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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Taking a break

As it is coming up to Xmas, I'm planning to take a break from blogging - partly to have time for family and friends over the Xmas break but also because I want to just take a step back for the time being as I settle in to my new job. However I will be posting from around the 3rd week in January when I've taken some time to read up on a few things.

To all my readers both near and far - can I wish you all a happy Xmas and a happy 2008.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Imroving your system design

The excellent Matt Hodgson has an excellent post over the weekend on system design. I’ve cut and pasted it in directly as an aide memoire to myself. A number of them such as Content is King I have highlighted and utilised in other organisations. I’d also like to combine this with McAfees SLATES mnemonic which he developed in terms of Web 2.0 applications. These two elements combined don’t make a bad framework to help increase the usability of a system and improve the satisfaction levels of the end user. At the end of the day – be it intranet, CRM internet site the system has to help the user do their job better and quicker and be a pleasurable experience – otherwise your users will slowly ebb away.

Here’s Matt’s Top 10 list.

1. Know your users: Take time to understand the people who are going to use the system, whether its a website or application.

2. Content is King: Design features and content specifically for your users, not for yourself.

3. Make it logical: The organisation of information and how the navigation works has to be logical to those who will use it.

4. Be consistent: Don’t make people constantly adapt to changes layout, language and navigation paradigms — it makes learning about and using the system very confusing.

5. Make it simple: Using systems should require as little mental effort as possible — there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get the job done and having to work hard to remember how a system works at the same time.

6. Plain English please!: Do the terms and language used in the system make sense to the people who will use it? Don’t make them learn a whole new vocabulary with words that mean one thing to them but another thing when used in the system. Avoid legalese, bureaucratese and organisational jargon.

7. Make the information scanable: Information should be laid out on the screen so that it has a logical flow for the eye. Don’t make people have to remember that one piece of important information is here, while another piece is somewhere else. Similar pieces of information should be as closely associated as possible.

8. Navigation redundancy: People all think about information in different ways, mostly through association rather than categorisation. This means that you need to provide multiple ways of discovering information — and this doesn’t just mean browse and search. If you use taxonomy, make sure information can go in multiple categories, and complement it with a folksonomy.

9. Design by convention: People have an expectation of how systems and their components will work based on previous experience of other systems. This means you need to make your design comply with those design expectations — banners, navigation, search, login, and even cart features all need to appear according to existing design conventions. This doesn’t mean you can’t innovate — just know what your users expect and make it easy for them to learn your system.

10. Make the design clear: This will help people avoid making mistakes when they use your system. Help them recover from errors through providing consistent messaging in the interface itself.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Polling on your blog

Thanks to Arjun Thomas for this useful link also need to take my mind over Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United this afternoon.

I believe that blogs will develop some increasing forms of connectivity during 2008 – rather than just people commenting on your posts. A company called Vizu has developed a way to insert a simple poll in to your blog – to answer say a simple question and range of answers.

However, I can see a number of possible internal applications as firms start to develop blogs internally. Imagine if you have a chief executive blog and want to get a feel for a situation directly from the floor, then you can do so using this tool.

I will be experimenting with this tool in the New Year just to get some feedback and to try it to increase the links that I have with subscribers and readers to this blog.

Here is the link Vizu Web Polls

It is interesting that in 2007 that blogs are 10 years old – however it is really only in the last 18 months that blogs have started to take off in an enterprise setting. I think that this is a trend that will accelerate during 2008.

I prefer blogs as I consider that for project based work that you find more useful work-related conversations on a single work blog than you do on the whole of Facebook and that increasingly you and your work colleagues both within the business and with your external clients will network and do business on blogs every day.

Blogging I consider is the most successful and relevant Web 2.0 network, more so than wikis because of its ease of use and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A collection of Ideas in 2007

As an on line subscriber, I read the New York Times to pick up ideas and trends from over the Atlantic

In my review on Tuesday night, I found the link to the annual New York times looking at the last year in terms of ideas.

Some of them are strange some of them thought provoking. If you click on the title of this blog - then it will take you right there.

If you want a good read for what might occur in 2008 - I can strongly recommend a publication by the Economist called "The World in 2008" I've got all the editions for the last 10 years - as occasionally I like to flick backwards and forwards to see if there is an idea that got lost whose time might have come.

Anyway enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Blogs made simple

A question that I've been asked from time to time - is what is a blog and how can I use it.
Here is a useful You Tube video from the excellent Commoncraft (hat tip also to Doug Cornelius at KM Space - congrats on your new arrival).

A number of organisations now use blogs within the enterprise setting and as I posted last year the new Microsoft Sharepoint Server software 2007 has blogs as well as wikis inbuilt. I can imagine blogs being used for a variety of things - working on a project, working with a virtual team as well as utilising it for in house communities of practice. I've also discussed utilising them as a means of capturing lessons at the end of a project. I'm also placing a link in to a post I made last September on this subject so if you'd like to be encouraged then click on the link below

Thoughts on the uses for an internal blog

One firm that I worked with started to get experts in a particular field blogging and they enhanced their profile in the firm because they started to write a blog and the viral marketing effect took over and more people in their group subscribed to their blog as a source of knowledge that captured the human element.

