Anniversaries, reflections and the importance of why: in Bruxelles, Eastbourne & Khartoum!

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.

And finally

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.

 

 

why networks (and meditation) matter in a virtual world

It’s been an effort getting back into the swing of things after a lovely Christmas spent in Cascais!  Maintaining a portfolio of activities as I have since 1999 requires a considerable amount of self motivation and a supportive network. So it was nice when ‘on cue’ a couple of my oldest friends / former colleagues (Martin, James and Victoria) got in touch to arrange catch up sessions and Tony Melendez of Saudi Aramco posted a picture (see below) of the 50 copies of The KM Cookbook his KM Team ordered for the management of the world’s largest oil company.

Importance of reflecting

Over the past few months I’ve been full on helping my fellow partners at Bees Homes LLP run our annual ‘Pride of Eastbourne’ campaign. It culminated in the donation of 5 hampers to deserving people/causes prior to Christmas. Apart from managing the logistics of the campaign and mobilising mayoral resource, there is also the media and a “pause & reflect” to run so that, following good KM practice, lessons are transferred back into process for the next campaign. Taking the time out to reflect on any campaign, event or project is essential irrespective of size and number of stakeholders.  Our session which included debriefing with the Chamber of Commerce yielded a number of learning’s that would not have surfaced if we’d have not met face to face. It enabled us to also reflect on why the campaign was a success. These were deemed critical success factors:

  • Clarity of roles / absence of hierarchy;
  • Clarity over timings / regular updates;
  • Willingness of everyone to pitch in; and
  • Clarity over budget.

And this is what the local paper (The Eastbourne Herald) printed:

 

President Elect (CILIP)

Some of you will be aware that on January 1st I was appointed President Elect of CILIP having been nominated by my good friend (former Chair and fellow BSI KM Standards Committee member) Karen Macfarlane. It took a few months to come to closure as for the first time I will be in a figurehead role devoid of executive authority.  Here’s why I said yes:

“In 2017 in ‘Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion’ I noted inter alia that to achieve corporate legitimacy, KM professionals would benefit from the introduction of a set of universal standards plus recognised practitioner led accreditation. I was pleased to have been a member of the BSI Committee that contributed to the development and publication of the ISO KM Standards 30401 and the CILIP project board overseeing the development of the Knowledge Management Chartership accreditation.  

I am delighted to be appointed as President Elect CILIP as it allows me to remain close to and promote the ongoing development of a global practitioner led KM Chartership and Fellowship while expanding CILIP’s global reach.”

Knowledge Matchmaking

My wife Ana was at a charity event recently where she bid for and won a morning’s session with someone ‘Calmer Self‘ who helps:

…busy, successful people who are struggling to find moments of calm in their day to day lives…

Ana gifted it to me so two weeks ago I spent a ‘morning on the couch’ much of it in a state of meditation. I found it insightful and thought provoking. Among a number of observations handed to me were:

…when you offer advice and help to others it’s ok to truly let it go and to know that it is ok for them to do what they want with what you have given them… that it is perfectly acceptable to protect yourself from people that take too much from you energetically.

This resonated in respect of my previous writings on Knowledge Matchmaking. Perhaps this is the missing #10 on my list?

KM Cookbook

Nick Poole CEO, CILIP  (who own the publisher Facet) told me a few weeks before Christmas that the book is now well on the way to being their best seller (in 4 months) which is great news. And that was before this bulk order from Saudi Aramco.

What’s been particularly pleasing are the reviews, the highly respected Portuguese KM’er Ana Neves said:

“The authors’ combined experience permeates every page: it is in the book’s concept and structure, in the useful artefacts they developed (like the KM Chef’s Canvas, for instance), and in the way they expertly led and made sense of the interviews to then compose the 16 core chapters of the book – the KM approaches taken by different organisations.”

My coauthors and I have been delighted too at the wilingness of people to send photos of their copy in some amazing venues to contribute to the ‘Chelfies’ Gallery.  How many of the faces do you recognise?

Forthcoming Q1 ‘Gigs’

My aim over the coming year is to build on the success of the KM Cookbook and specifically draw on the KM Canvas to help organisations review existing programmes, build a new one or prepare for a future KM Audit against ISO 30401.

Chris Collison and I are booked for an event at the EU soon and I will be helping the good folks at NetIKX at the end of January to consider: Virtual working and learning: is it working for you?

In March I will be running sessions at the annual KM Summit, a K&IM Professional Development Day and AGM (a CILIP event) plus addressing a group of award winning entrepreneurs in Brighton on the importance of Knowledge Management to SME’s.

And finally

2020 is here. I’d already mentally devoted the bulk of it to helping Bees Homes and Coastway Financial expand and take a step back from KM Consulting other than associated with KM Cookbook. A recent email from an organisation to me (among others) with a Request for a Proposal (RFP) convinced me of the veracity of the decision. Dated 19th December the email asked for a written response to be on the desk of the Procurement Team by mail on Sunday 22nd December.  And it gave 17th December as the last date for submission of questions of clarification. Having spoken to like minded people I trust I immediately contacted Procurement to ask if they’d had no luck with an earlier mailing to prospective consultants or whether this was a mistake.  I received no formal acknowledgement but I and others got an email within 4 hours saying:

“… received various requests for the extension from our potential bodies and the Consultant Selection Panel members for this assignment came to the consensus to provide the extension for the submission date…”

How can Knowledge Management possibly thrive in an environment where the conduct of an audit of work done is a ‘tick box’ exercise aimed at justifying spend?  Life’s too short!!!!

