What’s the "white space" occupied by KM?

One of the issues involved in developing the ISO standard for Knowledge Management has been the definition of the “White Space” KM occupies.

After all, if Knowledge management is to add any value as a discipline, it must cover areas not already covered by other disciplines. This was the main thesis of “The Nonsense of Knowledge Management” by  TD Wilson, who argued that KM was partly or completely a rebadging of Information Management, and therefore a fad invented by management consultants to make themselves rich (I wish!). Knowledge Management must occupy a space of it’s own, surrounded by (but not totally overlapping with) other disciplines.

So when it came to defining the scope of KM for the forthcoming ISO standard, one of the things we looked at was existing standards for existing disciplines. Again, if a KM standard is to add value, it can’t be a rebadging of an existing standard.

There are many such adjacent ISO standards, either in existence of under development:

  • There are ISO document management standards, so document management cannot (for ISO purposes) be seen as part of KM;
  • There are existing records management standards, so records management cannot (for ISO purposes) be seen as part of KM
  • There are innovation management standards under development, which means that ISO must treat innovation systems and KM systems separately, 
  • Similarly there are ISO standards for non-formal training and learning, and for content management as it applies to product documentation.
In between these existing standards though there is some white space for KM.
  • There are no standards that address the value of tacit knowledge, and its expression, sharing, transfer and re-use;
  • There are no standards that address the externalisation or documentation of tacit knowledge, and its internalisation and application by others;
  • There are no standards that address the combination of knowledge from many sources in order to create new ideas and new knowledge;
  • There are no standards that address the disposal of old knowledge (which sometimes is more dangerous than no knowledge at all).
So there is space for Knowledge Management as a discipline; namely a discipline based on Knowledge, rather than on information and documents; which recognises that some knowledge may be transferred or retained in documented form, but which addresses the contents of the document rather than the way it is handled as a record.
That is the discipline which we should shortly see released in the draft Knowledge management standard: ISO 30401.  I will let you know when it is released, so you can view and comment on the standard, ready for the next phase of committee work.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

8 arguments for having a KM Policy

What’s the point of having a KM Policy? Here are 8 arguments in favour.

  1. There comes a time when a KM strategy has done its job, and that’s when you need a KM policy.  Your Knowledge Management strategy is a strategy for change – a strategy for introducing the culture, behaviours and management framework for Knowledge Management. Once the change is complete, what replaces the strategy? The answer is a Knowledge Management Policy
  2. The KM policy is a statement of intent. It declares that the organisation believes KM is important. Conversely, if there is no olicyy, that declares that the organisation believes KM is not important.
  3. The KM policy sets clear expectations and accountabilities for all staff. It is a statement of expectation and defines KM accountabilities for the organisation. 
  4. Creating a KM policy requires the support of senior management. Therefore the policy is a visible sign of senior management support, and it indicates that senior managers want things done the right way in KM terms. The policy also requires you to work with senior management to define the expectations and statements, so drives you to deep engagement with leadership.
  5. The KM policy gives direction without being prescriptive. It therefore sets boundaries within which people in the organisation can tailor their own KM approaches.
  6. The KM policy resolves tensions between opposing forces. Like the tension between open sharing of knowledge versus information security – the only way that will get resolved is through an overarching policy statement.
  7. The KM policy sets minimum standards for KM. This gives you a baseline to measure against, and a way to recognise those people who are not doing what they should in KM terms. 
  8. The forthcoming ISO Knowledge Management Standard will almost certainly require a KM policy. This standard will be a Management Systems standard, and the template for an ISO management systems standard contains a section on Policy. ISO believe that an effective management system must be supported by a polity, and that applies to KM just as it does to other management systems. 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Is your knowledge base more like a sock drawer or a supermarket?

There are three models for a knowledge base – which one is most like yours?

before & afterYour online Knowledge base is where you store your documented knowledge, It is a repository – but more than that, it is a knowledge resource for others. Someone looking for documented knowledge comes to the knowledge base to search and browse.

So what do they find?

Generally knowledge bases fall into one of three categories. Let’s call them the underwear drawer, the library and the supermarket display.

The underwear drawer (see top picture), if you are anything like me, is the place you pile all your clean washing, generally with the newest washing on the top. The drawer is easy to fill – you just cram everything in – but you know that the hard work will be done when you search (often early in the morning, in the half-light) for a set of matching underwear with no holes. All the work is done when searching, and very little is done when storing. The knowledge base equivalent is the uncontrolled filing structure, where you rely on a good search engine to find what you want. Dump it all in, then search for what you need.

