A CEO’s view of Knowledge Management

It is very interesting to see Knowledge Management from a CEO’s point of view.  Here is what one CEO said.

Image from blue diamond gallery

If you are “selling” KM to your CEO, then you need to know exactly how a CEO views the topic.

To my knowledge, there are only two publications by CEOs on the topic of Knowledge Management, one of them is Bob Buckman’s 2004 book “Building a Knowledge-driven Organisation“, and the other is John Browne’s 1997 HBR interview “Unleashing the Power of Learning“.

Browne’s interview was given when he was CEO of BP in the late 1990s, in the very early days of Knowledge Management theory.  To an extent, he was “communicating out to communicate in” – selling the KM message internally by publishing externally.  His interview is very much a “view from the top”, and shows how a CEO of a major multinational thinks about knowledge management.

Here are some quotes which might help you.

The business case for knowledge

“There are a variety of ways you can learn how to do something better. You can learn from your own experience. You can learn from your contractors, suppliers, partners, and customers. And you can learn from companies totally outside your business. All are crucial. No matter where the knowledge comes from, the key to reaping a big return is to leverage that knowledge by replicating it throughout the company so that each unit is not learning in isolation and reinventing the wheel again and again. The wonderful thing about knowledge is that it is inexpensive to replicate if you can capture it”. 

Art or science?

“The conventional wisdom is that excelling in incremental learning is a science—a matter of installing the right processes—while excelling in breakthrough thinking is more of an art. I disagree about the latter: I think you can install processes that generate breakthrough thinking. We have”. 

Tacit of Explicit?

“Another conventional view is that it is harder to tap implicit knowledge, which is the experiential knowledge locked inside someone’s head, than explicit knowledge, which can be captured in a database. But that hasn’t been our experience. We have had great success in fostering the personal interactions you need to mine implicit knowledge”. 

KM challenges

“Our challenge has been getting people to systematically capture the information the company needs in order to be able to use both explicit and implicit knowledge repeatedly. In the case of explicit knowledge, that means recording the actual data. In the case of implicit knowledge, it means keeping a record of the people who have the know-how to solve a problem so that others can find them when the need arises. The trouble is that both tasks are boring. So we’ve got to figure out how to make them exciting and enjoyable. We’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go”.

Organisational Purpose as a framework for knowledge

“A business has to have a clear purpose. If the purpose is not crystal clear, people in the business will not understand what kind of knowledge is critical and what they have to learn in order to improve performance. A clear purpose allows a company to focus its learning efforts in order to increase its competitive advantage. What do we mean by purpose? Our purpose is who we are and what makes us distinctive. It’s what we as a company exist to achieve, and what we’re willing and not willing to do to achieve it”.

How Management incentivises learning

“By setting competitive and comparative targets and challenging people to achieve them. To get people to learn, you need to give them a challenge. Setting a target is crucial even if you don’t actually know whether it’s fully achievable—because in times of rapid change, you have to make decisions and get people to step outside the box. One process that we employ to promote learning and drive performance is not that unusual. It involves understanding the critical measures of operating performance in each business, relentlessly benchmarking those measures and their related activities, setting higher and higher targets, and challenging people to achieve them”.

The role of management

“The top management team must stimulate the organization, not control it. Its role is to provide strategic directives, to encourage learning, and to make sure there are mechanisms for transferring the lessons”.

View Original Source Here.

Why a Community Charter is important

Communities of practice are one of the corenerstones of Knowledge Management, and one of the keys to successful communities is a good Charter.

Community core team in front of their draft charter

Communities of practice are perhaps the most popular element of Knowledge Management Frameworks. In our Knowledge Management Survey we found that 22% of respondents said their highest priority within their  Knowledge Management strategy was to connect people through communities of practice or networks.

However communities of practice are not uniformly successful, and can often become ghost towns like many LinkedIn groups, or implode into strife and argument.  In order to avoid these risks, one of the many things to get right, from the very beginning, is to agree a Community Charter.

A charter is a definitional document, created by the community members, which describes what the community is for, and how it will work. Often a draft is created by the community core team, or the people present at the community launch event, and that draft is then refined over time through discussion within the community. The picture on this blog post shows a community core team at the launch meeting, with their draft charter on the wall behind them.

