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!

CILIP’s KM quandary in Brighton

This was my first Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) annual conference though I’d previously chaired events for them on outsourcing and participated in discussions on CILIP’s future direction.  Vice Chair Karen McFarlane, a fellow BSI KM Standards Committee member asked me to speak to the Managing Information stream which for the 3rd consecutive year featured ‘leading KIM practitioners and commentators’. After speeches and masterclasses in 2016 in Amsterdam, Lisbon and London, Brighton was a nice and close change.

My first impressions on arriving at The Dome Brighton were: the size (600+ delegates); the slickness of the organisation (including the ‘hydration’ areas); and the lack of people (I counted less than 10%) with Knowledge in their title among the delegates. Cilip speechI wondered how many might turn up to mine and Andy Bent’s session in The Courtroom.

In the event the session chaired by Sandra Ward was full (I counted 100) with some familiar faces in the audience including Sian Tyrrell who, despite not having ‘knowledge’ in her title, is doing great KIM work at Royal Horticultural Society.

My last bog post Future role of the Knowledge Manager: The Knowledgeur? described what my 30 minute address would cover so I won’t dwell on that here.

poor communication = poor knowledge sharing

Following me was Andy Bent, Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council, who sparked a lot of interest with his case study of an unnamed organisation who’d fallen foul of Ofsted and received a damming report which included censure about how they shared knowledge and information in the back office and how that translated to poor decision making at board level.

Inevitably the remedy included better communication and engagement and greater ownership of the issue at board level by the appointment of an officer to ensure changes are made.

Screenshot 2016-07-19 10.57.26

Perhaps the most important observations Andy made were contained in this slide:

It made me recall the time when I was the Chairman of a business and gave my CEO explicit instructions to introduce a “no surprises’ regime. Each week I asked her to let me have a list of the key issues from the week and how they were resolved. If any were outstanding they became issues for board discussion.

Knowledge Management is dependent on good communication and engaged people. Andy’s presentation was a good reminder of how by getting it right you can turn bad news into good. The organisation in question subsequently got a great Ofsted report.

KM in a library & information environment

Does KM and KM’ers sit comfortably within CILIP? If so how is that recognised across the membership and in its charter? Is it a broad enough church to accommodate, Librarianship, Information Management and Knowledge Management or is it a case of oil and water?

Obviously the CILIP team think it all voices can be heard. The opening paragraph of the leaflet I was given before I presented said:

CILIP is committed to embracing KIM (Knowledge and Information Management) fully within its work. It is part of our challenging Action Plan 2016-2020, recently agreed following a major consultation exercise with CILIP members and other stakeholders.

And CILIP has just launched a new KIM Special Interest Group starting in 2017.

Is there a natural synergy? I can think of a number of very good KM professionals such as Sian who have a Library & Information grounding.  Indeed KM is very much dependent on good curation of knowledge assets and the maintenance of effective knowledge bases.

I struggle though to make the leap from Public Librarian, those that work in institutions that seem to be under permanent threat of closure and who are often a great community hub, to that of a Knowledge Manager (let alone that of a Chief Knowledge Officer) who is often solving a burning business issue or mitigating a business risk.

Certainly there is a difference in perception and financial reward.  Last year a prominent law firm made 2 C-Suite appointments noting:

The roles of Chief Knowledge Officer and Chief Information Officer are increasingly important to a global law firm’s success.

A quick glance at salary scales reveal that a Director of Knowledge Management will be remunerated in excess of £100k. A more junior Knowledge Management Officer is likely to be paid £60k+ and be expected to perform these tasks:

  • The Knowledge Management Officer is responsible for capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organisational knowledge. This role is fundamental to continuous improvement in sales excellence and bidding in order to drive an increase in the bidding success rate across …..
  • By storing and sharing information effectively (e.g. case studies, exemplar responses, previously developed value propositions) and through the production of best practice processes, templates, how to guides and checklists, the Knowledge Management Officer will help … to win work more efficiently by enabling those involved in bidding opportunities small or large to harness the experience of others.

Few of the KM jobs specify a requirement for academic qualifications in Knowledge Management but most Library roles ask for MSc in Library & Information Management and it is unlikely that the Head of Library & Information Services will be remunerated as handsomely as their KM counterparts.

Where the ‘rubber hits the road’, and the overlap between Libriaranship, Information Management and Knowledge Management is most obvious, is in the health sector. Interestingly there is a Chief Knowledge Officer of Public Health England whose remit is:

The Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) is responsible for delivering an effective knowledge and intelligence service that covers research, statistics and know-how, to inform the practice of public health and public health improvement.

Knowledge for Healthcare can shape society, improve the wellbeing of people and save lives through the effective use of knowledge sharing which depends of the solid foundation that Library & Information Professionals bring. The use of checklists has transformed post operation mortality rates and F1 technology improved the monitoring of children’s recovery. Health informatics (and Open Data) are helping to improve global hygiene and reduce disease transmission.

accentuating the difference

The closing keynote from Lauren Smith took me by surprise.  Her tweet a good illustration of her key theme which was that Libraries (and Librarians) should be / are already political, providing a service for the good of the public.

