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!

How KM is helping with urban regeneration: engaging with the community

I was never a great fan of cities that had buildings, walls and even trains covered in grafitti.

That was before we acquired a place in Lisbon and saw the dramatic impact Urban or Street Art can have on a community: how it can transform run down and delinquent areas; create a sense of community spirit; and turn it into the #1 city break destination.

What does this have to do with Knowledge Management? Here’s what:

An offer too good to refuse?

A year ago my wife Ana and I were having coffee with our local MP Stephen Lloyd and a prominent local businessman, Keith Ridley. During a wide ranging conversation, triggered by a new business venture (Bees Homes) we’d established 6 months previously, Stephen and Keith asked us to generate a few ideas that might build on the regeneration and investment (circa £400m) taking place in Eastbourne.

As people who’ve been lucky enough to visit many places where Urban Art is a feature we suggested that might be one way of improviing footfall to the town while creating the bohemian cafe type culture typical of mediterranean seaside communities and increasigly seen around the UK. In January we spoke at length to the Municipality of Lisboa to learn from their experience and in October I had breakfast with the head of the art programme in Stockholm. Both gave similar advice: engage with the community first.

In truth this was an approach we’d been adopting (ours was ‘top down, bottom up’) as we’d recognised that sustainability can only occur if the initiative is “In the community, of the community and for the community”.

We continued to gather support from key stakeholders with the aim of holding an open engagement session before the year was out.  That sesson took place on December 6th, here’s what happened.

Engaging with the community:

I wanted an event that brouight together everyone who might be interersted for a couple of hours of semi formal collaboration. Having spoken to David Gurteen, I adapted the Knowledge Cafe format I’d used some 6 years previously in Lewes when I was gauging interest in setting up a charity to make use of surplus food.

We (Bees Homes) were keen to be seen as catalysts / facilitators but not the driver so we asked Keith if he would share the running of the event with me. And we worked closely with the local community hub The Devonshire Collective who are supported by the local and Borough Councils.  They agreed to host the event and arrange for the publicity.

This is the agenda we all agreed.It’s worth noting 50+, including Stephen Lloyd who that very day had resigned the Lib Dem Whip over the Brexit vote, turned up on a horrible evening.

I especially enjoyed the Ice Breaker session: to see a group of total strangers including many of the town’s dignitaries embrace the opportunity to share thoughts with strangers was rewarding and set the tone for the evening.

Everything went to time, people responded well to our presentation,  the (free) food provided by Heidi of The Crown & Anchor & ‘Naz’of Simply Pattiserie helped to lubricate the discussions and there was an audible buzz by the time Madam Mayor got up to do the farewells.

Outcomes

We asked people to work in tables of 6 arranged cocktail style and write post it notes. Keith summarised at the end of each question.

A snapshot of the responses is alongside.

Our next step is to set up a social media presence and draw on the offers of support to get the first 5 works commissioned.

And finally

What did I (re) learn from this event:

  1. People like a structured approach behind apparant informality
  2. Be clear on what you are expecting people to do and on the expected outcomes
  3. Brief early those who are working alongside you – get their input
  4. People like the opportunity to talk to others early at an event
  5. Food (and wine) help lubricate tongues
  6. It’s important to summarise as you go
  7. Inject humour when you feel its needed
  8. Make sure you acknowledge the contribution of everyone
  9. Find a venue that has enough space to move around – we shifted venue due to numbers
  10. Get to a new venue early and check out the equipment.  When I arrived to check it out I discovered the projectors and TV screens were not compatible with Macbook Pros. In the end we had to find a couple of PC’s and download our presentation from DropBox

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.

If so few Mergers & Acquisitions are successful why is Knowledge Management so often ignored?

“The best year of my life as we tried to maximise the synergies…”

was how Chris Collison described the year following the largest industrial merger in the history of the oil industry. As one of the award winning KM team in BP the merger (acquisition) of Amoco some 20 years ago presented unique challenges and a great opportunity to demonstrate the real value inherent in Knowledge Management.

“We were faced with merging intranets, capitalising on the communities of practice both organisations had developed and the BP Connect system (which at that point had 20k employee profiles) proved invaluable in matching skills and people.”