 

The power of positivity, of space and of images

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.

Space

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.

 

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!

How not to collaborate effectively

I’m in Stockholm. It’s crisp and bright in stark contrast to the current political uncertainty. It’s 15 years since I was last here, my first journey on Norwegian (I was impressed) and I am struck by how much technology and green issues permeate society.

My hotel is cashless and everywhere there are adverts reminding you of the technological advances born in this country.
Exiting the Central Railway station I see signs reminiscent of airports in the Middle East and other train stations in Europe as groups of young Arab men greet friends and family who arrive off the Airport Express or off trains from other parts of Europe. This is a country that has absorbed many nationalities: 1 in 6 people living in Sweden today were born outside of the country.
Why might you legitimately ask is this relevant?  Here’s why: when the predominant business language is English (a 2nd language for almost everyone) the potential for miscommunication and misinterpretation is significant at a time when the country (and company) needs effective collaboration and communication to succeed.
Its a theme I will explore more later.

declining personal values = declining business standards: discuss

Over the last 20 years I’ve run a portfolio of activities. I’ve watched (and winced) as clients run to stand still: they want product to satisfy the C suite; to prove they are making a difference; and are worth the king’s ransom many are now paid. But has it made us more productive? Are we/they better off?
At the same time I talk to friends who run SME’s in hospitality and catering who are unable to expand due to a reluctance of entry level staff to “put a shift in” and work unsociable hours.
A few weeks back I met the CEO of a business with ambitious growth targets. I was there as an invited guest for the opening of an office.  He spoke glowingly to the assembled throng about how proud he was of their gender / diversity policy and how his team encourages openness and transparency.  Ours was a detailed and informed conversation following which I was asked to put some thoughts in writing.
This I was happy to do – I was not looking for business but saw a chance to help a business (which employs people I know) to grow. It took me a couple of hours to pull my thoughts together and the key issues I highlighted (with some reading around them) were:

  • Silo working – offices work in isolation.
  • Failure to share ‘nuggets’ across the business.
  • How to maximise the impact of technology?
  • A need to sustain / enhance domain skills across the business.
  • Importance of creating a curated shared knowledge base that contains critical knowledge and identifies who has it or where it might be found if they +/or their team leave.

I sent an email and heard nothing. I checked /called a week later. “Yes we received it and yes it was helpful.” You could argue that’s the way business is conducted today. You only hear if people want something and once they’ve got it they move on mentally.

“collaboration, it’s not just about me”

Take a look at the first two bullet points above.  Now consider how effectively your organisation shares ideas, knowledge, anecdotes.  Does it “work out loud?” As 80% of people on social media sites often lurk preferring to observe rather than participate it’s no wonder that collaboration initiatives often fail after an early spike of activity.
Recently I worked alongside a friend and former colleague on an assignment that sought to incorporate Knowledge Management practices into a rapid business transformation. At one of the working sessions it occurred to me that you cannot encourage “Working out Loud” or “Paying it Forward” if the culture is “Ready when Right!”
Is this an issue of culture and behaviours or something less sinister and related to the 3rd bullet point? Today I ‘talk’ to contacts, clients, friends (and family) via WhatsApp, LinkedIn Messages, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Zoom, Email, Text and sometimes on the phone or over a coffee. It’s inefficient but its not just about me.The Brasilian company I spoke to on Monday this week preferred Skype to Zoom and to prepare answers to questions in advance so that was the approach we adopted.
Collaboration is about communicating and working in the medium at the pace people are most comfortable in.  I’ve seen IT silver bullets quickly lose their lustre because the community doesn’t get it. Too often its a solution looking for a problem.  My message: find an approach that works and a way to capture the outputs (if they are likely to be of value).

“…a tolerant multicultural society”

Back to the language theme. For many years I used to say how proud I was to live in the UK as it had done a pretty good job of assimilating many cultures and is now a “tolerant multicultural society.” Imagine my horror when many of my friends and family asked me if I’d be happy to be told that they tolerated me!
Over dinner last Friday with a couple of Englishmen we examined this and concluded its about the sentiment which is often missed when you are dealing in a 2nd language. You take it at face value and then dissect what was said after.
I’ve long argued that the British thrive on ambiguity. An example being “Brexit means Brexit” which my European friends are still trying to understand.
I’ve seen a similar trait when family members speak to their staff in Portuguese.  They expect an East European to get the nuances of what they have said.

It’s hard enough in a social environment, in business it can be damaging and costly.

and finally

Tomorrow I will be closing an event targeted at the Scandinavian Legal Profession. It’s full, over 200 attending most of who have come I imagine to hear about the potential impact of AI on client business and hence their bottom line. I am going to be looking out for great examples of collaborative working.