Need to shift debate with stories and evidence to get public to see public libraries as institutions for social justice

Screenshot 2016-07-19 13.49.15

This tweet alongside from a delegate pretty much summed up what the audience heard.:

That is some way though from the mindset of the KM professional who (apart perhaps from Healthcare KM’ers) is focused on delivering business value to his / her organisation rather than providing a service for the good of mankind.

Therein lies the quandary and the challenge for peaceful and fruitful co-existence if CILIP”s future vision of being the natural Industry Body for Knowledge Management professionals as well as Librarians and Information Professionals is to be realised.

And finally

Contained in the ‘Surprises and Admiration’ Chapter of the forthcoming book I mentioned at the start we note:

… there is no recognized industry body promulgating KM setting universally agreed qualification or certification criteria that employers find acceptable for entry and advancement.

Instead global KM’ers are attracted to training programs run by private organizations in order to demonstrate knowledge through external certification. Experience is gained on the job and there have been few mentors or coaches to help a newbie KM’er take their first steps.

Engagement with the Government’s Knowledge and Information Management Group (GKIM) is to be welcomed as a first and critical step as I have long argued that Knowledge and Information Management are natural and synergistic bedfellows. Where better to start than with the Civil Service who have KIM as one of its Professions.

I wish CILIP well in their efforts to becoming the go to body for KIM’ers.

“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.

why the UK Government is seeking to capture and retain critical knowledge

As I write this an updated Government knowledge & information Strategy is being crafted.

Following the recognition of knowledge & information management (KIM) as one of the professions of government and building on Information Matters published in 2008 it represents another important milestone in the journey towards a more flexible workforce able to recognise, capture and retain that knowledge & information critical for its current and future business.

More on that in due course once the Strategy has been released.

turning the km & i vison into reality

Recently HMRC (through Civil Service Learning) commissioned Sparknow and I to run a set of pilot programmes on capturing and exploiting corporate knowledge. HMRC like all areas of governement face the threefold challenge of:

  • equipping new joiners with sufficient knowledge and information that they are able to hit the ground running (while making the most of the knowledge they are bringing to the organisation)
  • ensuring that when staff are reassigned they have sufficient time and access to the knowledge they need to transition into the new role
  • capturing the huge experience and knowledge (often tacit) from staff who are coming up for retirement, whose job may be dissapearing or who are leaving to pursue a career elsewhere.

In welcoming the participants our sponsor said:

This proposed programme…aims to make knowledge retention part of the engrained behavior and the way ‘we’ work. It should be a continuous process fuelled by the belief that everyone has something to contribute and much to learn from sharing knowledge.

Our challenge then: to develop an informative, participative and enjoyable set of interlinked modules that gives exposure to a dozen or so tools and techniques that will help to identify, capture and reuse what are often termed ‘critical knowledge assets. And find a measurement (we used Dr Donald Kirkpatrick’s Learning Evaluation Model) to assess the success of this capacity building initiative.

View from first training room

The view from the venue for modules one and two.
Picture by Victoria Ward

Over the next month I am going to be taking a more in depth look at the modules we ran and the areas that stimulated most interest among the dozen or so senior HMRC staff from different areas of the business around the UK.  So as ‘they’ say: ‘watch this space’!

when knowledge & information  flow

As part of the discussions leading up to the programme we developed a vision (a future story) of what an knowledge & information friendly environment might look like:

I’ve just returned from ‘an audience with…’ session with  John who is about to retire. It was different from the usual breakfast briefing – we got to learn about topics and events we’d identified as being of interest. Hearing those described by someone who’d been through it all was really insightful for a relative newcomer.

I relocated this year: thanks to Agnieska who’d built a bridge between my predecessor and me there were few surprises and I still see Jane for a regular catch up. I am much more aware of things that are going on, who I can go to and ask a question. Most importantly I now have a set of useful questions and the confidence to ask them in any situation.

I am keeping my Decision Journal: who’d have thought it but it’s  been immensely valuable as a prompt when having conversations.  And I am now a timeline convert and shocked my Director when I  used postcards on a timeline to share my regular update.

I do feel that should I leave it would be easier to pass on what I’ve learned in a more illuminating way. If only I’d begun it earlier – using objects as prompts has made sharing experiences intuitive.

The business has benefited: an idea brought in by a new staff member resulted in process improvements that improved collection rates; when Roger transferred to East Kilbride the transition time was much shorter as he was able to tap into the networks of his predecessor and the insights that emerged from the sessions with Priyanga prior to her departure helped shape the new set up in Southend. Whereas before we may have lost touch, now she still feels a sense of attachment and was at one of the recent breakfast events that are now open to alumni.