Prospering behind the firewall

It’s been a very hectic period since I returned (just in time before quarantine was reimposed) from Portugal. Since face to face communication is at a premium and Zoom / Team dominates working conversations I thought I’d reflect (#workingoutloud) on ‘stuff’.

KM Cookbook: Virtual Mezze Masterclasses

In the last few weeks, Chris Collison and I have run “behind the firewall” virtual masterclasses for the South African Knowledge Management Community (KMSA) and a prominent law firm. Well attended in each case they were held on Zoom / Mural and Teams / Miro. Both were exceptionally well received- no technical glitches to report – and the brekaout sessions around the KM Chef’s Canvas stimulated much discussion and “to do” lists.

The Walford Award & Presentation

In a couple of weeks time I will be giving the annual Walford keynote address to CILIP’s K&IM Community and presenting this year’s award to the hugely deserving Naomi Korn.

The 2019 event was followed by an enjoyable dinner with other award winners: 2020 is going to be held en famille. I like that the organisers have given me free reign to choose a topic the title of which will be: “Who needs knowledge professionals?” It’s not too late to sign up, see here.

The Knowledge Management Officer

A month ago Professor Eric Tsui asked me (and a number of others in the KM community) if I’d be willing to create a short video clip for his Hong Kong students about what it takes to be a Knowledge Management Officer. It made me reflect on how much or how little the role has changed since I first came across the term back in 1994.

To view the video see – https://flipgrid.com/s/w3WzgDTksB-qfLBx

Certifying the certifier: ISO KM Standards

My good friend and coauthor Patricia Eng has been hard at it these past few months preparing for the December launch of Dr Ron McKinley (previously Chair of the ISO Technical Committee that helped develop 30401) and her program for aspiring ISO KM Assessors.

The topic of who certifies the ISO KM assessor has generated much space on KM chat groups with claims and counter claims about who is and is not authorised to undertake an ISO KM Assessment against ISO 30401.

Patricia has always passionately advocated the separation of the consultant and auditor role. Of late there is a danger, with the slew of announcements from The Gulf claiming to be the first program to be certified, that the line is becoming increasingly blurred so the sooner she and Ron can begin accrediting would be assessors the better.

Ron’s Linkedin post ISO 30401 Certification Authority of a few weeks back is worth skimming through. I am looking forward to seeing them differentiate between and knowledge audit and a Km systems audit.

Cobra meetings and Kruger report

I continue to serve on my town’s ‘Cobra Committee’. Comprising Eastbourne’s civic leaders, business heads, health professionals, volunteer groups, enforcement officers, tourism chiefs and our MP, it meets virtually to ensure a coordinated response to issues presented by Covid-19 and that lessons get translated into policy responses.

It’s been tough for the local authorities to interpret guidelines from above while managing social cohesion and with half term holidays approaching the community is bracing itself powerless to prevent an influx of visitors from areas where the incidence of Covid cases per 100k is four times that of our town.

One of the topics I raised at this week’s meeting was the recent report “Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant“. Attempting to build on the community spirit that has emerged during the Coivd-19 pandemic, the report from Danny Kruger MP, sets out a vision for a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.

The importance of digital inclusion, digital literacy and collaborative public spaces, are topics that, as President Elect of CILIP, I care passionately about. Libraries Connected suggests:

“Libraries are at the heart of communities, reflecting and responding to local needs. They get more visits each year than any other cultural service, with a reach that extends right across income brackets, ages and ethnicities. They play an important role in promoting well-being and community cohesion by producing a range of cultural activities with their local communities, and providing many with access to vital online services.”

In 2013, when I was one of the founding trustees of the Zero Food Waste Charity Plan Zheroes seeking to redistribute edible surplus food to those who needed it, I hoped the issue of free meals during school holidays for those struggling to feed their family might be off the agenda by 2020. Alas it is not. Our MP Caroline Ansell showed her mettle this week, resigning her government post having voted with the opposition on the provision of school meals during the holidays.

The moral maze!

Interestingly and unrelated to the above, CILIP CEO Nick Poole tweeted this:

“When you strip it down, when you get right past politics and the law, the bedrock is morality. Each of us is at liberty to make a moral choice about how we treat the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. We ought to judge our politicians on the morality of their choices.”

To which I replied:

@NickPoole1 Eastbourne’s current MP @Caroline_Ansell made her moral choice yesterday and resigned from HMG. @StephenLloydEBN the previous MP resigned the LibDem whip a few years back, also over a matter of conscience. Must be the sea air!!!”

And he responded:

“Thanks Paul! I honestly think we should fete politicians who vote with their moral conscience to the rooftops – anyone who remains in Government is morally complicit in its actions.”

