Knowvember’ Award, Rock Lite, Adaptive Case Management,  XpressoX, ‘Pick a Problem’, SME Protoge Program…) ready before the summer.

 

 

The future for Legal KIM: An Outside/In perspective

I’ve long admired the work of Martin White on Information Governance, Intranets and Search and as Chairman of the Online Conference that used to be a must attend event at Olympia in December.  I fondly recall a Hilton Hotel, Heathrow T4 meeting at the end of the 90’s between the two of us and Gerry McGovern in which we hammered out the components of an Intranet checklist. And the horror at finding the parking bill was nearly as expensive as a tank of petrol.

We go back a long way, have worked on a number of assignments together and I once gave the Keynote Speech for Intranet Focus at the inaugural Russian Intranet Forum in Moscow where David Gurteen ran his first Russian Knowledge Cafe.

Martin and I meet regularly.  It’s one of the nicer aspects of working in alliance that you get to share ideas (within the bounds of confidentiality) with people you choose rather than those an organisation chooses for you.  In the Summer we met a couple of times to review experiences in Legal Knowledge & Information Management. I’d just given the Keynote speech at KM Legal and written a blog post while Martin was in the midst of a new assignment writing a digital workplace strategy for a prominent law firm.

Legal is changing, is KIM ready?

Martin too had noticed changes in the way law firms were working. As we compared notes we became aware that some of the knowledge management, information management and project management approaches that we had been using for many years might be unfamiliar to law firms. We decided to validate our conclusions by talking to some of our contacts in law firms and among the comments we noted were:

  • “We are great at capturing, not so great at sharing, especially when it comes to knowledge about clients”
  • “Too many people think that writing a project plan is all that is needed to make a success of Legal Project Management”

A couple of hours on 4 key topics

We have decided to set up a meeting at which we could share some of our experience with senior knowledge and information managers working in law firms. Our Breakfast Breakout will take place in the Benjamin Franklin room at the Royal Society of Arts on 9 December. Starting at 9.00am (but with breakfast at 8.30am) we will be covering (amongst other topics)

  • Knowledge Loss & Knowledge Gain,
  • Legal Project Management,
  • Getting the best from firm/client virtual teams
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Management

We will be talking about Knowledge Chameleons, the “Balloon on a Phone” and WTGTGQ – When They Go They Go Quickly. There will also be a chance to benchmark your own situation, though the Chatham House Rule will apply throughout the meeting. With just ten working days to Christmas we’ll provide a relaxed setting, no PowerPoint presentations, a good breakfast and an opportunity to support the PlanZheros charity instead of paying for a ticket. You will be able to be back at your desks by 11.00. The room will be set out cabaret-style and we’ll be moving everyone around after the mid-way break to foster networking.

How to register

Registration details will be posted here, on Twitter @pauljcorney and @intranetfocus in the next few weeks.

Donations to a charity

It being Christmas we decided instead of asking attendees to contribute to the cost of the event we’d invite them to make a donation to the Plan Zheroes charity I am a founding Trustee of. So much is happening on that front and the next three months are critical, we need all the help we can get to launch our new web/mobile presence.

Pattern language writeshops, gamification and the importance of passion: a chairman’s perspective of KMUK

“Very stimulating couple of days at – insights into gamification, perspectives on engagement & mulling over global individual concept”

This quote from one of the presenters was a great way to end what was a really enjoyable and rewarding couple of days at the 11th KMUK held a few weeks back.  Despite sharing chairing duties with David Gurteen I managed to capture much of the social media activity on Day One and publish a series of Storify accounts.  On Day Two I upped the informality and attempted to broaden the gamification debate with Andrzej Marzcewski.

A lot of ‘Operational KM’ activities emerged but I will focus on presentations from Alim Khan who outlined a very interesting technique in co-creating a report (writeshops), gamification session with Andrzej and an energetic performance from Patricia Eng on the US Nuclear industry’s knowledge capture and retention programme.

Knowledge Capture & Retention in the US Nuclear Industry – a story of passion!

