The ISO KM draft standard is now available

After a couple of years of development, the ISO KM standard (ISO 30401) is now open for discussion of the first committee draft.

You can buy a copy of the draft standard from the ISO site for 58 swiss francs, or your own national standards body may allow you to view and comment on the standard online. The British site for review and comment is here, for example (you will need to register).
You have until January 16 to comment, after which the comments will be reviewed by the national standards bodies and passed on to the working group for ISO 30401 for review and revision.

All comments welcome!

My views on this standard can be found in the blog post below:

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10 things best-in-class KM companies have in common

There are many things that the world leaders in KM have in common. Here are 10 of them.

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A focus on know-how, and providing know-how to the decision makers at all levels. The leaders in KM know that the end goal of KM is providing knowledge to people who need it to make decisions. A prime example here is the US Army hurricane story, but we can see this same principle in all KM leaders.

A focus on driving their performance through knowledge. Whether this is Shell drilling wells faster, NASA cutting cycle time, Severn trent improving their efficiency – all successful KM companies link KM activity to improved performance.

An understanding of the value of their knowledge. Leading KM companies know how much (in rough terms) KM means to them, and try to track the value through measuring the value of KM interactions like ConocoPhillips, or estimating the value of answered questions like Siemens. 

An understanding that knowledge is decentralised. Rather than centralising knowledge with experts or in centres of expertise, leading companies realise that knowledge is dispersed in the organisation and shared through communities of practice, as seen at Ericsson, World Vision, and Halliburton. Bringing together knowledge from many places yielded big benefits for Mars.

A complete framework for KM. Rather than just introducing one component of KM, Best in Class companies make sure they cover Roles, Processes, Technology and Governance. Bombardier is a great example,  with a framework of roles, processes, communities, technolgies and governance.

A balance of connecting and collecting. Connect and Collect are the two main pathways for knowledge transfer, and all the leaders in the field run both pathways in parallel – CoPs and wikis at Shell, CoPs and Wikis at Pfizer, Knowledge Assets and communities at Samsung, Siemens and others. They realise that both pathways complement each other, and are not mutually exclusive alternatives.

Embedded roles. All the leaders ensure there are embedded roles for KM. MicKinsey, for example, have 1800 knowledge professionals including knowledge owners, and the other big consultancies are amonst the world leaders in employing staff in knowledge roles together with the big technology firms like IBM and Hewlett Packard.

Embedded processes. KM processes are embedded in all the best-in-class KM companies. Processes such as After Action Review can be found in the oil majors, the emergency services and the military, while lesson learning processes and learning from experience has delivered value at Ford, the Canadian Air Force and Transport for London, and Peer Assist has be used to great effect at De Beers

Culture and behaviours, supported by governance. All the leaders recognise that culture is key, and address this through various governance processes such as the NASA KM policy, the knowledge policy for the Hong Kong Police, the Archimedes awards at Conoco, and the Oxfam “rightds and responsibilities” charter

Enough technology, and the right technology. Each of the leaders has a technology set that does everything needed in KM terms without going over teh top. This example from Schlumberger shows the ideal approach for KM technology, which is to select it based on need, and to eliminate any tehcnology which will cause confusion.

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What does a Director of Knowledge Management for a legal firm do?

This month there were two “Director of KM” jobs advertised on linked-in.  Let’s see what this job entails.

Word cloud from the responsibilities list

“Knowledge Management” is a poorly defined term, and Knowledge Management jobs can range from low level data-entry clerks to high level strategic posts, and anything in between. 

However when you see “Director of Knowledge Management” vacancies, that tells you that this is a high level post. One of these advertised vacancies gives few details of the post, but the second, from CMS (the legal firm) gives a full list of responsibilities and characteristics. 
These are listed below.


  • Conceiving, developing and implementing the firm’s knowledge management strategy. Promotion of a knowledge sharing culture. 
  • Acting as an ambassador and figurehead for knowledge in the firm. 
  • Working with the Head of Knowledge to drive continual Knowledge Management  service improvement, including the evaluation and exploitation of new technologies and resolving issues and barriers impacting on Knowledge Management  service delivery. 
  • Developing a cross firm knowledge community through facilitating communication and coordination between PSLs, information officers, Legal Project Managers, Business Managers, IT and others. 
  • Working with Practice Group Leaders to ensure appropriate provision of Knowledge to the practice groups. 
  • Working with the HR and L&D functions to ensure alignment of professional learning and Knowledge Management offerings. 
  • Working with the Marketing and Business Development function to build a client facing knowledge offering. 