It would be interesting to find out some innovative ways that blogs have been used within enterprises, but also for people to start to think laterally how this might be used in their enterprise.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Demographics in China

Not always the best of writers last week or so, due to feeling a bit under the weather Xmas preparations, visitors etc etc, but back to my theme of demographics.

One area that is sometimes overlooked is China and the results of its one child policy that started in 1979. Well it is now over a quarter of a century old and this means that they will slowly be starting to leave the nest either to move to the cities. This means that the phenomenon of empty nesters that tends to kick in later in the UK as we tend to have the statistical 2.2 children is now starting to develop in China at a younger age - and more importantly at a younger working age.

So what does this mean to a rapidly developing country like China? Well according to the Economist, already there are 265 m Chinese aged between 40 to 64 with no dependent children. By the end of 2008 that will have risen by another 7m and by another 50 m over a ten year period.

This means that that for these empty nesters if mothers return to work will mean a large rise in disposable income. Already most of this group have basic household appliances washing machines fridges etc.

Some analysts believe (probably using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs no doubt) that there will be a rise in spending on premium products but also following on from the Japanese experience, they will want to travel a lot more probably initially in China but increasingly overseas. This of course is predicated that China’s economy continues to grow at the same pace and that there are jobs for everyone at the right level of expectations. There may also be cultural norms that the article doesn't consider that may also reduce the rate of growth.

This may mean more work designing hotels or increasing infrastructure investments to cope with some of these new migratory habits. It may also mean new cities that are environmentally neutral as the eco-city being built in Dongtan. Could we start to see China as we have in Dubai creating off shore islands close to cities for people to live in once their children have moved out?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

An old article revisited on wikis

I am a big fan of Commoncraft who do excellent small movies to explain technology to dummies like myself. I was browsing through some of my old posts and as I was asked about a wiki - thought that I would repost this useful video of what is a wiki.

I'm a big fan of wikis to use on small scale projects and feel that they can assist with the creation of a high performance workplace by improving communication and also because as I have cited before, these will be part of the IT plumbing. The main issue for me that it isn't that the plumbing is there people have to be shown how to use it but also understand some of the more advanced functionality to get the benefit.

I was talking to an old colleague the other day and he advised me that he was talking to an IT manager who had found by accident that younger employees where using a wiki that was hosted externally to the organisation because the firm had not allowed them to trial an in house wiki. By encouraging people to link people start networking internally and can aid each other as well as tapping in to and learning new knowledge.

Anyway I hope that if you haven't used a wiki, this will encourage you to try. If enough people reply then maybe there is someway we could trial a wiki on a KM subject or anything else that takes your fancy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Which company goes there - Friend or Froe

Last week I was reading an article in the FT who were interviewing Martin Sorrell CEO of WPP. He highlighted the potential growth of China - one statistic really stood out. The US produces 56k engineers per year whilst China produces 465k.

As Ive posited in a number of previous posts Sorrell identified a paradox - there is a vast oversupply of products, whilst because of demographics there is a distinct and worsening shortage of talent to provide companies with the brain force that they are likely to need.

Basically companies will be pressuring their governments in my opinion to be encouraging immigration of talented engineers for example from other countries to fill in the gaps in their talent base.

In a post from Bill Taylor from HBR highlights another interesting comment by Sorrell where he talks about the competitive dynamic between marketing firms such as WPP and digital giants like Google.

He has coined the concept of froes and frenemies. Sometimes firms need to be both friends and foes/enemies. Occasionally companies have to be nice to companies one minute in say another part of the world whilst being competitive enemies in another part of the world.

Taylor concludes by asking companies "who is their most valuable froe and who are your most worrisome frenemies. Have you figured out how to co-operate with and compete against the most important players in your field. "

Old certainties are breaking down and the business environment changes in the globalised world. It's a bit like 1984 where Winston Smith rewrites history so that Eastasia are now our friends and Eurasia are now our enemies in the world of friends and froes.

Thoughts on Gary Hamel (long post)

I’ve recently been reading excerpts from Gary Hamel’s recent book on the future of Management Hamel is one of the leading guru’s on management and strategy his book Competing for the Future was a staple on a few MBA courses – mine included.

His star had waned a little recently as he lauded the Enron model to the skies. He is always a writer who is thought provoking and he argues his thesis well and he does so in this book.

His basic premise is that the current managerial practices were designed for companies that provided standardised, mass produced outputs and that they need a complete re jig rather than trying to reverse engineer them into today’s companies in an era of globalisation and increasing technological and generational change. I think that there is a role for both systems as not everything is bad and that there is an equilibrium position which balances both.

The new business environment needs to place a premium on collaboration and talent management and the old hierarchical system can be an impediment to innovation and creative strategy. I think that organisations will be challenged to deliver change for which we have imperfect knowledge. They will need to become nimble and mobilise the energy and imagination of every employee who works there.

I think that innovation can come from any employee and that individuals or even teams should look for opportunities to experiment with new ways of working and that progressive firms might want to provide not only time but some IT support and seed corn money to help employees develop the products that make a difference to the way that your organisation innovates.

I think also that using my knowledge management beliefs that social capital and utilising teams of practice might act as useful seedbeds to innovation either of the incremental but also of kaikaku – the radical leap forward..

