Pattern language writeshops, gamification and the importance of passion: a chairman’s perspective of KMUK

“Very stimulating couple of days at – insights into gamification, perspectives on engagement & mulling over global individual concept”

This quote from one of the presenters was a great way to end what was a really enjoyable and rewarding couple of days at the 11th KMUK held a few weeks back.  Despite sharing chairing duties with David Gurteen I managed to capture much of the social media activity on Day One and publish a series of Storify accounts.  On Day Two I upped the informality and attempted to broaden the gamification debate with Andrzej Marzcewski.

A lot of ‘Operational KM’ activities emerged but I will focus on presentations from Alim Khan who outlined a very interesting technique in co-creating a report (writeshops), gamification session with Andrzej and an energetic performance from Patricia Eng on the US Nuclear industry’s knowledge capture and retention programme.

Knowledge Capture & Retention in the US Nuclear Industry – a story of passion!

So Ladies first, here’s a few of the comments Patricia made:Bp1_bVNIgAAwPu-

You have to make the exec management think you are serving them but you are serving the workforce

Don’t worry if you don’t have much money, what you need is PASSION, hang about the cafe. Replaces the old smokers room.

KM metrics? Ask the problem owner, help them develop the tools, go back and see if things are better

IMG_2171The slide that caught my eye though was this one. Apart from the fact that Patricia’s efforts save $37m she rightly focused on the pain points one of which was around departing knowledge. It was a theme that came back a number of times and Patricia’s work inspired a similar exercise at Lloyds Register.

Patricia believes people who leave have different motivations for sharing what they know before the leave even if their departure is involuntary.  I would group them into the following categories:

  • Legacy/Notoriety: I want what I’ve done in the organisation to be remembered and passed on;
  • Avarice: I want my cv to reflect what I’ve done and I see this process and the stories it generates helping me as a freelancer.

In fact this ‘What’s in it for me’ motivational issue is often overlooked by many KM’ers and is one of the core foundations of the work I am doing in Iran with Ron Young. And here’s where I disagree with many in the KM community who are convinced that if you get the culture right then knowledge sharing naturally occurs: There has to be something in it for people to be willing to share what they know.

A study in collaboration at the World Health Organisation

Dr Alim Khan is an incredibly well educated individual who thrives on complexity and with whom I had the good fortune of spending two weeks in Darfur as part of a mission to see how KM might be grounded in a humanitarian crisis. It was therefore not a surprise to see him presenting on the topic of how to accelerate completion of a project report and findings using a wiki based on Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language work.

The idea of a pattern language appears to apply to any complex engineering task, and has been applied to some of them. It has been especially influential in software engineering where patterns have been used to document collective knowledge in the field.

This was a great example of non routine content aggregation via the coordinating mechanism of a wiki -from workshop to writeshop. ‘Building a collaborative knowledge product at the WHO’ was a session that showcased new thinking.

It’s only a game!

The previous week Andrzej led a Knowledge Cafe session on Gamification in a KM Environment. Once again this was an entertaining talk focusing on the psychology behind the use of games and especially the variety of user types (stakeholders) an organisation needs to consider and their motivations (the ‘\what”s in it for me’ again) for participating.

IMG_2185Andrzej and I then led a working session where the delegates were asked this question:

what role (if any) do you see for gamification in KM?

The discussions were wide ranging: many were sceptical; some were Gamification Ideas KMUK 2014converts; others saw no role.  But when asked to note down their top  ideas this is what emerged:

I was particularly drawn to the idea of surfacing expertise (which is how CapGemini where Andrzej is the Intranet supremo uses the technique) and the idea of using Gamification to demystify KM.

My take: Gamification is a big leap to make for senior executives who have not grown up in an online interactive environment. As Andrzej points out each one of us who uses LinkedIn is engaged in Gamification; ditto those of us with loyalty point cards. Its about how the technique is introduced that matters and where it is targeted.

A word or two from Dave Snowden

A few quotes from Dave’s opening address which I thought were spot on:

Danger of Community of Practice – correlation doesn’t give rise to causation.

@snowded prefers to talk about ‘decision support’ rather than ‘knowledge management’ – it describes what it does

Understanding the history of the organisation is a key to understanding its culture.

The idea of creating a big database of lessons (identified) only works if those are then fed back into the workings of the organisation – then they can be described as ‘Lessons Learned’! Most aren’t which is why the idea of a pool of case studies is often also a waste of time.  Its rare for two cases in one organisation to be the same so why would you expect something that happens someone else to be a perfect fit for your own organisation.

And finally

Future of KM is facilitation, not management. Needs to be part of the how we natively work & relate.
The new world of the Knowledge Managers- moving from managing knowledge repositories to facilitating communities #kmuk

Exactly!

