The combined effects of lockdown, helping my town respond to the pandemic, managing a growing business, while having to be in too many (virtual) places at the same time has taken its toll. About 6 weeks ago I was advised to take my foot of the pedal and join a group of 20 on a 5-week virtual “Living Well with Stress” programme run by the NHS.
I mention this not to evoke sympathy more to raise awareness of the increasing incidence of mental health issues. “My” Zoom group was one of 3 being run concurrently in Sussex. Participants, ranging in age from 18 to 70, were encouraged to be on camera and contribute via the chat. Admitting you have an issue is a challenge; facing a screen full of people with moving stories is harder still.
We finished the programme a week ago. What did I take away from it?
The value of images and metaphors to help describe feelings: As I’d previously described my situation as being like a sponge that was full to overflowing and needing squeezing dry, I found the metaphor of a stress bucket compelling and apposite.
Everyone has their demons: many on the programme spoke of a lack of confidence in dealing with others exacerbated by the lack of personal contact these past 18 months.
“Taking the thought to court”: when we are down and thinking negative thoughts its vital to examine whether those thoughts are valid or distorted and exaggerated.
Being able to recognise the symptoms and triggers: this is key to employing some of the coping strategies above.
The importance of ‘me’ time and physical exercise: walking helps as does Yoga.
By the time you read this I hope to have concluded my ‘time out’ with a visit to family and friends in Lisbon and Cascais where as you can see I managed to switch off for a few days and catch up on some great books.
I am eagerly looking forward to returning refreshed and resuming the “in conversation with…” sessions from October and resuming my presidential duties representing CILIP on the global stage.
Presidential “Debate” & Presidential Musings
The 3rd in the series is only a few weeks away (on 29th September). It’s a stellar line up and the topic very timely. To whet your appetite, this edition’s Presidential Musings column features the three speakers, Luis Suarez, Neil Usher and Rob Cottrill. Here’s a snapshot of what to expect from Luis quoting from a recent study on distributed working:
“…remote work is a win-win, because the employee can move to a location of choice and save money in cost of living, and the employer will see higher productivity and lower attrition and save on real estate costs People will gravitate to a location where they want to live, rather than where they have to live”.
And finally: in search of tolerance
These past 18 months have exposed significant divisions in our society and exacerbated the gap between the haves and have nots. Those dealing with the public have witnessed new lows in behaviours. Many of you are in the front line and I marvel at your ability to dust yourselves down and come back fighting when abused.
As autumn approaches, schools return and people grapple with the challenge of returning (or not) to their place of work, my sincere hope is that all of us take a moment to reflect before condemning another and if you get good service, tell that person or their boss. We all need a lift!
It’s New Year’s Day and I’m in Lisbon. I arrived Sunday 20th, the day the British were declared persona non grata by most of the world as a consequence of the rapid spread of the “English strain” of the Coronovirus. Our easyJet flight from Gatwick was one of the last permitted ahead of an exclusion for travellers from the UK for non Portuguese or non residents.
On arrival that night we arranged Covid tests at the drive through centre that sprung up close to the airport. Some 12 hours later we are in a queue (this will become a familiar theme over the next 10 days) and a further 12 hours later our negative results are confirmed. We can now begin looking after my mother in law who is currently in remission from an ongoing condition.
It’s fitting I should be in Lisbon the day the UK formally assumes it’s stand alone status as I was here (giving a keynote address) the day the Brexit vote result was announced. Then, most Portuguese were bemused by the decision and today, as Portugal assumes the presidency of the EU for the next 6 months, the desire to leave is still greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. Reassuringly, as the UK’s oldest ally, Portugal has gone the furthest to reassure UK expatriates of their right to remain as residents under the previous pre Brexit terms.
Christmas (Natal) is a big deal in Portugal which is unsurprising for a country described by Barry Hayton in his acclaimed tome The Portuguese: A Modern History as follows:
With an easygoing and seductive lifestyle expressed most fully in their love of food, the Portuguese also have an anarchical streak evident in many facets of contemporary life.
That 39% of disposable income is spent on food confirms it’s importance in daily life and rituals which are very much to the fore this time of the year. Food is not merely fuel, its a healthy obsession that provides a backdrop for most conversations. Whereas few in the UK would wait in line (unless to panic buy in the pandemic) here it is obligatory if you wish to get the best cut of meat, the freshest vegetables, or the right cake on the right day!
The food and wine are delicious, ridiculously cheap and though as yet I am unable to determine which “Kings Cake” one has on which day over Christmas and the New Year the inevitable wait is worth it.
