A case for raising ISO standards: an emerging KM driver

bir-sept-16The following article was published in Business Information Review Magazine.Summary

This article seeks to raise awareness of the moves by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to establish a set of Knowledge Management Standards. In it the author Paul J Corney will suggest that the adoption of such standards has the potential to become a game changer for Knowledge Management professionals providing a clear rationale for future KM Programs.

A case for raising standards: home and away.

Summer has finally appeared and visitors to London can be heard bemoaning the lack of air conditioning that is commonplace in their societies where 25c is the norm rather than the exception.

The political climate too has been hot enough the past month with the Brexit vote, the flurry of resignations that accompanied it and a slew of economic forecasters downgrading short-term UK growth predictions.

The brave new dawn promised by the Vote Leave campaign is predicated on striking bilateral trade deals quickly!

Yet as anyone involved with cross border negotiations will tell you, they take time to reach consensus.

I have previous (or current). I am a member of the British Standards Institute (BSI) committee providing input to the International Standards Organisation (ISO) working party responsible for drafting.

Invited to join the ‘great and the good’ of the UK KM world a year ago, I accepted as I’d seen in assignments and tender requests how important this was becoming. But I wasn’t convinced the process would be a speedy one since the ‘call to action’ from the Israeli Standards body who were behind the proposal for a set of international KM standards was already a couple of years old.

This is how the US standards body alerted its members in 2013:

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.

An emerging KM driver?

Is this the game changer for KM that some are predicting? Potentially and here’s why.

I am co-authoring a book. ‘Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KM Companion’ will draw on KM programs of leading firms and practitioners. My co-author Patricia Eng was previously Head of KM for the US Nuclear Regulatory Authority so knows a thing or two about making sure lessons are fed back into processes. As part of our research we asked a wide range of practitioners were the impetus for their program had come from.

A couple spoke about compliance audits being the driver a few mentioned improving productivity but the vast majority said they were addressing a business issue or risk. None pointed to adherence to a quality standard.

So in the Keynote Speeches I have been delivering this year I have been suggesting that increasingly there will be four key drivers for KM programmes:

  • Strategic / Visionary
  • Risk
  • Process Efficiency
  • Compliance with Quality Standards

The ISO standard will provide impetus to practitioner requests for KM resource. The C-Suite understands Risk and Compliance so the door is already ajar!

‘In Search of Excellence’

Followers of Tom Peters will recall this seminal work from 1982 described in Forbes Magazine as “An essential book for founders and CEO’s”.

In an excellent review of the tome published by Forbes in 2014 Scott Allison notes:

Before company culture became a well discussed topic, Tom Peters and Bob Waterman urged readers that perhaps the single key piece of advice from their findings was “figure out your value system: what your company stands for. What gives people pride?”

And it describes how excellent companies have family-like atmospheres, make a point about being transparent with and sharing information widely, and insist upon informality in communications between workers.

There’s also more open doors and open spaces instead of corner offices and cubicles.

Why this reference? Well the UAE Federal Government as well as the Dubai Government has laid out a set of excellence programmes aimed at raising the levels of service provided by their government departments.

If you visit the offices of the Knowledge & Human Development Authority in Dubai for example (they are responsible for the quality and growth of private education) you will discover that they have made extensive use of open spaces and informality. It works for them and has improved service.

Broadly aligned with those in EFQM’s Excellence Model Dubai & UAE Federal Government have added specific clauses that make reference to the delivery of Knowledge Management especially Knowledge Transfer and Learning Lessons.

As a result government entities in Dubai face periodic reviews to assess the efficacy of their KM operations. Assessors are sharpening ‘green pens’* and setting out inspection timetables as I write this.

Recognition of superior KM performance by the Dubai Government Excellence Programme is highly sought after. Failing to meet the minimum quality criteria is not!

The certification conundrum

While adherence to UAE Quality Standards is mandatory the same does not apply with ISO or EFQM.

It will be the decision of the user as to whether they wish to be certified against it – it is not a requirement.

And yet if you are a manufacturer of locomotives for example you will need the IRIS Kite mark in order to sell your engines or rolling stock. To get / maintain that Kite mark requires certification and assessment. KM is included in their standards so implicitly the manufacturer needs to be able to demonstrate that they ‘do’ KM.

And finally

Gazing into my crystal ball I am prepared to speculate that others will follow Dubai / UAE’s lead and that ISO KM Standards when released circa 2017/2018 will have an impact on KM programs. KM’ers it’s a good time to start flagging this as a potential issue!