 

A great knowledge capture / engagement technique: the customer worksheet

Today my wife Ana upgraded her phone as her current contract had expired.  Being a born negotiator she always gets a good deal but it’s a long process involving a couple of offers from competing suppliers. That brunch on the seafront was mentioned was sufficient for me to tag along. I’m glad I did. Here’s why.

After a brisk 3.5km along Eastbourne’s seafront to The Beach Deck and the best Eggs Benedict I’ve had in Eastbourne we ended up in town in the phone shops.

We started at EE, Ana’s current provider.  Friendly and welcoming yes but their approach was “tell me something and I’ll fill it onto my system.” He was behind a counter and his computer screen was a barrier as was the counter we were sitting at. Ana had to write down what he was saying and ask for a piece of paper to do so.  And their offer was appalling.

Next up was phones4u a chain of mobile phone shops.  We’ve been there before and I’ve always liked their commercial yet subtle sales process which is underpinned by a knowledge capture worksheet (checklist) KM’ers could learn from when they are conducting interviews.

a checklist that isn’t

It’s clever. Every piece of detail the salesman needs to form an opinion about you is there but the overlapping circles are not at all threatening or official. It mixes informality with the need for capture and here’s the twist, the salesman can choose which question to pose and when depending on his assessment of the person sitting in front of him and their answers to some of the questions.IMG_1760

It has ‘doodle’ space so it feels like a document that is purely for taking notes when actually it is the basis on which their document of record is created.

I asked Andy Waller, an experienced salesman who listens – a huge asset, how it differed from their previous checklist. He said and I paraphrase:

The previous form was sequential and official. It pushed you to ask questions in order. This one allows you to move around at a pace that suits the customer and explore areas that they want to discuss.

why it works

  • Co-created: it feels like a sketch you both create.
  • Informal: it encourages you both to scribble – it doesn’t feel like it’s an official record.
  • Personal: It’s all about u….is the title and that’s how it comes across.
  • Structured flexibility: it’s an interview spine that in the hands of good interviewers (which is what successful sales people are) provides an insight into a prospective clients’ needs against which they can pitch a product.
  • Neutral object: we focus on filling in the worksheet not the system – its a neutral space and so different from the EE approach.

Today reminded me that successfully capturing information and knowledge is very much dependent on the way you go about it. It reinforced the need for good tools and techniques and people well versed in using them and seeing the value in them.  phone4u got Ana’s business today and they’d get mine next time.  As their form says:

It’s all about u…

So with his and my wife’s permission I have shared the experience and the worksheet.

Why stories matter for Knowledge Management: From Colombia to Iran via Portugal

A year or so back while I was in Colombia I was asked to do an interview for publication in Brasil.  It was about the role of storytelling as a effective technique for Knowledge Management and I thought I’d share (in English) some of the answers I gave then which I believe are still really relevant today. Here’s why:

Last week in Tehran as part of Stage 2 of an exciting KM project I have been invited to work on I was in a room with a dozen or so senior managers and engineers. We were trying to map a process to see where it could be enhanced / reengineered by embedding KM techniques.

There were flow diagrams, boxes and arrows.  The process (and the engineer describing it) came to life when he was invited to ‘tell us a story about what happened’. He opened up – it was as if I had given him permission to be himself and let go of ‘corporate or technology speak’. He then went onto describe what we styled ‘The Lube Oil Pump Incident’.

At the conclusion (and in the following day’s sessions) our sponsor and I encouraged everyone talking about a process to use narrative and to think of a title for their story.

It brought back two questions I was asked for the Brasilian article which I conducted while I was Managing Partner of Sparknow LLP:

Why stories? What is so special about them?

Hi Ana, thank you for this opportunity. Let me tell you why I think the use of narrative (storytelling) is a hugely powerful and insightful technique not merely for use in organizational KM.  Stories have the power to unhinge and unearth insights, experiences and emotions often hidden in the jargon and protocols of corporate world.

Sparknow’s tradition in using story in KM goes back to the late 90’s when the Founder Victoria Ward commissioned Carol Russell (a storyteller with origins in Jamaica and story roots in Ghana) to write and tell a story about the KM journey at one of the UK’s leading Banks.

Not long after ‘Corporania’ was completed and shared to much acclaim Sparknow was running a series of open sessions at the KM Europe conference held in Den Haag.  Among the attendees was a Geographer from Switzerland who had recently been asked to head up knowledge management at Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in Bern.  Manuel wanted to explore story-telling tools as a way to increase knowledge transfer between the Agency and its partners, different places, and the edges of the organization and the centre; that began a 5-year joint exploration that culminated in the production of Building bridges, using narrative approaches to knowledge management still viewed by many as one of the most useful works on organizational storytelling, and tangible evidence of how effective the use of story can be in KM.