Perhaps the single biggest difference with the UK is that being in service is not viewed negatively and most of the established coffee shops / pastelerias are staffed by indigenous catering veterans.
2021: CILIP Presidency
It is ironic /sad that, concurrent with the commencement of my term of office as CILIP President, my good friend Karen McFarlane should be stepping back from involvement as a Trustee having completed her term of office. Karen was the instigator of my appointment as well as reviewer on the first book I co-authored Navigating the Minefield… Her contribution to the Knowledge & Information Management profession has been immense and I will be proud to continue to serve alongside her on the BSI KM Standards Committee as well as CILIP’s Knowledge Management Chartership & Fellowship Accreditation Project board.
I did not know my predecessor Judy Broady-Preston prior to my nomination a year ago. In the intervening period I have come to respect both her humanity and intellect and thoroughly enjoyed the many virtual conversations (and occasional dinner) despite Covid restrictions. I am delighted Judy will continue to be involved as part of the Presidential team. More on that in due course in CILIP’s flagship publication, Information Professional.
A few weeks back Judy, Nick Poole and I had a long discussion about the Presidential role. I’d previously suggested that where possible the theme for a Presidential year should map back to the aims and objectives of CILIP and dovetail with previous and future incumbents. I am delighted to report that Kate Robinson (President Elect) is onboard with this approach and that my year will overlap with both Judy’s and Kate’s in terms of objectives. Professionalising the profession (at home and internationally) will be at the core and I will seek to build on what Judy has acheived.
I’ve previously spoken and written about:
the absence of a home / body that Knowledge Management professionals can coalesce around;
the need for a universally recognised professional qualification; and
the importance of a set of international standards that organisations engaged in Knowledge Management might adhere to and benchmark against.
“Striving down the path to corporate legitimacy” is a phrase I’ve used before and it will be at the heart of my efforts to position CILIP at the centre of this move.
Inevitably discussions and the news over the festive season were dominated by the depressing statistics on the spread of the pandemic emerging aound the globe. As I write this Portugal is in a 3 day curfew with movement of unauthorised vehicles prohibited from 1pm to 5am daily. Our town Eastbourne recently entered Tier 4 so on our return this weekend we will be in quaratine though fortunately we can work virtually.
In case you are wondering, the phrase shown in the title was spoken by a friend at a socially distanced and compliant family dinner a few nights back. Her 88 year old father had recently passed, her husband was hospitalised for 5 days and another good friend had died as a result of not attending hospital due to a fear of contracting Covid. Her point (and this is where translating from one language to another can be imperfect) was that the mortality rate of Covid is very low. By focusing exclusively on that, the impact on other conditions will be adversly affected not to mention the lives of the rest of the population.
I asked everyone at dinner how they would rate the performance of the government. 7/10 was the consensus. Though mistakes have been made, Prime Minister Antonio Costa has acknowledged them. This has engendered a feeling of trust I sense absent in the UK.
2021 has the potential to be a bounce back year but it will require a shift in mindset and the state of political rhetoric. I am looking forward to kicking it off with more KM Cookbook virtual Masterclasses this month with Chris Collison and future collaboration with the likes of Lee Bryant, Martin White and Luis Suarez.
It’s almost 6 months since the first lockdown was imposed in the UK yet the media is awash with stories of second waves of infection and a failure to meet demand for testing. Add the continuing furore over the “oven ready deal” to leave the European Union the electorate was promised in Q4 last year and its clear that trust in our organs of state is being seriously eroded.
Is that relevant in a business context? I would argue yes. Business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It is on the receiving end of policy decisions made by government, often having to interpret guidance that is unclear. ‘Thriving on ambiguity’ works in a diplomatic environment enabling many interpretations of a word or phrase and allowing all parties to present outcomes as beneficial to them.
Professor Geert Hofstede who conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are influenced by country culture notes:
British are comfortable in ambiguous situations – the term ‘muddling through’ is a very British way of expressing this. There are generally not too many rules in British society, but those that are there are adhered to (the most famous of which of course is the British love of queuing which has also to do with the values of fair play).
In work terms this results in planning that is not detail oriented – the end goal will be clear … but the detail of how we get there will be light and the actual process fluid and flexible to emerging and changing environment. Planning horizons will also be shorter.
It is not a sound approach to managing a crisis or meeting treaty obligations.
If guidance is not informed by the best knowledge and data, or deemed politically expedient to ignore it, frustration, chaos and a polarisation of society is the outcome.