The community charter contains the following elements:

  • Community Purpose – what the community is for; it’s high level aims and vision, and business case if appropriate 
  • Objectives – what the community is trying to achieve in concrete terms; things that you can measure
  • Scope – which areas of practice knowledge are in scope, and which are not
  • Processes – the ways in which the community will operate in order to share, use and co-create knowledge
  • Tools – the technologies the community plans to use 
  • Roles – who does what (names of the community leader, sponsor, core team etc)
  • Principles and Behaviours – which underpin the community. A great example of a behaviours charter is shown here. 

If you are launching a new community, be sure to define a charter.

View Original Source Here.

How much are you spending on knowledge?

It’s quite easy to work out how much your organisation spends on Knowledge.  Here’s how.

I often say that if your management knew the value of your organisation’s knowledge, then knowledge management would be an easy sell – a “no-brainer” as they say in the UK.

Although estimating the full potentail value of that knowledge is difficult, it is easy to work out how much the organisation spends on it at the moment. Look at it this way:

  • As people become more experienced (through gaining tacit knowledge) they command a higher salary. They arent getting any smarter, they are just getting more knowledgable, and so more valuable. As Larry Prusak said “When I was at my last job, at the age of 50 they paid me 10 times more than a 30-year old with the same qualifications. What was the residual difference? Knowledge and experience”.
  • The value of that person’s knowledge is therefore their current salary, minus the salary of an equally smart (but totally inexperienced) new starter. 
  • So take the total salary bill for your organisation, estimate the cost of replacing them with graduates, and the difference is the value of Knowledge (Larry Prusay shortcuts this, and estimates the value of knowledge as 60% of your non-capital spend).
So take an organisation of 10,000 people with an average salary of £50,000. You can replace these people with new graduates and school leavers working for (lets say) £15,000. So this organisation is currently spending £350,000 per year on knowledge. 

If an organisation is spending a third of a million pounds a year on something (in this case, knowledge), would it not be a good ideal to make sure that this investment was well managed?

View Original Source Here.

How to avoid "intellectual inbreeding" through knowledge management

Someone came up with a great phrase in a workshop recently – “Intellectual Inbreeding”

What they meant by Intellectual Inbreeding is the sort of restricted group think you get when ideas or practices have been the province of a small group of people, and they have become stuck in a set of shared views and opinions which are impervious to (or oblivious of) external views.

On this blog I have often referred to this as “knowledge bubbles” (see the Brexit example, the Hitler/Stalin example, the social media echo chamber,  and how to burst the knowledge bubbles, perhaps through a lesson escalation route).

Intellectual Inbreeding is what happens when the pool of ideas is too limited, and people can’t think outside the box, to bring in new ideas and topics. Intellectual inbreeding results in a restricted “meme pool”, and can lead to catastrophic error.  I recommend Christopher Burns’ excellent book “Deadly Decisions – how false knowledge sank the titanic, blew up the shuttle and led America into war” for some scary examples

On a smaller scale, we see this intellectual inbreeding very clearly in our famous and powerful Bird Island Knowledge Management exercise, where groups can get stuck on a particular design, and can’t see the wider possibilities. Maybe they have built a design that reaches 60cm, and think that if they really push everything to the limits, they might reach 75cm, little knowing that the best practice design is far far taller.

The way to beat Intellectual Inbreeding is to bring in ideas from elsewhere, from outside the meme pool. You can do this through peer assist, for example, or through knowledge learning visits. In the Bird Island game, we open the doors and bring in people from other teams to share their knowledge and ideas. Often, while the team was racking their brains to take their design up to 75 cm, a member from another team might come in having built a design that already reaches 120 cm.

What happens then, is dramatic. You can almost see the scales falling from people’s eyes, and you can almost hear the sound of the penny dropping, or the bubble bursting.

Intellectual Inbreeding is one of the most dangerous outcome of siloed organisations. Use techniques such as Peer Assist to break the silos, exchange the ideas and experiences, and expand the meme pool. A healthy meme pool leads to a healthy knowledge ecosystem.

View Original Source Here.

How to use external communications to market KM internally

Your KM communication plan should include external communication, primarily as a way to market internally.

Image from wikimedia commons

Knowledge Management implementation requires a communication strategy and plan, to help the stakeholders climb the ladder of engagement. One particularly useful strategy is to communicate your KM successes to the outside world, so that the messages can trickle back in.