*The pen colour of choice for auditors in the financial services sector.

References

http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottallison/2014/01/27/an-essential-book-for-founders-and-ceos-in-search-of-excellence/#23f82b152062

http://www.khda.gov.ae/en/

International Organization for Standardization

Brexit, Bollywood and the need for ‘assisted’ search

As regular readers of this column will know, when in England I try to begin my day in Eastbourne with a coffee (a Decaf, Espresso is off the menu now) before walking back along the seafront to work in Meads Village where I live. I always take a notepad to capture the revelations that occasionally come to me.

Bollywood beckons

IMG_4727Today was a case in point. As I got to the seafront I was approached by an Indian man who looked lost.

His English was heavily accented and my command of Hindi is so poor that our conversation was a bit stilted.  He asked, “where is the fliming?'”  I replied, “what filming?” to which the response was, “The Bollywood Filming at the Tower” which I inferred to be the Wish Tower (a notable landmark with a view to the pier – see alongside) and showed him the way.

NB I didn’t hang around for a role as an extra since I am no longer supple enough to participate in the dance routines that often feature in Bollywood movies.

Brexit, Paramedics and the Patient Access System

IMG_4733My second strange encounter was to find two paramedics and an ambulance on the promenade by one of the thatched beach shelters which are used in good weather as overnight accommodation by those who have none.

I mention this since it became the talk of the promenade prompting the same sort of negative comment I heard at the previous night’s EU Brexit debate: “There’s too many people here, I can’t get a Doctor’s appointment when I call and yet those people get an ambulance and paramedics”.

Strangely enough this got the creative juices flowing –  a case of disruptive influences perhaps. Mulling over the (lack of) debate that took place at the EU Referendum event I attended the previous evening, same old non arguments about statistics that can be interpreted in multiple ways, it triggered a thought about the challenge of having too much information and knowledge and not knowing how to locate it or indeed what to do with it.

To explain. For reasons too many to go into I have become familiar with the National Health Service’s Patient Access System. It’s an extranet that enables a patient to communicate with clinicians, make appointments, renew prescriptions and review all results and examine the historical trends,  I can have a blood test one day and see the results online the following day. It works brilliantly yet only 30% of patients actively use it.

If I am overseas and need additional medication on my return to the UK I can organise it remotely. It allows me to manage any health issues and improves my understanding of diagnosis and treatment so that a visit to the doctor is much more effective for her and me. It’s a far cry from the promenader’s “…I can’t get an appointment” perhaps confirming that knowing where to find ‘stuff’ and how to interact with systems is beyond the ken of many.

It reinforces my view that stakeholder engagement is both essential and difficult. Few of us have the analytic mind or patience to dig beneath the covers. We live in a soundbite society where we are used to instant responses and expect technology to provide it.

AgesIn the case of Patient Access I imagine engagement is a bigger challenge due to its wider range of potential users than in a business environment where focus is on Baby Boomer to Generation Z .

For more on this topic check out What’s in it for me: The challenge of sharing client knowledge and broadening relationships.)

Finding ‘stuff’

The Patient Access System is a great example of consolidating information and data yet is the not success is could be as many people don’t know about it, feel overwhelmed by it or can’t be bothered to try it.  These what’s in it for me issues show themselves in business too.

Try as we might technology makes it impossible to switch off from work (unless we switch off) though French legislation making it an offence to send emails to workers outside of the normal working ‘day’ might contradict that statement.  Yet we are increasingly time constrained and swamped by ‘stuff’ and email.

So what’s the answer? Assisted Search? Tagging? Automatic Indexing on the fly?

Recently two fellow Knowledge & Information Authors have opined on how to overcome the challenge of making it easier for people to find what they are looking for.

Nick Milton’s blog tackles the subject of Knowledge Bases and I was drawn to (and agree with) his assertion that you should

Structure your stored knowledge based on what people will be looking for, not based on who created it.

even though its not always possible to imagine all uses people will make of the knowledge base when they add content. I also concur that there is considerable value in structuring Knowledge Bases to support Communities of Practice or Thematic Areas. To read more: http://www.nickmilton.com/2016/05/how-to-structure-knowledge-to-be.html#ixzz49rCe0MOL

To an extent Nick’s blog post is recognition that search is not working: if it were then why would you need ‘assisted’ search in the form of a Knowledge Base.  I need to declare prior interest here as 20 years ago I was President of Verity’s European User Group (Verity was the granddady of search). Verity’s Topic Search used to create collections which assembled like minded content into meangful groupings.