And finally

November is shaping up to be very busy. I was due to start it in Lisbon but the twin demands of work and threat of enforced quarantine on my return caused a postponement. Instead I’ve 5 speeches / events to run from the confines of my Home Office or that of Bees Homes Country Office and views to die for!

#Distributedworking is now becoming the norm. The housing market is awash with urban buyers looking for country idylls in which to combine home and work as a result of Covid and firms relocating and changing their working patterns. Here’s just one example from Reuters of 19th October:

Deloitte said Saturday it would close four of its 50 offices in the UK — but staff will remain at the big four firm on work-from-home contracts.

An updated report from thinktank New Financial notes 332 financial services firms have already moved jobs out of London because of Brexit, up from 60 last time they looked in March. It makes sobering reading but presents a huge opportunity for the agile, tenacious and knowledgeable professional.

As I will suggest in a forthcoming presentation awareness of the importance of the role of knowledge professionals is growing as firms struggle with knowledge loss due to downsizing, finding ‘stuff’ in opaque systems, collaborating effectively and facilitating virutal conversations.

It promises to be an interesting 3 months: the US Election; further global lockdowns; UK’s severing of ties with Europe; and yours truly taking on the role of CILIP President at a time of great change!

Trust, leadership and culture

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…?”).

This is not a new situation. A few years ago I was in a client’s office when some key employees with very domain specific knowledge announced their departure. If you want to read more about the approach I encouraged the client to adopt take a look at: Going but not forgotten: how to conduct knowledge capture in a hurry“.

Impact of country culture and values

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:

Germany

Hofstede notes:

…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.

Netherlands

Hofstede says:

.. 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.

Wikipedia notes:

“… 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.”

Portugal

Hofstede says:

… 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!

And finally

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!

Knowledge et al: view from 46K

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.”

KM Cookbook

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.
That’s exactly what we have set out to do with the KM Cookbook.

Chartered Knowledge Manager Accreditation

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.

And finally

46k is my preferred seat on the Emirates A380 (and the Boeing 777). Check out Seat Guru.com to see why!

KM in a cashless society: Observations from Legal Scandinavia

Take a good look at this 500 Krone note. In 2 years time you are unlikely to see one.Sweden is going cashless which makes you wonder what will happen to the cash machines. I found out about this evolving policy by chance having withdrawn Skr !,500, enough I thought to pay for taxis and a few snacks. My first attempt at using cash was to settle the taxi fare on my way to a Masterclass. I discovered I could pay Kr 500 but no my driver didn’t have change (Kr 250).  So on my walk back to the hotel I go to the Tourist Board to ask how to use the money in my pocket.  Though keen to help they were unable to tell me the names of places that would take cash!

Undaunted on check out I got out my ‘spare’ cash to pay part of the hotel bill: “We are a cashless hotel” I was informed. I pointed out a potential issue for tourists or business people paying with a card.  We will be charged a non sterling transaction fee. I was assured we wouldn’t. I was, £14 on a bill of £500. The technology is in place but the implementation process and how it impacts everyone is far from nailed down.

Which is a good segue to my observations from 3 days with the Legal Industry.

VQ Forum #9th edition

My visit began at this event which was a sell out. Very much set up to be “show & tell” it follows a similar format to many with a list of speakers comprising practitioners, vendors, and thought leaders.

I liked

  • Two very insightful slides. Accuracy rates and time taken to produce. The justification for technology from Johan Eriksson of Google
  • Andrew Arruda’s presentation, I tweeted: showcasing Ross AI system. Initial observation: intelligent augmented search that generates coherent overview. “Coming of age of technology that’s been in the making for many years. We have what we need to train the system”
  • Loving the L’Oreal story from . Old established company buys AI start up to help potential customers envisage what make up might look like on them.

Surprises

  • No mention of augmented or virtual reality which some are experimenting with for training.
  • “you can crowdsource Law”. Excellent initiative from Stockholm Treaty Lab
  • That the predominant shoe colour was brown!

    Source: Stefan Grahn – Founder of Deltek and passionate “Gooner”

I would like to have heard

More dialogue and more interaction. The conference style set up mitigates against conversation. Even though there were three breaks for informal networking they were in the exhibitor areas with limited seating or breakout space. As the final exercise proved the demand was there!

The vendors (who were given a few minutes to introduce themselves before the recess they’d sponsored) use a story to illustrate what they do.  It is not really helpful to tell people how many clients you had in 2016,17 and 18.  And I don’t need to know when you were established.

quotes

Obsess about automating everything that can be automated to free our resources for more fun work!

“If you don’t automate your work you will be out of work”. So says Google. They would of course but in this case they are right.

We as are not threatened by the new technologies, our ways of working will get less and digital solutions will enable us to concentrate the actual work.