I’m presuming that Hamel still however believes that organisations need to look outside their boundaries to see the future of their business and to ask themselves as do P & G

I also consider that employees need some basic framework to help them become a business innovator and that appraisals in the future might see a manager appraised as to how they encouraged intrapreneurship in their organisation but also how teams/individuals are appraised in this area also.

Hamel considers that managers in the future will have to ask themselves this question. ‘How do you build an organisation that merits the gifts of creativity, passion and initiative?’ These are things that employees bring to work and cannot be commanded to come forth by managerial diktat.

This follows the work of Tom Davenport who in ‘Thinking for a Living’ highlights that the knowledge worker of the future won’t put up with an overtly hierarchical management model as they don’t need it. This sounds very similar to the thoughts that came out around the concept of free agency and the work of Bill Jensen on Work 2.0 that disappeared as a concept when the internet boom turned to bust and P45’s and the need for a job punctured that particular bubble.

Perhaps as the credit crunch leads to recession this idea might die again as people look to hold on to their jobs – however the demographic issues that I’ve talked about in the past might mean that the knowledge worker will break free of the classic approach of hierarchical managers to oversee that work is done.

A problem with Hamel’s book is that the large proportion of his examples come from internet firms and as these do not have the legacy barnacles that a large organisation has there may be some scepticism that to do the plumbing needed in a large organisation to move his future forward would be more difficult..

For some organisations it might well take a crisis to provoke the change that is needed. However I do agree that this is unlikely to be overnight phenomena and that the need to be creative against the need to be organised might be one of the key managerial areas over the next 10 to 15 years.

It is an ambitious book but one that managers should read and consider in their Xmas stockings

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Gallivespians go live

Didn’t post over the weekend – as I was busy not only with Xmas shopping, but also watching the Boks beat Wales up without slipping out of first gear.

I shall be interested to see how they play when it is an exhibition match – I think that people will be surprised how skilful they are in their back line.

Anyway I digress I was watching this evening the news about the launch of ‘The Golden Compass’ which is the film adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s book ‘Northern Lights’.

At the time I was browsing through an old copy of the Economist which highlighted work on unmanned automotive vehicles that are now the size of dragon flies and its eyes are effectively video cameras.

I was reminded of the Gallivespians who are a tiny race of people who appear in parts two and three of the trilogy and who ride dragon flies and act as spies for Lord Asriel.

Laboratories are developing these bug like devices with some as small as 60 milligrams.

I can imagine applications for this but also civil liberty concerns. Amazing how life imitates art. Or is it time to invest in a fly swat.

A longer post tomorrow on my readings on Gary Hamel.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lessons from Japan and Generation Why

As readers of this column will be aware, I am particularly interested in demographics and it's effect on the workforce of the future. I was browsing the BBC website at lunchtime and noticed a piece about Japan and it's demographic time bomb.

Here is the link to the full article

Effectively the Japanese are not producing enough babies to replace those people who die and this will have increasing economic effects for the population - the rise of grey power, and employers chasing fewer and fewer potential workers.

To show it graphically here is a diagram showing what has happened since 1950 and what is projected to happen by 2050

The problem has also been the same in Europe especially in Germany and Italy though not on the scale of Japan.

In my inbox tonight was an interesting piece from the US from Chris Resto about the rise of Generation Why. As I've highlighted in earlier posts they have a different view of the workplace and are more questioning and less deferential than the Baby Boom generation (1945 - 64 and Generation X (1964 - 1984).

This generation though as the article points out may be a blessing for organisations that require knowledge workers. I consider that organisations need people who question the status quo and increasingly innovative solutions are likely to become competitive differentiators.

In fact, as Resto highlights organisations should |" see questions from young employees as signs that they care about contributing to the organisation, and as opportunities to capitalise on the ambition, energy, and enthusiasm for which they hired young talent in the first place."

One of the areas that I learnt from my studies in KM was that management can learn from the process as they are exposed to new ideas and they consider and make redundant old ways of thinking.

I'm not saying that every thing that a senior manager has learnt should be unlearnt but that that junior who asks questions might provide you with some breakthrough thinking that gives you your next big market. You can also highlight to the junior employee some additional thinking that they might not have considered. At the end of the day knowledge sharing is a two way street.

It also shows that they care about your company and it's future to ask those questions and potentially out of a desire to do a good job (but then again I was always a Theory Y guy and the firm I work for certainly embodies those traits.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lack of postings started a new job

I've not been blogging last week because I've been busy in my new job with a world class organisation called Arup working as their new Global Rail Business Manager.

For me this is a change from being involved purely in knowledge management but no doubt, I will be using some of the elements that I've learned on Enterprise 2.0 and Knowledge Management to help them forward. Though already I have seen areas where knowledge management is being successfully being deployed working on the people, process technology triangle.

As usual I've been reading some of my blogs and especially note that Enterprise 2.0 is continuing to develop. Ross Dawson is speaking in Australia at the IIR conference covering why organisations need to be developing E 2.0 solutions. It is interesting to note that he considers as I do that e-mail is broken in terms of developing collaborative networks.

Here he gives a brief intro to E 2.0 which is useful for those mangers who may not be fully aware of this area.

I hope to be posting at least two times a week in the future but as you will appreciate with any new job it does take time to get up to speed and a lot of things to understand before starting your new role.