So Ladies first, here’s a few of the comments Patricia made:Bp1_bVNIgAAwPu-

You have to make the exec management think you are serving them but you are serving the workforce

Don’t worry if you don’t have much money, what you need is PASSION, hang about the cafe. Replaces the old smokers room.

KM metrics? Ask the problem owner, help them develop the tools, go back and see if things are better

IMG_2171The slide that caught my eye though was this one. Apart from the fact that Patricia’s efforts save $37m she rightly focused on the pain points one of which was around departing knowledge. It was a theme that came back a number of times and Patricia’s work inspired a similar exercise at Lloyds Register.

Patricia believes people who leave have different motivations for sharing what they know before the leave even if their departure is involuntary.  I would group them into the following categories:

  • Legacy/Notoriety: I want what I’ve done in the organisation to be remembered and passed on;
  • Avarice: I want my cv to reflect what I’ve done and I see this process and the stories it generates helping me as a freelancer.

In fact this ‘What’s in it for me’ motivational issue is often overlooked by many KM’ers and is one of the core foundations of the work I am doing in Iran with Ron Young. And here’s where I disagree with many in the KM community who are convinced that if you get the culture right then knowledge sharing naturally occurs: There has to be something in it for people to be willing to share what they know.

A study in collaboration at the World Health Organisation

Dr Alim Khan is an incredibly well educated individual who thrives on complexity and with whom I had the good fortune of spending two weeks in Darfur as part of a mission to see how KM might be grounded in a humanitarian crisis. It was therefore not a surprise to see him presenting on the topic of how to accelerate completion of a project report and findings using a wiki based on Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language work.

The idea of a pattern language appears to apply to any complex engineering task, and has been applied to some of them. It has been especially influential in software engineering where patterns have been used to document collective knowledge in the field.

This was a great example of non routine content aggregation via the coordinating mechanism of a wiki -from workshop to writeshop. ‘Building a collaborative knowledge product at the WHO’ was a session that showcased new thinking.

It’s only a game!

The previous week Andrzej led a Knowledge Cafe session on Gamification in a KM Environment. Once again this was an entertaining talk focusing on the psychology behind the use of games and especially the variety of user types (stakeholders) an organisation needs to consider and their motivations (the ‘\what”s in it for me’ again) for participating.

IMG_2185Andrzej and I then led a working session where the delegates were asked this question:

what role (if any) do you see for gamification in KM?

The discussions were wide ranging: many were sceptical; some were Gamification Ideas KMUK 2014converts; others saw no role.  But when asked to note down their top  ideas this is what emerged:

I was particularly drawn to the idea of surfacing expertise (which is how CapGemini where Andrzej is the Intranet supremo uses the technique) and the idea of using Gamification to demystify KM.

My take: Gamification is a big leap to make for senior executives who have not grown up in an online interactive environment. As Andrzej points out each one of us who uses LinkedIn is engaged in Gamification; ditto those of us with loyalty point cards. Its about how the technique is introduced that matters and where it is targeted.

A word or two from Dave Snowden

A few quotes from Dave’s opening address which I thought were spot on:

Danger of Community of Practice – correlation doesn’t give rise to causation.

@snowded prefers to talk about ‘decision support’ rather than ‘knowledge management’ – it describes what it does

Understanding the history of the organisation is a key to understanding its culture.

The idea of creating a big database of lessons (identified) only works if those are then fed back into the workings of the organisation – then they can be described as ‘Lessons Learned’! Most aren’t which is why the idea of a pool of case studies is often also a waste of time.  Its rare for two cases in one organisation to be the same so why would you expect something that happens someone else to be a perfect fit for your own organisation.

And finally

Future of KM is facilitation, not management. Needs to be part of the how we natively work & relate.
The new world of the Knowledge Managers- moving from managing knowledge repositories to facilitating communities #kmuk

Exactly!

