January 21, 2010

KM in Humanitarian Aid Response to Haiti Earthquake

Tearfund is a Humanitarian Aid organisation whose current head of KM and IM is a charming lady called Astrid. I was recently copied on an email describing their current approach to KM:

“Our Disaster Management Teams are learning all the time so a disaster like this will benefit from the learning from the Tsunami response, the Pakistan earthquake and so on. There will naturally be a learning review and an evaluation done of this and so the wheel keeps turning. As well as the staff on the ground, staff here at Teddington will also review the set up process, and the appeals process in the months to come. Disaster Management Team have a learning system, where they are collecting learning and building good practice around sectoral and organisational issues systematically. The aim is to build this up and then make it publicly viewable as part of our accountability and transparency.”

Tearfund’s current CEO is a big supporter of KM in the organisation – he arrived with it in mind from his previous experience elsewhere.


- Has learning for continuous performance improvement built into what it does as a matter of routine;
- Has clear management support and expectation that KM will be done;
- Understands the power of an effective Corporate Memory that is owned and maintained;
- Invests in KM for learning because they understand that the return is worth it.

Tearfund's knowledge management system was established by a former member of Knoco. We wish Tearfund well in their current and future efforts.

Knoco Ltd

Laws Of Power

I am currently consulting for client who has one of those rare things; a physical library. It’s a wonderful thing. It has shelf upon shelf of books. There are books on all sorts of subjects from calculus to new market entry. They even have a separate section which houses rare books (you can look through the glass and see them sitting on the shelves within their computer controlled environment. I just love this place and its well used.

I was browsing through some of the magazines and happen to notice a book lying on the table. I would guess it was the title that could my attention; Power. At that stage I wasn’t sure what aspect of Power it might refer to. For example it might have been about electrical power, mechanical power or influence power. My curiosity got the better of me and I picked it up.

The book was The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. It is a sort of anti virtue book, how to beat everyone you will encounter either in your business or private life. The more I flicked through the book the more I enjoyed reading it. It’s a very interesting read but it does start to pose questions such as; Why are you really reading this?

Much as I enjoyed reading the book it did disturb me. Much of my business life has been dedicated to assisting people to collaborate and share knowledge. This book is a guide to hording and using knowledge for your own benefit.

If you are actively involved in knowledge management its worth having a read of this book as it will give you an insight as to what other people are up to and the tactics they might be employing that will be counter to what you are trying to achieve.

Knoco Ltd

January 11, 2010

Using All The Available Talent

Someone told me this story recently and I listened to it I found myself wondering how often know-how and learning in a company is not shared because of a lack of expectation or management support. As I listened I found myself wonder just how a company could exist when it was only getting a fraction of the potential from its staff. Let me tell you the story as it was told to me.

The person had been head hunted to join an important department in the company. He created his first strategy paper and submitted it to the manager. It came back with many corrections almost to the point of being unreadable. He thought it was a case of a difference of style so made the corrections and resubmitted it. Again it came back with lots of corrections on it. He was standing at the coffee machine looking rather glum when someone in the department asked what was wrong. He shared how he had submitted the strategy paper and it had come back with lots of red on it and even when he updated it, it had yet again come back with lots of red on it. The person listening broke out into a smile, “The first thing you have to learn in this department is that the boss doesn’t think anyone can do the job as well as he can so no matter how good the paper is he will rewrite it and rewrite it until you can’t recognise it and it is almost as if he had written it in the first place. Do what the rest of do, create something that is good enough, submit it and let him work himself to death redrafting it”.

In organisation clever people are hired but do we always listen to them? Or as someone said recently, “we don’t know at which level the good ideas are being squashed”. When I asked about it he suggested that the company couldn’t possibly be hiring people who were obviously smart and yet they were still doing things the way they had always done them.

Knowledge is like any other resource, it needs to be nurtured, if you ignore it, it will wither and die. If you are a line manager or perhaps an executive, what are you doing to ensure that the situation that I recalled above isn’t happening in your organisation and you are allowing staff to operate on two cylinders rather than four.

Knoco Ltd

January 8, 2010

Health Check for Communities of Practice

I have been working with communities of practice this week to conduct health checks on them. In order to do this we used a methodology which is based on key success factors that you would expect to see in any community then for each of those key success factors we measure the level of maturity that the community has reached.

One of the things when doing health checks like this is to ensure that the community fully understand the context of the measurement. For example if you know that it typically takes five years to reach a particular level and the community your are working with has been in existence for less than a year than it will be highly unlikely that they will be at the top end of any of the maturity scales. I say highly unlikely and not impossible because it could be that the community have done a lot of learning before and have been able to accelerate their progress.

Use of collaborative technology is a good example of this. In some organisations the collaborative technology is well embedded in normal business processes so how a community uses it will be rapidly accelerated and you would expect them to score highly in the technology category.

Counter to this is building trust between community members. This takes time. There are processes and activities which can assist to accelerate this but this is essentially trust between community members is one of those things that increases (or decreases) with time. Trust is something that needs to be worked on, leaving it to chance can lead to a less than optimum outcome.

The health check is also designed not only to indicate where the community is currently but also what they need to do should course corrections be required.

So far the results of the community health checks tend to show that these communities are on track. Several interventions have been identified that will ensure that they continue to work towards delivering the goals they have established for themselves.

Knoco Ltd