I'm particularly interested in a recent article by Andrew McAfee in which he resurrects the concept of Granovetters weak ties in terms of KM.

I quoted Granovetter in my thesis and worked to prove that this was the case in the professional services organisation I studied. However I believe that a weak tie in an organisational setting used to be a tie where there was trust and shared knowledge but in addition the people had met before.

If you take out that meeting element then I think that it is a weaker than weak tie.

They (WTW) do have their uses and some can deliver real value but only if you aspire more than to be a link in somebodies contact book. I consider that in KM you have to have had that stronger contact.

Anyway back to the reading.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Microsoft & Facebook - some thoughts

This obviously has been one of the talks of the week - in terms of Microsoft buying a very small stake in Facebook (1.6%).

I think that in the next iteration of Sharepoint for enterprises, I won't be too surprised to see something I started advocating 2 years ago - ie a personal web site within an enterprise and for people within enterprises to set up their own communities of practice covering an area of interest be it work or socially related.

I read a quote in Doug Cornelius's blog from Stephen Collins who said

Through use of social media tools, people who work around the corner or across the world from each other are able to overcome the challenges around meeting and learning about someone (colleague, friend, someone who shares an interest, whatever) and jump straight in and do great work, share knowledge, have engaging conversations and build relationships to a deeper level more quickly."

I do have ideas how this could be used throughout the employees life from induction, to appraisals to when they depart the firm - as I feel that tracking alumni of a firm is important in terms of retaining their knowledge

It will be interesting to see though whether at some stage Googles new social software site will link in with it's Google Apps to give people a way to do the same without the clammy embrace of Microsoft all over it.

I was reading a report yesterday that people outside of the teenage/20's range that started to use social networking are now starting to use MySpace and Facebook - the so called "Saga Book" for those in their 60's and beyond. One of the problems that I have discovered with new technology is people's fear of using it either dismissing it as a fad or saying that it has no work relevance. I didn't grow up in the computer age but I discovered by setting up small limited experiments in a non fail setting helped people who were wary come to terms with the new technology at a speed that they feel comfortable with.

If you are working in a large global concern then social media can help in breaking down barriers in that first meeting because they have put some personal information about them selves - ie they like Apple Computers or share a sports interest that you can build on and start to understand their thought processes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Harvard Business Review - November Edition

Just received my normal monthly subscription and have noticed that Dave Snowdon from the Cognitive Edge Blog has had a major article published that highlights the Cynefin Decision making framework.

I have read the summary and think that this is a must read as and when the hard copy magazine arrives especially as most managers today are finally realising the fuzziness of decision making.

However there is for me a more interesting article by Gratton and Erickson on the eight ways to build collaborative teams which I will also be studying and will provide a summary of in due course as it not only impinges on the knowledge sharing environment but also the innovative company. - so watch this space for some more details.

Anyway more later.....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just taking a break

A lot going on in the life at the moment, mother in law's birthday and a few odds and sods to catch up on, so I may not be posting for a few days. Plan to resume normal service by Monday of next week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The information Revolution

This You Tube video is all about information and has been picked up by quite a number of KM Bloggers such as Shawn at Anecdote and Euan Semple at The obvious and so I thought that I'd put it on the blog for others to look at. I particularly like the comment towards the end when it says that we need to create information, allow it to be critiqued and organised. I've always been keen to use tags that have a folksonomic element in that it relates to the people within your sphere - all organisations have their own internal jargon and people tend to search for documents or information using that jargon. We really do have a change going in as we can find information and also by using systems such as Google Reader information can find us. The only hope is that we have the wisdom to choose wisely.

The Google way to innovation

I was reading the New York Times online over the weekend and was reading an article about the Google Way for innovation.

Like the classic example of 3M - Google's engineers are encouraged to take 20 percent of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally. This means that if you have a great idea, you always have time to run with it.

As I've discovered in my past people work harder if it is something that they are passionate about and are given time to do so. However, the article highlights the concept of the 'grouplet' when say something that you want to work on isn't say a new product or is something that is going to produce change that affects other departments. The article then mentions that these grouplets have no budget and they have no authority to decision make - but what they do have is a group of people who are looking to convince their organisation that this is an idea worth pursuing.

Say for example that you are looking to introduce a new working process or working on delivering a wiki as a means of delivering on a project. - then say a wiki grouplet might be a good idea and using people other than management as a means of selling the idea by giving talks to say a staff meeting or by holding brown bag lunches where people just drop in from the canteen to find out whats going on and putting their views in to the process.

The article extends the concept just to look at other areas such as a customer satisfaction fixit grouplet or even a grouplet to look at say ways that we can make a small improvement by losing a piece of bureaucracy.

Or my favorite: the Customer Happiness Fixit, when we fix all those little things that bug our users and make them sad — for example, when the hotkeys aren’t just right on mobile phones. Many of these events come with special T-shirts and gifts to reward the engineers who take a little time out to work on them.

The concept could be extended to be part of the new arrival induction process and people were encouraged to get involved with a grouplet. It helps with the induction process in my view and also starts to get people involved in the social networks that they need to cultivate them - but also you should be set this as a target as part of your appraisal process.

This of course can be a way to spread stories about the organisation but also by bringing in new views, then you can start to get new ideas looking at a problem. I'm not suggesting that there should be an anarchic situation and the grouplets need guidance to make sure they are aligned with the company interest.