 

What Knowledge Management is and why some people don’t ‘get it’

I was in virtual conversation today with Professor Fernando Sousa, President of APGICO, the Portuguese Association for Creativity & Innovation whose aims are to:

  • develop, disseminate and promote knowledge and experience in the management of organizational creativity and innovation;
  • establish international contacts with similar organizations;
  • create forums for dialogue between businesses, academic institutions, government agencies and other stakeholders in the management of creativity and innovation.

APGICO has all the right characteristics to become a Knowledge driven organisation where collaboration and co-creation are at the heart of everything they do!

Fernando and I first met 5 years ago when we were part of an Advisory Board assembled to look at future business options for a traditional hand weaving business based in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Fernando subsequently invited me to be a guest speaker at an EU Creativity & Innovation event Portugal hosted during which he used stories to develop themes and we’ve shared ideas ever since and recently met for tea in Faro.

I mention this since despite a number of conversations Fernando, like many, struggles to ‘get’ Knowledge Management though he appreciates the ideas behind it, the techniques that underpin it and the value of stories to unearth new meaning. In his own words:

Although I have some difficulty in entering your field of expertise, I always find your texts and slides quite interesting; in fact, I find some of them are true mind breakthroughs

While generous (thank you Fernando) it means I haven’t expressed the message clearly enough in language that he understands or in context which goes to the heart of a conversation I’ve been following this week on KM4Dev started by the World Bank entitled ‘PDFs that nobody reads’.

KM – the dangers of a supply led model

Here’s an extract from one of the many excellent contributions to the KM4Dev discussion, this by Lata Narayanaswamy, Honourary Research Fellow at University of Sheffield:

It is this question of what people actually do with all the reports and newsletters and information packs that we as development professionals produce, and I absolutely include myself here. My own research in this area would suggest that, in contrast to so many members in this forum in particular, who work to promote KM as an interactive, engaged, two-way, back and forth communications process, a large proportion of what passes for KM is the production of a PDF that gets posted on a website. It is a supply-led model that reflects what both Philipp and Magdaline have identified as the lack of reflection on what people actually want to know, and instead focuses on what organisations either want to share or what they think people should want or need to know and ‘how’ to know those issues. ……
Given the diffuse nature of what we call ‘development’, it is not therefore surprising to find that the World Bank, despite their powerful financial and discursive position, is experiencing a ‘no one is really reading our stuff’ problem, because broadcast mode has always been an essential part of their KM framework and the way in which so much of civil society has understood what is means to ‘do’ knowledge.
And whilst I believe that engaging with and articulating the demand for knowledge is hugely important, I am under no illusion that engaging with demand alone is going to address this issue. I myself as a practitioner have been in plenty of situations where someone has requested information (presumably this counts as engaging with demand!) and I subsequently learn that they didn’t use it. I think Peter’s example of ‘information that might be useful if only we had a budget to engage people with it’ really highlights that KM is not only about demand or supply but a continuous process of recognising the value of information to the knowledge creation process.

My own observations on that discussion were:

I’ve been working a fair bit recently with and in Middle East and Africa and very aware of the challenges of publishing dry English reports to audiences where English is a subsidiary tongue. I’ve tried using the power of 3 (3 bullets, 3 themes), stories and postcards to bring ’stuff’ to life.  But ultimately it takes a seismic shift for people to change ingrained habits.

One of my early corporate assignments was to set in place a business intelligence function which collated and summarised salient content for senior officers.  Later, technology sought to replicate this but was never quite able to replicate the knowledge of an individual who knew the business inside out.  In a way this was how the Knowledge Manager in that business emerged – a person who knew and understood the business providing the right content (with opinion) to those who were best able to use it.

