The KM Standards are coming: Is this a big deal?

The following article published by Karen Mcfarlane and I appeared in abridged form in this month’s edition of “Information Profesional”

For the past couple of years, national standards committees have been working on the development of an ISO Standard for Knowledge Management Systems. Is this a big deal? How have we got here? Will it have an impact? Who is likely to benefit? What does it cover?

We would like to stress from the start that the new ISO BSI Knowledge Management Systems Standard is a standard of principles. We believe, contrary to some in the Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) community, that there is real value in having a set of universally-agreed principles that practitioners can align with.

The new standard sets down a marker for future knowledge managers to benchmark activities against. As with all BSI standards, it will be reviewed every five years to ensure that it is up to date.

The idea of KM Standards is not new; the British Standards Institution (BSI) first discussed it in 2000.

A long time in the making

BSI’s initial look at Knowledge Management standardization in 2000 resulted in a publication: Knowledge Management PAS 2001: a guide to good practice.

In 2002, BSI’s KMS/1 Committee produced BSI Position Statement on Standardization within Knowledge Management which concluded: “The judgement of BSI is that, at this point in the development of Knowledge Management, it is too early to attempt to impose too rigid a framework or too narrow a view of this rapidly developing field.”

Interestingly it presented this figure to illustrate the above conclusion.

BSI noted: “…within British Standards there are effectively three levels of standardization that can be applied according to the requirements of the industry at that specific point in time.

As an area grows in maturity it is generally the case that the documents produced will tend to move up the pyramid, reflecting the greater consensus within the industry and public. It is important to note that, unless directly referenced in legislation all Standards (and other documents mentioned here) are voluntary documents.”

Notwithstanding, BSI continued to publish KM guidance material:

  • April 2003 – PD 7500 Knowledge Management Vocabulary
  • May 2003 – PD 7501 Managing Culture and Knowledge – A guide to good practice
  • July 2003 – PD 7502 Measurements in Knowledge Management

Following on, European Standards (CEN Workshop) Agreements published in 2004 a European Guide to Good Practice in Knowledge Management

So what has changed? Why is the time right for a standard?

Despite frequent predictions of its demise, the discipline of KM (or whatever guise it appears in) is now a tactical/operational role in many organisations. Take a glance at the countless adverts for knowledge managers to see what we mean.

KM has grown in maturity, and can now be considered to be almost a quarter of a century old, so meets the criteria BSI applied for having a standard.

Today we await formal publication of ISO KM Systems Standard 30401, individually approved by the national standards committees and the ISO Working Group that oversaw its development. Indeed it may well have “hit the stands” by the time you read this.

What we can confidently predict is that on 8 October there will be a formal launch event organised by BSI details of which will be available soon.

Development of the standard

Work started in 2015 and was conducted by an ISO steering committee supported by eight national mirror committees including the UK, which contributed significantly to the initial draft.

A draft was made available for public review for a six-week period during December 2017 and January 2018. Hundreds of comments were received and the UK BSI committee went through each one (including those of CILIP’s K&IM SIG), identifying 270 suggestions to be referred back to the ISO committee. These were combined with comments from 15 constituent countries, including eight national mirror bodies. This means that the final standard not only reflects UK contributions but those of other countries.

About the new standard

The new KM Standard will not try to tell you how to do KM, but it does help you ensure you have set up a good management system, providing a solid foundation on which to build your KM solution.

The standard is flexible. It is applicable to large and small organisations. It sets out principles for guidance. This standard does not mandate how you implement KM. It describes requirements for the final product but not how you get there. It’s an attempt to ensure that KM is managed with a degree of consistency. It is an aid for self-audit.

What does the standard cover?

  • It starts with an outline of the purpose of the standard. It outlines why KM is important. It provides Guiding Principles and outlines the boundaries of KM.
  • Section 3 defines knowledge and also knowledge management
  • Section 4 covers the KM system, understanding the organisation and its context and how KM supports this; understanding the needs of stakeholders. It then outlines the KM system itself: the knowledge development/lifecycle; enablers (the roles, processes, technologies, governance and culture)
  • Section 5 covers leadership and governance
  • Section 6 covers planning and actions to address risks and opportunities
  • There are three annexes on: the knowledge spectrum; boundaries between KM and adjacent disciplines; and KM culture.