If law firms don’t innovate & disrupt the industry, their clients are likely to demand the disruption themselves. Modernisation from outside sources e.g. big banks.. that may be more tech-savvy

General Counsel asks “what can Law Firms do for me that I can’t do myself?”

A diversified customer base should mean diversified law firm management…but that’s not always the case

Change is painful, but the only way forward. Improving skills and determining your strategy is equally important as implementing technology

Fascinating: recruitment consultant confirms legal firms are looking for “humans”- people with soft skills who are good at collaborating.

The closing

I began my address with this slide asking the question: “who do you want to be, the established beach hut painted in a different colour, or the new modern version that looks very different but may not be to everyone’s liking?”

 

I spoke about a recent conversation with the CEO of a firm looking to acheive rapid growth. I examined the challenges I thought they faced.

I shared a number of postcards from the future provided by vendors and legal practitioners.

Here’s one example:  I closed the session by inviiting the audience to stand up and find someone they’d not met. I then asked them to look at the postcard in their pack and consider what their firm might look like one year on. I think it worked:

Thank you for your fantastic presentation at ! And the postcard exercise was a true success!

A day with Legal Stockholm (and Goteborg / Helsinki)

Following the postiive response to the postcard session I was looking forward to spending the following day with 15 senior Scandinavian legal professionals focusing on the 8 Critical “ates of a “Knowledgeur”:

It had become apparant from preparatory conversaations with Carolina of Venge (the organisor) and at VQ Forum that many KIM professionals face challenges assoicated with “finding stuff”, getting senior management support and getting their organisations to work more collaboratively.  It was one of the most enjoyable masterclasses I’ve run due to the willingness of the participants to engage from the start.

Here’s what some of their takeaways were:

  • A new day of intense learning. Loads of new ideas. Thanks for a great KM masterclass. Key take aways as of now. Focus – and a bit of back to basics (that might get lost in this tech era). Facilitating IS a critical skill. And the importance of a good elevator pitch.
  • The best take away was definitely the elevator pitch. I will also try to become a “knowledgeur”. I liked that title!
  • Noted down back-to-basics and a new skill set (or more professional words for the skills anyway 😉). And the focus on facilitating and curating.
  • What a great day! My take aways include the elevator pitch and the importance of onboarding new people. Great question: ”What will you miss most from your last work?”
  • That you should put 30% of your time listening to co-workers and implementing by socializing. And to start the elevator pitch in a sentence that explains how the KMwork contribute to the bigger picture (vision, head strategy etc)
  • Thank you! I liked the idea of GIVE >< TAKE – to ask people what skills and knowledge they bring, and not only what they expect to take away. So simple, but I’ve never thought about it before.

And finally

In the past i’ve spoken about the idea of Knowledge Matchmaking so I was delighted to be able to link up a couple of people who had similar interests / experiences.

I too was the beneficiary of an introduction via Ann Bjork one of the organisors to the Head of Stockholm’s Art Department with whom I had a most enjoyable breakfast discussing the city’s Urban Art programme before I left on Friday.

The previous evening I had dinner with a LinkedIn contact who I’d met at a previous event.  We live in a connected world and have the ability to make the most of networks but it requires us to reach out in the first place!

The KM Standards are coming: Is this a big deal?

The following article published by Karen Mcfarlane and I appeared in abridged form in this month’s edition of “Information Profesional”

For the past couple of years, national standards committees have been working on the development of an ISO Standard for Knowledge Management Systems. Is this a big deal? How have we got here? Will it have an impact? Who is likely to benefit? What does it cover?

We would like to stress from the start that the new ISO BSI Knowledge Management Systems Standard is a standard of principles. We believe, contrary to some in the Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) community, that there is real value in having a set of universally-agreed principles that practitioners can align with.

The new standard sets down a marker for future knowledge managers to benchmark activities against. As with all BSI standards, it will be reviewed every five years to ensure that it is up to date.

The idea of KM Standards is not new; the British Standards Institution (BSI) first discussed it in 2000.

A long time in the making

BSI’s initial look at Knowledge Management standardization in 2000 resulted in a publication: Knowledge Management PAS 2001: a guide to good practice.

In 2002, BSI’s KMS/1 Committee produced BSI Position Statement on Standardization within Knowledge Management which concluded: “The judgement of BSI is that, at this point in the development of Knowledge Management, it is too early to attempt to impose too rigid a framework or too narrow a view of this rapidly developing field.”

Interestingly it presented this figure to illustrate the above conclusion.

BSI noted: “…within British Standards there are effectively three levels of standardization that can be applied according to the requirements of the industry at that specific point in time.

As an area grows in maturity it is generally the case that the documents produced will tend to move up the pyramid, reflecting the greater consensus within the industry and public. It is important to note that, unless directly referenced in legislation all Standards (and other documents mentioned here) are voluntary documents.”

