If so few Mergers & Acquisitions are successful why is Knowledge Management so often ignored?

“The best year of my life as we tried to maximise the synergies…”

was how Chris Collison described the year following the largest industrial merger in the history of the oil industry. As one of the award winning KM team in BP the merger (acquisition) of Amoco some 20 years ago presented unique challenges and a great opportunity to demonstrate the real value inherent in Knowledge Management.

“We were faced with merging intranets, capitalising on the communities of practice both organisations had developed and the BP Connect system (which at that point had 20k employee profiles) proved invaluable in matching skills and people.”

Yet KM has barely featured in Mergers and Acquistions (M&A) transactions in the intervening two decades?

M&A activity shows no sign of abating as this recently published survey from Accenture demonstrates but perceived wisdom is that fewer than 25% of all transactions fail to realise the projected synergies.

A few weeks back I had the great pleasure of exploring this topic in more detail with 100 or so senior global legal professionals.

I’d been invited by the organisors, ALM (American Lawyer and Legal Week), to give the opening address to their annual European Strategic Technology Forum at a magnificent venue (Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees & SPA) on Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Testing a hypothesis

I began by drawing on Chapter 7 of “Navigating the Minefield” A Practical KM Companion”I felt that was not enough so ahead of the event I decided to test the findings in “Navigating…”.  I approached:

  • A leading expertise discovery organisation: surely it makes sense to try and locate then validate /compare expertise in the to be merged organisations? People are at the fulcrum of of any successful merger and key in the realisation of the synergies often cited as the rationale for the transaction.
  • A world leader in the use of social network analytics: as an acquiring organisation you’d want to know what’s behind an org. chart, who are the people that make it tick? Increasingly SNA is being used to see how strong networks are in a business.
  • A recently merged industrial group: when one is a leader (and award winner) in KM surely their KM team would have a role?
  • A previous winner of the prestigeous European Law Firm of the Year award: as an organisation who has invested heavily in KM and grown through acquisitions surely they woud have built KM into their due diligence and integration strategies?

Astonishing insights

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. The anticipated demand for expertise discovery systems from organisations engaged in M&A activity has failed to materialise. It seems organisations are not interested in knowing what they know and what they are getting by way of expertise.
  2. In very few instances and in retrospect only do organisations undertake in depth analysis of networks in either the acquired or acquiring organisation.
  3. The KM team in the merged entity had to work really hard to reestablish a position since one of the organisations had a KM function and the other did not. It was not involved prior to the merger but acting quickly was able to demonstrate value through facilitating aspects of the organisation’s integration plan.
  4. In an organisation which has invested in KM capability and where knowledge is the core asset (Law Firm) any new entrant (firm or lawyer) has as a matter of urgency to contribute to the organisation’s knowledge base.

Why KM is Ignored

A part of the senior management team of Sopheon PLC during the dot com boom I was tasked with overseeing the integration of many of the acquisitions it made. I worked closely with HR / Organisational Learning and Marcoms functions as well as Software Engineering and Product Development.  We’d made the strategic decision and then looked in depth at the target and it’s skill base but often that was from a savings and efficiency perspective. We had no formal KM function yet products had years of knowledge and expertise  embedded and we ran an extremely successful global knowledge network.

I fear many people in KM are not close enough to the seat of power and seen as a tactical resource (fixers not originators) rather than people who help develop and drive through strategic initiatives.

So how might we change that and get them a seat at the M&A table?

A blueprint for the future?

Some years ago I was retained by a prominent venture capital group to help with techncal and managerial due diligence on acquisitions and investments.  The model that a former colleague James Macfarlane and I developed looked at inter alia the culture of an organisation, it’s management style, who people went to for assistance and perhaps most importantly how it coped when the pressure was on.  We also looked at how it used what it had learned before and fed that into how it developed its products.