Having a lot of people who are self-organising can be powerfully positive or negative, and not every idea is a good one. Therefore, all grouplets should be 'registered' with an organisers and that they should meet at least monthly to ensure that there aren't two grouplets doing the same work or doing work that is at cross purposes with the other.

Passionate people doing things that they are self interested in and supported by their peers can be a powerful combination in helping your company not only to innovate but also to ensure that it's internal processes are dynamic.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lotus and Knowledge Management

I was browsing through You Tube yesterday looking for something on Lotus Cars and came upon this ad from 2000 from Lotus - maker of notes and thought that in a few minutes it pretty much explained Knowledge Management to the lay man.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What a Good idea

Saw this on You Tube the other day and thought what a good idea, not only for the US but what about for national and local politics. It would also be an interesting idea to have in an organisation if you wanted to submit questions to say the CEO and rathe their responses on an external link.

Here is the video - enjoy

Friday, October 19, 2007

A split house

As many of my readers may be aware, I enjoy watching Rugby Union - having been fascinated with the sport since a friend of my fathers took me to see my first international at Newlands in Cape Town to watch the All Blacks play the Springboks.

Since then I have been passionate about supporting the Boks - hiding behind a chair as Stransky hit that drop goal in 1995 to win the cup. Tomorrow I 'll let my heart rule my head and say that the Bokke will beat England - even though I will be pleased if England win it. So I will be wearing my Bok Shirt tomorrow and my wife will support England. Go Bokke....

It could be a bad weekend if Everton beat Liverpool and South Africa lose to England.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Web 2.0 Summit - interesting news

Microsoft has just announced at the Web 2.0 Summit which can be accessed by clicking on the title link, that it is working with Atlassian on its enterprise wiki product Confluence and Newsgator on its newly released Newsgator Social sites, which is “a collection of site templates, profiles, Web parts and middleware”.

Both products I understand will be part of Sharepoint 2007. I understand that wikis and blogs were going to be a part of this - but in my reading, I have noticed that Atlassian has been the subject of positive review by end users and maybe the use of wikis in S 2007 was a bit primitive.

This shows to me that Microsoft has recognised that S 2007 needed some improving as the version that I'd seen was basically just a doc management and collaboration offering and that the wikis and blogs were a bolt on extra so some further IT work was required especially RSS. However like it or not as it was a Microsoft offering then IT administrators I imagine felt that there would be a comfortable fit with the other services such as the ubiquitous MS Office.

As I've pointed out in a few previous blogs - tacking on Web 2.0 is I think going to be a commercial imperative - in not only retaining and attracting clients but also attracting your next generation of employees. Imagine a few years ago trying to tell a new junior solicitor/trainee, that you didn't have access to the Internet.... In a few years time, they will expect wikis blogs and video sharing as a part of the organisations internal plumbing. Although of course my view is that these are important for knowledge sharing - my view has been for over the last two years was that they could be utilised as part of project management and better internal communication.

It is important as we face the search for talent, that your firm is seen as dynamic and innovative and that strategically you have a handle on these issues and that you are open to new ideas. It may not be the clincher but it might be a negative if you aren't perceived to be offering these facilities.

Lawyers especially those in the provinces in the UK (with a few honourable exceptions such as Duncan Ogilvy at Mills and Reeve, Chris Bull at Osborne Clarke, Mark Gould at Addleshaw Gould and David Smith at Hill Dickinson have been over conservative towards knowledge management and tend to concentrate on the technology side which is a helpful step forward but will never fully deliver until they recognise the people aspects and start to adjust the direction of their PSL's towards a more commercial and market facing approach.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trust and the Workplace

I was reading a quote today in a magazine by a consultant called John Baldoni which relates to one of my themes on knowledge management.

"Trust is earned; and it is earned the hard way." We all know that trust at a number of levels is a major key in respect of encouraging knowledge sharing.

I was just reading a post by Bob Sutton - the author of the 'No A**hole Rule.

He was quoting a recent survey by Professor Wayne Hochwarter regarding employees working with badly behaved managers and how employees got their revenge - or just weren't able to complete their work effectively. Of course I also wondered what the effect would be on knowledge sharing - though I think that other knowledge practitioners can guess. I would also think that trust between employees and employer was pretty poor also and probably leached into peoples perspectives of their team members.

"Employees with difficult bosses checked out in the following ways:
  • 30 percent slowed down or purposely made errors, compared with 6 percent of those not reporting abuse.
  • 27 percent purposely hid from the boss, compared with 4 percent of those not abused.
  • 33 percent confessed to not putting in maximum effort, compared with 9 percent of those not abused.
  • 29 percent took sick time off even when not ill, compared with 4 percent of those not abused.
  • 25 percent took more or longer breaks, compared with 7 percent of those not abused."
Not a happy post to start the week with but I've had colleagues who've worked in organisations like that.

Anyway on with the reading on Enabling Knowledge Creation.......

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Age of Innocence or Paradise Lost

One of the things that I regularly enjoy about talking to my parents on a Sunday is when they have read something in the newspaper that makes them both shake their heads. I'm going slightly off topic as I think their views have some validity.