I digress. To illustrate the point a bit more clearly.  Everyone can remember their best teacher or professor and I’m sure they were good because they shared anecdotes and stories that brought a topic to life. My law teacher was brilliant at describing in a humorous way cases that illustrated the law of tort. Moreover great leaders tend to be adept at using stories to engage and communicate, its one of their core skills.  So sharing lessons, bringing strategies to life, getting messages out across the organization, getting buy in to new ways of working and perhaps most importantly hearing what people actually think and care about are all improved by the use of a story in whatever form it is told. I’ll talk more about that later.

For me a big turning point was conducting an interview as part of an inquiry on behalf of the UK Tax & Revenue.  We were asked to find a way of augmenting quantative surveys to identify among other things how clients (taxpayers) perceived them and the help they gave.  While the interviews were but 20 minutes they were constructed in such a way as to encourage the interviews to tell the stories of their experiences in seeking help.

This particular interview which ended up being called ‘tippex and the kitchen table’ helped paint a graphic picture (through the words of the interviewee) of what it felt like to be filling in a tax form which you had to keep correcting through a lack of knowledge while running your own business and bringing up two children.

How is this relevant to KM?  By playing back the interview (with permission) to a wider audience it set the backdrop for potential changes in the way the department worked with clients.

Stories are prone to misinterpretation. Is there the danger of that causing problems in communication? If so, how can that be prevented?

Context is key. What I takeaway from a story might be different to you because of when and where I hear or read it and what my knowledge base is.  The same though applies to every form of communication. How many times do organizations seize up because of poor email practices and verbosity? This is a real issue across continents and languages and I can recall how the knowledge transfer in an R&D function stopped purely because of a different style of email communication.

The way to reduce the potential for misunderstanding is to give people the skills, the confidence and the equipment to identify, collect and share stories. And to ensure they are targeted at the right audiences in a manner that can be understood. Here is how we’d go about tackling the issue of whom to target and what to share with them. This applies equally to a KM programme as to a piece of engagement or communications.

1 |  Develop a strategic story that explains the direction in which their organization is heading, the prizes, the pitfalls and what’s expected of them. Bring it to life through words, images, etc that can be used to explain it to everyone with an interest in your organization. This provides a context for more specific communications and discussions.

2 |  ‘Support the strategic story with a series of smaller, individual ‘stories’ – accounts of people’s experiences in parts of the organization. These smaller stories can be used to bring the strategy to life, generate enthusiasm, spark ideas, resolve dilemmas, spread thinking and initiate conversations.

3 |  Create resources and assets to enable leaders and managers to put the story to work. Deliverables could include an engagement programme or roadmap, communication materials and experiences to bring the story to life, a story database, workshop designs and agendas, toolkits, training and ad hoc advice.

 

10 tips for running a successful Pause & Reflect debrief

David Gurteen rang me just before Christmas.  He’d read my recent blog post about the  Pause & Reflect (P&R) debrief session I was running for the Brighton Food Waste Colllective and wanted to understand how it differed from an After Action Review (AAR).

Here’s what I told him and via this link his observations on the technique:

In a P&R debrief the team (with the help of the Facilitator) is attempting to go beyond the questions posed by an AAR: what was supposed to happen; what did actually happen; what went well; and what might we do differently next time?

While these are valid areas of investigation they tend not to address the how or why an event succeeded or failed and overlook aspects of behaviour, space and culture.

P&R sessions look at all of these through the use of timelines and objects by recreating what happened formally and informally, before the event, during the event and after the event.

The technique I like to use is an A3 version of the Narrative Grid about which I’ve written before.

By way of an example (and with the kind permission of Vera, Mei-Weh and Saskia) I’d like to draw on the recent P&R session in Brighton.

Food Waste Collective Pause & Reflect:

We met informally at a quirky venue (Blue Man Bar) in Brighton. Despite background noise the team were able to raise and openly discuss the event. Here’s what I asked them to think about in advance:

The aim is to identify learning’s from the recent Food Collective Event that you might apply to current and future events. This session is best done with a timeline /narrative grid and I will ask these questions for each stage (Before/During/After):

*     What was expected to happen?

*     What actually occurred?

*     What went well and why?

*     What can be improved and how? And finally,

*     What behaviours in others did you most admire / find most useful?

