Future role of the Knowledge Manager: The Knowledgeur?

As the book Patricia Eng and I are writing takes shape – we spent a productive couple of days last week editing chapters and agreeing key points for those still to be completed – so my thoughts continue to evolve as to the future role (and skills needed) to be a Knowledge (and Information) Manager.

This week I am charged with delivering a provocative ‘wake up’ call when I speak to the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Libraries & Information Professionals (CILIP). Here’s the gist of what I am going to say,

Operational KM to the Fore: Strategic KM to the rear

  • The majority of KM programs appear to be operationally focused addressing a burning platform issue or an urgent business problem.
  • These tactical programs address risk (loss of knowledge due to downsizing, retirement, reorganization or acquisition). Some focus on being more efficient and meeting internal and external quality standards.
  • Few it seems are driven strategically as a result of visionary leadership and if you look at where KM is located most surveys reveal its part of an operations division or unit. Rarely is a Chief Knowledge Officer part of the C-Suite of an organization. Often KM is treated like a hot potato.
  • Less than 1 in 5 are strategically aligned.  Where they are its because Knowledge is perceived to be the core product of that organisation.
  • The downside of being operationally driven is that when the burning platform issue or business problem is resolved KM is often left looking for a rationale for being and a new sponsor.

Step forward the ‘Knowledgeur’

So what can KM’ers or KIM’ers’ do, how can they protect themselves and their programme? For some time I’ve suggested that the Knowledge Manager needs to have facilitation and social skills that make them the ‘go to’ person in an organisation. Someone who makes and nurtures connections. Here’s my definition of that person I call a Knowledgeur:

‘A Knowledge Manager (Knowledgeur) is someone who makes use of his/her/others’ knowledge in one activity or market and applies it for beneficial use in another.

Originally inward facing the role is becoming more outward facing with the rise of communities and the subsequent need to collaborate outside of the organisation.’

The Skills (‘…ates) of a Knowledgeur

Here’s what I think you will need to do to if you are to perform this role:

  1. Investigate: Are you putting a burning fire out / solving an immediate business need / addressing a risk (Operational KM) or is this driven by the vision from the top consistent with the organisation’s business direction (Strategic KM)?
  2. Navigate: Work out / Map the critical knowledge areas of your organisation and create a directory of the organisation’s knowledge assets.
  3. Negotiate: Agree the scope of your role with your sponsors and be tough negotiating what success will look like and how it’s measured.
  4. Facilitate: So much of what a KM Manager does involves facilitation. You will become a hub knowing who to go to to ask if you don’t know yourself. You have to facilitate connections, meetings, interactions, events and communities. This requires resilience, a lot of social skills and a real understanding of cultural nuances.
  5. Collaborate: You are in alliance with business areas and occasionally external suppliers or partners. You have to be capable of virtual cross border collaboration.
  6. Communicate: Senior KM’er’s tell you to devote 30% of your time to communicating what you do and getting feedback – its not just about broadcasting. Have your KM Elevator pitch always with you. Let all your stakeholders know what you are doing and why.
  7. Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.
  8. Celebrate: The role can be a lonely one as reporting lines and sponsors change, yours is a cost not revenue line and the initial burst of enthusiasm fades. Collect stories, be prepared to acknowledge contributions and celebrate successes.

My address ‘The changing KM landscape, the future of KM and our role in it as KM professionals’ will look at each of these ‘…ates in more detail.

And finally

I am looking forward to seeing the response I provoke at Wednesday’s event at Brighton. Watch this space!

“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.

 

 

In recognition of my Dad “a lovely man”: when knowledge capture becomes personal

John Corney, my Dad, died in August a month shy of his 87th birthday. Though not unexpected the timing of it was.  I was lucky in the sense I got to say goodbye and to reflect while he was still with us on his amazing contribution to and guidance for my own life.

Dad was a ‘lovely man’ a phrase / tribute we oft heard from those who knew him and a private man. I realised as he neared the end of his life that though we were close there were so many aspects of his background that were opaque to me.

He was of the ‘old school’ a meticulous senior banker involved in international trade who passionately believed ‘my word is my bond’ and that debt is a commitment to be honoured.  He was not loquacious or a natural storyteller; instead he eschewed the limelight though he was well read, capable of deep insight and eager to debate topics he found stimulating.

For him ‘social’ was a word associated with a gathering of people not an online activity.  Though he recognised the value of the internet, Apps, Smartphones and Tablets were alien concepts to him.

What you might ask has this personal story got to do with business? Here’s how:

  • As Executor of his estate charged with carrying out his wishes I wanted to understand the thinking behind his approach to investment.
  • I also wanted to understand more about his early life and how he made decisions.
  • Dad was similar to many senior executives who are often reluctant to acknowledge that their contribution has been significant.

Perhaps subliminally I drew on many of the techniques I encourage others to adopt when trying to capture critical knowledge from people about to retire or relocate:

  • I used a timeline to look at significant milestones in his life with photos as a prompt.
  • We talked about books he had read that had helped shaped his thinking.
  • We talked about people he most admired.
  • We went through his ‘blue book’: a transactional history and ledger of all assets.
  • We sat and watched something and used that as a neutral space for a conversation.
  • I spent days ploughing through his archives.

A big regret is that I didn’t record any of these discussions but the stories and artefacts remain and I am now their custodian with a duty to pass them onto his great grandchildren so that they too can appreciate John’s legacy.

And finally

When people leave organisations after a long period legacy is a word often cited as the justification for a knowledge capture interview. What many overlook is the step of thinking up front what is the critical knowledge they are looking to surface during the process.

This mirrors many of the stories emerging from the interviews my co-author Patricia Eng is undertaking for “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion” book which we are aiming to publish next year. Often the driver for these initiatives has been a reorganisation, takeover or downsizing; in effect a firefighting exercise.

Setting up a programme to consciously capture knowledge is expensive and time consuming: it needs a clear rationale/driver and a set of measurements to track its efficacy and value.

Knowledge Capture EventI am looking forward to evolving my own thinking when I am in Lisboa next month running this masterclass with Ana Neves. It aims to raise awareness of the importance of critical knowledge: how to identify it, how to go about capturing it and how to go about making it available for reuse.

 

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!