Future role of the Knowledge Manager: The Knowledgeur?

As the book Patricia Eng and I are writing takes shape – we spent a productive couple of days last week editing chapters and agreeing key points for those still to be completed – so my thoughts continue to evolve as to the future role (and skills needed) to be a Knowledge (and Information) Manager.

This week I am charged with delivering a provocative ‘wake up’ call when I speak to the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Libraries & Information Professionals (CILIP). Here’s the gist of what I am going to say,

Operational KM to the Fore: Strategic KM to the rear

  • The majority of KM programs appear to be operationally focused addressing a burning platform issue or an urgent business problem.
  • These tactical programs address risk (loss of knowledge due to downsizing, retirement, reorganization or acquisition). Some focus on being more efficient and meeting internal and external quality standards.
  • Few it seems are driven strategically as a result of visionary leadership and if you look at where KM is located most surveys reveal its part of an operations division or unit. Rarely is a Chief Knowledge Officer part of the C-Suite of an organization. Often KM is treated like a hot potato.
  • Less than 1 in 5 are strategically aligned.  Where they are its because Knowledge is perceived to be the core product of that organisation.
  • The downside of being operationally driven is that when the burning platform issue or business problem is resolved KM is often left looking for a rationale for being and a new sponsor.

Step forward the ‘Knowledgeur’

So what can KM’ers or KIM’ers’ do, how can they protect themselves and their programme? For some time I’ve suggested that the Knowledge Manager needs to have facilitation and social skills that make them the ‘go to’ person in an organisation. Someone who makes and nurtures connections. Here’s my definition of that person I call a Knowledgeur:

‘A Knowledge Manager (Knowledgeur) is someone who makes use of his/her/others’ knowledge in one activity or market and applies it for beneficial use in another.

Originally inward facing the role is becoming more outward facing with the rise of communities and the subsequent need to collaborate outside of the organisation.’

The Skills (‘…ates) of a Knowledgeur

Here’s what I think you will need to do to if you are to perform this role:

  1. Investigate: Are you putting a burning fire out / solving an immediate business need / addressing a risk (Operational KM) or is this driven by the vision from the top consistent with the organisation’s business direction (Strategic KM)?
  2. Navigate: Work out / Map the critical knowledge areas of your organisation and create a directory of the organisation’s knowledge assets.
  3. Negotiate: Agree the scope of your role with your sponsors and be tough negotiating what success will look like and how it’s measured.
  4. Facilitate: So much of what a KM Manager does involves facilitation. You will become a hub knowing who to go to to ask if you don’t know yourself. You have to facilitate connections, meetings, interactions, events and communities. This requires resilience, a lot of social skills and a real understanding of cultural nuances.
  5. Collaborate: You are in alliance with business areas and occasionally external suppliers or partners. You have to be capable of virtual cross border collaboration.
  6. Communicate: Senior KM’er’s tell you to devote 30% of your time to communicating what you do and getting feedback – its not just about broadcasting. Have your KM Elevator pitch always with you. Let all your stakeholders know what you are doing and why.
  7. Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.
  8. Celebrate: The role can be a lonely one as reporting lines and sponsors change, yours is a cost not revenue line and the initial burst of enthusiasm fades. Collect stories, be prepared to acknowledge contributions and celebrate successes.

My address ‘The changing KM landscape, the future of KM and our role in it as KM professionals’ will look at each of these ‘…ates in more detail.

And finally

I am looking forward to seeing the response I provoke at Wednesday’s event at Brighton. Watch this space!

‘Nothing has changed and yet everything is different’: 10 observations from a special event at CILIP

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Yesterday I was at a special invitation summit to discuss the future direction of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals.  CILIP is undergoing a fairly dramatic repositioning under new CEO Annie Mauger and this was the first of a couple of attempts to broaden the debate with a wider constituency.

It was well organised (and run) by Martin White and Sandra Ward, two people whose names are synonymous with the words ‘Information’ and ‘management’, and whose best efforts had persuaded many thought leaders in the Information Management space to attend. Attendees were asked not to tweet and to follow The Chatham House Rule that states:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed’

So (as a member of Chatham House and compelled to comply) here are my observations aided by a couple of pictures and slides published with the speakers permission.

10 observations:

‘Nothing has changed and yet everything is different’. Jean-Paul Sartre’s quote is apposite: 20 years on since my colleagues and I at Saudi International Bank were creating a one screen view of what we knew about a client (the forerunner of an intranet / CRM system) I suggest that despite all the gismos (technical advances) senior executives are still looking for reliable trustworthy information/intelligence – the synopsis they can trust, from people they trust. And don’t want to do self searching to find it. At the closing a wonderful story was told about a senior executive who has a team that provide abridged briefing notes and expected outcomes (in his native language) for every meeting.