Benefits of the standard

  • It provides a benchmark for your KM management system and a guide to those organisations that are new to KM to help them avoid common pitfalls.
  • It gives knowledge managers leverage in their organisations.
  • It gives KM legitimacy as a profession.

Impact

In order to assess the impact it is worth providing context. Many KM programs benefit from an image. Here’s one that might help:

The standard is like a new kitchen without the utensils, the crockery, cookbook; it’s down to those who use it to determine how it will work for them.

At first, practitioners are unlikely to see a significant change. Few assessors have seen the standard, even fewer will have a KM background, though it’s arguable whether that is a prerequisite to undertake a “compliance audit”.

Our hope is that it provides a globally-accepted framework of what should be in a KM programme and how it should be supported and assessed. We are looking forward to it being drawn on by organisations that value KM.

Who will benefit?

At the time of general release of the draft for comment in Q4 17, a question that arose was: “Who is going to benefit?”

Undoubtedly consultants will develop offerings that purport to help organisations to prepare for an ISO KM Standards Audit. If that helps to raise standards then surely that’s a positive. However, we see the real beneficiary being KM practitioners, current and future in those organisations such as the public sector for which ISO Standards are a core component of their quality measurements.

And finally

A week or so ago Chris Collison published this on LinkedIn:

Excellent article in CILIP magazine by Paul Corney and Karen McFarlane CMG describing the forthcoming KM Standard. Despite one or two early reservations (and a lot of commenting) – I’m convinced that – used thoughtfully and strategically – it will become an exciting force for good. Hungry for more? Watch this space for news of an exciting collaboration!
In the intervening period the post has been viewed by more than 4k people and liked by 100+. It also spawned a number of comments from those in the KM Community who oppose the idea of standards for KM.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’ve expressed mine in the article I was very disappointed that once again the integrity of those who took part in the process was called into question. I participated because I believed it was the right thing to do not because I thought it would generate future business.  Anyone who knows me and the pro bono / community work I’ve done and will continue to do will confirm that is not how I am wired!

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

 

“Bringing the brain of the company to the field”: behind the scenes look at the production of our book

If ever there is a great justification for starting a Knowledge Management (KM) programme then the title quote from an interview with John McQuary encapsulates it. KM works when client proposals or solutions draw on the collective wisdom of an organisation.

It’s one of many superb quotes and stories, from the series of research interviews conducted with global practitioners: from Colombia to Australia by way of USA, Canada, UK, France, Belgium, Malaysia and Singapore, for the forthcoming book Patricia Eng and I are co-authoring. In all 18 interviews and more than 40 hours of audio material on KM in Energy, Shipping, Nuclear, Financial Services, Military, Engineering Services, Aviation, Health, Consulting, Manufacturing, Education, Food and Regulatory.

Patricia, who was previously Head of Knowledge Management at US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and my task is now to turn the material collected into, in her words:

” The book I wish I’d had when I started”

IMG_4320

Which is why she and I spent time in Henley-on-Thames last week analysing what we’d heard in the interviews.

Let me take a step back.

It all began when:

I met Patricia in 2014 while I was chairing KMUK and she was a guest speaker describing the KM programme she’d set up and run for the organisation that oversees the US Nuclear industry.  Learning from near misses and from good practices while improving the way ‘newbies’ are inducted into the business had saved her organisation an estimated US$37 million while she was at the helm of the programme.

About the same time I was running Masterclasses on Effective Knowledge Capture and Retention and seeing real interest from organisations who’d recognised the potential risk of knowledge loss from merging, downsizing and retirements or as a result of having specialist skills resident in a small number of individuals only.

After exchanging ideas post conference we felt we had sufficient synergy to begin collaborating on a book focused on “Proven Knowledge Capture & Retention: Between Theory & Practice.”

Though our combined experience is approaching 80 years of business with a significant slug in KM and related activities we wanted to draw on the experiences of great practitioners.