Martin White’s cms search blog  http://www.cmswire.com/information-management/enterprise-search-is-bringing-me-down/ backs up the search is not working view and Martin notes:

If you can’t find information, then in effect it does not exist.

Your search application may return 85,340 results for a query, but if the most relevant information was not indexed, or your security permissions inadvertently prevented the information from being displayed — can you trust your search application?

And finally

In Lisboa at last month’s SocialNow event which among other things aims to shine a light on workplace collaboration tools much of the talk was about tagging of content so that it was more easily found.  The danger of relying on Tagging like Taxonomy is that one man’s tag is another man’s conundrum.

Perhaps this example best sums it up. I reluctantly became a Mac user in 2010. Having grown up on Windows infrastructure I was wedded to the idea of Explorer to manage my documents and files.  I was assured that Mac Search would solve all my problems and had no need of a filing structure or Knowledge Base. It doesn’t and though I would never go back I still use an Explorer like structure to augment search.

It seems Assisted Search is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

From the ‘outside’: tips for running virtual meetings

Yesterday Plan Zheroes, the charity I am proud to be the Knowledge Trustee of, held a board meeting. Unablle at the last minute to get to the venue I participated virtually. Here are a few learnings I’d like to share from the ‘Outside’ of the meeting.

Visibility

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 12.01.30All people in the room should be visible to the virtual attendee (s). If impractical then make sure the key players are.

As you can see we started with an empty space next to the Chairman where the CEO should have sat.

Connectivity

Unless you are in two specially built VC facilities the chances are you will be reliant on Skype or an equivalent VOIP connection.  To improve reception make sure all other programmes (especially email) are switched off on the host and virtual machines.

Scheduling

Build in breaks and make no session last for more than an hour.

Summarising

SInce conversations can often be distorted and difficult to follow from a distance (especially if there is interference on the line) make sure whomever is chairing the meeting summarises what was agreed at the end of each section of the agenda.

And finally

Don’t assume every word spoken in the room can be heard outside of it and be patient. I’ve seen virtual meetings fail because of an irritation with the technology +/or connection – why is it we always blame the other end for the poor connection – don’t apportion blame, apportion ownership of the task to get it right next time and have a back up system in place such as Facetime, ooVoo or Viber.

If you want more on this subject follow this link to a piece I wrote with Martin White of Intranet Focus for KM Legal 2015: 10 tips for effective virtual teams.

how to draw on the experience of others: OpenSpace Peer Assist

Last week I attended the 12th annual Knowledge Management UK event in London.

The format has changed little over the years: predominantly show and tell for IMG_3607an audience that is a mix of new in post and established mid level practitioners all looking for something to take back into their business.

This year I noted an increase in the average age of the delegates and more from Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector perhaps reflecting how KM has become an accepted discipline across many organisations. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the feedback comments this year.

I only attended Day One, my colleague Martin White was presenting on Knowledge Collaboration in Virtual Teams on Day Two (I know he will have a few comments to add). Suffice here to give a shout for a couple of the presentations which struck a chord:

Culture Change in bentley motors to facilitate information sharing

Bentley CultureI particularly liked this Bentley Motors presentation as it mirrored my experience helping to intergrate a group of Anglo / Dutch / German / US businesses a decade ago. Now part of VAG group it has embarked on a medium term programme to align itself with their aspirations and working practices without a loss of the perception of quality.

The Hofstede findings when looking at German and UK characteristics pick up nicely where the potential Hofstede country comparisonareas of conflict were likely to be.

The premise behind the programme: information sharing requires the right cultural environment not a set of slloed business units.

building a minimum viable product: Oxfam

This session provided a great illustration of the importance of working to an agreed vision for a KM programme.

OxfamThe slide I’ve picked here makes explicit the concept of get/give – if you benefit from something you have a responsibility to contribute something back in return.

Its a great example of what being a knowledge driven business is truly about.

The second slide provides an image of what collaboration will look like in Oxfam Futurethe future at Oxfam. What’s really interesting is the explicit acknowledgement of the need for information underpinnings (including Search) to provide KM benefits.

There were a couple of others and if anyone wants a truncated account follow this hashtag #KMUK2015.

OpenSpace Peer Assist

My brief was to run an interactive closing session (lasting 1 hour) that enabled the delegates to answer:

  • What problems are you facing?
  • In what areas would you like to share your experience with others?
  • What are others doing that you would like to find out more about?

Typical problemsAs a backdrop I shared this list to stimulate discussion.

