February 25, 2009

Knowledge Management prototyping

As an engineer I was educated in the concept of prototyping. The whole premise was that you would create something that could be tested, reviewed, discussed and examined before going onto the final production version of the product. The reason for prototyping will vary from industry to industry, in the white goods industry it might be to test the usability of the product while in the nuclear power station component sector it might be to test that the device will operate without maintenance for the desired period of time. It’s all about testing before going into the final version.

The Knoco Ltd approach to introducing Knowledge Management to an organisation is based on this same principle. I could sit at my desk and design a world class Knowledge Management implementation plan for your organisation but while I would use all my many years of experience in Knowledge Management to make it the very best possible, until we tested it in your organisation we wouldn’t know if I had included all the minute little things that would tailor it to your specific organisation. We might have missed cultural, organisational or other such factors which wouldn’t have been obvious at the design stage. If they had been obvious we would have included them, wouldn’t we.

Another way to look at it is that you buy a book at the airport called “Teach Yourself How to Play Poker”. You read the book and then you head off to Las Vegas with your life savings to play poker. Of course you wouldn’t do this. You would test your skills in social games, perhaps practice using software, play in local money games. You would test your understanding of the game and build up your expertise until you were ready (if ever!) for Las Vegas.

I think about it as design, create a prototype, test the prototype, learn from it, refine it, roll out to the wider organisation. In Knowledge Management terminology we call this piloting. So if you are tempted to jump from design to roll out, just ask yourself, would you take that approach if you were learning to play poker!

February 24, 2009

Full Day Knowledge Management Workshop

Just received the final agenda for a conference and workshop that I have agreed to participate in. I will be presenting on 19th May a session entitled, Unlock Your Investment by Motivating People to Push Knowledge and Innovation. On the 21st May I will conduct a full day workshop entitled, Advanced Knowledge Management and its Impact on Enhanced Integrated Operations.

I tend to limit the number of conferences that I appear at each year as I want to remain fully grounded in the practical delivery of knowledge management consulting and training rather than become a full time conference presenter. I agreed to this one as I think it is an important topic and the quality of the delegates at previous events as resulted in quality interaction.

You can download the conference flyer. Background details can be found at Knoco Ltd

February 22, 2009

Knowledge Management, Sometimes Small is Best

There is always a temptation to focus on the big, showcase events and projects in an attempt to demonstrate the impact of knowledge management on the big stage. But sometimes the biggest impact can be achieved by focusing on those small things that are done frequently, the routine, sometimes invisible things. Not only can you make a business impact but you can also touch a lot of people by taking this approach. That's one of the reasons that the Knoco Ltd training courses are structured around providing the type and intensity of training that your organisations requires. There is no point in training people in things they wont use.

Knowledge Management Tipping Point

When you first start on your knowledge management programme any success is welcome. Followers of sport talk about getting ‘points on the board’. You will have started a number of pilots and proof of concept activities, with a bit of luck some, a couple, perhaps a lot of them will deliver. Success breeds success and the demand for the services of your department will grow and grow. This is a pattern that we at Knoco Ltd see frequently.

As you start to build up momentum there will come a point, the tipping point, where the demand has increased beyond your ability to service that demand. If you have planned ahead you will have trained and educated the potential resources located within the business to be able to start to meet this demand. Slowly but surely you can start to move the servicing of the demand to those that are embedded in the business rather than your core team. This is what we at Knoco Ltd refer to as transferring from Knowledge Management Implementation to Steady State Knowledge Management.

If you haven’t planned ahead you could start to create a growing pool of unsatisfied demand and unsatisfied customers. Planning ahead and embedding the required skills in the business is prudent management.

AAR, Simple but Very Effective Knowledge Management

One of the foundation processes in Knowledge Management is the AAR (After Action Review). It has been written about extensively and I won’t bother describing how to conduct one here.

The AAR has an image problem, it’s too simple. It’s not unusual to find people who think something so simple can’t deliver meaningful results, how wrong they are. I can think of one example where they decided to introduce AAR’s as an experiment. The next time they did the activity the time was reduced by 63% and they were able to hold that reduction for the next five times that they did that activity. The financial saving was worth $1 million in additional production, and all from the introduction of the AAR process. So don’t let its simplicity put you off, we at Knoco Ltd know that the AAR is a value adding process and should be a part of your Knowledge Plan.