The library (or the organised underwear drawer, see bottom picture) is a managed and structured repository. You know the category, you know the title, and you find the book. Or you know the drawer, and the relevant section, and you find a rolled set of underwear of the right colour. The work is distributed between the seeker and the storer. You categorise when you store, and you browse to the right place when you search. The knowledge base equivalent is the organised and tagged knowledge base, where you can browse or search for the knowledge you know you need.

The supermarket goes one step further (see my post from last year on the knowledge supermarket). In my local supermarket, for example, you can find a section that displays pasta, pasta sauce, Parmesan cheese and Italian wine, all within the same attractive display. Without searching, you are presented with all the ingredients for an Italian meal. Similarly with curries – curry sauces, poppadoms, nan bread, Cobra beer, lime pickle – all in one display. Lots of work is done by the storer, so as to minimise the work for the seeker, and as a result, they pick up the Impulse Buyer – the person who was not actually looking for this material in the first place, or who had forgotten that they need lime pickle with their poppadoms. The knowledge base equivalent is the Knowledge Asset; the one-stop shop for knowledge on a topic – the wiki page or portal that gives you everything you need to know, whether you knew you needed or not.

So what’s the lesson for Knowledge Management?

I believe there are three reasons why a supermarket is the best of the three models for your knowledge base.

  1. Firstly the main barrier for KM is not supply, but re-use. Many companies have no difficulty in creating knowledge supply, but all companies struggle with re-use. Therefore if we are to lower the barriers, let’s lower the barriers for the seeker and the re-user. Let’s invest in knowledge packaging, and the creation of knowledge assets, so that there is no excuse not to re-use.
  2. Secondly, although the search engine vendors will say that the search engine can do all the finding work for you, most people start by browsing rather than searching when they are shopping for something. Supermarkets are built for browsers, unorganised underwear drawers aren’t. 
  3. Thirdly, a search result will not return the “unknown unknowns” – the things you did not know to search for. The supermarket, on the other hand, is well designed for ensuring you find the impulse-buys which were not on your shopping list. 

Think about the knowledge user when you design your knowledge base, and don’t make them or their search engine do all the work.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

4 KM implementation lessons from Hoffman-LaRoche

Here are some useful lessons on KM implementation.

Taken from this article, here’s some lessons on KM implementation from the Hoffman-LaRoche experience.

I quote

“First, managers hoping to make a difference through better knowledge management should start by focusing on the right problem. Patricia Seemann chose a spot that was closely tied to the strategy of the business, and a driver of the firm’s future growth. She also focused on a process that was undeniably knowledge-intensive, ensuring that the impact of knowledge improvements would be great.

“This points to a second lesson: set definitive goals for what the effort will achieve. Preferably, as at Roche, these can be stated in terms of ultimate increases in profitability. 

“The third lesson to take away from Roche’s story is that knowledge management need not be technology- intensive, and should not be technology-driven. Tools like prototypes and knowledge maps can be surprisingly low-tech. They don’t require people to buy into major infrastructural overhauls up front and on faith—they simply get a job done, and win converts along the way.

“Finally, Roche’s success teaches a lesson about bringing together the right project team. A mix of twenty-five Roche people and a variety of outside consultants, Seemann’s was small enough to move fast, but big enough to bring a variety of perspectives to the table. Most importantly, every member of the team was drawn from the best and the brightest Roche had to offer. Too often, Seemann knew, internal projects are staffed with employees who have time on their hands. Unfortunately, they may be free for good reason—they are not the organization’smost valued contributors. Getting the best benefits a project on two levels: it gets the work done faster and better, and it makes a very visible statement about the project’s importance to top management. In Seemann’s words, “Do not divest knowledge management to your deadwood. Knowledge is something that is so dear to the company that only the best and brightest can actually bring it out.”

Good advice! 

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

The link between lesson learning maturity and effectiveness.

What is the best type of storage system for lessons learned? Our survey data compares the options.

We conducted a big survey of Knowledge Management this year, following on from a previous survey in 2014. Both surveys contained an optional section on lesson learning, and across both surveys we collected 222 responses related to lesson learning.

One of the lessons learned questions was “Rate the effectiveness of your organisational lessons learned process in delivering performance improvement, from 5 (completely effective) to 0 (completely ineffective)”

Another asked the respondent where their lessons were most commonly stored.