It wasn’t needed as many of the delegates were keen to have their challenge discussed and half a dozen volunteers came forward offering to act as the Assistee (host the discussion around their challenge).

 

Having decided which challenge each delegate wanted to discuss, these guidelines were put up:Peer Assist Process

Below is a snapshot of the discussions taken from summaries which Laura Brooke of Ark Group  captured on her smart phone.

The idea of getting the Assistee to summarise is to consolidate the discussions and reflect back in plenary. I’ve shared them in case some of these might help you to overcome a challenge.

Knowledge Capture In a Legal environment

  • On getting people to talk about experiences: Documents don’t work, stories of events do!
  • On conducting After Action Reviews and getting people to acknowledge when things go wrong: often spoken about in meetings but minutes are not always taken and when they are they are not interactive so need a better way to record.
  • Asking someone to tell you what they know won’t work, instead ask them: What questions do you get asked all the time?  If you don’t know what people know at least you should know who to go and ask?
  • Challenge of self perceptions: Some people think they know a lot others don’t think they know anything important which is where a 3rd party might come in to tease out the valuable stuff.
  • Where to store: If you put everything into a site it would be too much. SharePoint to apply an automatic taxonomy.

how to measure real value on km and learning from experience

  • Saving time: at the beginning of the journey take an estimate of time to be saved and OpenSource Peer Assistmeasure throughout.  Help to develop people faster.  If KM is making a contribution on a project that should be recorded.
  • Improving the onboarding process so that new hires do not lose interest and leave.
  • Idea box (self funding): adopted by an expert, any returns should be applied back to KM.
  • Managing records: looking at information that has gone past sell by date and not legally required.
  • Why are we asked about KM value: should be a given that its needed.

system adoption

  • Practical examples of what’s in it for me tailored for each office.
  • Huge challenge getting people to fill in profiles on a people finder: need to show good examples with leaders to the fore.
  • Collaborative groups: form a community among the leaders of each.
  • Contributions to the system: change appraisal process to recognise the contributions.
  • Steering Group: make better use of it as system advocate.
  • Metrics: really good internal measures should be used for advertising.
  • When all else fails shut down the other systems!

How to get leaders to take km more seriously

  • While senior people understand the value they don’t back it financially.
  • Siloed approach to communications: – a set of inconsistent messages even from KM champions.
  • While KM is part of a strategy its often seen as a tick box exercise.
  • Accountability: make objectives more transparent.
  • Business Case: more analysis on where we are starting from and show tangible stuff.
  • Reporting lines: KM should be an agenda item on senior level meetings just like risk!

Engaging with it

  • Make them heroes part of the vision for future which they jointly own and where their role is clear.
  • Recognise their workload and surface their inability to deal with multiple objectives with current resources.
  • Reaffirm the importance of the KM development strategy and its priority.
  • Look at success in other organisations: take IT ‘guys’ along to other organisations who have made it work.

what the participants said

Here’s a few of the comments from the Assistees and Assistors (names removed to preserve anonymity):

“Peer assist is a very powerful tool to deliver”
“I very much enjoyed being able to discuss a particular challenges with a group of peers.

Interesting to hear others’ view points and ideas and the types of challenges they face”
“Very good speaker – Style of session was very useful and interesting, more like this please!”
“Engaging, fun, informative – learned a lot from the session”
“Very good peer assist. I got a few ideas generated by the group for my situation”

and finally

Perhaps what surprised me the most was the show of hands I got to the question:

A Peer assist is a process that enables the gathering of knowledge drawn from the experiences of colleagues before embarking on a project or piece of work, or when facing a specific problem or challenge within a piece of work – How many of you have used Peer Assists in your business?

Less than 10% put up their hands.  Even with a modesty factor it still means less that 25% of Knowledge Management professionals at the event had used one of the most basic and valuable tools to draw on the experiences of others.  I’m glad I gave people the chance to try it out and learn from each other in so doing to solve real problems they are facing.

 

a reluctance to tweet: 10 success factors for virtual teams

It was like throwing a dart into a vacuum

Is how I responded on Twitter to Mark Gould an offsite observer of #KMLegal2015 who bemoaned the lack of online activity by the 100 or so Knowledge & Information Management (KIM) professionals who were attending this year’s Ark Group gathering of the UK KM legal community.

Its baffling: vendors, consultants and indeed KIM practitioners promote the value of social collaboration tools such as Yammer and Jive. Indeed KIM professionals are often at the forefront of efforts to get adoption in their organisation in order to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing. Yet they seem reluctant to ‘walk the talk’ in a public forum.