Establishing criteria / identifying interviewees:

We agreed it was important to approach people who’d actually done it and got their hands dirty: who experienced highs and lows and maybe also seen their programmes wither on the vine after they or their sponsor left.

We knew many global practitioners, from chairing and speaking at/ attending KM related events but we wanted to spread the net wider than our own sphere of influence so in effect conducted a virtual “Peer Assist’ with senior global KM’ers and these are the criteria we set for selecting interviewees:

  •  A KM professional that actually built a KM program for an organization they worked in, as opposed to a consultant who was brought in to work on a KM program and then left.
  •  Have spent at least 2 years on the programme.
  •  Primary person responsible for the KM programme – interfaces with executives
  •  Can point to a clear ROI, e.g., productivity or monetary
  •  A KM professional who can speak to what constituted the ROI:

Our thanks go to Patrick Lambe, David Gurteen, David Williams, Karuna Ramanathan, Shawn Callahan and Chris Collison for their recommendations.

Setting up the interviews, thinking about the questions:

In my Masterclasses I always stress how important the interview set up is.  Apart from thinking about the where its always vital to give the prospective interviewee time to think about the answers and to tell them what the process is. Here’s the questions we asked:

  • Tell me about the circumstances and the drivers behind the original knowledge retention programme and who was involved?
  • How did you go about determining what knowledge to try and capture/retain?
  • Give me a brief snapshot of how you went about capturing it.
  • What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
  • How did you convince your management to go for it? ‘Business Case?’
  • What difference do you think it made to your organisation?  What was the actual return on investment?
  • Is there a particular highlight you remember?
  • Having done this if you had to do this over again what would you do differently?
  • And finally what would you tell someone about to set out on a programme to capture and retain knowledge?

We also added:

  • If there is one book you felt helped or inspired you what would it be?

Conducting and recording the interviews:

We had a list which grew from 12 to 18. Patricia volunteered to do the interviews (she is good at it) as we felt continuity in style was important.

We thought about using technology to help with the cataloguing and analysis. Instead we agreed not to transcribe verbatim but to each listen to the interview and make our own notes / key points which we’d discuss face to face in January 2016.

We learned a lot (remembered a lot) about the importance of having technology back ups and also that many corporates don’t allow Skype.  We found that taping the conversation proved good enough for us to listen to and that DropBox was an effective and secure storage vehicle for the tapes.

Analysing & Sensemaking:

And so last week we found ourselves awash with flip charts, postit note, and marker pens. By Friday evening we had a structure for the chapters of the book and a pretty good idea of the examples, stories and quotes that would fill them. Here’s a snapshot of how we went about organising the material:

IMG_4343

What I found interesting, the varying drivers for starting KM across the interview base. Most were due to Risk, a lot were down to Innovation & Process Improvement, some were as a result of the CEO’s Vision and a couple because of Regulatory or Audit findings and a call to action.

And finally:

With an outline (and publisher) in place we can now set about writing to meet the deadline of having a good manuscript that does justice to the insights provided by the interviewees (e.g. KM Bonus Points, ‘Knowvember’ Award, Rock Lite, Adaptive Case Management,  XpressoX, ‘Pick a Problem’, SME Protoge Program…) ready before the summer.

 

 

Importance of KM in Health: the story of Doctor Anwar and making use of what he and others know in Sudan

Meet Anwar, a Sudanese doctor. Just one of 5 fictional characters created by delegates at the Knowledge Management for Health in Sudan event I spoke at, helped plan and run.

Sudanese Doctor

Anwar

This exercise, Scenarios for the future, was set in 2020 and invited the 80 or so delegates drawn from across the whole of the health industry in Sudan to consider what a day in the life of each character might look like.  This was a new and warmly embraced concept in an environment where my information is my soul and much of the debate about the future takes place against a backdrop of uncertainty and increasing austerity where:

  • 2/3rds of all drugs are purchased ‘out of pocket’ not from health system
  • drugs are proportionately more expensive than in other domains
  • funds from external sources are available to assist with health informatics.

Having settled on a description of each character the delegates who were by this time in groups of 8-10 then set about imagining what their day might look like on January 1st 2020. A vivid imagination is required and was evident in the quality of the stories that were told by each group’s nominated storyteller.