Apparently there was a review published a few days ago by the Cambridge-based Primary Review, children at primary school in England are suffering "stress" from having to grow up too soon. Apparently they face ' intolerable pressure' at school and from the wider world. The culprits are school testing, family breakdown, celebrity culture, and everyone's now favourite climate change. (Funny how things change in my day the biggest fear was vapourisation by a nuclear bomb.)

To my parent's eyes kids today have never had it so good.

To my parents childhood was a case of making do and mend, rationing (my parents didn't eat a banana until the mid 1950's after a 16 year gap. One of my fathers strongest memories is him and his brother moving an inciendary bomb down the path into the road using a dustbin lid without wearing the appropriate health and safety considerations and risk assessments we need to carry out today. Though despite this they both felt they had a good childhood.

To my eyes and to my parent's eyes yes there are different pressures on the family and our children but it isn't not having the latest iPod or whatever must have our consumer society says we 'must have'.

However this wasn't the thing that got my parents hopping - it is the idea that government should 'do something about it'. does this mean that there will soon be an innocence czar with a ten year plan and key performance indicators and maybe even an OFKID.

If the problem does exist perhaps it is based on what a lot of government undertakes at the moment with testing and also encouraging dependence on the welfare state that has undermined the role of family.

To my parents and I would imagine the vast majority of families in the UK responsibility for a happy childhood does not and should not fall within the states purview . It's up to parents to decide what their children watch on TV, whether they play video games or read a magazine on celebrities.

Perhaps parents should even be allowed to choose what school their children attend and let the forces of choice and competition improve our schools and to allow M& A's in the education world and allow private sector providers to run schools rather than LEA's and also set challenging standards using things like the International Baccalaureat rather than the rapidly tarnishing A Level standard.

I always remember Ronald Reagan's comment that "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'

Friday, October 12, 2007

Adam Smith Esq & Harnessing the power of internal networks

Readers who have read my post of a few days ago, will be interested to read that the excellent Bruce MacEwen has also picked up on the article (click on the link in the title).

Bruce and I go back as I've been speaking to him from time to time. I actually took the time to send him a copy of my masters thesis of 2005, which proposed as one of the comments that to help develop the mentoring relationship that a partner and a junior solicitor sit either on a side by side basis or a face to face basis.

This was aimed at the junior solicitor so that some of the partners "deep smarts" could be picked up. I'd noticed that one senior lawyer had done this in one of the firms that I was analysing and that the junior solicitors or trainee solicitors who had gone through this process had learnt a great deal more non book knowledge than they had with other mentoring lawyers.

Bruce's article however does not pick up though that the process is not all one way. As part of my research I discovered that the senior lawyer can benefit from the juniors new knowledge especially when they have just been on a course or just come out of law school. They too can bring new insights which helps a senior to lose redundant knowledge and replace it with more appropriate and up to date knowledge.

Both parties can benefit from this process and also as Bruce points out the cost in reducing your space requirements is quite handy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What I'm Reading

I thought that for a change, I'd put down some of the things that I'm reading about at the moment as no doubt it will influence what I will write about.

I've picked up some new books as I went past a shop that was having a clear out.

  • Strategy Maps by Kaplan and Norton - This is so that I can refresh myself on the Balanced Scorecard.

  • Essentials of Service Marketing by Hoffman and Bateson - as I wanted to re look at how service companies can market themselves.

  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Partially because I was interested why a number of people raved about it - but I wanted to see if it had any insights that could be placed back into the sphere of knowledge management.

  • Gary Hamel's new book The Future of Management - mainly because I read Hamel & Prahalad's work on Competing for the Future - about 7 years ago and I'm a fan - and also from some of the articles and podcasts I've listened to earlier - I think that it will have some relevance for knowledge workers and the need for management structures to amend to allow them to thrive.

  • Scott Adams - The Dilbert principle - just to look at the lunacies of corporate life and to balance the earlier readings.

  • Wisdens Cricketers Almanack 1971 - mainly because this has details of the first cricket match that I ever saw - which was at Newlands in Cape Town between South Africa and Australia and I remember going for the first two days and watching a powerful Australian team blown away by a very good South African cricket team and thinking that they would have done very well if the 1970 tour had gone to England..... at 9 you don't always understand the politics of the world - you look at these sportsmen as your heroes. It also talks about why the tour was cancelled in full without bias which wasn't available to me when I was 9.

I've recently finished reading PJ O' Rourkes masterly book on the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. I've never had the opportunity to read the book in full and this is a good summary and shows how 200 years later Smith's book is still relevant to us. Economic progress like it or not is based on three prerogatives - pursuit of self interest, division of labour and freedom of trade and these are also those that effect knowledge flows throughout organisations. This has permeated my belief in most of my blogs in the past about how we can encourage the market in knowledge.

Finally I also got my copy of Harvard Business Review today and there is a great looking article by Warren Bennis and Noel Tichy on Making Judgement Calls.

So watch this space as I may comment on them in due course.

Innovation - Economist Special report

If you are struggling through the interminable British postal dispute - or don't subscribe to the Economist - this weeks edition has a 14 page special article on Innovation. I'll be reading this with interest and will try and pick some useful snippets.