I realise now that much of what we were doing is what I’d expect a good Knowledge Manager to be able to do today on any M&A transaction. However tools and process are important so they will need to have a range of faciiltation and diagnostic techniques they can apply. The impending publication of the ISO KM Standards might be just one of those since it will require those who have signed up to it to evidence adherence to a set of principles that rather neatly pick up many of the indicators that were in mine and James’ original Due Diligence Model.

The Knowledge Manager’s M&A Checklist

Here’s a very rudimentary set of questions to be focusing on.

Watch this space: in the coming months I will be expanding on this.

And finally

I have been remiss in not keeping up on postings. However the last two months have been extraordinarily busy with an assignment (helping to embed KM into the workstream of an organisation undergoing transformation), speeches, working on CILIP’s Knowledge Manager Certification process, getting started on a new co-authored book and working with Portugal’s Zero Food Waste movement to develop an application to improve the process of donation.

Paul delivering the opening address in Stresa to the Strategic Technology Forum

 

Combating the forces of fakism / Saucy dinner with Chefs Academy winner: Just 2 of the highlights from KM Summit 18

Last week was fun. It started with a Masterclass, jointly presented with Eric Hunter, and continued at the first combined KMUK / KM Legal event now styled the KM Summit expertly compiled by Nick Stone which I had the pleasure of closing.

I took away

  • A sense that KM’ers are becoming increasingly agile: despite the onrush of technological disintermediation there is still a role (especially around the 4 ‘ates – Facilitate, Collaborate, Communicate and Curate).
  • The need for KM’ers to take more ownership of such as Expertise Discovery and technological solutions. Failure to be in the centre will ensure you forever remain on the periphery.
  • The importance of Humanics: a technological literacy; a data literacy; and a human literacy; if you want to prosper in an AI environment. (See detailed comments below)
  • That ISO KM Standards are now in the final stages before publication end Q3 2018.

Preserving our history

“Never been more important to have reliable evidence we can trust. We are in an arms race with the forces of fakism” said John Sheridan, Digital Director of the National Archives, who gave the penultimate presentation at this year’s KM Summit. His topic:”Using blockchain to create trust in digital records” described their Project Archangel:

A two year project researching the long term sustainability of digital archives through new transformational DLT solutions that will ensure both accessibility and integrity of digital archives whilst maximizing their impact through novel models for commodification and open access.

As John noted, The National Archives, as custodian of a country’s past, need to have reliable digital records. Today it has never been easier to produce fake news or videos. Our past needs preserving in a secure environment so that history cannot be rewritten and laws ignored. This slide sums it up well.

So how might you well ask does that impact the Knowledge & Information Management profession?  Greatly I would suggest.  Organisations are not immune to fakism either and need trusted sources of content if they are to make effective decisions. I’ve banged on before about Curation (one of the 8 ‘ates – competencies – I suggest all good KM’ers need to have in their armoury) and this presentation underscored it’s importance. I shall be watching the outcomes with interest as the value of Blockchain (distributed ledger technology) apart from cryptocurrency is record keeping with significant potential as a receptical for Knowledge Assets.

I enjoyed

I missed

  • Much of the discussion around AI that took place in KM Legal where much of the automation of roles is taking place. The KM UK stream was noticeably quiet on the topic apart from a discussion around the replacement of call centres by chat bots. I did like one of Andrew Trickett’s tweets:
    • Is KMs role with AI to be like a Tamagotchi or in a few years time will it be completely different?
  • Any discussion about AI technology’s ability to mine and integrate with legacy systems. This, on the impact of AI and the discipline of Humanics, from AI expert, and the President of Northeastern University, Joseph Aoun, was in my mind having heard his presentation at Chatham House:
    • People are going to lose professions at all levels, not just blue collar or white collar. The AI revolution is colour-blind. Every profession that can be turned into a process will be turned into a process.