Often you will have to deal with many cynics on the organisation, who like to treat KM as a fad, a  piece of nonsense, something they can ignore and it will go away. However once these people start to hear messages coming in from the outside, such as “Hey, I hear you guys are really good at Knowledge Management!”, this begins to create cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the observation (based on the work of festinger in the 1950s) that we hold many “cognitions” (views or opinions) about the world and ourselves; when they clash, a discrepancy is evoked, resulting in a state of tension known as cognitive dissonance. As the experience of dissonance is unpleasant, we are motivated to reduce or eliminate it, and achieve consonance.

Sometimes people reduce the tension of dissonance by explaining away the unpleasant “new truths”. Sometimes they alter their views to adapt to the new truths.

So our cynic thinks “Hang on, I know KM is just a fad, but here is somone saying we are admired for it. What’s going on?”  And he or she may start to shift their perception. “Perhaps KM is a useful fad? Perhaps OUR brand of KM is less faddish?”.  At the very least, you are setting up a tension of beliefs, and at the best, the cynics mind may begin to shift.

Here’s a quote from a Knowledge Manager who has used this technique.

 “As a company, we tend to learn more from people outside the company than from inside so we were deliberately trying to create an external reputation for KM that would come back into our company”

Once you have your first few Knowledge Management successes, start to broadcast them externally; not so much to build up your own reputation, but to create stories which will filter back into your organisation and help you with your change program.

View Original Source Here.

Who do you need on the KM team?

Here are 4 key skill areas you must not ignore when putting together your Knowledge Management implementation team.

Image from wikimedia commons

You know the four enablers of People, Process, Technology and Governance? What we call the four legs on the KM table?

These four areas should be reflected in the people and skills you choose to drive Knowledge Management implementation.

KM covers the area of overlap between IT, HR (or Learning and Development), Organizational Process and Management, and so the KM implementation team needs a blend of people who can cover these areas. So we need the following skills on the KM implementation team

People Skills
If the aim of the KM team is to introduce new behaviours and practices to the organisation, they will need people skilled in training, coaching and mentoring. Look for people with skills as change agents and business coaches. One or more people with a training background should be on the task force.

The knowledge management implementation task force has a hard job ahead of them, changing the culture of the organisation. They will be working very closely with people, often sceptical people, and they need very good influencing and facilitation skills. Secure facilitation training for the task force members.

The early stages of implementing knowledge management are all about raising awareness, and “selling” the idea. The KM team needs at least one person who is skilled at presenting, communicating and marketing. This person will also be kept busy raising the profile of the company’s KM and Best Practice activities at external conferences.

Process skills
The team need experience and skills in the operational processes of the business.  The KM team should contain people with good and credible backgrounds and skills in each major organisational subdivision. This is really to establish as much credibility as possible. When members of the task force are working with business projects, they want to be seen as “part of the business”, not “specialists from head office who know nothing about this sector of the business”. They have to be able to “talk the language” of the business – they need to be able to communicate in technical language and business language. They act as Best Practice champions within their area of business, and when the working task force is over, may take a leading Knowledge Management role in their subsidiary.

Technology skills.
The KM team needs at least one person who has strengths in the details of the current in-house technology, understands the potential of new technology as an enabler for knowledge management, and can help define the most appropriate technologies to introduce to the organisation.

Governance skills.
Finally the Km team needs a person who can look at KM from a high level – who can understand how it fits into the governance systems of the organisation, and twho can work at a high level to introduce the policy changes and the governance systems that are vital to the long term survival of KM. This person can be the KM team leder, or even the executive sponsor.

If the KM Table has 4 legs, then make sure there are people on the team with enough skills to look after each leg, to  make sure your final framework is sturdy and sound.

View Original Source Here.

What knowledge managers wish they had done to communicate KM better

Communication is key to KM. How could we do it better? Here’s what Knowledge managers say.

KM is a change program, and communication is a lever in delivering change. Every Knowledge Management implementation needs a communication strategy.

For all the KM implementations we have been involved with, we try and hold a learning review at the end, to learn from the successes and challenges. At these reviews, the knowledge managers within the organisations share their learnings with us.

Here’s what they have to say on the topic of communication. You can see they didn’t always get it right! (NB each quote is from a different knowledge manager)

“We should have allocated always in our plan, an element of communication process. Even when push came to shove, we should have fought for that just like we fought for some of the other things that were close to our hearts and our commitment”.