I’ve been working with one of the leading Gamification experts and will be facilitating a debate on the subject at KMUK and with David Gurteen at a Knowledge Cafe in a few weeks time.  Its a similar issue – how to get engagement with an audience, a problem increasingly exacerbated by the behaviours of Generations X, Y & ‘Rent’ whose learning and reading styles are driven more by social than traditional push technologies.

identifying the value of Knowledge Management

So I was delighted when Nick Milton published the extract from a presentation to financial analysts made by ConocoPhillips last month in which one of their Vice Presidents described the value of Knowledge Management to that organisation – take a look at Nick’s blog. The comment that really hit me was:

The knowledge sharing group that we have that drives all of this is embedded in our IT organization, which is embedded in our technology and projects organization.
So it’s well integrated with all our other functional groups and we look at maps of how knowledge is being shared from one part of the world to the other and across different functions and can actually track how well that is working and it’s been pretty impressive what it has done for us.

“It is actually one of the key tools that we are using today to combat the great crew changes, we call it in our industry, where we have so many people with so much knowledge who are retiring and we’ve hired all of these younger people. A big part of how we do that knowledge transfer from the experienced folks to the less experienced folks is using these tools.

Value creation is at the heart of the Knowledge Asset Management Methodology, Ron Young has helped many organisations adopt. It is based on a concept of frequent value assessments with measurements (Change Readiness / Stakeholder Analysis / KM Maturity Models as examples) and the idea of embedding a 9 step Knowledge Management process into the day to day workings of an organisation.  It further calls for the identification of an organisation’s Knowledge Assets, a serious attempt to measure the intrinsic value of processes, communities and individual, team and organisational knowledge and networks.

For many years Ron, along with others in the KM arena, has been calling for a mechanism that places a value on these Knowledge Assets and while the ConocoPhillips briefing is some way off that it is a move towards that goal. Lest we should forget, a few years back a correlation was made between the winners of MAKE awards and their outperformance on the US stock market.

I believe Risk Management is also of huge significance and why the Nuclear Industry pay attention to the capture of Critical Knowledge identifying who has it and what they could least afford to lose through natural wastage or downsizing. As yet, factoring in the value of a loss of Critical Knowledge as a potential risk does not feature in the Audit and Compliance reports of most organisations and I for one believe it should.

and finally

So what do I take from this?

  • Knowledge Management needs a foundation of good Information Management;
  • To be effective (and sustainable) Knowledge Management must be embedded in the processes of an organisation and focus on business issues;
  • While stories bring experiences to life, you can’t assess what you don’t measure and if you don’t map and measure (frequently) you are reliant on anecdotal evidence which at the top level of organisations won’t wash for long; and
  • Its easy to produce ‘product’ that looks good but not relevant or in context for the audience – pushing at an ajar door on the lower levels is a lot different than banging on a locked door at the top of the building!

A KM Definition that isn’t: KM Legal 2014 examined

This extract from today’s twitter stream on KM Legal 2014 is telling:

Just been asked why we’re not at in London – “because we went to the one in 2004” was the answer.

I was there to deliver the opening address to this year’s KM Legal event.  It was very well attended with 80% of the audience being qualified lawyers.

In truth I left feeling disappointed. Apart from an interesting perspective on the future role of predictive data delivered by Eric Hunter, Director of Knowledge, Bradford & Barthell in California much of the remainder focused on providing information rather than applying knowledge and the discussion was about Intranet implementations on SharePoint. I should point out that my impressions are based only on Day One.

In my presentation (publically available on SlideShare) I began by describing how 20 years ago I’d helped build a one screen view of all our activity and created what was effectively one of the first Intranets in the process.  Yes the solutions and reach are greater today but the questions being addressed are the same.

Its significant how many people have knowledge in their titles however almost all are involved in Operational Knowledge Management and many in Information Management.  Very few appeared to be involved in Strategic Knowledge Management which for me is surprising given that the legal profession more than many others has to be knowledge driven relying on precedent and changing judgements in order to make recommendations (legal arguments) based on personal and team knowledge and experience.

Information Management is not Knowledge Management!

Mark Gould (who was suitably voluble) summed it up thus:

Information management is important, and often needs to be better. Helping information flow is not knowledge management.

