The rise of Legal ‘Lean’ and its impact on Knowledge Management: looking back at KM Legal Europe 2016

IMG_4381A year on from the Breakfast Breakout Martin White and I ran for Legal Knowledge & Information Management professionals in London I found myself back among them in Amsterdam at KM Legal Europe.

My brief was to provide a stimulating opening to the conference (I went with In at the Deep End – an Icebreaker I used at KMUK) and then give a presentation on the second day on Working Virtually. I was delighted with the enthusiastic response and the level of interaction that occured over the two days expertly led by Chairman Raffael Büchi.

Opening

So what did I see and hear (and learn), and where is Legal KM a year on?

Who or What’s driving KM in the Legal Sector?

Firstly, clients are becoming more sophisticated and insisting law firms are better. And new offshore firms are emerging that are making legal advice more a commodity product that can be disintermediated through technology. That’s having a knock on effect as firms bow to pressure for greater transparency, more efficient processes and better use of technology.

Some firms have also recognised the risk arising from the potential loss of knowledge when people and teams leave or the need to do more effective due diligence on the knowledge they are acquiring when people and teams join.

They are responding by ‘offshoring’, adopting established process improvement methodologies such as Lean/Six Sigma and integrating that into continuous proces improvement,  combining CRM with EDRM, building Legal Project Management capability,  attempting to get into their client’s shoes and using horizon scanning to take a look at the future.

From a Quality & Standards perspective, ISO 9001 certified firms and their Quality Managers are also casting a watchful eye on the emergent standards having noted the introduction of the amended regulations in September 2015 which for the first time made mention of Knowledge Management (Clause 7.1.6. Knowledge) noting: “The concept of organizational knowledge introduced to ensure the organization acquires and maintains the necessary knowledge”

The early KM adopters on dsplay in Amsterdam had visionary leadership to thank for embarking on their initiative, their challenge is sustainability when their sponsor departs.

These categories I find useful as a way of identifying the drivers behind a KM initiative:

  • Innovation / Process Efficiency
  • Risk Management
  • Quality & Standards
  • Vision

What trends did I see?

The ‘big’ trends for me were:

  • Rise of Continuous Process Improvment initiatives supported by Process Mapping and Automated Document Assembly,
  • Increasing use of Predictive Analytics “law has talked billable hours for ever. Clients using Artifical intelligenceI to cross check time sheets and identify duplicate effort”
  • A recognition that billable time can be apportioned to KM related activites. I noted, “big change happens when lawyers can charge billable hours while working on KM. some tried contributor of the month rewards.”

What surprised me?

The number of partners who are known as Knowledge Partners which illustrates a career path now for Legal KM’ers.

We use Social Media to recruit but not to collaborate. In a good open discussion it was clear that the majority were sceptical about using Social Tools citing confidentiality. I was drawn to this comment from Erik Hunter who in his opening to Day Two encouraged the audience to: “think about the science of social media, the thoughts behind it, not just as push tools for comms & sales.

Offshoring – where is my knowledge? Few of the people I spoke to had considered or made attempts to mitigate the risk of knowledge loss from outsourcing operational activitives.

The idea of a “call outs for know how” by the KM team. A tailored process based on deal flow. Looking for nuggets from across the firm.

The establishment of a Corporate University in a legal firm who have a competency framework that includes a metric of min 50 hours per year commitment to KM.

Continuous Process Improvement supported by Enterprise Search that can look across Matters Directories.

Despite recognising the importance of good project management training for the changing world the training was described as being too generic.

Use of the Knowledge Assets phrase in a couple of presentations.

Quotes that stuck (or got retweeted)

“KM means bringing the brain of the organization to the client” Paul Corney

“The value of a flexible and evolving strategy cannot be underestimated.” Andrea Alliston

“Active collaboration leads to better communication leads to more innovation.”Contract Express

“To get collaboration right you need to have good community management and know what your knowledge is” “Don’t let the collaborative tool lead the effort” and “Good stories drive good collaboration habits.” Andrew Pope

What Good Looks Like

“what good looks like: demonstrating value” (of KM)

What advice would I give Legal KM’ers?