Once trust gets eroded at the top of society, and professionals tasked with enacting the guidance are held accountable for the actions of their masters, there is a ripple effect on business (and life). How for example can NHS Trusts conduct effective After Action Reviews or Lessons Learned exercises if any admission of error may result in dismissal or court action?
And the behaviours people see in their leaders often reappear further down the chain.
What is becoming increasingly clear in the UK is:
There is a shift towards a hybrid model of home and hub working;
Many organisations are reshaping their workforce concurrent with the phasing out of furlough; and
Law firms and HR specialists are awash with requests to draft new contracts and assist with the laying off of workers.
What might you ask has this to do with Knowledge Management? Unfortunately a lot.
In the ISO 30401 KM Standard considerable attention is paid to the role leadership and culture plays in developing an effective Knowledge Management programme. Underpinning both is the need for trust: that what we are being told is the truth; that decisions are based on an assessment of all the facts; and that those tasked with coming up with solutiuons are not in some way tied to those who gave them the contract to do so.
Today, few organisations are equipped to handle the impact of the pandemic on their organisational knowledge and even less on the efficacy of their knowledge and search systems (“where do I find…?”).
My recent (restricted) travels resurrected my interest in the role country culture plays in how people (and organisations) respond in a crisis and how they collaborate (or don’t).
A month previously I’d been in Germany staying with a Dutch friend. I’d seen the Germans universally adhere to track & trace, to social distancing and the wearing of masks. My Dutch friend had described in some detail how her countrymen struggled at first but were ultimately respectful of others. In Portgual over some amazing bottles of wine, superb food and horse riding (sorry I just had to put the picture in) I’d asked family and friends of all ages and status to rank their government’s performance. Each came out at about 7/10.
The media in these countries has for the most part been broadly supportive and in most cases the prevailing feeling was one of trust. I didn’t get a sense of polarised societies. As I’ve lived and/or worked in all three I was intrigued.
German Values, Gezellig & Saudade
Perhaps most revealingly each country’s characteristics play out in the way they’ve responded:
…A direct and participative communication and meeting style is common, control is disliked and leadership is challenged to show expertise and best accepted when it’s based on it.
Communication is among the most direct in the world following the ideal to be “honest, even if it hurts” – and by this giving the counterpart a fair chance to learn from mistakes.’
Separate research revealed 5 core values most Germans aspire to:
Family, Order, Punctuality, Truthfullness and Attitude towards work.
.. keep the life/work balance and you make sure that all are included. An effective manager is supportive to his/her people, and decision making is achieved through involvement. Managers strive for consensus and people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation and Dutch are known for their long discussions until consensus has been reached.
“… gezellig, does not have an English equivalent. Literally, it means cozy, quaint, or nice, but can also connote time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness.”
… a close long-term commitment to the member ‘group’, be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.
Echoing the Dutch example there is a word that sums up the national consciousness:
Saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again. It is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, and well-being, which now trigger the senses and make one experience the pain of separation from those joyous sensations. However it acknowledges that to long for the past would detract from the excitement you feel towards the future. Saudade describes both happy and sad at the same time, which is most closely translated to the English saying ‘bitter sweet’. Wikipedia
In Portugal unlike the UK 70% of professional staff are back at work. Everyone wears a mask when in public, hand sanitisers are everywhere, the mercado has a disinfectant machine to go thru before entering, there is a curfew on the sale of alcohol after 8pm, nightclubs are closed and police are seen enforcing the use of masks in supermarkets.
The government has recovered from a slow start, is seen as being transparent and The President who is widely admired leads the public. Statistics and data are trusted.
Back to Hofstede. Here’s what his team concluded about dealing with the British:
Critical to understanding the British is being able to ‘’read between the lines’.’ What is said is not always what is meant.
Remote working implications
Over the past few years I’ve run a number of Masterclasses on Managing Virtual Teams. What this period has reinforced is the need to think much more deeply about set up, composition and language especially since I will be runing a number of virtual events in the coming months. The first of these is on September 30th for KMSA .
What do I takeaway from my excursions and time helping my town to respond to the crisis:
Country culture is amplified in a crisis
Remote or virtual working exagerrates country culture
People need some form of social interaction to make virtual work
Virtual facilitation requires taking a step back to let the silence hang!
For the last 6 months I’ve been involved in my town (Eastbourne’s) response to the crisis. I encouraged the civic leaders to follow KM principles and for a time that was successful especially in the planning phase. All meetings have been held virtually and participants from Leader of the Council to Volunteer Heads adapted well to using Zoom and MS Teams.