Just remember the quote from Stuart Brand who famously argued that “information wants to be free.” So surely the knowledge worker, the creator of that information, also needs the same freedom. Companies and governments can find an innovator inside everyone; they just need to liberate them. Moreover, the rising tide of inventions that make one country wealthy benefits others that bring those clever ideas to market or simply make use of those products, processes and services.

Perhaps one day organisations will liberate employees and enable them to use their brains. To paraphrase Karl Marx workers need to liberate them selves - you only have your jobs to save.....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Difficult people can be your best supporters!

I was asked in a discussion on Monday about how I dealt with change with difficult people. After discussing this I was reminded of a quote that I read recently by Lynette Chiang of Bike People who said "Difficult people who become believers end up your biggest evangelists."

I found that in one area where there was a senior manager who didn't believe in the power of the internet to change the way we did business.

After exploring the issues, explaining the rationale, listening to concerns and promising proof in three months - once that proof was delivered in two months that manager became my biggest ally.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Research from Iceland on how employees value improved knowledge management

I was waiting for Sandy and was going round the University Library tonight and found a box which had some KM papers from last year that were about to be archived. A bit late at night this posting but wanted to put it down on the blog as an aide memoire.

One of the articles highlighted some research carried out last year in SME's in Iceland which highlighted what people felt were the benefits of KM in their organisation.

Details below
  • 70% Improved employees skills
  • 67% Better ability to handle customers requirements
  • 62% Better decision making
  • 58% Better staff attraction/retention
  • 41% Faster response to key business issues
  • 40% New ways of working
  • 37% Reduced costs
  • 31% Improved productivity
  • 26% Increased profits
  • 21% Additional Business opportunities
  • 18% Increased market share
  • 12% Improved New Product development.
We are always looking at what KM does for our organisations and it would be interesting to know if the figures altered if the economy was in a downturn and people started to hoard knowledge because of fears that they might lose their job. Anyway I thought that the information was useful to write down for other KM practitioners who were struggling to find the benefits.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What a Community of Practice (COP) might look like

I was thinking about the structure of what a COP might look like as mentioned in my earlier post of last night and was thinking of the old doughnut organisation as thought of by Charles Handy in the 1990's. I noticed today via Rob Patterson an image on the components of a clandestine group via David Kilcullen who is advising the US forces in Iraq. This is of course what a number of informal networks have had to look like in the past - just think of the skunkworks projects in the past.

Obviously this relates to a terrorist cell but could equally apply though of course not so hard core to the outlines of the informal networks that I posted earlier. I would take the cadre element out and probably restrict it to 4 rings.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The power of informal networks

I note that McKinsey have over the weekend released access to a piece of work by Lowell Bryan et al regarding the harnessing the power of informal employee networks.

All knowledge managers are aware of the existence of these networks in an organisation which for a variety of reasons such as self interest or just interest in a topic leads people to share ideas and to collaborate which as I have discussed before can not only help knowledge sharing but also innovation in a business.

One of the reasons for this as the article states is that it extends collaboration beyond the departmental silo walls as peoples interests are not just restricted to their departmental ones.

There is a lot of supporting literature on this point and I when carrying out a knowledge audit was looking to identify these employee networks and there has also been good work by Verna Allee in this area as well as the classic article by Etienne Wenger.

The article does recognise the role of the boundary spanner who has power in the group because of connections and not their formal position in the official hierarchy. The boundary spanner is a well known concept in KM because of their connections and abiility to cross silos and to put people in touch with other parties not always covered by the formal hierarchy.

See the picture below

The article goes on to say that these groups tend to be serendipitous in nature and that they can't be managed. I would agree that they can't be managed in terms of typical command and control, but they can be encouraged with light touch management and an interest.

Though one of my recommendations sadly not taken up by one organisation, was to utilise slightly more formal networks which could harness the advantages of the informal network. These could cover a variety of areas such as improving technical knowledge, but also how to improve client service or improve knowledge in a particular sector or finally looking forward to examine trends that might affect the business in the future.

It was to have as the article suggests a leader - but I would say that the leader needs to be appointed by the team and not relying on formal authority but maybe on expertise or get-along ability. I had also devised ways that provided training for people in how to run one of these groups but not too overly bureaucratise it.

I would like to let it loose on a variety of subjects and give it a blog or a wiki that it could use to capture its thoughts and it's history. It also gets round the problem of loads of e-mails that clog up a system and are too unstructured to capture the groups thoughts and knowledge.

The approach to use a wiki, would trigger off a support system and allow management to lightly monitor the setting up of these groups. More support would be used if say for example funds were needed and also some agreement as to objectives for the group and it's leader.

I think that the article is interesting though it needs to recognise that a lightness of touch is needed with these groups rather than a heavy hand for using these within a traditional organisation. Good informal networks as on something like Facebook have a centripetal force that attracts participants to it - and poor ones with little or no interactions tend to wither on the vine. I'd be happy to talk to people about my experiences in this area and some of my proposals for improving these communities in their business.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Prusak's comments on the deadly sins of Knowledge Management

As promised last week (Thursdays post), I am summarising Prusak's comments as to whether the sins are still valid and here they are - slightly long post as I've added my own comments.

Error 1: This is still one big error. A lot of managers and staff confuse information and knowledge - and this situation is aided by people trying to flog IT database solutions to a variety of organisations. Still information only becomes knowledge when we add the human dimension of awareness - to make that jump forward.