People are still the important navigational hub and their knowledge networks vital. When they go their knowledge (and their networks) go with them. HM Government Knowledge & Information Strategy will make clear the importance of people and the public as the client and it will recognise that ‘who we know’ is as important as ‘what we know’ hence the investment in a Knowledge Harvesting Toolkit for KIM professionals (and training on Knowledge Capture & Retention).

We want measurements! Stories that amplify events and justification for Information and Knowledge team activity are hugely important but must be accompanied by statistics and measures which accounts in part for the increased call in the Public Sector for inventories of information and knowledge assets. In a world of data half a page of stats supported by a story is more powerful than two pages of prose.

We want certification! East, North and South of Istanbul there is a huge demand for education and certification.  Competency management is king and certificates from accredited organisations a way of enhancing career prospects. West of Istanbul people (especially the young) are just happy to be in a job and employers are increasingly demanding new entrants to be more self aware.

Apps are the future, websites are the past: Perhaps driven by a healthy scepticism of advertising and brochure ware websites dynamic content is key. This is presenting a challenge to the information industry who need to be more proactive in saying ‘read this and here’s why’. Ask yourself when did you last go to a corporate website and believe what it said – buying decisions are being driven by recommendations of people (and organisations) YOU trust. And Apps are making the process smoother as mobile replaces pc’s and tablets, laptops.

Fear is driving (in)action / lack of collaboration: the financial services industry has taken a bashing and the regulators are all over them extolling the virtues of a change in culture and trying to audit whether they have. Chinese Walls are getting higher so no Yammer or Jive to cross fertilise ideas and clients and silos will get more pronounced. In the Public Sector the rise of the SIRO (Senior Information RIsk Officer) as a board member suggests a greater and more visible role is emerging where risk aversion becomes a major driver of decisions.

Organisations are becoming hermetically sealed bubbles virtually impenetrable to anyone who is not of the same size. It used to be accepted doctrine that ‘no one got fired for hiring IBM’,  now the same applies with big consultancy firms. A vivid illustration was given: despite agreeing the scope of work with the client, being the best qualified and most experienced, formal sign off was not forthcoming for this internationally renowned consultant because ‘he is not …’ (three letters)!  

Modular competency acquisition the way forward/ Facilitation key: Many of the speakers and delegates commented on the need to be good at getting others to work well and be opportunistic. A role where the KIM professional, briefs, analyses and introduces, new processes, systems and ways of working. The idea of a modular incremental approach to competency development was lauded, perhaps in conjunction with business schools and Universities. As was the new CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base, that the UK Government’s Head of KIM has been a strong supporter of.

IMG_1554KIM is here to stay: It was a common theme – KM especially is back (even if there is still ambiguity over what it is – especially in the North West).  This from John Quinn is lovely, a quote from a report in 1894 on the Department for Education’s use of knowledge:

 …failing to record the knowledge it obtains for future use and unable to obtain information as to what is being done elsewhere either at home or abroad…’

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To finish, a quote, from award winning Clive Holtham celebrating 25 years as one of the few to hold a Professor of Information Management title, ‘technology brings no competitive advantage’  – its an essential underpinning (my addition). Here’s Clive and his Intelligent Exploiter Framework – note the importance of ‘Mindset’.

 

And finally

Check out Full Fact a non profit making group that specialises in independent fact checking.  Despite a bit of a spat with UK Column a year back it has become a must go to site to check the veracitiy of ‘facts’ and ‘stats’ that appear in the media and emanate from the mouths of our politicians. Will Moy’s BBC Question Time piece ‘Will you point out when panellists are lying?’ is worth a read and his stories given a hearing.

“True tacit knowledge can’t be passed on when people leave”: embedding knowledge capture & retention

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Karen McFarlane who is Head of Profession, Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) for the UK Government’s Civil Service. I’d been invited as a guest by NetIKX as a precursor to a talk I am giving there early in 2014. And with due permission (Karen’s ‘day job’ is quite sensitive) I posted a few Tweets on what I heard which you can find on their twitter feed for the event #netikx63.

The Knowledge Council – setting frameworks and strategy for the KIM Profession

Karen outlined the work that has taken place over 18 months at the Knowledge Council to develop a framework and a new Government Knowledge & Information Strategy (GKIS). Her aim is to ensure people in KIM roles have KIM qualifications with good succession planning. A profession (currently 1,000 people across government are considered KIM professionals) that will attract and maintain talent and create an environment where KIM civil servants can move across roles equipped to do so.

