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.

Snapchat, the problem with Google Books and the rise of the Curator (Unicorn)

Indulge me a little. Earlier last week while prepping for a forthcoming trip to Asia I read a post The problem with snapchat from a US student Allie Link who described why she’d abandoned it. This phrase stood out:

Snapchat was not meant to take the place of picking up the phone and calling somebody when you want to have a deep conversation.

My research was prompted by a comment from a friend who following lunch with her grandchildren observed:

Facebook was invented by college students for college students, but today’s students don’t use FB.

She could have said, instead they use Instagram, Snapchat & WhatsApp. I would have added (as a result of experiences studying / researching in a University library) that they also have lost much of the art of human interaction of the sort needed for conversation.

I fear we are creating a Soundbite Society, one that is attracted by the headline but unwilling to read the article beneath. We take things at face value rather than ask the awkward supplementary question. Everything is reduced to concise phrases (or 140 characters in the case of Twitter), where celebrity is acquired from social media activity not earned thru expertise or deed.

the lure of technology

Which brings me to my core theme here: are we being seduced by the lure of technology to act as the guardian of our organisational knowledge and as a result oblivious to what’s happening behind the firewall?

I see the workforce struggling to keep pace with the array of gadgets and apps being thrown at them as we rush to provide a fully integrated Digital Workplace. Tags and taxonomies have never been sexy but are still vital to find ‘stuff’. Too often people are asking:

where did I have that conversation?

and unable to locate what was said.

From conversations I’ve had recently with Darron Chapman, David Gurteen and Martin White I am increasingly coming to the view that the shift to ape applications used in a social environment in the office is not going to meet the high expectation levels being set. While organisations try to give their workers access to organisational knowledge and information, ‘anytime, any place, any device’, I am still to be convinced that conversations captured on the likes of Workplace, Yammer, Slack, WhatsApp will end up assembled in a navigable and useful manner.

If organisations, with a policy of filling vacancies from within, have the talent they need in house and are able to find it via intelligent expertise systems then why retain external placement organisations? That they do suggests reality does not reflect the hype.

the challenge of asking the right question right!

Another area where the cracks are appearing is through the widespread use of the Virtual Assistant (VA). We are at a crossroads: to be really effective the VA needs to be able to interpret the question being asked (often not in the native language of the enquirer). But the enquirer does not know how to ask the question in a way that helps the machine to learn.

I see this when I use Google Translate (which with an improved algorithm in place is very good). It does not yet recognise the style I use when asking a question which I want translated into another language.

Here’s what I mean. Earlier this month I was in Lisbon. My Mother in Law offered to cook me dinner but as I was out for the evening with clients and left very early that morning I wrote her a note (imperfect as it turned out). I typed in “I am out for the day. No dinner tonight thank you.” The translation ended up as ‘sem jantar a noite obrigada” which in fact was interpreted as the reverse so a sumptuous meal of Carne de porco a alentejana was served. Imagine my shock at turning up at 11.15 to find a table of food and guests!

the problem with Google Books and CRM ‘lite’ operations

Back in Q1 I ran a survey and awarded prizes (of my co-authored book when available) to 3 lucky winners. One asked if I might send it electronically which I was happy to do.  So in July I bought a copy on Google Play Books. The recipient’s email was a Google one so a redemption code was sent to him.

Unfortunately after 3 attempts (in different countries)  he was unable to redeem the code and access the book. I use the chat facility and discover after an hour that an electronic book can only be downloaded in the country in which it was bought and moreover the purchaser cannot download it themselves. Here’s the issue: I had to go back and forth and each time I had to explain the situation again; the information I was originally given proved wrong.  If the most sophisticated search organisation can’t get it right with it’s CRM system what hope for the rest?

the rise of the organisational Curator in fragmented workplaces

Which leads me onto one of the disciplines I believe will grown in importance.