      Humanics is essentially the integration of three literacies: a technological literacy, a data literacy and a human literacy, and what I’m saying is that every learner should be – master the three literacies and integrate them. The technological literacy is the literacy that will allow the learner to understand computing, computers and how they operate. The data literacy is to understand how to navigate the sea of information that is generated by these artificial systems. And the human literacy is the literacy that is unique to human beings, that so far, artificial systems cannot emulate. And you know them, we practice them, it’s the ability to be innovative, to be entrepreneurial, the ability to be culturally agile, to work with people, to understand their body language when you work with them. To understand the global setting, to see opportunities to help people and to impact people. What I’m saying is that every learner should master the three literacies. That should be the base of knowledge.

I was surprised

  • EY have a giant ‘bucket’ (The Discover) platform for shareable content. It’s integrated with people profiles. But it was not clear to me whether or not Discover sits outside of the enterprise search platform.
  • That few people talked about how Social Enterprise Tools such as Workplace by Facebook are becoming “KM” in their organisations.
  • That KM’ers can still function in pockets of excellence in large organisations oblivious to others doing similar roles oftern called something different. It happened twice during the event (names witheld to avoid embarrassment).
  • That so few had considered the importance of ‘owning’ Expertise Discovery (see Martin White’s slide below)

From an Intranet Focus / Knowledge et al survey

I was pleased to see

A couple of really good opening keynotes from Kim Glover and Nicky Leijtens. These slides stood out as they descirbe in different ways how technology needs to enable good KM practices:

Technology in a KM World Kim Glover

“Why knowledge sharing initiatives fail” Nicky Leijtens

It was also interesting to see how KM is developing in the Middle East. Energy has always been a fertile hunting ground for Knowledge Managers with much emphasis on learning from doing. Hank Malik showed how PDO in Oman has taken Learning Before, During & After onto another level.

And I like that Ipsos (Market Research) have built a Knowledge Centre for the firm headed by CKO Simon Atkinson and remain focused on being great publishers.

Ipsos’ publishing model

Favourite quotes

  • “We have to be digitally savvy” – be there front and centre, embrace automation to do the analysis – be agile! Be in different places all at once. Focus on those that activities that cannot be automated. Sue Mucenieks at EY
  • Liz Hobbs of TfL Quoting McKinsey – 40% productivity surge if we learn and apply lessons from projects! “What creates a good lesson?” It can impact our future operations. What can we do to make the next project better and improve our StageGate process?
  • ISO KM Standard will not tell you how to do KM. It provides a framework that hopefully will help organisations get a good start, that doesn’t take months to implement. No mandatory requirement, no need to certify, primarily for internal use until the time comes when you can be audited by external assesors. Nick Milton
  • “Personalization lifts the burden… creates the feeling of being special and cared for…ensures loyalty”. Nicky Leitjens
  • “Challenge is for technology to help by improving the analytics so we can personalise curated knowledge”. Andrew Trickett
  • The KM team needs to be the enablers, facilitating and training others to deliver value from lessons learned and continuous improvements. Hank Malik
  • Role of KM is connecting. Help Desk run by Center of Excellence allows Global 24×7 support. Kim Glover

‘The Chartered Knowledge Manager’

Nick Poole CEO of CILIP made an appearance this year at my suggestion. If you’ve read “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion” then you might recall that in Chapter 7 What surprised us, Surprise #8 was: Few KMers have formal KM qualifications. Having taught on various MBA’s / MSc’s in Knowledge Management that come and go I’ve long argued the case for an independent globally recognised accreditation from an industry body. Marketeers have CMI, HR professionals, CIPD but KM’ers? CILIP being established by Royal Charter is well placed to plug that gap.

Is there a need? I’d argue most definitely since 2/3rds of those in the room for his presentation expressed an interest in being part of the initial trial. Having run Masterclasses in Africa, Asia, Europe & The Middle East in the past decade I know how many of the attendees require certificates of attendance and completion. Such certificates might be prized but they carry limited weight with Human Resources / Personnel or an organisation’s senior executive cadre.

