Many years ago Nicola, my daughter, asked this question. I spent at least 3 months of the year going to places that would not feature on any list of recommended travel destinations. And when I came back much of what I would discuss was somehow from another world. She was mystified (and probably still is) which is one reason I started recording my adventures and writing books.
I’ve learned much about people, places and culture to the point where I have more friends outside of the UK than in it. Someone asked me how many countires I’d visited – while not yet in three figures the number is not far off.
During a 40+ career I’ve managed countless assignments while pursuing a portfolio of activities and dealt with many clients while I was a banker plying my trade in the Middle East.
So, I was delighted when, on assuming office as CILIP President, I received a request from one of their special interest groups, International Libraries & Information Group, to give a talk to them about working internationally.
They very kindly recorded the event for posterity and here it is:
Phew! Having arrived in Lisbon on December 20th concurrent with the announcement that estrangeiros were being banned, my wife and I headed for the Covid-19 testing centre so we could spend Christmas and New Year looking after my poorly Mother in Law. Imagine our relief as we caught the last flight back to the UK (and a period of self isolation) on January 4th before the cancellation of all flights.
While there I’d prepared my first Presidential message to the 10k+ members of the Chartered Institute of Libraries & Information Professionals (CILIP). In it I’d set out a few objectives and I’m delighted to note that a couple are underway.
The first of my “Presidential Musings” is about to be published in CILIP’s flagship publication Information Professional. “To certify or not – the value of an ISO standard?” features a couple of highly respected senior managers who give their thoughts on how organisations might seek assessment against ISO 30401. Patricia Eng was an obvious choice, being the first globally accredited ISO KM Auditor and the former head of KM for a national regulatory body, as was Carol Aldridge, one of the few KM professionals I know of who has introduced ISO standards into her organisation. Carol’s summary comment is very apposite:
“Demand may come if and when organisations see this standard as a convenient means for evaluating suppliers’ KM performance as well as a framework for assessing their own.”
And the good news is that subscribers (CILIP members) can now view this via a downloadable app.
“Don’t know how to be poor”
A very busy month followed: 4 days of masterclasses, a couple of board meetings, numerous Zoom calls, a webinar on search, plus 2 Cobra meetings in my home town Eastbourne to discuss the ongoing pandemic.
From relative obscurity and a very low rate of Covid-19 cases per 100k Eastbourne entered the top 10 of most affected areas in the UK with an average of nearly 1k cases per 100k. Civic leaders and health professionals attributed it to:
An influx of day trippers driving to the South Downs National Park to meet friends
A large proportion of blue collar manual workers unable to work from home
An influx of homeless people from outside the borough being housed in local hotels
A campaign to change behaviours around the use of masks while shopping and fuelling the car is being put in place since 30% of cases were attributable to those activities.
Perhaps most worrying is the dramatic rise in demand from working class families seeking assistance to feed their children and too proud to visit food banks. As one of the volunteer group leaders put it, “they don’t know how to be poor” and need a lot of assistance and direction from volunteer groups to signpost them to the help that’s available.
The good news is our local vaccination programme is ahead of schedule (my 93 year old mother had the jab in December) and collaboration, between everyone involved in the supporting the local community, remains excellent.
One of my Zoom catch up chats was with the engaging Ian Rodwell of Linklaters. We talked about how in a virtual environment you might recreate the serendipitous encounters that are often the source of new ideas and connections. Ian is working on something he describes as “Scheduled randomness” – watch this space for more, and as Head of Client Knowledge & Learning his focus is on Osmotic Learning. “Lockdown Learning” and “Return to the Office Toolkit” are recent outputs.
Ian’s challenges are I imagine mirrored by many: how to maintain lockdown momentum, motivation and focus in a virtual environment; how to build on the extended reach that tools such as Zoom and Teams provide; and how to keep the contributions (top tips) coming from officers.
I heard similar concerns about keeping up momentum expressed in a subsequent conversation with another global Knowledge Manager. We talked about the difficulties of managing across continents and time zones, of maintaing peripheral vision while facilitating virtually and encouraging contributions from junior members of staff. She noted one downside of Teams is that it can create silos.
Being remotely human
Having introduced Dr Bonnie Cheuk to the members of CILIP’s K&IM SIG I wanted to be sure to attend the webinar she ran a few weeks back entiled: “Digital transformation, learning and development and knowledge management: is the line blurring“. I was glad I did.
Bonnie’s title is is Senior Business and Digital Transformation Leader, AstraZeneca. So much of what she does is around facilitation and creating an environment for knowledge sharing to occur. I had the pleasure of working with her and members of her team a couple of years ago during the transformation of the business and know how important a number of the initiatives she put in place were in accelarating changing ways of working. The unprecedented discovery and production of the AZ/Oxford Covid-19 vaccination is a great example of more agile working and effective use of tools such as “Pause & Reflect”, “Working out Loud” and “Paying it Forward”.