Notwithstanding, BSI continued to publish KM guidance material:

  • April 2003 – PD 7500 Knowledge Management Vocabulary
  • May 2003 – PD 7501 Managing Culture and Knowledge – A guide to good practice
  • July 2003 – PD 7502 Measurements in Knowledge Management

Following on, European Standards (CEN Workshop) Agreements published in 2004 a European Guide to Good Practice in Knowledge Management

So what has changed? Why is the time right for a standard?

Despite frequent predictions of its demise, the discipline of KM (or whatever guise it appears in) is now a tactical/operational role in many organisations. Take a glance at the countless adverts for knowledge managers to see what we mean.

KM has grown in maturity, and can now be considered to be almost a quarter of a century old, so meets the criteria BSI applied for having a standard.

Today we await formal publication of ISO KM Systems Standard 30401, individually approved by the national standards committees and the ISO Working Group that oversaw its development. Indeed it may well have “hit the stands” by the time you read this.

What we can confidently predict is that on 8 October there will be a formal launch event organised by BSI details of which will be available soon.

Development of the standard

Work started in 2015 and was conducted by an ISO steering committee supported by eight national mirror committees including the UK, which contributed significantly to the initial draft.

A draft was made available for public review for a six-week period during December 2017 and January 2018. Hundreds of comments were received and the UK BSI committee went through each one (including those of CILIP’s K&IM SIG), identifying 270 suggestions to be referred back to the ISO committee. These were combined with comments from 15 constituent countries, including eight national mirror bodies. This means that the final standard not only reflects UK contributions but those of other countries.

About the new standard

The new KM Standard will not try to tell you how to do KM, but it does help you ensure you have set up a good management system, providing a solid foundation on which to build your KM solution.

The standard is flexible. It is applicable to large and small organisations. It sets out principles for guidance. This standard does not mandate how you implement KM. It describes requirements for the final product but not how you get there. It’s an attempt to ensure that KM is managed with a degree of consistency. It is an aid for self-audit.

What does the standard cover?

  • It starts with an outline of the purpose of the standard. It outlines why KM is important. It provides Guiding Principles and outlines the boundaries of KM.
  • Section 3 defines knowledge and also knowledge management
  • Section 4 covers the KM system, understanding the organisation and its context and how KM supports this; understanding the needs of stakeholders. It then outlines the KM system itself: the knowledge development/lifecycle; enablers (the roles, processes, technologies, governance and culture)
  • Section 5 covers leadership and governance
  • Section 6 covers planning and actions to address risks and opportunities
  • There are three annexes on: the knowledge spectrum; boundaries between KM and adjacent disciplines; and KM culture.

Benefits of the standard

  • It provides a benchmark for your KM management system and a guide to those organisations that are new to KM to help them avoid common pitfalls.
  • It gives knowledge managers leverage in their organisations.
  • It gives KM legitimacy as a profession.

Impact

In order to assess the impact it is worth providing context. Many KM programs benefit from an image. Here’s one that might help:

The standard is like a new kitchen without the utensils, the crockery, cookbook; it’s down to those who use it to determine how it will work for them.

At first, practitioners are unlikely to see a significant change. Few assessors have seen the standard, even fewer will have a KM background, though it’s arguable whether that is a prerequisite to undertake a “compliance audit”.

Our hope is that it provides a globally-accepted framework of what should be in a KM programme and how it should be supported and assessed. We are looking forward to it being drawn on by organisations that value KM.

Who will benefit?

At the time of general release of the draft for comment in Q4 17, a question that arose was: “Who is going to benefit?”

Undoubtedly consultants will develop offerings that purport to help organisations to prepare for an ISO KM Standards Audit. If that helps to raise standards then surely that’s a positive. However, we see the real beneficiary being KM practitioners, current and future in those organisations such as the public sector for which ISO Standards are a core component of their quality measurements.

And finally

A week or so ago Chris Collison published this on LinkedIn:

Excellent article in CILIP magazine by Paul Corney and Karen McFarlane CMG describing the forthcoming KM Standard. Despite one or two early reservations (and a lot of commenting) – I’m convinced that – used thoughtfully and strategically – it will become an exciting force for good. Hungry for more? Watch this space for news of an exciting collaboration!
In the intervening period the post has been viewed by more than 4k people and liked by 100+. It also spawned a number of comments from those in the KM Community who oppose the idea of standards for KM.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’ve expressed mine in the article I was very disappointed that once again the integrity of those who took part in the process was called into question. I participated because I believed it was the right thing to do not because I thought it would generate future business.  Anyone who knows me and the pro bono / community work I’ve done and will continue to do will confirm that is not how I am wired!