In a previous post I referred to the deluge of “Fake News” we are all subjected to in personal and professional situations. It’s not about the volume it’s more about the veracity of what people see that’s the issue now.

People in organisations want trusted content on their desk top. At issue is whether that can be provided automatically devoid of human intervention. I continue to argue that the curation of critical knowledge is an art form requiring an understanding of the DNA and way of working / rituals of an organisation. These are the nuances that I’ve yet to see any technology master.

So if my assumptions are right then far from becoming defunct the Knowledge & Information Professional’s role will become more important. To recap this is what I suggested #7 Curate of the 8 ‘ates would be:

Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.

Am I right? I met Darron Chapman who runs a successful placement and recruitment business that focuses on this market. I asked him, “what skills and talents clients are looking for?” “Clients want Unicorns” he said. “They are increasingly looking to place them in global locations close to operational units. He cited places as diverse as Hong Kong, Lisbon, Madrid and Warsaw.  The skills have to be both technological as well as soft and there are very few people who meet those critieria. And if you want more on this it is a topic I will be discussing in much more detail during my trip to Asia next month and Martin White will be focusing on the challenges of expertise systems in Aarhus at Janus Boye’s event.

and finally

3 cities; 3 Masterclasses; 3 presentations and a closing facilitation session at KM Asia to look forward to from November 13th to 24th..

I’ve been experimenting with an interesting technology Biteable which proved really effective in creating a brief 1 minute video to advertise the 3 Masterclasses. Check out the results and let me know what you think.  Its a case of recognising that pictures with few words seem to get the interest of people overwhelmed by a deluge of offers.

I would like to give thanks to the following people who made the Asian “Adventure” happen:

Les Hales, President HKKMS

Zabeda Abdul Hamid, Asst. Prof. Deputy Director Graduate School of Management IIUM-CRESCENT International Islamic University Malaysia

Patrick Lambe, Author & Founder, Straits Knowledge, Singapore

Murni Shariff, Head Corporate Services, Malaysian Gas Association

Chung Yin Min, Knowledge Management Consultant, Innovation and Service Excellence PETRONAS, Malaysia

Janice Record, Head of International Knowledge & Insight DLA Piper, Hong Kong

 

 

When AirAsia is not Air Asia: when you know it exists but can’t find it

I’ve always believed in the principle of “Give / Get” underpinning the basic premise that we cannot all be takers and that sharing involves two or more to engage. So back in 2005 I signed up to Trip Advisor and for the last 12 years I like millions of others have shared my observations on travel, food and accommodation. Why?

In the same way as people contribute to WikiPedia which consolidates and curates the knowledge of the many of a given topic it seemed to me only fair that if I were taking from something then I should give back. As part of this ‘social contract’ Trip Advisor regularly updates me on my standing in their community and informs me I have contributed 170 reviews and received 234 helpful votes.

So yesterday having recently confirmed my participation in KM Asia 2017 and booked a flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia I decided to comment on a previous flight.

KIM’ers beware

To my surprise having typed in Air Asia into Trip Advisor’s search box I got this set of drop down choices. It made no sense so I emailed them:

I cannot find Air Asia which operates from KL across Asia. Is it listed elsewhere? If not can you please show it.

Today I got this response:

We do list Air Asia, please find all airlines here www.tripadvisor.com/Airlines.

We list “AirAsia” all as one word which is consistent with their official brand; however I realize that it makes it difficult to find on our site as it is not natural to spell these two words without a space. As a result, it was not coming up in our search box. We have changed this to appear as two separate words which should allow easier access from now on. This change will take place on our live site within 24 hours.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention and do look forward to your review!

and finally

Their response was helpful but it highlights an issue that many organisations might have but not realise and why Knowledge & Information Managers should be on their guard when delivering search via drop down boxes to help people find ‘stuff’.

If the search engine is not tweaked to do what Verity’s Topic did some 20 years back namely look at all the various derivations of a name or phrase and present those in the results then the searcher has no idea if the term is correct and if he/she is getting a comprehensive results list.