Yet KM has barely featured in Mergers and Acquistions (M&A) transactions in the intervening two decades?

M&A activity shows no sign of abating as this recently published survey from Accenture demonstrates but perceived wisdom is that fewer than 25% of all transactions fail to realise the projected synergies.

A few weeks back I had the great pleasure of exploring this topic in more detail with 100 or so senior global legal professionals.

I’d been invited by the organisors, ALM (American Lawyer and Legal Week), to give the opening address to their annual European Strategic Technology Forum at a magnificent venue (Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees & SPA) on Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Testing a hypothesis

I began by drawing on Chapter 7 of “Navigating the Minefield” A Practical KM Companion”I felt that was not enough so ahead of the event I decided to test the findings in “Navigating…”.  I approached:

  • A leading expertise discovery organisation: surely it makes sense to try and locate then validate /compare expertise in the to be merged organisations? People are at the fulcrum of of any successful merger and key in the realisation of the synergies often cited as the rationale for the transaction.
  • A world leader in the use of social network analytics: as an acquiring organisation you’d want to know what’s behind an org. chart, who are the people that make it tick? Increasingly SNA is being used to see how strong networks are in a business.
  • A recently merged industrial group: when one is a leader (and award winner) in KM surely their KM team would have a role?
  • A previous winner of the prestigeous European Law Firm of the Year award: as an organisation who has invested heavily in KM and grown through acquisitions surely they woud have built KM into their due diligence and integration strategies?

Astonishing insights

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. The anticipated demand for expertise discovery systems from organisations engaged in M&A activity has failed to materialise. It seems organisations are not interested in knowing what they know and what they are getting by way of expertise.
  2. In very few instances and in retrospect only do organisations undertake in depth analysis of networks in either the acquired or acquiring organisation.
  3. The KM team in the merged entity had to work really hard to reestablish a position since one of the organisations had a KM function and the other did not. It was not involved prior to the merger but acting quickly was able to demonstrate value through facilitating aspects of the organisation’s integration plan.
  4. In an organisation which has invested in KM capability and where knowledge is the core asset (Law Firm) any new entrant (firm or lawyer) has as a matter of urgency to contribute to the organisation’s knowledge base.

Why KM is Ignored

A part of the senior management team of Sopheon PLC during the dot com boom I was tasked with overseeing the integration of many of the acquisitions it made. I worked closely with HR / Organisational Learning and Marcoms functions as well as Software Engineering and Product Development.  We’d made the strategic decision and then looked in depth at the target and it’s skill base but often that was from a savings and efficiency perspective. We had no formal KM function yet products had years of knowledge and expertise  embedded and we ran an extremely successful global knowledge network.

I fear many people in KM are not close enough to the seat of power and seen as a tactical resource (fixers not originators) rather than people who help develop and drive through strategic initiatives.

So how might we change that and get them a seat at the M&A table?

A blueprint for the future?

Some years ago I was retained by a prominent venture capital group to help with techncal and managerial due diligence on acquisitions and investments.  The model that a former colleague James Macfarlane and I developed looked at inter alia the culture of an organisation, it’s management style, who people went to for assistance and perhaps most importantly how it coped when the pressure was on.  We also looked at how it used what it had learned before and fed that into how it developed its products.

I realise now that much of what we were doing is what I’d expect a good Knowledge Manager to be able to do today on any M&A transaction. However tools and process are important so they will need to have a range of faciiltation and diagnostic techniques they can apply. The impending publication of the ISO KM Standards might be just one of those since it will require those who have signed up to it to evidence adherence to a set of principles that rather neatly pick up many of the indicators that were in mine and James’ original Due Diligence Model.

The Knowledge Manager’s M&A Checklist

Here’s a very rudimentary set of questions to be focusing on.

Watch this space: in the coming months I will be expanding on this.

And finally

I have been remiss in not keeping up on postings. However the last two months have been extraordinarily busy with an assignment (helping to embed KM into the workstream of an organisation undergoing transformation), speeches, working on CILIP’s Knowledge Manager Certification process, getting started on a new co-authored book and working with Portugal’s Zero Food Waste movement to develop an application to improve the process of donation.

Paul delivering the opening address in Stresa to the Strategic Technology Forum