I will take notes so you just need to bring along your keen minds, memories, observations and most importantly a photo or object from the event.

some key outcomes:

The session designed primarily as a capacity building/knowledge transfer session lasted but an hour.  In that time a couple of key outcomes emerged and each of the team was able to highlight behaviours in others that made a real difference.  It underpinned my belief that by being appreciative in the approach to debriefs and focusing on events a lot more emerges.

Here’s an extract from the notes I took:

P&R Outcomes Dec13

when, where and how to use a Pause & Reflect?

Here are 10 suggestions on how to make it work:

  1. use it to conduct a debrief on an event or decision that has taken place in the last month
  2. use pictures and objects from the event or decision to amplify key moments and trigger memories – brief them about the need to bring something along
  3. get people to fill in the narrative grid / timeline as they go and if you have different cultures involved ask different groups to fill in their own timelines – in the process of comparing you will discover much
  4. probe by asking for examples – in the above case the need to get volunteers on a Thursday to help unload FareShare vans emerged only by going through the event step by step
  5. when someone makes a comment such as ‘it was so organised when I arrived’ get them to elaborate and contrast – it will generate a story that becomes an important narrative of the event
  6. make the session informal (and reflective of the organisational culture) but do have an agenda and stick to it – be clear about the roles each one is playing at the P&R
  7. get participants to talk about the environment and location where the event or decision you are holding a P&R about took place
  8. don’t be afraid to let the silence hang in sticky moments – behaviours (most admired which might have made an event successful) often emerge slowly
  9. ensure (with permissions) that you take photos of the P&R and include them in the write up
  10. finally, don’t be too ambitious: 3 hours is the maximum I’ve found works and look at 1 event or decision not a whole project.

 

 

‘your entire career is your exit interview’: embedding knowledge capture & retention techniques

This tweet, from this year’s KM Russia event, reminded me of an interview I had with a senior Asian banker a few years back.  Retiring, after three decades during which time he’d been pivotal in the regeneration of Asia after the crisis of 1997,  he was asked at his exit interview, ‘have you returned the stapler?‘ The sense of disappointment in his voice was palpable as he told me (I paraphrase), ‘you devote your life to an organisation and then puff, you are gone along with your sense of identity’.

It echoed a similar conversation with the former CEO of a major reinsurance group whose departure remains a source of unhappiness because his experience and network of contacts were not considered important enough to devote time and resource to by his successors who were taking the company in a new direction.

Fortunately many organisations are now making knowledge capture and retention part of the ‘way we do things around here’, recognising the need for effective processes throughout the life cycle of employees and projects. One such organisation is Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs who employed us* to run a pilot programme capturing and exploiting corporate knowledge’ to equip senior business heads with tools and techniques they might use to capture and retain critical knowledge.

In previous posts I described the programme modules 1-3. Here I’d like to share with you modules 4 and 5.

HMRC’s Pilot Programme: : Modules 4 & 5 Analysing & Sharing

Analysing how to analyse and organise the material that has been captured
Sharing how to share the knowledge that’s been captured how to engage with your audience

Analysing (cataloguing and curating) the material captured is often overlooked, the assumption being that search will reveal all. The delegates were invited to listen to a couple of recorded interviews and consider how they might catalogue the material.

We accepted that not every piece of critical knowledge (defined previously as the knowledge HMRC would struggle without if it lost’) is likely to be recorded on voice or camera. However the process of thinking about how to catalogue material does provide a steer on the importance of structuring what you are capturing. We spend money on creating taxonomies which is another form of categorisation and cataloguing.

Here’s one example tablog 2ken from a piece of work featured in ‘making Knowledge Management work in your organisation’ (an Ark Group publication). It shows the process adopted for the creation of a Living Archive. Note the importance of the indexing or cataloguing process (in red).

blog 3And here’s the cataloguing process that is referred to above and was shared in HMRC module 4.

In Sharing (Module 5)  we looked at numerous ways of engaging with the stakeholder community previously discussed and identified in Module 2. Our aim here was to illustrate that no one size fits all and that each person or group might respond differently.

The delegates had to map the profile of the audience and then think about what might be the best method of engaging.

Blog 1Aside from examples of companies who have successfully use: Baton Passing, an Audience With, Fellows, Knowledge Markets, Dare 2 Share Fairs and Memoirs on Camera we discussed the (now discontinued) practice wherein a returning diplomat would complete a Valedictory Despatch after his or her tour of duty overseas ended.

Parting ShotsAs in previous modules the delegates were asked to consolidate their learning ‘off line’ and as a way of consolidating all the exercises were given an assignment to be working on before we reassembled for the final session.  I will conclude this series of blog posts next time and look at how we evaluated the programme.

Parting Shots by Matthew Parris

*Sparknow and Knowledge et al worked in partnership to deliver this programme.