Perhaps Joanna Goodman got it right when she said:

sessions were quite interactive, so hard to be fully engaged and tweeting

It made me think more about why I tweet at a conference, this is what I posted during a virtual conversation with Luis Suarez a prodigious tweeter (58k to nearly 12k followers):

Why tweet a conference? Expand reach, collaborate, collect and share thoughts ‘on the fly’. Make notes for future blogs.

What really struck me though was the contrast with the Janders Dean Legal Knowledge & Innovation Conference, London #JDKMConf held the week before. That audience made sufficient ‘noise’ that even those who didn’t attend were able to draw conclusions. Here’s what Stephen Sander (The Vue Post) wrote in a witty piece about being a non attendee:

I curated below what I consider to be the best tweets from the Conference. These tweets offer an interesting insight into current themes and issues in legal knowledge, innovation and technology.

Perhaps this is the difference? The Janders Dean event was invitation only – a thought leaders event – whereas KM Legal is an open conference, if you pay up you can go!

Whatever the merits of both, facilitation should be at the core of the KIM professionals competency set and ‘putting stuff out there’ ia good part of that. Too many broadcast rather than engage. Knowledge Management in a comfort zone is not going to change the way a firm works and responds to the significant challenges facing the legal profession which brings me onto why I was there:

Managing Virtual Teams

In December, Martin White and I ran a breakfast breakout event at the RSA entitled The Future for Legal KIM: an outside in perspective’. One of the challenges firms identified as significant but for which they were ill prepared was the management of virtual teams. As a couple of long in the tooth practitioners who have worked across many continents we’d seen a wide range of organisations fail to match their virtual team technology investment with training in how to go about facilitating virtual encounters.

Virtual Teams Presentation StructureOur brief for KM Legal 2015 was therefore entertain the audience, bring the issues to life. Our approach: tell stories and show images.

We divided the presentation into these areas each drawing on events from our knowledge base.

In tackling the culture piece I noted the following:

Let me say right up front: you can’t manage culture just the same as you can’t manage knowledge. In both cases you can create environments in which people are willing to collaborate, share and work towards a shared set of goals.

Many organisations have a set of values and a social contract that underpins the relationship between the firm and employees.

Ultimately a firm is a collection of individuals each with their own reasons for being there. In a virtual team people’s fears, prejudices and behaviours are magnified.

In thinking and rehearsing for the session Martin and I had worked virtually. We learned a lot about clarity of messages and intent behind words and phrase (and we are both English). We (re) discovered the need for a collaboration space with a framework that suited us both.

We discovered a lot more besides, here’s what we shared with the delegates:

Ten virtual team success factors

  1. Virtual teams are the way work gets done: Recognise that virtual teams are going to be increasingly important to any organisation, and ensure that current and potential participants have access to training and mentoring on virtual team management and virtual team meetings.
  2. Set very clear and achievable objectives: Virtual teams should have very clear objectives so that it is possible to set the investment in the team against the outcome and also that team members bring appropriate skills, expertise and authority to take action.
  3. Chose virtual team leaders carefully: Leadership skills that work for physical teams may not be as valuable in a virtual team environment. Other skills are needed and have to be acquired through practice, not just through reading or teaching.
  4. Develop protocols for virtual meetings; Without good team meetings a virtual team is very unlikely to achieve its objectives and so particular care should be taken in developing guidelines for virtual meetings and for facilitating feedback.
  5. Provide team member profiles: Develop good profiles of each team member, taking into account local availability of technology and offices which can be used to take part in virtual meetings (especially in the case of open-plan offices) and language expertise.
  6. Build virtual relationships before putting them to the test: Each team should have an opportunity to meet with other members of the team through an initial virtual meeting where members can introduce themselves and gain experience with the technology being used before the first formal meeting of the team.
  7. Team dynamics can be difficult to manage: Team dynamics of virtual teams can be quite fragile, often depending on a very high level of trust in people they may not have met before. Introducing a new team member into an existing team may mean starting the process of building trust all over again.
  8. Gain consensus on what needs to happen between meetings?: Team members may have different reporting lines, which may impede the overall achievement of objectives. The measure of a virtual team is what it accomplishes between meetings, not how enjoyable the meetings are
  9. “English is our corporate language”: Issues of language and culture need careful consideration but should never be an excuse not to bring specific individuals into a team. There may be a mix of abilities in reading, speaking, understanding and writing in English
  10. Evaluate team and individual performance: The performance of the team and of each member should be carefully evaluated and training and support given where needed.