Who in your organisation ‘owns’ search? I’m guessing that search is seen as technology and falls under IT’s remit.  Yet it is a vital component of the KIM’ers tool set to help people in organisations know what it knows – the ‘Navigate’ competence I’ve written about previously.

Collaborative Knowledge Space: Survey Prize Winners

I am pleased to announce that at today’s Masterclass held at International Islamic University of Malaysia the delegates selected three ‘names’ from a metaphorical hat.

The winners of a copy of my co-authored book “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion” when It’s released next month by American Society for Quality (ASQ) are:

  • Amir Tolster from Africa
  • Eilleen Tan from Asia
  • Ciaran Joyce from Europe.

If the winners care to contact me with their respective addresses I will be delighted to send them the book when its released.

In the meantime today’s event was a memorable occasion in a stunning venue.

I will be writing up the outcomes when I return to England in April.

Overcoming the “How can I ask without looking silly?” barrier: KM Legal Europe

January in Amsterdam has become a bit of a tradition as is leading the opening session at KM Legal Europe.

My brief was to replicate 2016 and provide a stimulating opening. I was delighted with the enthusiastic response and the level of interaction that occured over the two days expertly led again by Chair Raffael Büchi.

So what did I see and hear (and learn), and where is Legal KM one year on?

What trends did I see?

The ‘big’ trends for me were:

  • A headlong rush into document automation. “Automating the drafting of legal documents” = intelligent workflow with knowledge embedded that reduces duplication and saves time. 50% of the room said their organisation was engaged in some form of document automation. And its easy to see why its appealing. One statistic that was shared: a saving of 200 lawyer hours a month from 1,150 templates automated. Interestingly this presents a great opportunity for KM’ers with Document Automation installaton experience. Not enough experience vs. too many installations. Importantly another value of Doc Auto: Training young lawers – gets them up to speed quicker as questions it poses makes them understand.
  • The ongoing challenge of getting adoption for the plethora of KM related initiatives: As one speaker suggested, the key is getting them set up yourself f2f. Don’t subcontract to IT. And ‘Celebrate’ use. Communication needs a good narrative to motivate people and get engagment. F2F meetings vital. Brand it as your product; Use advocates (Butterfly effect); Get testimonials.
  • How often reporting lines change for KM’ers as their sponsor moves on. Few I spoke to were on the Managing Committee, many had seen their sponsorship downgraded.

What surprised me?

  • The ease with which all the delegates (many in suits) enthusiastically engaged with the opening exercise I ran and were suprisingly open and candid about “what do you bring to the event?” and “what are the big issues you are facing and would like an answer to?”

  • That despite the promotional hype, machine learning engines still require a lot of manual input upfront from people with domain knowledge to get started which is why there is a growth in companies offering to do the setup work. Need to have engaged partner to drive document automation yet some lawyers enjoy drafting docs – issue: WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) is not addressed.
  • That some firms really get the value of KM. European Law Firm of Year; Swiss Law Firm of Year, UK Law Firm of Year. A Common thread? All have KM Heads who are attending the event. The European Law Firm of the Year had a Senior Partner, the Partner responsible for KM and the KM Head. They are one of few firms to have adopted ISO 9001 Quality Management -realised needed something to unify disparate offices and integrate aquisitions. The dna of the firm: based around the Practice Management System their default system (CRM plus) containing a body of knowledge on the Baltic region which can be put to multiple uses for the firm. It also serves as a timesheet for billable time. Challenge is how to replace so they embarked on a firm wide stakeholder engagement to produce a requirements specification. Note it was not seen as an IT Project!
  • The way in which the dynamic / energy changes at an event when it reverts to “Show and Tell” vs “Ask and Share” The lesson those engaged in the creating and running of events like this took away was that you need people energised from the ‘get go’ each day.
  • That many thought you could engage in Knowledge Capture via forms and macros. As I tweeted: My great fear – you don’t get critical knowledge captured by completing a form – you need to do it around events and in person!
  • That Data Breaches have become a way of life – firms need process for dealing with them as penalties are punitive.