I noted the Knowledge Management definition delivered by Zurich which might work for them and meet their specific criteria but for me misses by a mile the real meaning of Knowledge Management:

Knowledge Management: ‘The efficient and effective use of information to meet the objectives of the team and businesses we support’

Where is the key bit about learning from what you’ve done before, capturing, storing and reusing the knowledge of people? What happens when people leave and new lawyers join?  Yes Knowledge Management requires good information systems to support it but there is no mention of building knowledge into the processes of the business.  Its quite ironic as in 1998 Zurich Re London hired me to help embed knowledge into their Lotus Notes systems for underwriting and decision making.

We want value add from our legal parners!

This was a cry from a few of the presenters and the logic is powerful.  If their lawyers have expertise in managing knowledge then why not tap into it and ask them to share it with the clients as part of an overall package. But that’s a narrow perspective as the conference demonstrated.  The essence of KM tools like Peer Assists is that you are bringing expertise from outside of your own industry when launching a new project. Organisations that just hire the same character types and draw from the same talent pool end up being clones! The same applies to advice.

Transparency and co-creation

Eric’s presentation struck a chord.  His premise: that the future is about opening up and co-creating with clients is spot on.  Clients at the event were complaining about opaque charging structures and archaic processes.  Eric (who is ex Oracle) noted that:

Real-time data analytics is changing business models

I buy into that argument and can see a world where more generic aspects of law are consolidated (perhaps in the cloud) and the superior knowledge hence value is priced differently. Surely the value of great legal minds is in the analysis and delivery not the curation and storage?

Comments I liked:

  • On Intranets: Bird&Bird-content facilitation role vital to look at what was best version and then use that. LinklatersWhen search works you are on your way to a winning Intranet!
  • On how to sell: White&Case- Demands for collaboration coming from clients is a common theme. Love analogy of selling processing and successful completion.
  • On the creation of  embedding knowledge into ‘Pathways’ (processes): White&CaseSubject matter pathways (a set of navigable PowerPoints) that help lawyers go thru a workflow. simplicity thru PowerPoint with embedded live links. Real business efficiency tool. pathway dependent on effective curation next step is to add on time recording and budgeting. Good for showing clients Gr8 for onboarding.
  • On what’s in it for me: White&Casepeople will only contribute if they know who is going to see information. Simplicity is best, fewer options better.
  • On what people are called: ZurichExpertise Enablement Officer, (Learning Officer, Knowledge Manager, Information Manager rolled into one).
  • On organisational values and change: Berwin LeightonPaisnerDownside of giving people ability to customise their personal home pages is that the core message / values of the firm get lost.Lewis SilkenPowerful group needed to bring about change in a legal firm? Secretaries! Administrative initiatives will fail if not involved.
  • On the future: Variousrevolution in way of working is coming with a need for a virtual digital workspace across the industry that all firms contribute to. Increasingly clients will put together teams based on the best practitioners drawn from different firms.

What I missed?

  • Any discussion around communities and talk of knowledge sharing policies.
  • A discussion on risk – none seemed to follow the example of Nuclear who have identified what critical knowledge is and tried to plan accordingly for its loss?
  • And a wide ranging debate on Twitter that brought those outside the room into it.  How can we as a KM Community preach knowledge sharing if when we are at events like this we don’t practice it?

And finally:

I left feeling that the huge challenge of breaking down silos across specialist practices in law firms has yet to be tackled effectively.  Yes the idea of common platforms is a good one but each practice area is a federated business and lawyers probably have more allegiance to their specialism than a firm.

‘What you bill is who you are’ came across as a strong undercurrent that can only be overcome by the sort of technological changes that impacted the Reinsurance Industry when Catastrophe Modelling Analytics went from being nice to haves to must haves in order to stay in the game.

If you accept the premise that the future is about co-creation and collaboration then the centralised firm structure is in danger as technology aids disintermediation.  This suggests Legal Knowledge Management’s future focus should be on competencies, skills and network management.

And just to prove that the legal profession has embraced ‘Gamification’

From Penny Newman's session on change and managing resources

From Penny Newman’s session on change and managing resources