The majority of the 110k residents would probably applaud the collaborative non partisan efforts. The homeless were housed, people rallied round making PPE, incidence of infection is among the lowest in the country despite it being a town dependent on tourism and a number of recovery initiatives originated from within the group.
And yet it’s been galling to witness the disconnect between the headline announcement and the article (guidelines) those charged with implementation are faced with!
A few weeks back I went to London for a celebratory luncheon with my fellow KM Cookbook coauthors, Chris Collison and Patricia Eng. I got the 09.24 from Eastbourne to London Victoria. As usual it was composed of just 4 coaches. At Lewes, boarding passengers were made to stand for the next 60 minutes despite an additional 4 coaches coupling up enroute at Haywards Heath. At Gatwick 1st class is decommissioned but still there is not a seat to be had.
It’s the same every day: the “On Board Supervisor” (OBS) apologises for overcrowding noting that 1st class passengers can claim a refund and the passengers fulminate about the half arsed way the railway is run.
However my 16th May journey was notable for a very different reason, the banter provided by “Driver Steve Copley“. From his welcome and throughout the 90 minute journey Steve kept up a regular litany of anecdotes, poetry and humour. At first my reaction was one of irritation. When I took a time out (and gave myself permission) to really listen I began to appreciate how clever and varied his oratory was. At Gatwick (where there was a delay) Steve greeted onboarding passengers in 5 languages and recited a poem as a way of apologising for the delay caused by a malfunctioning toilet.
Intending to change at East Croydon I felt compelled to stay aboard to see what he’d say about Britain’s busiest station, Clapham Junction, and how he’d mark the end of the journey. Steve didn’t let me down: Clapham is the place where you change for all stations beginning with the letter S – he listed a number – and for those who want to avoid the hustle of the capital! Victoria, named after a past Queen, is where you alight to see the home of the current one.
At Victoria I sought him out – there was a queue of people doing the same, thanking him for making their by now delayed journey such a pleasure.
It was notable that people had smiles on their faces, they talked to each other and in one case the young lad next to me made conversation with a lady across the aisle who had taught him for just one term some 3 years before. Steve’s rhetoric had created an environment where barriers were lowered and people felt comfortable conversing.
It took me back a few weeks to a couple of experiences in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.
I was in Kuala Lumpur to run a Masterclass (my fourth) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia and to give the keynote address at the second KM Exchange held at the Securities Commission’s lovely offices.
Keynote in KL
Well attended, the KM exchange was very well run (as you’d expect from an event Straits Knowledge are involved in) with the tables arranged cocktail style with plenty of interactive time built into the agenda.
The speakers were part of and came from the audience. It encouraged the collaboration that occured.
Getting among the delegates
It contrasted to the KM Asia event in Hong Kong the week after which was less well attended and where the speakers occupied the front tables and the delegates the rear creating an “us and them” feel. It meant the only way to get engagement in a society where deference trumps demonstrative was to leave the stage and be among them.
While in Asia I wrote a longer article for Business Information Review on collaborative knowledge spaces which will appear in the June edition. In it I will draw on my experiences to demonstrate the importance of set up to running any event. Keep a look out for it.
And finally: when you look at things differently, the things you look at change
I spent last Saturday morning helping Bees Homes Managing Partner, Ana to stage a property ahead of its listing for sale. Previously on the market with another agent and empty it had failed to attract sufficient interest.
Here’s the same room as seen through the lens of two different agents:
As presented by Agent 1
As presented by Bees Homes
And this is what a prospective buyer (who previously saw it online but did not pursue it further) said when he contacted us for a viewing:
“Have they had work done, it looks so different now and really nice?”
Each of the above examples illustrate the importance of presentation and empathy. You need to get in the shoes of people (buyers/delegates/passengers) if you are going to connect with them. And to do that you need to create the right enviroment.
I write this at Dubai airport. I left a very fractured and troubled nation that is the UK, torn apart by a futile attempt to sustain the unsustainable (maintain unity in the largest party in our parliament).
Without pinning my political colours to the mast I must confess I despair at the majority decision to abandon a group that has been in part responsible for peace in Europe these last 75 years. The rush towards right wing nationalism across the globe is in no one’s long term interest and terrifies me as does the bellicose rhetoric that passes for debate.
It’s a good time to reflect on what’s gone and what’s to come.
Knowledge Management: the future
I was interested to see James Robertson and his team at Step Two in Australia post this week that “Knowledge management isn’t dead, it’s more important than ever!” and describe a number of assignments they’ve done at the practical end of KM. That they (an excellent Digital Workplace and Intranet focused group) should highlight the importance of their KM practice feels significant.