  • Fix something for someone quickly.” A great quote from a panel session to which I’d add, focus on a maximum of 3 issues, adopt a pilot approach and show results in first 6 months.
  • Embrace the ‘Barbarians at the Gate‘: Legal KM’ers are getting their accreditation as Green or Black Belts. KM’ers have the facilitation skills needed to get lawyers to do process mapping and need to learn the language and practices of Lean / Continuous Process Improvement supported by Enterprise Search or change the dialogue at the senior level so that KM interventions are embedded into process. I noted: “continuous improvement can reinvigorate KM importance of process maps and fishbone diagrams” from a session by Arjan Krans.
  • You need to be seen as a contributor to the delivery of the service to the client: During one of the sessions looking at turnover this statement was made: “Knowledge teams tend to be stable in Law firms”  prompting this question ‘Why?”  The reply: ‘A KM role is lifestyle decision with predictable time”.  The point was made that Legal KM’ers are less inclined to do the unsocial hours associated with Lawyers. In plenary I made the point that in all organisations those who are seen as ‘support’ or ‘operational’ rarely get the recognition rain makers do.
  • Become skilled at facilitating virtual meetings and collaboration. Communities (inwards and outwards) will continue to grow in importance. Firms are not spending enough equipping people with the social skills to make virtual encounters work effectively.
  • Get in front of the client. A quote that really struck home. A lawyer was asked if he had run the proposed Application past the prospective client base. His response: “No I have a clear ideal of what they want.”
  • ‘Get the squeaky wheels on side’.  Have a One Pager (preferably with a visual) that summarises what you do (and don’t) do.
  • “We (legal) use scattergun approach to sharing knowledge. Use social media or die!” Nicky Leijtens

And finally:

I heard this from the two legal counsels pleading for a change in the way the client / firm dynamic works: “collaborate not push, it starts to rain newsletters all of which are the same”.”Clients don’t want exclusive portals with law firms. Don’t think me & my client, think in terms of communities”

Law firms need to ensure the knowledge circulated and shared w/ clients differentiates, distinguishes & sets them apart.

I left with this, a slide captured by Lorna Louisa Cropper: “Innovation: Traditional law firms need to stay aligned with .”

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In a world of High Value Work the case for informed and empowered Knowledge Workers is becoming stronger

Whether Lisboa, London or Tehran the pace of change is gathering apace with increased pressure for improved performance, greater efficiency and reduced risk.

Over the last couple of months I have been working in all three of the above capitals. It has been a priviledge and an eye opener: Iran is eagerly awaiting ratification of the Geneva deal and Tehran is awash with foreign companies looking to position themselves post sanctions; in Lisboa they are feeling the effects of a ‘drawn’ election and in unchartered territory over the formation of a new government and whether to continue with a programme of austerity and; in London there is considerable angst about the impact of cheap Chinese steel on an already depressed commodity market and on local communities.

In each of these capitals the role and standing of the ‘Knowledge Worker‘ is different:

  • In Lisboa, many young innovative Knowledge Workers have felt the full force of the austerity programme and fled the country rather than face an uncertain future while the cadre of secure middle managers hang onto their jobs.
  • In London, consolidation (especially in the legal sector) is growing and the push to outsource a core part of the UK Government’s drive to reduce the role of the state. Further afield UK Manufacturing continues to be battered by cheaper cost centre imports with inevitable plant closures.
  • In Tehran, as they face an openiing up of their market place and an influx of of overseas competition, local knowledge is becoming much in demand and creating a sense of eager anticipation in a workforce that has traditionally sought overseas postings as a way of enhancing their knowledge and careers.

What are the implications? 

The role of the informed knowledge worker is going to become more critical and they will need to move up the value chain in order to do so!

If you have not already done so I’d encourage you to look at a recent blog post by Andrew Curry of the Futures Company. The Futures Company has been collaborating with the Association of Finnish Work for more than eighteen months on the idea of “High Value Work”. They define this as work that is productive (it creates new value); that is durable (it creates value over time); and work that is inclusive (it spreads value beyond the business — or the C-suite. This combination, based on the emerging post-crisis literature, also creates work that is meaningful, for employees and customers. They identify four routes to acheiving it:

These are service innovation, based on a full understanding of the customer and their needs; value in authenticity, based on on a full understanding of cultural context; resource innovation, based on a full understanding of material flows; and rich knowledge, based on a full understanding of the technical knowledge held inside the organisation and a method to capture and codify it.

High value businesses combine these; for example, mastery of resource innovation often creates new technical capabilities that lead to new forms of rich knowledge.

Finland is a great example of a country that is highly technological, expensive with a great education system. That it commissioned the work is unsurprising and the findings underpin the growing realisation across many organisations that people matter, are transient in nature and that processes need to be in place to recognise that.

The future role of the Knowledge Worker?