These comments (which I am paraphrasing) stood out:

There is a real concern about loss of knowledge when people leave which is why a lot of effort has gone into building a knowledge harvesting toolkit for the KIM community….

One of the techniques is a Mastermind Chair; another, getting people to ask ‘what questions do you wish you’d asked…Try and identify the critical people… many departments use social media to share knowledge…

...True tacit knowledge can’t be passed on when people leave, you need a strategy to ensure you don’t get to that point…

Some organisations are now making use of Alumni networks to keep access to people who’ve left…

And finally… Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are now sharing stories on their intranet…

an accredited career pathway

Karen painted a backdrop wherein the topic of knowledge & information management is higher up the agenda in government than it has been for more than two decades. All of which is really positive as is the work being done with external bodies such as CILIP on accreditation and training and career pathways for KIM professionals in government.  Its impressive progress which the soon to be released GKIS will place into context.

This brings me back to the capturing and exploiting corporate knowledge’ pilot we* have been running for HMRC’s businesses under the supervision of their KIM professionals.

HMRC’s Pilot Programme: Setting Up and Capturing: Modules 2 & 3

My previous postings looked at why HMRC had set up the pilot programme, what critical knowledge is, how to identify it and why it is important.  Modules 2 & 3 of the programme focused on:

Setting up how to identify and approach the knowledge holders & networks how to design a knowledge capturing approach
Capturing develop an understanding of different capture techniques benchmark against existing approaches

‘Our’ delegates recognised:

  • not everyone who changes jobs or leaves has critical knowledge whose loss will severely damage the organisation.  Its important to be proactive to identify where it resides and with whom – the knowledge holder.
  • everyone is different. Each person who partially retires will feel differently about what they want to give back. Some people might initiate. Approach each person differently in order to find out how they feel about knowledge capture.

In Module 2 we looked at the setting, preparation and clarity of purpose which are all key to successful capturing of knowledge.  A key task is to think seriously about how a request for time with a knowledge holder is likely to be received.

A typical Knowledge Holder?

A typical Knowledge Holder?

Profiling and Archetype Mapping are used extensively in design, it is even more important when dealing with intangibles to have identified and acknowledged likely preferences of the person you are approaching?

A large exhibit in Asia

A large exhibit in Asia that sought to identify major events in the life of an institution. Passers by were asked to note on a timeline events that were of interest to them.  This helped to target key players for future interviews and the subject areas to be covered.

Focusing on the individual is just one aspect of knowledge capture & retention: it’s vital to focus in addition on decisions, events and processes (documented as well as practiced) to see what knowledge is called upon in the first place and from where and then what is produced during the process.

Another key aspect is to create the right environment for the discussion/interview/observational session.  This is especially important when the intervention is to be recorded or a large response is sought.

The delegates spent time thinking about the right form of consent, how they might craft the invitation to participate and the mechanism they’d use to capture material.

Module 3 was very much about trying out. The delegates looked at:

  • Sketchbooks
  • Interviewing
  • Recording
  • Group Elicitation
  • Reverse thinking

Types of interviewsThey discussed a variety of approaches to interviewing, comparing those with the checklist already developed for HMRC.

And they worked on interviewing (and listening) skills comparing and contrasting experiences.

As part of the benchmarking exercise we encouraged delegates to look at the 47 step knowledge capture process as articulated in Professor Nicholas Milton’s book Knowledge Acquisition in Practice which was very successfully adapted by John Day, at Sellafield that in itself drew on work done by Shell on its Retention of Critical Knowledge (ROCK) programme.

As in the previous modules offsite work involved listening to audios developed exclusively for this programme including a clip on Baton Passing, a technique used by the British Council adapted for their use by Professor Victor Newman.

importance and danger of Knowledge Harvesting

To return to the beginning. The Knowledge Council’s focus on equipping KIM Professionals with tools and techniques in Knowledge Harvesting is admirable. Yet I felt there is a missing skill from the training ‘suite’ shown by Karen McFarlane at the NetIKX meeting, namely that of facilitation which for me is critical.

If knowledge harvesting (what I might call knowledge capture and retention) is to become an ingrained ‘way of working’ across government then people in the business need to be equipped with those skills as well. KIM professionals must have the skills to facilitate others in Knowledge Harvesting not just conduct them.

Last minute captureThe alternative scenario is that the KIM professional gets called in to do a last minute ‘tell us what you know’ knowledge harvesting session with a prominent person and the resultant  ‘pearls of wisdom’ are placed on a database that few look at or listen to.

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