Qualifications and characteristics

  • Prior experience of being a qualified lawyer prior to entering into a KM role. 
  • A minimum of 7 years’ KM experience operating at a senior level. 
  • A naturally confident leader and strategic thinker able to assess the firm’s future needs and align KM initiatives accordingly. 
  • An interest in, and knowledge of, technological advances and their potential impact on knowledge systems. 
  • A creative and commercial thinker who will come forward with new ideas and approaches. 
  • An ability to motivate and persuade lawyers to contribute knowledge and learning assets. 
  • A consultative approach – the ability to communicate effectively on both a practical and academic level with a willingness to listen. 
  • Experience of operating internationally and prepared to travel. 
  • Experience of creating and implementing new programmes and policies within a budgetary and time-critical framework. 
  • Advanced managerial skills with the ability to negotiate with and persuade others, not in direct line of report and working in close partnership with internal clients. 
  • Excellent communication skills with fluency in English, both written and spoken. Additional language skills would be an advantage. 
  • Ability to operate under pressure to resolve issues in a controlled and calm fashion 
  • Ability to operate and succeed in a fast-paced, highly intellectual, multi-tasking, client-service orientated environment. 
  • A team player with a ‘can-do’ attitude and a passion for excellence.

The responsibilities here are pretty generic, and not restricted to the legal sector. A Director of KM in any organisation would do much of this activity. However being a legal firm they are looking for a lawyer to take this role. 

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10 steps of lesson learning – from review to embedded change

A lesson, or a piece of knowledge, goes through ten generic steps in its life cycle.

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That’s partly why lesson learning is not easy – the lifecycle of a lesson contains several steps if the lesson is to lead to embedded change. These ten steps are listed below.

Step one, review of activity. 
The initial step in the lesson learned process is to review and restate the purpose and context of the activity being reviewed. Each lesson is learned in a specific context, and needs to be viewed in that context. For example the lessons learned from a project operating in a remote third-world location, where supply of spares and material is highly challenging, may learn different lessons from those in a project based in the commercial US. This activity review will look at context, objectives, and outcomes.

Step two, identification of learning points.
 By comparing outcomes against objectives and expectations, this step allows a number of learning points to be identified. The outputs of this step are observations that something has been unusually successful, or unexpectedly unsuccessful, and that a lesson needs to be identified. These Observations are the first stage in lesson identification and development – the egg from which a lesson may grow, if you like.

Step three, analysis of learning point. 
This takes the form of root cause analysis, seeking to find the root cause which created the result identified as an observation. There may of course be more than one root cause. Once the root cause is been identified, these are the “insights” of the Military lesson-learning quadrad of Observations/Insights/Lessons/Actions

 Step four, generalization and creation of learning advice. Once the root causes have been identified and the insights generated, the next stage is to discuss how the same operation or project, or future operations and projects, may avoid the root causes that caused cost or delay, or reproduce the root causes that led to success. The discussion leads to derivation of a lesson, which should be phrased in the form of advice or recommendations for the future. At this stage we have a “lesson identified” rather than a lesson learned.

Step five, identification of action. Once the lesson has been identified, the next question to address is how the learning may be embedded within the processes, procedures, standards, and structures of the organization. In order for embedding to take place, somebody has to take an action, and an action must be identified and assigned.

The 5 steps above are often conducted verbally within the project team, and mirror the 5 questions of the After Action review or Retrospect. In the steps below, the lesson leaves the team and starts to move out into the organisation.

Step six, lesson documentation. The lesson may be documented after the action has been discussed, or the lesson may be documented after step four, when it is still a “lesson identified”. In some cases, when the lessons are submitted by individuals, they document the lessons step by step, as they go through the thought process. In other cases, as discussed below, the lesson is first discussed and then later documented based on notes or records from the discussion. We can think of this as a “lesson documented“. And to be honest, you can have a lesson learning system where this step is omitted, and all lessons are communicated verbally.

Step seven, lesson/action validation. Most lesson learning systems contain at least one validation step, where one or more people with authority examine the documented lesson and the assigned actions, to make sure that the lesson is valid and truly merits action and change, and that the proposed action is appropriate. Some regimes include a risk analysis, or a management of change analysis, on the actions proposed, if they are big enough. The deliverable from this step is a validated lesson/action

Step eight, lesson management. In many ways you can describe all of the steps listed here as “lesson management”, but in most of the organizations any oil and gas sector, a lessons management technology system (sometimes known as a lessons database) is brought in to ensure that lessons are “managed” by being routed to the people who most need to see them. This “routing of lessons” is crucial in a large organisation, to make sure the action-holders are notified of the lesson, and the action they need to take. The deliverable from this stage is a change request.

Step nine, take action. The action identified above, if valid, needs to be taken, and the change made. This is the most crucial step within the lesson learning system, because without change, no learning will have occurred. The deliverable from this step is Change.

 Step ten, lesson closure. Once the changes being made, the lessons can be completed, or closed. The lifecycle of that particular lesson is over, and it can be archived or deleted.

Steps 5 to 10 are concerned not with the identification of the lesson, but the way in which it leads to the right change in the organisation. 

As this blog post shows, these ten steps can take place within a single project, across many projects, or across a whole organisation. However the ten steps are needed in each case.

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