Mentor for the Knowledge Manager

I was conducting a telephone interview of an experienced Knowledge Manager and was asking about the key advice he would like to share with other Knowledge Managers, especially those who had been newly appointed. One of the pieces of advice he offered was to get a mentor or coach who was external to the organisation. You can hear the interview at the Knoco Ltd download area and here.

The rational behind the advice was that introducing Knowledge Management to an organisation is a change process and that you will find it very valuable to be able to bounce ideas off someone. The ideal mentor, in his opinion, would also have wide industrial experience and be able to offer opinion on what has worked and not worked in other environments.

More details are available at Knoco Ltd

February 21, 2009

Knowledge Artefacts

When designing a knowledge sharing system it is worth considering the normal way that people work in that part of the organisation. You could put in the very best technology platform but if it doesn’t match their normal way of working you might be disappointed in the level of use it receives and the quality of material that is shared via it. If their normal way of working is to routinely check their email inbox, perhaps that is a good place to start.

One of the ways that is worth considering if you are working with design engineers is to embed the knowledge in engineering drawings, procedures and standards. A lot of their daily routine will revolve around these artefacts so why not use them as a platform for knowledge transfer.

Some of the Knoco Ltd artefacts can be downloaded from here.

Succession Planning Based on Knowledge Assets

I had been asked to visit a company to discuss creating a knowledge asset around a key employee. The employee in question has considerable knowledge about a particular aspect of the company’s business and they were keen to discuss creating a knowledge asset to support him.

As I was demonstrating what a knowledge asset might contain and how it might be presented I noticed that while the line manager seemed to be very content that this would satisfy their needs I noticed that the divisional manager seemed to be asking different questions from the line manager. I couldn’t but help thinking that the divisional manager was seeing something different in the knowledge asset than we were seeing.

What he was seeing was a way to support succession planning in the organisation. What he had in mind was that those that would potentially fill a post would be asked about what knowledge they thought they might need if they were to be moved into that position. The incumbent of the post would then be interviewed, the knowledge harvested and a knowledge asset produced. The incumbent would keep the knowledge asset current and hand it over to their successor.

Perhaps you might wish to consider knowledge assets as part of your succession planning strategy.

Knoco Ltd

Knowledge Visit

When we at Knoco Ltd are conducting a knowledge exchange I try to encourage the inclusion of a knowledge visit as well. I call it a knowledge visit rather than a site visit to highlight that the purpose of the visit is very defined, to identify and capture knowledge from the site being visited and allow the visitors to take it back to their home location.

About a week before you are due to arrive on site send out a written briefing to those that will participate in the visit explaining the purpose of the visit and how it will be conducted.

On the day of the visit I and the other Knoco Ltd staff hold a briefing for those who are going to participate before we leave for the site. I start by handing out a written briefing on the roles and how to deliver them. I include a list of the type of questions that they could ask and check that they understand why that type of question might be appropriate. I also explain how to ask questions so that the knowledge providers don’t feel as if they are being interrogated. Explaining how to ask questions is a vital step in ensuring that the knowledge visit is a success. I spend time ensuring that they understand they need to press gently to get the details that will allow them to implement what they have learned when they return to their own location. They are after all on a knowledge visit. They are there to search for knowledge not to wander like tourists.

So the next time you are planning to hold a knowledge exchange, consider including a knowledge visit as well. It’s a practice that we at Knoco Ltd always try to include.

February 20, 2009

Knowledge Management in a Recession webinar

I was asked if I would share some of Knoco Ltd experience during a webinar. It was to be entitled 'Knowledge Management in a Recession'. To design the presentation I started by reviewing the blog that my colleague Nick had recently posted and built my presentation around that. We were using webinar and voice over internet (VOIP) so I could sit at my desk in Scotland and present to people located around the globe. When it works technology is wonderful.

One of the things that stood out for me was that one company had 17 members of its HR department wanting to participate in the webinar. They were very keen to understand how an HR department could use knowledge management to assist them to do something they had no experience of, downsizing. They were also keen to understand how they, the HR department could use knowledge management to add value to the company during such difficult times.

It was a mixed audience so I decided to start by testing the sentiment of those participating by conducting two very brief polls, nothing very scientific, just their perspective on things. In response to the first poll most people indicated that their business had been a little effected by the current recession but when asked to look ahead almost everyone indicated that they expected business activity to decrease considerably over the next 12 months.

