Professionalising KM: future proofing the KM role?

Monday, I joined Paul Byfield of European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) to discuss the importance of standards and certification with 40 or so delegates at the first virtual ARK KM Summit facilitated by Nick Stone. I’d keynoted at an EBRD event that looked inter alia at the ISO KM standards and certification in November with Paul who is currently working to become one of the first to hold the accreditation, “Chartered Knowledge Manager”.

It’s a topic I feel passionately about having first looked at the “Evolving role of the Knowledge Manager” a decade ago, accepted an invitation in 2016 to become Knowledge & Information Management Ambassador for Chartered Institute for Libraries & Information Professionals (CILIP) and, as it positions itself to become a natural home for KM professionals, its President in 2021.

My presentation, “Professionalising KM” can be found here.

“Striving down the path to corporate legitimacy”

I’ve often used this phrase. For me it illustrates the progress being made positioning Knowledge Management as an accepted discipline in organisations. Similar horiztonal corporate functions have been through this ‘legitmisation’. Here’s two examples:

  • Personnel became Human Resources and then Talent Management. It’s industry body Chartered Institute of Personnel Development founded 1913 has become the ‘go to’ and CIPD’s qualifications are the recognised professional standard for HR and training specialists working across the UK’s public, private and charity sectors. How many businesses do you know without some form of HR function?
  • Marketing likewise has it’s own industry body Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) founded in 1911. It too has a career pathway for development based upon professional qualifications. Its not uncommon for the Cheif Marketing Officer to be one of the senior executive team and the role of Marketing (and Communications) to be a core corporate function.

Knowledge Management is a much newer discipline of less than 30 years and misunderstood by many.  The arrival of the ISO KM Standards 30401 was a significant milestone even if adoption is going to take time and the introduction of a globally recognised (and independent) benchmark of a person’s competence is potentially another.

Where I believe CILIP which was established in 2002 (evolving from the Library Association which dates back to 1877) have got it right is through the mapping of their Professional Knowledge & Skills Base (PKSB) to ISO 30401. Led by Karen Macfarlane formerly CILIP Chair and Head of KIM Profession (HMG Civil Service) with contributions from such KM luminaries as Patrick Lambe, it has already been adopted by a number of significant institutions such as NHS’s Health Education England for their career pathway and vocational skills development.

KM post Coivd-19

Having given a few virtual presentations in May and seen at first hand the impact a KM approach can make in a crisis situation I was interested to see how the KM community is coping and moreover how secure KM professionals feel in their roles.

At the end of Paul and my presentation we posed three questions:

  • Will you consider being assessed against the ISO KM standards?
    • Yes = 60%, No =25%, Not relevant = 15%
  • Do you think Knowledge Chartership / Fellowship will be valuable to you?
    • Yes = 80%, No = 10%, Not relevant = 10%
  • How unsure are you of your role, post lockdown?
    • Very = 5%, A little = 55%, Not at all = 45%

In discussion both he and I felt the lack of uncertainty was a positive. I wondered aloud whether 5 years ago pre standards and certification we would have got the same response to question 3. I firmly believe that people (and organisations) gravitate towards the type of order and structure that standards and certification bring.

And finally

At the end of a lively session and many good questions, it was good to hear from Paul how cathartic the process of self reflection that goes with assembling a portfolio for submission for chartership has proved for him.

 

 

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!!!!

 

Knowledge but not as we know it: “looking at business through a microscope and telescope”

Many moons ago before the introduction of GDPR I used to provide a semi annual update of my activities to people who said they were interested in what I was up to. With the requirement to get permissions from the recipients and a book to help complete those updates went to the back of the queue. Over the last few months though much has happened so here are a few reflections.

SmartWorking Summit

It’s Mid October and I’m back in Docklands to attend Quora’s Autumn Smart Working Summit. With attendees focused on work place environments and effective working practices (including genuine diversity) it picked up on a theme I’d heard recently at many Sussex business sessions namely how to manage mental health in the workplace.

It seems that many of us are not happy with our working environment (people get distracted every 3 minutes in an office apparantly) or indeed our managers.  And since the young are seemingly ill disposed to stay more than 2 years with any employer the traditional social contract between employer and employee is undergoing a massive shift.