The imminent arrival of the ISO KM Standards (albeit that adherence is voluntary) provides a framework against which KM Programs can be viewed. An independently assessed external accreditation is another key component of the KM practitioner’s path to corporate legitimacy.

My KM Summit Wordle

I thought it might be interesting to run the top tweets from #KMSummit18 through a wordle to see what stood out. Interestingly it did not surface any of the 4 words that arose from my conversations:

  • Agile
  • Digital
  • Informed
  • Opportunistic

And finally

“Looking back to look forward”

The closing plenary session “KM competencies: A day in the life of a knowledge manager in 2020 which I ran was lively with lots of great ‘takeaways’.

The value of the exercise is giving people the chance to reflect individually, in groups and then with other groups.

It’s amazing how we all see and hear different things and this exercise gives people a chance to share and absorb.

To conclude I want to draw on Ipsos again. Simon noted it had taken them 3 years to achieve what they have. His tips are worth airing:

Ipsos’ Tips

When someone with significant expertise joins the organisation, what happens?

Not a lot if the responses to the survey Martin White and I ran are anything to go by. With most responses acknowledging importance of expertise to their organisation, and against a backdrop of reports suggesting that 1:5 of the workforce in the US will retire within 5 years and that 77% of employees are actively looking for a new job, it seems to us a good time to be taking a deep dive into the topic of Expertise Discovery.

How would you have answered this question? Your options are:

  1. We have a policy which values expertise sharing
  2. We have a Knowledge Management policy but there is no specific reference to expertise sharing
  3. We have a KM policy and are planning to include expertise sharing
  4. We do not have a KM policy but are planning to develop one
  5. We have no plans to develop a KM policy or a ploicy that values expertise sharing.

57% of responses ticked 4 or 5. There is much to discuss and yet the claims made today are that you can buy a product that will solve the issue at the press of a button. Maybe? Is your organisation like one I worked with a few years back who told a new senior employee that the knowledge they had acquired in previous roles was irrelevant as “we are unique”?

Those who attend our event on April 26th Expertise Discovery 2018 – optimising access to corporate knowledge will be able to

  • Appreciate how expertise profiling, expertise finding, expertise ranking and expertise sharing have to be integrated into an expertise discovery strategy
  • Understand the capabilities of the increasingly wide range of expertise finding applications
  • Apply the six crucial tests for evaluating these applications
  • Consider the respective roles of IT, HR, KM and legal managers in optimising the benefits of expertise discovery
  • Share successes and challenges with delegates under the Chatham House Rule

Over the past few years I have run a number of Masterclasses on the importance of effective Knowledge Capture & Retention and it was part of the thread that ran through “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion” I co-authored with Patricia Eng last year. At the fulcrum of any organisational effort has to be a recogition that knowledge is not a commodity acquired at the drop of a hat. As a foreward to the chapter I wrote a few months back in “Knowledge Management Matters: Words of Wisdom from Leading Practitioners” I wrote:

As I was growing up and entering the workplace it was common for new joiners to have a probationary or apprenticeship period where you learned from watching then doing under supervision.

Depending on the profession that apprenticeship period could be anything from 6 months to a year and at the end rather like a pilot you were deemed competent to fly solo.

The assumption was that you were likely to be with that organization for a long period and that when you eventually did leave (or retire) your knowledge would have been passed on to those who would replace you.

Today employees are much more transient in nature and few organizations run apprenticeship programs: the c.v. is not about who you worked for, it is more about what you worked on (and achieved). It is highly likely that during their working life someone in their 20’s today will have worked for more than 5 employers (if not going solo as part of the ‘gig’ economy).

Organizations have to plan for this increasing turnover and changing demographics. Their systems have to cater for a transient workforce.

Part of that planning includes having thought about an approach to Expertise Discovery. I am sure you will be interested to learn why we are including this in our event.

What Lisbon, Eastbourne, Neil Usher’s book and Knowledge Management have in common: Importance of environment.