Much of my recent work has been about helping organisations to recognise that if Knowledge Management is to have value above its traditional tactical operational bias there has to be a way of measuring the output (the Intellectual Property ‘IP’ or Knowledge Assets) that is created as a result of the activity.  And generating Knowledge Assets is reliant on empowered and stimulated people. As Andrew’s findings suggest ‘Increasingly business research is finding that people drive value.’

Last Friday I hosted a Peer Assist with a group of senior HR thought leaders on People Stimulation an idea being promulgated by Dr Abdelaziz Mustafa of the Islamic Development Bank Group. A very experienced HR Director and core member of the Association of Development Agencies HR Forum he argues the need of a work enviornment that recognises and stimulates:

  • Human Imagination
  • Individual Discretionary Behavior
  • Deeply Embedded Interests
  • Self-Knowledge, Self-Accountability and Self-Development
  • The One Person Difference
  • T.E.A.M Culture
  • Happiness at Work

While to many this may seem axiomatic it is indicative of the shifting thinking around the way organisations manage and nurture today’s and tomorrow’s Knowledge Workers.

And finally

On Monday I was at Chiswick for the first meeting of the reconstituted BSI KM Standards Committee established to provide inter alia the UK’s input into the global ISO debate on the need for standards for Knowledge Management. While hugely encouraging that KM is now being more formally recognised it was instructive to see how slowly the wheel of change turns.

Finally if I needed validation of the value of embedding effective Knowledge Management techniques I got it last night in an exchange with a Chinese mentee. In discussion over the knowledge capture interviews I’d helped him to conduct for the charity I am involved with. He said:

‘It is interesting how much good ‘after taste’ after the previous interview techniques and knowlege managemnet toolsconducted a few interviews for my research using the time line map, very effective tool!’

I have asked him to write a guest blog to reflect on some of the knowledge capture techniques we used. Watch this space!

Good Knowledge Drives Good Business

This is an article inspired by a session I ran with new businesses as part of Surrey University’s Investor Readiness Programme and my work with Plan Zheroes, It sets out to illustrate why good knowledge and information management matters to a new business.

A business is the sum total of its intellectual capital/property (‘knowledge assets’).  Drawing on examples from hospitality, renewable energy storage and third sectors, it will demonstrate the value of checklists, a technical backbone, the right cultural environment and feedback loops in identifying, nurturing and exploiting knowledge assets.

Here’s what Claire & Luke (Editors of Business Information Review) had to say about it in their Editorial:

Good knowledge drives good business

Another regular contributor to Business Information Review, Paul Corney shares his experiences of working with emerging enterprises and business start-ups in developing good knowledge and information management practices. Reflecting Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 09.16.05on the experiences of small and medium-sized enterprises in the business and third sector, Paul illustrates in his article why information and knowledge management matter to new businesses. As Paul notes, ‘ultimately a business is worth the value of its intellectual capital/intellectual property. These “Knowledge Assets” might take the form of patented products, an efficient process, a unique piece of software or brand and reputation built over time’. The lessons here for directors of start-up are obvious, but there are lessons also for those who work with information on a day-to-day basis within larger or more established organizations.

I’m glad Claire & Luke ‘got it’.  Well run and profitable business is about making effective use of knowledge and creating and enhancing its Knowledge Assets. So it follows that:

Putting in place effective measurement is key in order to demonstrate value. As KM standards get integrated into global quality and manufacturing standards so the drive for better KM will be felt. Young organizations can get ahead of that curve by putting some of these simple techniques in place today.
As a footnote I am particularly delighted to have been asked to serve on the BSI KM Standards Committee that is going to input into the to be publsihed ISO Quality Standards.

And finally

You can get the full article from here: Business Information Review Q3 2015

Quality, Standards & Risk: emerging KM drivers from Dubai

It was great to be back in Dubai last month for KM Middle East 2015 where I was running a Masterclass on Day One and giving the Keynote closing address on Day Two.

Chicago Beach HotelWhen I went there in 1984 the only hotel in Jumeirah was the Chicago Beach Hotel and that was an isolated spot some 30 minutes drive from Deira on empty roads and across desert. You went there for a bit of R & R after a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia.

Today the emirate is home to hundreds of thousands of jumeirah_beach_resort-485x325expats and foreign workers all of whom are bringing knowledge to help Dubai develop into one the world’s premier tourist destinations.  Here’s how the same piece of coastline looks 30 years on and you can get there today via a metro system!

Few in 1984 predicted Dubai would grow to be such a diversified economy: limited dependency on oil, increasingly reliant on the knowledge and competencies of its expanding (predominantly foreign) workforce and having the world’s busiest airport.