Many of the speakers and contributors from the floor talked about “3rd place working” and the need to curate good environments both physical and virtual.  Many bemoaned the use of corporate safaris to see how others set out their space and over lunch a few of us debated the value of floor, meeting or community hosts to facilitate working in hub environments.

Does this matter? Yes!  Workplace productivity is down 9% in the last decade in the UK and compares unfavourably with the rest of the world. In a report released in January 2019 by employee engagement organisation Engaging Works the UK ranks 10th in the world for workplace happiness. They note:

“What is perhaps most striking is that eight of the countries which sit ahead of the UK in 10th place also sit above the UK for productivity, where the UK is a global laggard.

From a knowledge sharing perspective this is important. People are more likely to share if they feel engaged and supported yet few I spoke to involved in the design of office environments had knowledge sharing as a critical success factor when designing space. Neil Usher’s excellent Elemental Workplace came to mind at this point.

Selling your business

I had the great pleasure of attending a Masterclass run by BCMS at a rural location in Kent last week. A boutique M&A house they assembled a group of owner businesses to share tips on the process. It was slick and impressive.

A few stats stood out:

  • Few companies sell to competitors.
  • You need to talk to (interact) with at least 200 potential buyers.
  • Traditional valuation methods (DCF / NPV) are a thing of the past, sell based on a mulitple of future earnings as an acquired or merged business.

Underpinning their model is a dedicated research group who maintain what Founding Director Dave Rebbettes described as a massive M&A database. It took me back 25 years to my Corporate Finance days when using search I helped create a knowledge base to tell us what ‘we’ knew about a business, their people and the markets they operated in.

The word “Curate” was used a couple of times to describe how data is assembled but not in the context of managing knowledge. Once again I was left pondering why as I did last year when I wrote: “If so few Mergers & Acquisitions are successful why is Knowledge Management so often ignored?”.

Post coffee (and chocolate) we were treated to a presentation by Green & Black’s Co Founder Jo Fairley. Jo charted their journey from 1991 when they set the business up in their lounge, disposing of large stake to an investment group, being acquired by Cadbury’s, then Kraft and onto the current owners Mondalez.

Jo highlighted how post acquisition by Cadbury’s in 2005 the company suffered a loss of knowledge exacerbated by Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury’s.  Interestingly Arthur Shelley who was then CKO of Cadbury’s spoke about a similar issue when we interviewed him for “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion”.

Recognising the importance of not losing the DNA of the brand, Mondalez have hired Jo as part of an induction process to illustrate the ethical (Fairtrade) historical legacy of the brand for new employees.

I ticked off some key points Jo made in response to a question about 3 things they got right. I was delighted these match Bees Homes top 3 aspirations:

  • Great product and branding
  • Great customer service
  • Capture the testimonials

To which I would add, “Create Brand (chocolate) Ambassadors” to ensure there is conscience in the brand.

Recognition & Awards

In a recent personal reflection the widely respected Euan Semple noted:

… the stress of working with different businesses all the time is getting to me…  So what to do? I don’t feel inclined to start marketing myself for the consulting and speaking. I never really did. I wrote stuff, people read it, and work came in. I am not even really sure why this has changed. But I am not sorry.

The outpouring of suportive comments on Facebook and LinkedIn must have been rewarding to Euan for ‘putting it out there”. Why does it take something like that though for people to acknowledge and recognise contributions made by others? As many of you will know since 2012 I’ve included a section on my site Who I admire (and why). In it I recognise people I’ve worked alongside who’ve shaped the way I think and act.

In August I wrote about Dr Gada Kadoda from Khartoum who helped found the Sudanese Knowledge Society.  I was delighted the BBC recently recognised her as one of the “top 100 women of 2019 for her work in rural communities.”

Continuing the recognition theme Bees Homes, one of the businesses I helped set up and run, has since inception led an annual Pride of Eastbourne” campaign at Christmas.

We encourage people to nominate those they feel deserve recognition for the good they’ve done for others. The winners, chosen by the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce members, each receive a Sussex Hamper which the nominator presents.

While on the subject of awards I was humbled to receive this email a few months back from the Walford Prize judging panel. The award is given each year to a person deemed to have made a significant contribution to the field of Knowledge & Information Management:

The judging panel were most impressed by your energy and enthusiasm and complete commitment to spreading the word about knowledge and information management not only in the UK but worldwide.