“We should have implemented a communication strategy, to define all the different ways of communicating, what the medium would be, what the target audience would be, what the message would have to be”.

“Compared to some that we have seen, our communication is very much better. (Program X) for example are putting a lot of effort in, but they are not telling anybody anything. We took the opposite tack, and decided to tell people that something was coming. When they ask questions, we say “we do not yet know the details””.

“Maybe what we could have done with the benefit of hindsight is have that communication strategy right from the start instead of inventing it three quarters of the way through”.

“Make it someones accountability. To form a strategy and to keep revisiting that strategy. Don’t let it fall below the water line”.

“We developed a bulletin for people who self-select to stay in touch with things. There are 1000 or 1200 people in the organisation who have an interest in what we are doing. Every month we send an e-mail to all the new joiners, and say “Do you know that people are sharing their trade secrets on the intranet all across the company? would you like to be kept in touch with this?” And every time we have a workshop with a group of people, we add them on, and every time we do some consultancy or just meet people we ask them if they would like to subscribe. We send it out once a month by e-mail. It is quite colourful, it is not just plain text, we put coloured text in it, we have four bulleted items, and there’s a link to one thing on the KM site and then two other things on the intranet which have been published, and we advertise our workshops”.

“We could easily have doubled or trembled the level of communications that we were doing, if we had had the manpower”.

There is a consistent message here. Every one of these knowledge managers realises the importance of communication, and most of them wish they had dome more of it. 

View Original Source Here.

How to apply Guerrilla Knowledge Management

What if you have no senior management backing for your Knowledge Management program?  In a situation like this, your only recourse is to take a strategy known as “Guerrilla KM,” or “Stealth KM.”

Originally uploaded by ˙Cаvin 〄

A Guerrilla Knowledge Management program is one where you work undercover, out of the sight of the ruling powers. Please don’t treat this as a long-term strategy. This is a strategy for gaining support for KM implementation, rather than for implementation itself.

To understand the strategy, lets look at Military uses of the terms Guerrilla and Stealth.

  • The purpose of a Guerrilla military unit is only to escape detection until they make a big impact on a strategic target, like a bridge or a railroad. Then everyone knows they are there!
  • The purpose of the Stealth bomber is only to escape detection until it drops a bomb.
  • Similarly the purpose of the Guerrilla Knowledge Manager is only to work undetected until you make a “big bang” and achieve a spectacular and strategic success.

 The Guerrilla strategy

The first step of the Guerrilla Knowledge Management strategy is to choose your sphere of operation. Effectively, you are looking for a KM pilot project that you can get permission to run.

  • Find a supportive manager – someone who sees the potential that KM can bring, and who already has a problem that KM can solve. 
  • Make sure you can demonstrate and measure success in business terms. You need a clear metric, and the opportunity to make a big difference. 
  • Make sure you have the potential to scale up the success so that when the pilot is over, you have not just delivered success to a supportive manager, you are bringing valuable knowledge to the rest of the company. 
  • Make sure you have the resources to do the pilot. The resources are likely to be your own time and energy, these are not boundless, and you cannot afford to fail. The Guerrilla who fails, vanishes without a trace. 
  • Focus on areas that will have high impact, high visibility and a high probability of success. 
  • Get clear on the organisational drivers within the pilot area, understand the critical knowledge, create a local framework, identify and work with the local stakeholders, and drive a change in behaviour at the local level. 
  • If you have little time and little money, focus on connecting people, and on Knowledge Pull. Techniques such as Communities of Practice, Peer Assist, Knowledge Exchange, and Knowledge Visits can all generate a quick value return for relatively little outlay. 
  • Publicise the success. Celebrate noisily. Get the individuals involved in the pilots to tell the story of the success. Record them on video. Embed the video into presentations for senior managers. Post the video on the intranet. Write stories in the company magazine or newsletter. Put up posters and banners. Make sure everyone notices. Much of Guerrilla Warfare is about propaganda – if nobody hears about the “big bang” then the Guerrilla has failed. 

As Ken Miller says

The response you want is, “How did you do that?” Don’t make the mistake of piloting the concepts on low-hanging fruit. Think big. We’re not talking about moving the coffee-maker closer to the break room. If nobody notices what you’ve done, you’ve missed the point of Guerrilla Warfare. And if everybody notices what you are doing before you’re done, you have also missed the point. 