The story of the Health Worker

Ismail’s story – Health Worker

I will in due course and with the organising committee’s permission publish the two ‘winning’ stories; yes we did do voting while the storytellers left the room.

One of Sudan’s leading pharmacists noted in a one:one conversation how important listening was and how difficult a technique this is for many to use when prescribing drugs.

By inviting each of the storytellers to play back the story to each of the other groups it was good to hear them say in the summing up that by the end they really felt they were the character.

 

The previous day I’d invited the delegates to change the way they looked and think about issues and barriers.  Using when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change exercise conducted in the best breakout rooms I’ve ever worked with, the delegates who are naturally loquacious soon grasped the concept of seeing the room through the lens of different professions.

Breakout room

Breakout room

This change of mindset was important: it allowed the subsequent round table (well round conference room) session that discussed:

‘What are the biggest issues we face in sharing knowledge and information about the health of our nation and how can we overcome them’

I’d invited each delegate to introduce themselves to three people they didn’t know. This worked well and encouraged a very frank discussion. The main issues highlighted were:

  • no systematic collection of information and limited understanding of its value
  • transparency of process (where do the figures go) and credibility of the data
  • lack of human resources to do the collection
  • limited statistical information to undertake scientific research on
  • ownership of data and the whole process – fragmentation
  • accountability to deliver
  • communication/awareness of what each organisation is doing – lots of ‘stuff’ is happening but there is a real risk of duplication of effort e.g. many of the disease control programmes are creating their own informatized information systems

Delegates recognised the tremendous strides being made by the Public Health Institute (one of the event’s sponsors and host of the official dinner) in developing professional public health administration programmes, the creation of a Data Dictionary and the publication of the first Annual Health Performance Review though many bemoaned the lack of official  support for research projects where Sudan has a prominent global position, Mycetoma Research Centre an example.

I came away from reflecting on a discussion I had around the event:

Its all about ‘informization’ – the ability to report from a health centre level with ‘point of sale’ data collected via PDA’s / mobiles as well as computers; about logistics management as a result to ensure supplies get to where they can do the most use.

This can be monitored by the minister, routine reports can be prepared showing which centre reported, which district has complete reporting, which state has complete and timely reporting and % of stock outs of basic drugs or vaccines etc.

And inspired by many of the presentations I’d seen on the morning of the second day from University of Khartoum’s research centre and of course the Public Health Institute who are reaching out to try and create greater awareness through public forum, newsletter and other events.

Perhaps the presentation that struck the biggest chord was from EpiLab
who have achieved impressive results in helping to reduce the incidence of TB and Asthma and whose research and community communication techniques are highly innovative. I loved the cartoons they developed on how to self treat and prevent the incidence of illnesses which were drawn up BY the local communities.  Their pictures and their words are published as guides for the nation and I know they will make them available so I can share them in future blogs.

It was an honour, a challenge but nevertheless great fun enhanced by the warmth of the welcome and a genuine sense of appreciation. Sudan’s people are among the most engaging and intelligent I’ve met. One anecdote from a conversation with a young professional in the communications business illustrates their dilemma:

‘…of the 95 people who graduated in my year a few years back 90 are now working overseas, the majority in highly paid good positions…’

In my address I acknowledged the support I’d had from many people in preparing for the event. They were: Ahmed Mohammed, Dr Alim Khan, Dr Anshu Banerjee, Ana Neves, Andrew Curry, Archana Shah, Chris Collison, David Gurteen, Dr Gada Kadoda, Dr Ehsanullah Tarin, Dr Madelyn Blair, Sofia Layton, Steven Uggowitzer, Victoria Ward

why should Sudan’s health industry embrace Knowledge Management?

A few month’s back during a Skype call with Dr Gada Kadoda a Professor at University of Khartoum she told me: ‘at last year’s KMCA Sudan many of the health industry delegates who attended expressed an interest in understanding what knowledge management might do for them. How might we do that?’.

Gada is one of those special people who when they pose a question you feel compelled to answer it. Which is why in a week’s time I am going to be back in Khartoum to participate in a two day Workshop on Knowledge Management for Health Care in Sudan.