Quotes that stuck (or got tweeted)

Machine learning needs external input to get it going, its a classic case of GIGO – Garbage in Garbage out!

AI: not magic, evolved from sophisticated search. Previously Autonomy inspired plus document automation and NLP thx

AI: when it works its looking at human processes and how to support /emulate with computers to help them make better decisions.

Choosing the right system for your firm is not an IT project, it is a deeply strategic decision – Aku

One revealing survey result from Lawyers: “How can I ask without looking silly?” – loss of face is a real barrier to adoptiion!

Adoption Tips for Sceptics: Articulate savings; Flatter Rocket Scientists and invite contributions; Ignore unbelievers who often turn when others are doing it and they feel peer pressure to join them.

Knowhow management is not a “ding an sich”, separated from other business functns. It’s just a regular part of good management.

 

What advice would I give Legal KM’ers?

  • Your role will involve more Curation and Facilitiation (2 of the 8 ‘ates I talk about elsewhere in describing the future role of the ‘Knowledgeur’) as the need to consolidate corporate knowledge becomes increasingly digital. Tools should be based on the strategic direction of the firm; learning (not training) sessions ensure people are versed in their use. But don’t forget one of the most important KM tools is Coffee – one new KM leader had 420 coffees in first couple of months!
  • Don’t be afraid to use external speakers to stimulate an in house response and introduce an element of competition. Round table cafes are successful in Switzerland – over food!
  • Embrace technology as it’s here to stay. Where possible use the systems already in house. Develop practice groups to help produce requirements specifications. And make sure you are clear the role each tool is playing.
  • You can achieve a lot with a little. Real change is often simple and inexpensive. In one example the PA’s wanted a practice group to organise calendars and email traffic and Intranet needed quick links. Both were low level but effective and resulted in improved productivity. Where possible use the systems already in house.
  • Be opportunistic: A Good KM /comms /engagement. The Brexit vote gave impetus to a “Hot Topic” project in one firm. By consolidating all that was known and equipping lawyers with answers the profile of the team rose. Learning: people like getting together to discuss topics.
  • KM Legal needs to be closely aligned with Learning & Development and HR. One firm developed a 1 week corporate program (mini MBA) that included KM focused on competency gaps. Their KM Committee reports straight to Managing Partner. It has teeth and includes core functions of the business.
  • Develop a suite of simple facilitation tools and techniques: One firms uses POSE acronym to drive all meetings: Purpose / Owner / Safety / Engagement. I’ve often used DEBRIEFS.
  • Become part of the business development process: Many firms now see KM involvement as important to winning new business or as part of the broader service offering.

And finally:

AI: when it works its looking at human processes and how to support / emulate with computers to help them make better decisions

I see this as being an evolution rather than a revolution. We are at Stage 3.

Stage 1 Search: Making documents, images and audio/video available and tagged;

Stage 2 Review & Connect: Analyse/summarise documents, images & audio/video push to relevant people. Identify patterns, connect; and

Stage 3 Predict & Facilitate: Using raft of data, information & accumulated knowledge to predict likely outcome & facilitate

One of the real highlights was that 20 people joined me for an impromptu conference dinner at a nearby Pho Vietnamese Restaurant. It reinforced the importance of food and drink in being lubricants for great conversations.

I took away a feeling that this question is still not being addressed satisfactorily and that firms remain at risk when people and teams leave or are acquired:

The risk of critical knowledge loss is not just about what people know, its about who they know and what networks they might know.

Perhaps AI will help in consolidating the know how of firms and hence build resilience into their models which remain vulnerable if people (and teams leave). Certainly the approach being adopted by the European Law Firm of the year of integrating CRM and workflow with precedents and transaction management is a bold step. Only time will tell if its successful and becomes the blueprint.