During the session I outlined the need to identify the key knowledge that the company needs to protect right now and for the future, remembering that they could be different. I also explained how to map the key experts and practitioners on to that knowledge to ensure that you weren't downsizing the people who had the knowledge that your organisation needed.

The question session was very extensive, they had obviously understood the concept of what I was trying to get across and were keen to get into the detail of how to do it.

This is the first in a series of webinars that I have agreed to deliver on behalf of Knoco Ltd . Given the level of interest and the high volume of questions asked, I am looking forward to the other ones.

February 19, 2009

Knowledge Management 15 Minute Rule

In many companies there is a continual challenge as to why someone should collaborate or share their knowledge. For some, knowledge is power so why should they share it, for others time pressure is the reason.

Collaboration should be a two way process with both parties benefiting. However while some people use the term ‘collaborate’ what they mean in reality is delegation, passing the task over to you, you then complete it and return it to them.

Have you ever been caught out like that? You get a telephone call, an email or social networking request asking if you could ‘collaborate’. Being a good corporate citizen you say yes and the request comes through. You find that it is going to take some time to complete this request for help, time you probably don’t have, time that will take you away from your main activity. Perhaps you should have said, no I can’t help on this occasion.

I suggest that people consider the 15 minute rule and frequently practice it myself. If you get a request and you can complete it within 15 minutes, feel free to agree to help. If it will take you longer than 15 minutes, say you have to refer it to local line management as this will take resources to provide the assistance requested. If the request has value, then you would expect management to provide the resources necessary.

Why 15 minutes? Because typically that is the time it takes me to get to the coffee pot, find it’s empty (again), make a fresh pot and get back to my desk with a coffee. I tend to think of it as downtime.

So the next time you receive a request to collaborate, think about the 15 minute rule.

My podcasts are available at Knoco Ltd

February 18, 2009

Who Owns the Knowledge?

I was giving a presentation at a workshop recently on Knowledge Assets including how to create and maintain them. I had covered how storytelling can be used to identify and capture some of the key knowledge that can be included in the Knowledge Asset and then went onto to discuss who owns the knowledge.

In many organisations the doing of the activity is outsourced, hence unless tangible, proactive steps are taken by the organisation, the learning of the doing of the activity might not be made available to the organisation. I asked the delegates to think of activities that weren’t actually delivered by their own staff but by a service provider. I then asked them where in their Knowledge Management Plan the management of that knowledge appeared and what process was being used to manage it. There were a few ‘concerned’ faces in the room and a few that hurried out of the room at the coffee break, mobile telephone in hand.

Does your Knowledge Management Plan clearly identify who owns the knowledge and how it will be managed for the organisation?

Knoco Ltd

Knowledge Management Competency

It’s not uncommon at this time of the year for HR departments to update the competency matrix either for a company, function or department. If that is the case why not include a section on knowledge management competency this time if you don’t already have it.

I have never been and don’t think I will ever be an advocate of creating or adding to bureaucracy but sometimes it is helpful to know what others expect you to aspire to. For many in your organisation it would be useful to know, for example, what is required to progress from level 3 to level 4 in terms of competency? Will have to be able to demonstrate X, Y and Z at levels 3, 4 and 5 or is it 1, 2 and 3? Managing the knowledge of the organisation is a key skill, so it should be part of the recognised competency framework of the organisation.

Knoco Ltd

Knoco Knowledge Management Health Check

I had lead the Knoco Ltd team which had undertaken a baseline assessment of the Knowledge Management processes within the client organisation. The results of this assessment were used to formulate their strategy and implementation plan. We supported their internal Knowledge Management Team as they progressed through the various stages of their implementation plan.

Part of the ongoing Knoco Ltd support was an assurance plan, which is designed to give senior management assurance that their Knowledge Management implementation plan is being implemented in accordance with global best practice. Included in it was an annual health check to benchmark the progress they had made verses expected progress against our global Knowledge Management benchmark. The results of the health check were also used as external verification of delivery of KPI’s (key performance indicators) in the Knowledge Manager’s annual appraisal.

The Knoco Ltd white paper Knowledge and Performance in an Environment of Continuous Operational Improvement is worth a read.

Communities of Practice Are Like Dancing

Communities of Practice are like dancing, everyone expects you to be good at and you expect to be good at it without putting much effort into it. Life just isn’t like that however.