I was particulalry drawn to her example of creating a regular online hangout around the virtual global watercooler as an attempt to redefine learning and unlearning and create a human space in a remote environment. More on that in the future, below is a sneak preview!
While on the subject of Agile working, Chris Collison and I had the great pleasure of running a “behind the firewall” KM Cookbook Masterclass over a couple of days for the Agile Business Consortium’s senior leadership team and board. Using a combination of Zoom and Mural we used the KM Canvas to address issues that will arise as they develop their KM capacity.
What stood out to me, apart from how smart they all were, was the ease with which they navigated the canvas and how rapidly and candidly they were able to identify gaps and needs.
Much work has been going on in the health sector. Apart from Chris Collison and my masterclasses with Public Health England, Health Education England (HEE)’s Library & Knowledge Services, who have been doing an amazing job providing evidence based knowledge to front line workers, recently launched a five year strategic framework Knowledge for Healthcare Mobilising evidence; sharing knowledge; improving outcomes. Led by Sue Lacey Bryant, a CILIP Trustee and the 2018 winner of the Walford Award, it is very much at the core of a drive to professionalise Knowledge and Library Services across the health industry. Who can argue with this:
Knowledge and evidence are business critical because the quality of care, patient safety and service transformation is underpinned by informed decision-making.
In fact, HEE helped fund the enhancement and rewrite of CILIP’s Professional Skills and Knowledge Base (PKSB) which is due to be launched to the profession in Q2 this year. HEE use it as a core tool for helping to develop its professional staff. Mapped to ISO KM Standards 30401, it is a major development and goes a long way to providing a set of core competences against which to benchmark a knowledge professional’s development.
“In conversation with…”
l’ve begun the initiative of direct engagement with CILIP’s members I flagged in my presidential message. These chats have been both enjoyable and heartwarming; hearing the stories of people coping and thriving in a pandemic will hopefully inspire others. I will be summarising these conversations in my regular column in Information Professional.
Ahead of the recent round of Virtual Mezze Masterclasses we asked participants to imagine they were at dinner with a partner.
The responses from many KM ‘newbies’ were hugely insightful. Here’s a selection:
Knowledge Management is about leveraging information, knowledge, experience and connectivity, it can speed up processes and learning allowing you to start off on the best foot and be creative.
How to ensure that knowledge and experience of every individual in a community is shared in such a way that 1+1=3
Bringing together knowledge and evidence from across a range of sources and synthesising this to enable easy interpretation.
Knowledge management is really important to everyone because it helps us all to do our jobs and keep our organisation running. Imagine if there hadn’t been any guidance or procedures, when you first began your job. How would you know how to do it? Capturing the knowledge and experience of others that have come before is important for this. But equally important is that you know where to find it – even starting with knowing that it exists. So, having a structure and knowing how to use both the structure and the information is very important!
Without it I guess we’d keep re-inventing the wheel or the flat tyre. Time consuming!
This, from Aku Sorainen senior partner of one of the most successful European law firms, and a reviewer (a “restaurateur”) of The KM Cookbook, neatly sums up the value of KM to knowledge based institutions.
Reflections, space and sabbaticals beside the sea in Eastbourne
I do some of my best thinking on my daily ‘walk to work’. It’s a ritual I’ve followed from my early days as a commuter and I’ve found that, no matter what I am working on (or where), this reflection time is vital. I’m fortunate; I live close to the sea (in Eastbourne & LIsbon) and today as the tide was going out the scent of moss on rocks and seaweed filled the air.
As seen on my Feburary 13th ‘Walk to work’
It was a special moment and for some reason triggered a recollection of the scent of Bakhoor (wood chips soaked in fragrance oils) I was to discover on my first business trip to Jeddah 40 years ago. Then, as Business Class did not exist, I travelled in First on a Lockheed Tristar 1011 that landed at the old Jeddah airport close to the centre of the city. It was August and blisteringly hot just before the Hajj so the airport was full of people all in white arriving for their once in a lifetime pilgramage to Mecca.
I digress. As if by divine intervention who should appear as the sun made an appearance through the clouds but the Rev Giles Carpenter, Vicar of St John’s Eastbourne who was out for his morning constitutional with his dogs. Giles, a family friend, has a quiet yet persuasive manner. He has built a vibrant church community based on actions not words. His is a 24×7 role and interestingly his employer recognises the importance of a time out / reflection period. Giles is off on a sabbatical having just completed the 5 year mission of the church which has been a collaborative not top down process similar in style to many KM programmes.