Knowledge management in health is not new. The NHS Modernisation Agency was one of the early adopters and used a lot of Chris Collison’s thinking from Learning to Fly to build a pretty effective knowledge management operation with one of the first Chief Knowledge Officers in charge of it. Sudan’s health industry does not (yet) practice km in any formal manner so as part of the research for my presentation and the sessions I am facilitating I asked some of the actors in the NHS km story to reflect on more than a decade.  Here’s what they said (names omitted):

I have said on several occasions that when you multiply the number of employees by the years of professional learning,  the NHS is the world’s most knowledgeable organisation.  Or it should be.  With better networking, more curiosity, joined-up systems, a culture of improvement and leaders who value national above parochial, it would live up to its potential.

What I have seen is wonderful pockets of excellence – hospitals with a determination to improve, a passion for learning, and a curiosity which can even transfer lessons learned from Formula One pit teams to the operating theatres of children’s hospitals.  Pockets of excellence indeed, but in threadbare trousers.

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The idea of KM in that particular agency of the Department of Health was to ensure that the knowledge produced by one team (silo) would reach other teams (silos), that the whole organisation had a sense of who knew what, and that we could reuse knowledge across the Service.

We had a team of people and a CKO…a CoP with members from all different teams in the organisation; knowledge audit and SNA that involved quite a few people across the org and which changed the way they perceived the work of the KM team. Yet …our work became too focused on documents and content creation disguised as gathering of lessons learned.

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In my regular interactions with physicians in the NHS, a key frustration has always been the flow of information between doctors and commissioners. Differing agendas, treating patients vs cost-effectiveness, cause breakdown in communication. The problem usually arises from the discrepancies between the notion of an ideal patient and the realities of people walking into the clinic. Pharma is not particularly helpful in addressing this through the research conducted, however the shift in emphasis to real world data by health technology bodies such as NICE is creating a cultural shift in the sector.

A great story of information exchange relates to a melanoma patient who was being treated in London. The patient was a successful business man so he continued with his work. He was treated with a very new drug and experienced severe side effects while on a business trip in Switzerland ending up at a hospital there. Mismanagement of this drug’s side-effects can result in death. The Swiss physicians had never used the drug before, and most were not even aware of its existence as it is a specialist therapy. However, there was extensive global information exchange driven by the company, which meant that as soon as they saw the patient card which all patients on the drug were advised to keep on their person, the Swiss physicians were able to access a database of information and a 24 hour network of world experts in the condition. Luckily for the patient the KM network worked thereby saving his life.

The shift towards greater use of data and increased use of technology (from other industries) is where I hope much of the Khartoum health discussion goes. One of the leaders in Health Information Systems shared this quote:

‘In the next ten years, medicine will be more affected by data science than biology.’

Mobile & Internet penetration in Africa

Mobile & Internet penetration in Africa

Today’s Economist article on the use of mobile technology in Africa is a timely reminder of the strides being made on that continent and how widespread adoption will present huge opportunities as well as challenges for the health industry there.

I am also  going to share this clip from Grey’s Anatomy (US TV drama) about the use of Twitter in an operating theatre. Though fictitious it gives as good an illustration as any I’ve seen about the potential benefits of using mobile technology to share knowledge and mobilise a global community in the same was as the story of the melanoma patient above does.

As the F1 season is nearly upon us I was really struck by this clip from the BBC which shows how the Maclaren F1 Team’s driver and car monitoring system is being adapted/used in a children’s hospital in Birmingham.

And yet for the Sudan health system to adopt some of these technologies (against a backdrop of isolation) there has to be a huge mindshift. I recall with chilling clarity a phrase uttered by a health professional at KMCA Khartoum last year in response to a question I posed as to the barriers to the sharing of knowledge: ‘my information is my soul’.

In an environment where:

  • sharing of information (let alone knowledge) can have serious consequences
  • admitting a lack of current knowledge can cause a loss of face and prestige
  • continuing medical education is not a core requirement for the right to practice
  • the major drug companies have no presence and sell via distribution channels
  • the physician is beyond reproach

we have our work cut out if we are to get positive outcomes from the event.  Its an exciting prospect.