At Knoco Ltd we think that Communities of Practice need to be;
• Launched via a process that allows participants to meet each other
• Clear and agreed Charter outlining what they will do and how they will do it
• Subject to a light management touch
• Provided with a shared area where they can store, share and work on documents and other artefacts

Some time ago I decided that my dancing skills weren’t quite up to my expectations. At first I tried to improve on my own, have you tried practicing your dance steps in front of a mirror, it’s not easy. Eventually I had to engage someone with more experience to coach me. There was nothing shameful in it, they had more experience than I had and I could learn from them. Am I ready to compete in the next Olympic Games or the next World Ballroom Dancing Championships, probably not, but my dancing competence has increased dramatically. Sometimes we all could do with a helping hand. If it's about Communities of Practice, give me a call at Knoco Ltd, if it's about recommending a dancing instructor, well why not give me a call at Knoco Ltd.

You can download white papers on Selecting Communities of Practice and Evolution of a Community of Practice from the Knoco Ltd download centre.

February 17, 2009

Knowledge Management plans, most significant development in 12 years

Knowledge Management plans, the most significant development in 12 years.

Followers of this blog will be aware that I interviewed a long time Knowledge Manager at the end of last week. I have known Paul for many years and Knoco Ltd have provided consulting and training services to him in several of the companies in which he was located. It was however a bit of a shock to hear him say that Knowledge Management plans were the most significant development he had come across in the twelve years that he has been involved in KM.

Knowledge Management plans are something that we at Knoco Ltd have developed based on our work with clients around the world in various industries. They make knowledge management tangible. They provide focus and direction.

I had introduced Paul to Knowledge Management plans, indeed I had conducted several workshops for him to create these plans for projects and departments but I hadn’t fully understood the impact they had made on him. He talks about ‘pre Knowledge Management plans' and 'post Knowledge Management plans' in terms of his understanding of Knowledge Management and his ability to explain them to all levels of staff and management.

The interview with Paul is currently available at my YouTube site and on our Knoco download page shortly.

Knoco Ltd

February 14, 2009

Great conversation

The conversation earlier today with the Knowledge Manager was great. The quality of the line from his mobile telephone wasn't the best in best, but the quality of the content will I am sure more than make up for it.

Knowledge Management Manager ith Three Prespectives

I will be conducting a telephone interview later today with someone who has been a Knowledge Manager in three very different organisations and is about to join another one. He has been the Knowledge Manager in a global charity, a world renowned engineering design and construction company and in an IT service company. He is now in a major government organisation. The perspective that these very different organisations and their different cultures has given him will, I am sure, be of interest to us all.

I am not sure if he will be up for it, perhaps commercial confidentiality or government security might prohibit from doing so, but I will ask him if he would complete the Knowledge Management self assessment and the Knowledge Management risk analyser and share the results with us so that we can have a numerical comparison between the three types of organisation. I can feel myself getting quite excited about the prospect of that, lets wait and see what he says.

I am looking forward to our conversation which I will package into podcasts for you to listen to and download.

February 12, 2009

It will be good for you

I grew up in Scotland and while I have very many fond memories of my childhood one stands out as unpleasant, the daily cod liver oil on a spoon ceremony!

Now I have nothing against cod liver oil, I am sure it is an honourable product keeping many people gainfully employed, but pouring it from a bottle onto a spoon and then ‘encouraging’ young children to swallow it is probably isn’t the best way to market its health properties.

I am now at an age where taking care of my health is important and I am taking an active interest in proactive health management. I was sitting in an airport departure lounge, flicking through a magazine and found an article championing the health properties of taking fish oil. My thoughts immediately leapt back to the days of my mother ‘encouraging’ me to take cod liver oil from a spoon and a shudder ran down my back.

For a reason that I can’t fully explain a few days latter I found myself in a local pharmacy asking whether I should take traditional cod liver oil or super strength Omega 3 fish oil capsules. According to both packets, the contents were contained within ‘easy swallow, taste free capsules’, a major leap forward I thought. In order to assist me the pharmacist rhymed off a series of questions;
• Has you doctor recommended you take them?
• Do you have symptoms that would indicate you need to take them?
• Etc
After a few minutes of questioning and a growing puzzled look on his face he reached the final question, “Why do you think you should be taking these?” My reply, “Because when I was a child my mother says they are good for me.” Big smile and I was handed a packet of the traditional cod liver oil capsules.