Inside the EU in Bruxelles
Fast forward 40 years and I’m in Bruxelles with Chris Collison working with the Knowledge Management Community in the European Union. We are here, at the invitation of Marie-Veronique Lecomte, to run a Masterclass, on the ISO 30401 KM Standards as viewed through the lens of the KM Cookbook, then host a clinic on KM issues they are facing. It’s been many years since I was here on Communities of Practice with Richard McDermott and though I’ve been to the city a a few times since its my first excursion via Eurostar from Ebbsfleet Int.
The event is extremely well attended (50+) and begins well with many favourable and welcome comments on the KM Cookbook. Throughout the day the group are enthusiastic and energetic. The stories we share from the book are particularly well received and relevant. Unsurprisingly, when we get to the KM Canvas and they start to work on some of the questions, what emerges is a community at different stages of evolution facing the familar challenge wherein KM strives to have a commonly understood identity and purpose.
Having followed the technology route using Yammer and Teams as a way of encouraging collaboration WHY KM I find myself asking? What problem is KM the solutiion for and how (if at all) does it map back to the strategic direction of the European Commission?
Like the International Olympic Committee (IoC), the European Commission faces a significant challenge to transfer and make use of knowledge: from consultants who come and go; from new and departing staff; and from relocating staff. How does it build on what it knows especially in Directorates such as Joint Research Centre (JRC)?
So if that’s a ‘Why’ then, taking a deeper dive into the How, locating expertise across such a diverse organisation is a huge issue. I think back to a Masterclass Martin White and I held on Expertise Discovery 2 years ago. Ahead of that we ran a survey to see how prepared organisations are to tackle the challenge of locating and utilising expertise. Here’s an extract that illustrates a few of the areas that JRC might need to address if it goes down the technology route:
In reality probably 10% of employees leave each year and are replaced by a similar number of new employees. Your organisation will have taken a lot of care in selecting these new employees on the basis of the expertise and experience they will bring with them.
One of the surprising outcomes of the survey is that little attention seems to be paid to bringing this expertise to the attention of people who might need it or who relied on the employee who has now left. The newcomer will (hopefully) be asked to create a profile but remember that the expertise system has been tracking documents have been written and other contributions that have been made by the person they have replaced for perhaps several years. How long do you think it will be until the system presents the expertise of the new employee as at least equivalent to their predecessor? A month, six months, a year? Until this point in time the investment in the employee in terms of their expertise will be minimal other than to their immediate colleagues.
The expert who has left will leave a trail of knowledge behind but they will not appear on the list of employees or on the email directory. Even in small organisations it can take time for the disappearance of the expert to be common knowledge. Will people searching for expertise and find a name as a result of a document the expert wrote, a network they were part of, or a corporate presentation they gave, be directed to their replacement? This of course assumes that there is someone taking over a role and having the same expertise. Or will the search turn up the expertise equivalent of a 404 error? Managing this situation is not easy and in our experience there is often a difference of opinion as to whether it is the responsibility of HR, their business manager or IT as owners of the application.
Some of the EU’s ‘KM Chef’s’ with their certificates and hats
We all left with much to ponder on and a resurgent community keen to begin.
Knowledge Matchmaking in Khartoum
Concurrently I was ‘in’ Khartoum for the Sudanese Knowledge Society Symposium on Citizen Science. One of a series of events it was aimed at mobilising local knowledge on topics important for the development of a country undergoing significant political change.
I’d agreed with the organising committee that I would donate a KM Cookbook to the ‘project’ they deemed most worthy and I was delighted to see the list of contenders.
Unable to be there in person I did nevertheless record a piece to camera which I’m told was well received and I was delighted to learn that ‘Public Transportation’ was chosen. I am hoping that the Transport for London Menu chapter of the book proves of use to them.
I owe thanks to Ana Neves and Ron Donaldson for their willingness to share their experience on mobilising citizen knowledge with Dr Gada Kadoda and the team in Sudan.
As President Elect I attend, but do not vote at, CILIP Board meetings and I attended my first in January. As a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter it is well placed to become a natural home for the Knowledge (and Information) Management Community. Over the coming months it will be unveiling an exciting programme of events and witnessing the first graduates of the KM Chartership Cohort. This has gained a lot of support and generated much global interest: the latest enrollment was full in a day.
I remain on the Project Board overseeing the Chartership and Fellowship project and will be talking more on this in March at the KM Summit in London.
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!
For the past 20 months, I’ve been wearing a few hats: author; consultant; advisor; and business owner. Substitute years for months and it would also be an accurate account of how I’ve spent most of the last 20 years.
Describing that to people is often a challenge.