Then you need to transform your success into high level support. 

This is the point at which you start to bargain with the senior managers. Show them the local value you have created through KM, and promise them that you can scale this up across the whole company, with little risk and high levels of return on investment. All you need from them in return are resources and support to enable you to take the next step.

A Guerrilla Strategy is not an easy option, and it requires bravery. Sometimes people instinctively choose a stealth approach to KM because they believe it is less risky. They feel that by working undercover and out of sight, they can avoid high level challenge; the sort of challenge that might lead to the cancellation of the KM program.

However remember Ken Miller’s words “If nobody notices what you’ve done, you’ve missed the point of guerrilla warfare”. You are only working undercover until you can drop the Knowledge Management bomb.

View Original Source Here.

Communities of practice – wild gardens, or market gardens?

What sort of garden is your community of practice?

Barnsley House kitchen garden,
from wikimedia commons

One of my stock sayings is that if knowledge is organic, KM is gardening.

This recognises that knowledge is not a uniform commodity than can be counted out like money, but also recognises that looking after knowledge is hard work.  However even within the topic of gardening there is a range of approaches, and we can see that also in KM terms when it comes to how we work with communities of practice.

There really are two approaches to “community gardening”, and we can call them “select and support” versus “seed and promote”.

The first – “select and support” – is a bottom up approach. It sets the conditions for community growth, lets communities emerge spontaneously, and then selects and supports the ones that are felt to be strategic. Its like preparing a flower bed, allowing flowers to appear, then thinning out the ones you don’t want and watering the ones you do want. You get a wildflower garden if you are lucky, or a bramble patch if you aren’t.

The second approach – “seed and promote” – is more of a top down approach. Here you deliberately seed communities on key topics. Here you plant the things you want to grow – the gardenias and the hollyhocks, or the carrots and the pumpkins.

Each approach has its merits and demerits

The “select and support” approach makes use of existing networks and existing energy. As a manager or network champion, you will be “pushing on an open door”. Payback will be rapid, as there will be very little start-up time and cost. The communities will spring up. However there may be no existing communities which cover the most crucial and strategic topics, and many of the communities that do emerge may have relatively limited business benefit.

The “seed and promote” approach allows you to set up communities to cover the three areas of

  • Strategic Competencies (crucial to competitive success),
  • New competencies (crucial to growth and new direction), and
  • Core competencies (crucial to income and market share).

However payback may take longer, as you need to climb the start-up curve, and it may be hard work generating enthusiasm and energy among prospective community members. These communities will take more work, just as creating a vegetable plot full of prize-winning vegetables takes more work.

But the results may, in the long term, be more valuable to the organisation.

View Original Source Here.

6 danger signs for a Knowledge Management Strategy

How do you know your Knowledge Management strategy is in danger of crashing? Here are 6 signs.

These 6 danger signs are from a 2009 blog post by Lucas McDonnell, reproduced as a Linked-In Pulse article in 2015.

Image from wikimedia commons

1. People outside your group don’t understand what you’re doing. Assuming you’re communicating your strategy appropriately, the fact that no one else gets it usually means that far from being too brilliant to grasp, that instead you’ve simply got your head in the clouds.  You need to be able to translate the concept.

2. You keep changing vendors/technologies/products. Look very carefully to make sure that what you’re attributing to be a set of technology defects or a vendor deficiency isn’t actually a non-existent content management process or broken governance model. Changing vendors/technologies/products won’t help you with those sorts of issues. Ensure you implement a complete Knowledge Management Framework.

3. You keep layering vendors/technologies/products on top of each other. More vendors and products to deal with usually also means added complexity, and unless you have a strategy and the resources to deal with that added complexity, you’re going to drop a few when trying to juggle all those balls.

4. You find it difficult to explain what you’re trying to accomplish. If it’s really that tough to explain what you want to get done, it’s probably going to be really tough to get the money, support and people to get it done.

5. You’re prescribing organizational change. Organizations can be changed — but a knowledge management strategy that seeks to change every part of an organization at once is pretty much doomed to fail.

6. You’re making big promises. Making promises isn’t a bad thing, but don’t promise things you aren’t sure you can deliver — or assume that certain longstanding problems can be fixed via knowledge management.  Promise small, deliver big.

View Original Source Here.