I pick up the award alongside KM luminaries Patrick Lambe and Nick Milton (winners of the best book for their Knowledge Manager’s Handbook) at a ceremony next week.

And finally

I wanted to share my response to Euan since it reflects where I am today after 20 years running a portfolio of activities:

Euan Semple you and I have talked before about having a portfolio of activities where a thin red line or thread connects everything you do. I know many people who’ve taken a jump from the security of a “day job” to being in what today is known as the gig economy. And in the majority of cases they are more fulfilled emotionally if less financially enriched. I’ve watched your journey from corporate to ‘consultant’ to ‘traveller’ with admiration. I’ve always believed that people are judged by the stories others tell about them. You’ve spawned many. Keep travelling!

On the subject of travelling I will end this update with something Jo Fairley said about how to run a successful business.

Look at the business through a microscope and a telescope!

Now off to do just that!

“When 60 seconds seems like an eternity”: making a memorable networking pitch

Today I had the opportunity to help the business community where I live. Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce (the largest town chamber in the South East) invited me to give a talk on how to make an effective 60 second pitch / presentation at a networking event.

Unbeknown to the 32 delegates who’d assembled at Bill’s it was to be a journey beyond their comfort zones. I decided to make it an experiential session rather than the usual 10 minute ‘show and tell’ after breakfast.

Here’s the agenda I worked to:

We began by getting everyone to mingle and meet people they’d not previously talked to.  I encouraged them to talk to each other about what they most enjoyed about their job: people open up when they are positive!

 

By the time they sat down (each one with someone new) conversational juices were flowing.

At this point I asked them to consider how they might respond to this question “who are you and what do you do?” Many say, “I am …. the owner / CEO of …. and I employ … people and I’ve been in the town for over 20 years.” 

I noted that it’s not about what you are called more about what you do!

“A Quivering Mess”

Here we talked about what we hated about standing up and telling people about our businesses.  Words and phrases that emerged during the ‘call out’ were: Fear; too quiet; can’t hear; can’t speak; content; not being heard.  We rounded this off with an eloquent description from Samantha Akehurst (“Sam from Audi not Aldi”) of how she used to feel giving a 60 second address.

Creating an impression

And so to the reason we were all there. I asked the Chamber members to put themselves “In the shoes” of the people who’d be listening to them. To focus on:

  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it memorable?
  • The one image or metaphor they wanted people to take away with them.

I shared two images and asked which one was the most powerful call to action:

The majority chose the top image reasoning that it was relevant and in the language of the recipient whereas the bottom image was more about the product and its functionality.

Each person was then invited to give their 60 seconds to their new ‘best friend’. I asked the listener to pay special attention to the key message. I was to discover later how people started by describing who they were and then stopped, remembering my earlier comments.

The moment of truth

All this had been taking place while breakfast was being served / consumed and while I was searching for a suitable ‘talking stick‘ for each presenter to hold and then pass on. I ended up using a pepper grinder.

Over the next 35 minutes we saw a variety of approaches.  Those considered the most memorable had movement, a story, a strapline to conclude and a statistic or quote. Standouts displayed emphasis on emotion, passion and an injection of humour.

Here’s an example of a 60 second story “They’ve done a lot to the property” Ana of Bees Homes told her partner:

Recently we sold a property that had been empty and on the market for 8 months. After a weekend of home staging, taking quality photos and providing a narrative description of the house, a buyer was found within 10 days and completed in 2 months.

Interestingly, the story was relayed back almost word for word illustrating the importance of framing it in words the listener can absorb.  Ana’s ‘partner’ proudly held up a Bees Homes postcard while he was talking and closed with: “And they exceeded the sellers expectations.”

Other memorable examples of opening and closing lines:

Have you ever saved half a billion for your clients? (bespoke software)

If you get locked out call the cavalry (Locksmiths)

Unlike his name you can call him anytime not just at Christmas (on Steve Christmas’ will writing service)

When you are stressed out think Calmer Self (well being)

And finally

I concluded by asking everyone whether they found the exercise of telling someone else’s story easier or harder.  The majority were in the easier camp. Stephen Holt in summing up noted that he had listened more to each story and witnessed some brilliant improvisations.

Hopefully this session will enthuse those who were there to spend a bit more time on the audience and the key message that they wish people to take away.