Hands up, I wimped out and decamped to Lisboa to work and write when winter (Inverno in Portuguese) hit Eastbourne last week. I had a few people I needed to catch up with, some reading I’d promised I would do as well as prepping for forthcoming masterclasses.

Since my teens I’ve found a change of scenery / the right environment often acts as a catalyst for generating ideas. Indeed one of the questions I ask when trying to determine how knowledge flows in an organisation is “where do you have your best ideas or conversations?” The venue/space is important.

Which rather nicely brings me onto one of the books I vowed to read while I was by the Tejo.

The Elemental Workplace: Everyone deserves a fantastic workplace

I first heard Neil Usher at the SocialNow Event run by Ana Neves in Lisboa in 2017. He gave an entertaining presentation in which he presented his hypothesis that there are 12 essential Elements (design principles) all good workplace designs require. Coming hard on the heels of research I’d conducted earlier that year and a Masterclass I’d run in Asia on Collaborative Knowledge Spaces this was music to my ears. I’ve always believed in the importance of planning for “Orchestrated Serendipity” when designing spaces that encourage the sharing of knowledge. Neil’s presentation struck a chord and I vowed to go and see some of his projects.

I was delighted therefore when I learned Neil had ‘put pen to paper’ and written The Elemental Workplace” an easy to read tome that I imagine will become essential reading for people looking to create a stimulating enviroment in which to work.

Already my copy has plenty of dog ears and I found myself drawn to Part One – Why, and Part Four – What could possibly go wrong?

If you take nothing more away from the book than remembering these three quotes in Part One it will have been a good investment:

An effective workplace is one that is built on the principle of simplicity, an effective workplace is one that inspires and energises and an effective workplace is one that can facilitate learning and development.

Moving onto Part Four and this paragraph under the heading “Build it and they will come” stood out for me:

On your travels and in your research, you will discover amazing physical spaces that just do not work, because the creators believed that was enough. It is never enough. Change has to be nurtured, enabled, facilitated, continued. Build it and you will have just built it, nothing more.”

Perhaps my favourite sentence in the book is on on P36 under the heading “Ether”

A fantastic workplace can make a huge contribution to the customer advocacy of an organisation by creating a natural association with admirable values and looking after its people.

This is a book those involved in Knowledge & Information Management should read a few times. The checklists are great but you will have to work out who owns the collaborative knowledge space topic and where the idea fits in your own programme (if at all).

Murals changing society

And so to Lisboa where I spent a hectic Sunday morning out and about seeking examples of Street / Urban Art. Bear with me as I tell you why. Fortunate enough to live in Lisboa as well as Eastbourne I’ve been struck by the difference in the way some of the less salubrious parts of both cities have dealt with urban deprivation.

As the Head of GAU Lisboa  Urban Art Gallery (GAU) explained:

The Galeria de Arte Urbana of the Departamento de Património Cultural (Department of Cultural Heritage), from Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (Lisbon’s City Council) has as it’s main mission the promotion of graffiti and Street Art in Lisbon, in a official and authorized scope and in a pathway of respect for the patrimonial and landscaped values, in opposition with the illegal acts of vandalism that harm the City.

The district of Padre Cruz is the largest Urban Housing development in Europe with some 8,000 homes. Violence, poverty, drugs and deprivation were rife in 2016 before the Municipality introduced the concept of Urban Art with the active engagement of the local community.  The transformation has been amazing: residents now have a pride in their community and the incidence of crime has decreased dramatically.

I am not comparing today’s businesses with Padre Cruz but I am posing the hypothesis to those who are skeptical about the importance of creating the right environment for collaboration, knowledge sharing and human interactions – Orchestrated Serendipity!

Rua da Gloria Lisboa.

Back in Lisboa I found myself surrounded by numerous visitors all marvelling at the murals that have been painted in various parts of the city at the behest of GAU.