As I recall this story I find myself wondering how many times the ‘trust me, it will be good for you’ approach has been taken to ‘explaining’ the benefits of knowledge management in an organisation. Knowledge management is a component of good management and its benefits should be explained within that context, not relying on positional power or blind faith on behalf of the recipient.

Free downloads available at www.knoco.com

February 11, 2009

Knowledge Management - Clarity In All Things

I like clarity. If you are clear on what you are trying to do the probability of success goes up considerably. In the many retrospect’s that I have conducted on projects one of the most common lesson is “be clear on the scope of work before you start”. I will return to some of the most common lessons from projects in later posts.

Because of this I frequently encourage people to think about what they want the ‘community’ to deliver and how they want it to behave. Frequently the word ‘collaborate’ or ‘collaboration’ comes up which normally causes an ‘a ha’ reaction in me. You see for me collaboration brings to mind virtual teams rather than communities of practice. Virtual teams are an excellent vehicle around which to deliver identified objectives while communities of practice are better where you want to give the employees free reign to explore and share what they think will be of most value to them and indirectly the company.

So if your focus is on collaboration, perhaps virtual teams might be a more effective approach then communities of practice.

Knoco Ltd

February 10, 2009

Knowledge Management - Taking The First Step

There is a proverb that I love, “How do you start a journey of a thousand miles? By taking the first step.”

You may know the proverb by other words but lets run with the sentiment rather than the actual words.

In many instances this proverb applies to how a company approaches knowledge management. Sometimes the only way they can see to get started it to go for an enterprise size solution, one that encompasses each and every aspect of the organisation. Why? Frequently by the time you get agreement on what needs to be done and how to do it many, many years have gone by and your competitors have left you standing. Why not just get started.

In this part of the world we have something that is referred to as a ‘trade test’, that’s where they don’t take your word you can do something but rather ask you to prove that you can. So why not trial or trade test knowledge management in your organisation? You can get started with something very simple, perhaps a piece of work has just been completed so learn from it, perhaps the organisation is just about to do something, so learn before.

Once you have some experience of what knowledge management can, and can’t do, you are in a better position to decide what the enterprise wide solution might look like.

Knoco Ltd
Welcome to my Blog. It may come as a suprise that it has taken me a week to get this far, indeed I have even rewitten the first four words of this already. For some strange reason I am finding writing a blog harder than i could ever have imagined. I talk to people all the time, I'm very comfortable writing reports, I'm very familiar with technology but for some reason I am finding this harder than I could ever have imagined.

I think it is interesting to contrast typing this blog with the videos that I have just recorded for uTube. That was easy, just point the camera and me and off I go.

So here is my first published attempt at a blog


The power of learning before

I have found that companies find it easiest to learn after and almost certainly they will have an in-house process for this. Some call them post mortems, reviews, retrospects, wrap-ups and more but the basic concept is very simple, we set out to do something, it is now complete, lets review what happened. The quality of the process can vary considerably as can the ability of the organisation to do anything with the outputs, but that is another story.

For now I would like to focus on the power of learning before.

Recently one of the companies that I know very well decided to do a peer assist. So what you may say, but when I tell you that they had been doing knowledge management for five or more years and delivering substantial business benefits to the organisation you might pay a little more attention. Like many organisations they had focused on learning after and communities and in all fairness to them it had made a huge impact on the performance of the organisation. I wont name them but I know you know them.

So what made them decide to try a learning before after all this time? Good question! The reason was that they had a part of the business which wasn't performing to expected levels who was about to do something new. Rather than just letting them get on with it the senior management decided to 'help them' by organising something called a peer assist or something that would bring learning from the wider organisation into help them.

Numerous textbooks including my own cover the action process of how to organise and conduct a peer assist so I wont dwell on it here, lets just say they held one. In the words of the peer assist facilitator, the conversation was staggering with the visitors sharing openly what they had learned about this activity in other parts of the organisation. The home team loved the process because they were able to decide what to do and when. As a result of the peer assist they radically amended their plans and as we found out later were extremely successful when they moved into action.

Nice story about the impact of learning before but you might be tempted to say "I know that already" but let me stress that this story comes from a highly successful organisation and one who had by most measures been highly successful in their implementation of knowledge management but they had failed to reolise just how much benefit this learning before process could deliver for them.

If you aren't learning before……….let me suggest you give it a go.

Knoco Ltd