By combining these two questions, we can look at the average effectiveness of lesson learning for each storage option, as shown in the chart above. You can see clearly that organisations where lessons are stored within a custom lesson management system are far more likely to rate their lesson learning as effective than those where lessons are stored as sections within project reports, or not stored at all. Other storage options are linked to intermediate ratings scores.

This links back to a blog post I wrote in 2012 on the maturity of lesson learned systems. 

Here I identified a number of maturity levels, from level 1a through level 3. The supporting technology for storing lessons is only one part of the maturity system, but it struck me today that you can overlay these maturity levels on the chart, as shown below.

  • In levels 1a and 1b, lessons are stored in project reports
  • In level 1c, lessons are stored in a spearate system – a database, a wiki, a spreadsheet
  • In level 1d, individuals can “follow” certain types of lessons, and be notified when new lessons appear
  • In level 2, lessons are stored in a lesson management system which allows them to be routed to experts to embed lessons into practice.

The diagram shows that each progression from one maturity level to the next is associated with an increase in effectiveness of the lesson learning system.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Why its important to convey the value of Knowledge Management

The most important thing you can do for KM within your company, is help people to understand the value. 

I often say that “knowledge management is how people would manage their organisations if only they knew the value of their knowledge”.  If they understood the unrealised value of the knowledge assets they already hold, they would willingly invest in that value. And if they understood the value of the knowledge they risk losing, they would invest in retaining it.

If you know what something is worth, you know you need to look after it. If you don’t know what its worth, you don’t treat it with due care.

Organisations which apply knowledge management really well, report huge value. Mars, with their billion dollars of knowledge-enabled value, Texas Instruments with their “free fabrication plant” through KM, Shell with their $200m value per year.

The value is delivered through giving people access to better knowledge, so that they can make better decisions. Knowledge can be transferred from good performers to poor performers, or carried forward from one project to another, in order to improve business results. If you know the value, you can justify the investment.

In one drilling program, we anticipated that KM could save in the order of $100m (in the end, we saved $83m). So when management challenged investment in three full-time learning engineers, the KM team were able to justify this investment by pointing to the scale of the potential savings.

So an early exercise for you to undertake in your KM program is to estimate the “size of the prize” that KM could bring.

Once the senior decision makers understand the value that KM can bring, and the size of the potential prize, you will find it far easier to get support!

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Analysing questions and answers in communities of practice

Analysis of search trends is common in KM – and you can use a similar approach to analyse community questions and answers.

Many organisations analyse internal searches of their Intranet or Knowledge Base, using tools similar to Google Analytics to find out what peopele are searching for, and what they find through those searches.

However your Intranet search engine is not the only tool for finding knowledge – manage aorganisations also use question and answer forums in their communities of practice.

We tried a similar approach of analysing queries in a big online community of practice recently. The queries to the community forum were already characterised into topics, because when you submit a search to this particular community of practice you have to choose which topic it is related to. So that saved us having to assign categories.

We divided these topics into four quadrants;

1. Topic categories where there were few questions, but each one got lots of answers. These tended to be areas of common knowledge, where most people knew the answer and only a few new people did not. For these topics, we could write guidelines or faqs for the benefit of the new staff

2. Lots of questions, lots of answers. These were the important and evolving Knowledge topics where it was worth while setting up community meetings so that we could start to exchange and document best practice (maybe a knowledge exchange, maybe a knowledge market).

3. Lots of questions, few answers. These were the problem areas, where some more research or action learning was needed to start to develop solutions.

4. Few questions, few answers. Our assumption was that these are not particularly important areas, but that it was worth watching them in case they developed into problem areas.

This was a very useful analysis and led to a greater understanding of the important evolving and problem topics within the community, as well as helping to suggest some community activities in order to improve their knowledge.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

Lesson Quality in Knowledge management

Lesson quality is a crucial component of lesson learning. Poor quality lessons just lead to Garbage-In, Garbage out.

I came across an interesting article recently entitled “Enhancing Quality of Lessons Learned” by Lo and Fong.  The authors look at lessons learned and how effective they are as a mechanism for transferring knowledge, and come out with the following areas where particular attention needs to paid when recording lessons. These are

  • The Meta-Knowledge – the way in which the lesson is tagged and labelled (including the organisational unit affected, the applicability, and the importance of the lesson)
  • Taking into account the needs of the users/learners
  • Comprehensibility and clarity of the lesson (selecting words that are unambiguous, and free of jargon)
  • The validity of the reasoning behind the lesson – the “Why” behind the lesson.