Knowledge Management (KM) has been around for over 20 years as a set of tools and methods for connecting, collecting and creating knowledge. Lots has been written, and there are tens of thousands of practitioners out there—in-company specialists and consultants. Unlike Lean, Agile and other business improvement methodologies, KM has never had a single agreed set of tools, or a commercial accreditation or standard.
ISO KM Standard
In many ways, the arrival of an internationally agreed standard and vocabulary, imbues fresh professional credibility to the field of Knowledge Management. It provides knowledge managers with a ‘brand-new kitchen’, and a moment during which they can pause for a moment and consider the service that they provide to their organisations. I sat on the UK’s BSI KM Standards Committee one of the international bodies that provided input to ISO as the KM Standards were developed and ultimately published in Q3 2018. I said at the start and still believe
“The 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.”
The KM Cookbook written by Chris Collison, Patricia Eng and I serves up a menu of success stories and strategies for organizations wanting to know more about Knowledge Management Standard ISO30401 – whether they intend to pursue certification, or simply seek to use it as a framework to review their existing programme and strategy.
In writing this book, we want to catch the excitement of the arrival of this ‘new kitchen’ and to demonstrate how the arrival of the ISO Knowledge Management System Standard (ISO 30401) provides so much more than a moment to certify a level of consistency in practice.
It provides a moment to re-evaluate, to return to first principles, and to learn from others. Imagine you had the opportunity, not just to enjoy a new, well-equipped and fully inspected kitchen – but also the chance to sit down with KM ‘chefs’ from around the world, across different industry sectors and listen to their stories.
Concurrently in my role as Knowledge & Information Management Ambassodor for CILIP I have been assisting them with the development of what we hope will become a globally recognised accreditation for Knowledge Managers. The first cohort of two dozen has being signed up and they are going through a process of submitting a KM portfolio of work for assessment in anticipation of the award of a Chartership in Knowledge Management.
Assignments, Masterclasses & Speeches
I am Asia bound to give the opening address at a Knowledge Exchange Roundtable event at Securities Commission in Kuala Lumpur and then to run a Masterclass (my 4th) at the International Islamic University of Malaysia
The next stop is then Hong Kong for another Masterclass this time with my good friend Eric Hunter followed by presentations / panel sessions at KM Asia 2019.with Patrick Lambe, Hank Malik on the ISO standard and Bruce Boyes, Rajesh Dhillon, John Hovell and Bill Kaplan on KM Accreditation.
At all these events I will be drawing on the soon to be published “KMCookbook: Stories and Strategies for organisations exploring Knowledge Management ISO Standard 30401” as well as the latest developments in the KM Chartership Accreditation.
Then it’s back to the UK for the Thomson Reuters Practical Law event where I will be running a session and speaking, then a co session with Victoria Ward (more of her in a minute) at the UK KM Summit followed by a trip to Lisbon for the launch of the KM Cookbook in Lisbon in early June at one of my favourite events, SocialNow.
2018: a varied and stimulating year
Looking back to 2018 I had the great pleasure of working alongside Victoria Ward (formerly of Spaknow) on a really interesting KM assignment for a global manufacturingl company. Involving the embedded of KM practices into an organisation undergoing rapid transformation it was challenging and stimulating in equal measure and the use of effective visualisation, personae and archetypes key to delivering on our mandate.
As if the above and researching, interviewing and coauthoring the KM Cookbook wasn’t enough I also managed to fit in a couple of Masterclasses in London and Stockholm around the soft skills (the critical 8 ‘ates) of the Knowledge Manager and deliver a few keynotes in Italy and Sweden.
Back in the UK it was the 2nd year of operations for the two businesses I helped establish and run, award winning Bees Homes and Coastway Financial. Today is the end of both companies financial years so it’s great to report we are on target to where we wanted to be.
Despite all the uncertainty, Brexit is proving less of a challenge as there is a move from vendors towards the type of quality service we are offering. A key statistic for us is “Property Views” online and it’s great to be able to report we are currently #1 in our region.
Transparency and trust are important values so we are running “How to sell your property in a post Brexit world” on April 16th at Eastbourne’s swankiest new boutique hotel to share some of the techniques we apply to dress a property to its optimum potential.
In the Community
Our initiative to help with the transformation of our town continues on a couple of fronts. The Urban Art idea has gathered momentum and support from the Municipalities CEO and I am helping him and the regeneration team to attract conferences to the town.
46k is my preferred seat on the Emirates A380 (and the Boeing 777). Check out Seat Guru.com to see why!