At an event in Dubai, not long after I’d left a full-time role (as a Vice President in a financial services group in the City of London) someone asked me what I did. Expecting the usual answer (Vice President… / Senior Manager….) he was surprised and I hope intrigued when I answered, “I have a portfolio of activities.” It’s a phrase I’ve used ever since.
I’d thought long and hard about my response to his question. “Who are you with?” is almost a standard opening line at any meeting during a business event. Those that are interested in the reply will ask you to explain what that means. The majority begin looking over your shoulder for someone else to talk to.
Say what you do, not what you are called
Often when working on a consulting assignment trying to understand how a business works I conduct interviews or run group sessions. I ask people to introduce themselves and describe what they do. The vast majority say, “My name is ….. I am the …” To which I respond, “That’s impressive, now please tell me what you do in a way that an outsider will understand.”
We all hide behind jargon and headlines which today’s 24 x 7 soundbite society promulgates. How many times have you read a headline and formed an opinion based on that only to discover that the article that follows says something different?
Our challenge is to distil what we do into a phrase, image or name that is concise and memorable, one that makes you smile.
A few months back I ran a Masterclass in Stockholm for Senior Legal Knowledge Management professionals. I invited them to pair up and develop their own concise description of what they did. It proved to be an illuminating session.
Promoting Knowledge Management is much like I used to find selling Corporate Finance services – it’s intangible so harder to explain and hence easier to diss.
Making first impressions count
#FinanceNavigator – Intrigued?
Every couple of weeks I attend a business networking event of one type or another. Participants are encouraged to share their story in a minute or less. The vast majority waste the first 30 seconds describing when they were founded and where their offices are located. Very few put themselves in the shoes of the audience or leave a lasting image or impression. 10% might tell a story.
On Monday I spent a couple of hours with a marketing advisor. Part of the UK Govt’s “Let’s do business’ initiative wherein companies can access business advice we were discussing the messages a young business might use to describe what it does and who it is.
Adopting a persona approach, we mapped words on their online presence (website / Facebook / Google Business) with keywords we thought their target audience might use. We drew on great 5 star Google reviews to see what clients actually said. And we thought long and hard about navigation, images and metaphors.
A strapline, “Shining a light on property finance“ with a lighthouse (we live within walking distance of Beach Head Lighthouse one of the UK’s famous landmarks) generated the idea of building on a navigation theme and the idea of using the Finance Navigator Hashtag.
#PropertyMatchmakers was a hashtag evolved for Bees Homes a companion business.
Supported by a smiling winking bee logo and a strapline,: “Taking the sting out of buying and selling property”, it features the concept of matching buyers and sellers rather than merely advertising a property on line and hoping buyers will come.
The bee logo is memorable and portable across gender, ethnicity and generations. The hashtag appears in every social media post. Both companies finish any presentation with, “Here when you need us, not when it suits us” to emphasise that ours is more than a 9-5 business.
Valuing and selling property is a subjective art. Ultimately the ‘right price’ is what someone is willing to pay not what the owner thinks it is.
The skill of the ‘Property Matchmaker’ (realtor or agent) is to find the right buyer, sell them a lifestyle or image they can relate / aspire to, negotiate a price both are happy with and manage the supply chain to completion. It’s often about making correlations.
…as a Senior Manager charged with developing new business, my ability to match a need with a solution was prized and rewarded even though the correlation was opaque to my bosses. More often than not the intuition paid off. But does the same apply today in a Knowledge Management environment where logarithms and Artificial Intelligence are making the correlations I used to make?
The idea of making and managing connections and networks came up time and time again albeit called something different during interviews for the KM Cookbook. Where it landed for me was in discussion with a prominent KM’er embarking on a relaunch / rebrand of her organisation’s KM program. They too were seeking a memorable image / strapline / hashtag that could underpin their internal and external communications.
Knowledge Management is a thread running through my many consultancy assignments, publications, masterclasses and pro bono activities. Underpinning this is the concept of how to describe or illustrate the value a person or team brings to the business.
To illustrate: As advisor to a large reinsurance group I would spend a day per month in their offices in the City coaching different people and teams. I recall a discussion with the compliance team who had a terse relationship with the business who saw them as blockers not enablers. By adopting a business consultancy mindset, it changed the dynamic: people went to ask compliance how best to meet regulations instead of doing it and being told they were wrong.
Here’s what I advise all businesses I work with when they try to present what they do:
Make it concise
Make it memorable
Make it recognisable to those who are listening (or watching)
When I was Managing Partner at Sparknow LLP we ran an exercise for the front line staff of the UK’s Museums & Libraries group. We asked them to be “in the shoes’ of their customers, to imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of the desk. It was uncomfortable and required them to get out of their comfort zone to do so.
The best presenters are those who tell stories that live in the memory. If you can wrap the three must do’s into a story then you are on the way to creating an effective and enduring presence.