KMUK 12: Olympics, KM and the Mexican Wave

Ahead of the KMUK conference in London that Professor Jane Mckenzie and I chaired we thought we’d approach some of the speakers for their observations on knowledge management by posing a set of ‘vox pop’ questions.

It being 2012 and with the London Olympics on the horizon we decided to ask:

Using an Olympic analogy how would you describe what you do to others?

Their replies were illuminating. Here is a sample:

I help people prepare for the journey and then support them. Middle distance runners because change is about sustainability. Becoming part of the crowd clapping and applauding. I’d really love to be the Mexican wave.


My Olympian role is to facilitate, lead and mentor others to perform better in whatever game they enter for.

I am an Ambassador, generating excitement and enthusiasm for the event. I am a connector bringing people together.

I see myself as the Coxswain in a community of oarsmen. They have to get things moving, but my job is to keep the enthusiasm and the momentum for sharing knowledge going.

I would say the `on-boarding team coordinator` role. Helping team members come on board, ensuring they all the right information they need to adjust well to the Olympic park, including who to talk to if they have problems, offering the right agendas and maps that could be useful, the lessons learnt from past Olympic Games that could help them and of course organising the social events and the best places to eat!

A field hockey player. It’s a fast team sport where you have to pay attention all the time, everyone gets to play in it, and you respect each others roles and capabilities and work together to achieve success from different angles.

Sebastian Coe – My job is winning the business over to KM Going out and getting engagement and then when they are committed handing over to the team to deliver it. We have a team of torch bearers who keep the energy going and raise awareness of what is happening and the central team are there to coach. We also have people in the K and IS team who keep the olympic equipment in tip top condition

One of the respondents also told us that as Olympic Learning Legacy Partners they are responsible for sharing key lessons in transport, technology and the built environment. In the light of the recent issues on London’s tube system, I am looking forward to that presentation.

What strikes me from these responses (drawn from practitioners across three continents) is how accurately they reflect the variety of skills required by someone fulfilling a knowledge management role which is perhaps why so few people today seem to have KM in their job title.

I will be posting more in due course in the run up to the event and responses to questions such as:

What technique have you found most effective for bringing about change in the way people work/respond?

a knowledge retention technique: recognising contributions

Knowledge retention is a big issue for many organisations. This blog first published in 2011 talks about how Sparknow planned for and marked the retirement (his second) of its Financial Controller Roger Doughty. I’ve republished it here since it addresses a key challenge namely that of recognition of the contribution made by an outgoing knowledge worker.

Roger was there in 1997 when Spark began. Through 14 years he has guided us through a maze of fiscal legislation, keeping a watchful eye on our finances and helping us become a limited liability partnership. That Sparknow has been able to develop the stellar list of client names bears testimony to the strength of our backroom support nearly all of which has been done on a virtual basis by Roger.

Our challenge is similar to that we’ve seen with clients when experienced people depart.

  • How to pass on the knowledge he’s gained much of which has been tacit.
  • How to ensure the same level of service is provided. And finally
  • How to recognise his contribution in a manner befitting of our style and values.

Tacit knowledge transfer has been/is being covered by a period of parallel running with his successor Mark Barrett who is also a Welshman with an accounting background. Mark has been shadowing Roger for the last couple of months and now that is reversed and Roger is shadowing Mark. I then hold monthly review sessions with the pair of them to see what issues have arisen and fine tune our processes. Our intention is ensure a smooth seamless transition which thus far it has been.

To recognise his contribution we asked a number of associates, friends, collaboration partners and clients to think of an image that best described Roger and then to write a brief anecdote.

The material was assembled; should we print off a set of postcards, produce a virtual card or make a set of recordings? Webster’s Pictorial provided the inspiration and with the help of Curtis James, a Brighton based ‘letter presser/purveyor of collections…’, Roger’s ‘book of memories’ was born.



A very suprised and delighted Roger was presented with his gift at a garden party held in Lewes.


Many struggle to find a way that recognises the contribution of key people in a business so that when they depart their legacy lives on. Roger reading his ‘book of memories’ shows how much pleasure can be gleaned from a simple gesture.