The authors point particularly to the last issue, and say the following

“Since curiosity is a good motivator for learning, knowing the reasons why past practices succeeded or failed is essential for encouraging users to gain and share knowledge that contributes to organizational learning. It is argued that Lessons Learned should provide the rationales behind the lessons, fostering users’ reflection and extension of the application of lessons to other situations”.

This comes back to a point I made last week about capturing the the Why.

It also makes the point that lesson quality is important if the lesson-learned component of KM is to work well. We have worked with several organisations who include quality control steps in their lesson learned program, and for several years conducted a monthly lessons quality audit for one organisation. For others we have provided lesson quality audit as part of an overall Lesson Learning audit service.

Maybe it’s time you audited the quality of your lessons?

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

More data on the health of KM (revised)

Is KM dying, alive and well, or on life support? Let’s bring some data into the debate (this post updated based on further data).

The debate about the health of KM is a perennial topic, with people variously claiming “KM is dead”, “KM is alive and well” or “KM is on life support”.  The item commonly missing in these claims is hard data; people instead going on their impressions, or on the bold claim of a replacement for KM that overthrows its older rival.

I have tried my best to bring some hard data into it, such as the apparent accelerating start-up rate of organisations, taken from the Knoco survey data (the counter-argument to which might be that more recent entrants to the KM game are more likely to have responded to the survey).
Here are some more data.
3 years ago I did a survey within LinkedIn, looking at the number of people in different countries with “Knowledge” in their job title (or or Conocimiento, or Connaissance, or Kennis, etc etc depending on language). From this I concluded that there are probably about 32,000 knowledge managers in the world, with the greatest concentration in Switzerland and the Netherlands, and the lowest concentration in Russia and Brazil.
This survey is easy to repeat, and to compare the number of people now with Knowledge or its equivalent in their job title, with the number of people then. The results for the top 10 countries in terms of search results are shown in the figure above and the table below.

total K people 2014 total K people 2017

In every case the number of people with a Knowledge job title has increased, but about 26%.

However the number of people from those countries on linkedin has also increased (thanks to Mahomed Nazir for pointing this out).

If we look at the number of people with Knowledge in their job title as a percentage of LinkedIn users, then things change, as the population of LinkedIn has grown a lot over the last few years.  The figures below represent the number of people from a particular country with Knowledge or its translation in their job title, per million LinkedIn unsers from that country.
K people per million LinkedIn users 2014 total K people per million LinkedIn users 2017
Here some countries have seen a fall in the percentage of people with a Knowledge job title, others have seen a rise. On average, numbers have fallen by 6%.
So in conclusion, over the last 3 years, the number of people with Knowledge etc as a job title on LinkedIn has increased by 26%, but this becomes a 6% decline in percentage terms if you allow for the overall population growth of LinkedIn.
 Is this the death of KM? Unlikely.
Could it be a slow decline? Possibly. 
I think we need to collect more data like this over a longer time period, and see if any trends continue.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.

"KM is all about change" – up to a point, and then it isn’t

Knowledge Management is only a change management exercise, until a certain point is reached. After that, it is about not changing.

It is an accepted fact that introducing KM is all about change.

You are bringing in  new processes, new roles, new technologies and new governance, that will enable, drive and support new ways of working, new behaviours, and new attitudes to knowledge. You are asking people not only to change the way they work, but also they way they think, In particular you are asking them to start to treat knowledge as a collective asset, not a personal asset.
So your KM program has all the trappings of a change management program – a vision, champions, a communication strategy, publicity for the strong perfomers, and so on.
However if you are successful, you come to a point where KM is institutionalised in the organisational frameworks. That’s when you need to stop changing.
Once KM is institutionalised, it is easy to take your eye off the ball, and think that the job has been done. However it is all too easy for the organisation to change back, to lose sight of the value KM brings and to start to revert back to how it was. The role of the KM team, once the KM change has been made, is to embed that change so that there will be no reversion.
Now your KM program has all the trappings of an established discipline – a policy, accountabilities, governance, standards, metrics and reporting, sanctions against the people who refuse to do KM, and so on.
And if you are successful with this, then KM can become internalised within the culture for the long term, and thats where the benefits will be greatest.

So Yes, KM is a change program, until it becomes a “don’t change back” program.

View Original Source (nickmilton.com) Here.