The underpinnings of such progress are people, process (and of course) technology. The disparity in numbers of indigenous Emirati to Expatriates (who are transient by nature) means that there is greater relience on process and technology to ensure continuity.  It is no surprise that the Knowledge Management activity in the region should be more of an operational/tactical nature rather than strategic.  This was evident for me at KM Mid East.

 The Event – Day One

Held over two days at the very luxurious Park Hyatt Dubai the event comprised a series of workshops on Day One and a Plenary Conference on Day Two.  My workshop Unlocking the true value of Knowledge Management: identifying and assessing your organisation’s Knowledge Assets took place in the afternoon from 2pm-6pm.

AgendaThere were 20 people, a nice mix of gender, age and experience.  This was the agenda for the afternoon:

My aim was to get the participants to think about why KM mattered and to begin to develop an understanding of the Knowledge Assets they had in their business.

I was also keen to look at a few different ways to identify and assess their value and what might they then do to mitigate potential loss.

Team A at KMME Workshop

Team A at KMME Workshop displaying their ccompleted Analyser.

Session 6 An exercise in mapping was particularly revealing.

Focusing on a recent decision ‘Team A’ used the Event Analyser to describe how they had saved a substantial amount by drawing on the internal knowledge of their organisation which they were then able to pass on for others to use.

It was an enjoyable afternoon (the opening Ice Breaker helped to

Everyone got involved

Everyone got involved

lower barriers) and I made sure each session had a mix of informing and doing with plenty of interaction, stories (and humour). And we finished at 6pm with a full contingent!

The Event – Day Two

IMG_3109_2

John Girard and Dave Snowden in the foreground

The slide deck has been made available for each presentation by the organisers and can be found here. There was also a twitter feed #kmme with a few interesting comments thrown in as the day proceeded.

The event was well attended and the presentations informative. Being at the end of the day I had the opportunity to hear everyone.  My attention was stimulated by some of the local presentations especially since so many focused on measurement and frameworks.

IMG_3113

EFQM Model adopted in Dubai

One which caught my eye which was how Quality Standards such as EFQM are becoming the drivers and measurement yardsticks for KM implementations.

This adherence to standards of excellence fits with the way Dubai and the UAE are measuring progress across a wide spectrum of activities. It was even evident in the surplus food discussions I had while I was there.

IMG_3123

Cascading the EFQM model – KM Business Results

People understand that to win environmental and sustainability awards you have to be able to demonstrate effective reuse so the measure is based on sustainability and environmental impact not on the social impact.

Here’s just one of the slides by way of an example of how the framework is being cascaded down in KM.

While entirely logical It poses a number questions for me:

  • are the evaluators experenced KM Practitioners?
  • the start point would seem to be critical – yes an organisation might make great progress but where is the benchmarking element?
  • where do the frameworks cater for increasing the value of an organisation’s Knowledge Assets?
  • is there a danger of being in love with the process rather than the results of the process?

It’s a great start though and similar to work done in Singapore where EFQM and ASQ measures have been combined in some organisations as a way of cascading down operating values and standards (SOP’s). Where organisations start to make progress is when competencies are built into the framework.

My Takeaways

So apart from a number of very interesting discussions with the other speakers over dinner and with the delegates at the event what else did I takeaway?

  1. KM is increasingly being driven by issues of Quality, Standards & Risk.  These are operationally focused but provide tangible measures that organisations can point to as a way of demonstrating value. EFQM is the predominent standard in UAE and KM programmes need to align with it.
  2. Standards organisations are introducing criteria that include being able to demonstrate technical competence in KM including the provision of a KM strategy.  If you want the award (and often you need it to sell what you produce) then KM is a must do.*
  3. Risk (of individual and collective Knowledge loss) in a society that is still essentially transient places great importance on ‘knowing what we know’ and so Knowledge Assets Audting (identifying and assessing) is likely to grow in importance.

IMG_3344The final takeaway: my speaker ‘award’ (presented by John Girard along with the Deputy Director, Dubai Chambers of Commerce)

 

 

 

* as a footnote to this I came across this:

The Standards Institution of Israel (SII), Israel’s member body to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), has submitted a proposal for a new international standard focusing on requirements for knowledge management systems. As the U.S. member body to ISO, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) invites all interested stakeholders to submit comments on the proposal by Friday, February 14, 2014.

The proposed International Standard would set down requirements for organizational knowledge management systems, including the creation and maintenance of such systems, the nurturing of a knowledge management culture, measurement of organizations’ knowledge, and approaches to sharing knowledge management solutions. The standard would cover businesses, nonprofits, government organizations, and other groups of any size and in any field.