It’s not a coincidence that the resurgance of a vibrant artistic and technologically gifted workforce has at its fulcrum a decision taken by the Municipality to set up GAU at a time of deep austerity.

That they curate the work providing a legacy for future generations is also farsighted.

And finally

Why is this relevant? Because as part of our commitment to our community Bees Homes (the business we set up some 10 months ago) is working with the authorities in Eastbourne to try and transfer some of the knowledge gained in Lisboa and create a version of Urban Art here. We all know that a house ‘staged’ properly with good pictures will attract more buyers and achieve a better price than one that is not. The same surely applies to the environments in which we live and work?

Adapting Neil’s strapline: “Everybody deserves a fantastic environment that inspires and energises”

 

 

A new way to share “old” knowledge & the launch of Expertise Discovery 2018

Its been a busy start to 2018 professionally and domestically. My mother turned 90 a few weeks back and we celebrated with a surprise event that involved her extended family age range 2-92 who braved the snow in the north to assemble in Eastbourne on the 20th.  Why you might understandably ask is that relevant. Here’s why:

Gatherings such as Mother’s 90th are usually characterised (like weddings) with people from both sides of a family / friends occupying different sides of the room with chance encounters at the food table or bar area.  So I used a technique I often employ to kick off events followed by a new way to share “old” knowledge.:

  1. Introductions: I invited people to assemble at the back of the hall and to go and stand next to someone they didn’t know.  At that point I then invited them to introduce themselves and say how they knew Mother. We did a couple of rounds and by the time Mother made her entrance there was a good feeling in the room and the 40 guests felt they knew more people than when they arrived.
  2. Paul reading out a question while Mother (and great grandchildren look on)

    Post dinner (which was an Iranian Buffet – quite an adventure for the over 70’s) I ran a quiz on Mother’s life. I’ve wanted to try this with someone who is leaving or retiring from a business so this was a dry run. Comprising of 5 rounds of 6 questions the quiz focused on: events; places; dates; likes; and true or false.

  3. I encouraged Mother to give the answers and where she felt comfortable to do so to tell a few stories that amplified the answer.
  4. It worked perfectly: everyone learned something about Mother’s life and we also got her take on some of the events we had only heard others speak about.
  5. Does it have a relevance for Knowledge Capture and Sharing? You bet. Imagine “An audience with…” session with someone who isn’t naturally voluble. A quiz based on a set of grouped questions is a fun yet insightful way of getting an insight into events, decisions or history.

and finally

I am delighted to be able to announce I will be participating in Masterclasses in Lisboa and London (x2) with Martin White and Eric Hunter in the coming months. The first of these “Expertise Discovery 2018” will be in the week of April 23rd and is expected to cost £395.

Here’s a few details:

Expertise Discovery 2018 – optimizing access to corporate knowledge

One of the major challenges for organisations is being able to find out who knows what. This is important when assembling client-facing teams, when facing a new challenge, when revisiting previous decisions, when acquiring or merging with another organisation.
Self-completed personal profiles are recognized as having relatively little value. Potentially the range of expertise discovery applications that are now available should solve the problem.
But do these IT solutions deliver?
This workshop will bring together consultants and practitioners to help you develop an expertise management strategy.
Attendance at Expertise Discovery 2018 will enable you to:

  • Build a business case for investment in expertise discovery applications
  • Assess the claims made by solution vendors
  • Understand the respective roles of IT, HR and KM managers in expertise discovery
  • Share experiences of specifying, testing and implementing these applications
  • Appreciate the potential impact of AI and machine learning on expertise finding

The workshop will be led by Paul Corney and Martin White. Paul started working with expertise discovery applications in the 1990s and is a leading authority on knowledge management good practice. Martin White specializes in enterprise search implementation and has written a recent report on People and Expertise Search. Both have published acclaimed works.

Martin and I are excited about how this is shaping up – we already have reservations despite not yet naming the venue or making it available on line for bookings.

More on the other events in my next posting.