Error 2: There has been some progress on this - adjusting Bacon's comments - knowledge be nothing unless it is spread. Knowledge flow is important not the documents in a database. When I did some research on this I found the vast majority of people didn't look for documents in excess of four months old to help them in their day to day work.

Error 3: Prusak felt he would write it differently today. While knowledge is still produced and absorbed by people the distinctions between where the knowledge actually resides isn't always a hanging offence - so long as it is easily available

Error 4: I'll take Prusak's comments in full. "This is as true as ever, even more so with virtuality and all its discontents gaining adherents. Context is a good synonym for knowledge itself, and is best (perhaps only) created through live give and take, etc. It can't be done well, if at all, through email and other e-exchanges". I agree that it can't be done well through e-mail but I believe that if you have trust between people then e-exchanges can work well

Error 5: He feels that too much has been made between tacit and explicit knowledge,. He feels that knowledge is always both tacit AND explicit and I would add also needs to be contextual and relevant to people

Error 6: This one is also still true. KM in general follows pragmatism as a philosophy in not believing in distinctions between knowing and action. Knowledge is important if it is spread and is used by people

Error 7: Prusak comments "Well, anyone who thinks that anti-intellectualism isn't a very strong force in American and UK culture is just out to lunch. If anything it's gotten stronger with the continuous use of varied media like IM, Google, etc. to replace real reflection and serious reading. I travel all the time and in contrast to years ago, I almost never see people reading anything substantial while flying. I'm told by friends who teach MBAs at the "top" schools that they can't get their students to read anything not online."

I'd agree with Prusak's comments as when I talked to senior managers in two organisations there was concern that younger staff did not put the time into reflecting and undertake reading and that people accepted on line information as gospel to be cut and pasted. However as they were both professional service firms with a billable hour model, I did wonder how much encouragement they gave to people to reflect on the work they had undertaken and ways that research was properly recognised or even trained into their junior employees.

Error 8: This is also part of a bigger discussion about how to escape the grip of short-termism in organisations.

This is definitely the case in all organisations that I have studied - will it help me meet my quarterly targets or will it help me meet my billable hour targets. In our busy and time pressured work spaces the danger is that we fall back on the tried and tested that has worked in the past and the problem is that it may not meet the challenges that our customers want us to help them solve.

We need to reflect on the past to help us meet the future - if we are to escape the Santayana paradox.

Error 9: To managers rewarding failure is counter intuitive. But we must do it to have a culture of knowledge growth. How else can any organisation learn if it is afraid to do and think things?

I've lectured on this at a conference this year - if you don't have an organisation that recognises the importance of experimentation and failure and has a risk averse culture then not only is it reducing knowledge flow, it is also potentially cutting off it's chances of innovation.

Error 10: I agree with Prusak that this battle has been won - nobody believes that technology on its own can deliver KM in an organisation. It is a combination of people, process, technology and culture.

I do wonder though if Web 2.0 is the case of the dragon getting out from behind the rock. We can have all the blogs and wikis in the world in our organisations. But unless people want to share knowledge and the internal processes share this then it is unlikely to happen and once again the poor hapless IT department gets blamed for not delivering the promised ROI on an IT investment. Also there is the danger of busy managers using IT as a tick box to deliver KM because it means they don't have to deal with the long term issues of their organisational culture and people management etc etc.

Error 11: Once again, Prusak believes that this battle is won. There is some interesting research into this and it will develop in the future. However one organisation I studied did want me to produce knowledge metrics and didn't appreciate it when I couldn't produce them in terms of £ shillings and pence.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Slight delay but looking to the Star Wars

Been a bit busy with some family events over the last few days which required my assistance throughout the UK. So haven't posted but have been able to view some blogs and some You Tube. A hat tip to Matthew Homman for posting this You Tube video on his blog

Millennium Falcon Lego

I thought like he did that it was a really clever idea to use a team to construct something over a period of a few hours.

In fact Lego do do something like this and in fact hire people out to encourage teams to use Lego in their organisations. I've blogged on this on the 18th July 2007 if you want to read further about this.

Anyway I will be back to finish off my earlier comments on the sins of knowledge management that I posted on Friday.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Revisiting a classic

When I studied knowledge management I was handed probably one of the classic articles on Knowledge Management written in 1998 by Larry Prusak and Liam Fahey.

It has recently been republished by Stan Garfield but for those managers who haven't read the article here are the 11 deadly sins with regard to the practice of knowledge management especially in US and from my own experience in UK firms.

  1. Not developing a working definition of knowledge
  2. Emphasizing knowledge stock to the detriment of knowledge flow
  3. Viewing knowledge as existing predominantly outside of the heads of individuals
  4. Not understanding that a fundamental intermediate purpose of managing knowledge is to create shared context
  5. Paying little heed to the role and importance of tacit knowledge
  6. Disentangling knowledge from its uses
  7. Downplaying thinking and reasoning
  8. Focusing on the past and the present and not the future
  9. Failing to recognize the importance of experimentation
  10. Substituting technological contact for human interface
  11. Seeking to develop direct measures of knowledge
Stan had the idea of approaching Larry Prusak and ask for his comments as to how this article had stood the test of time and where the deadly sins still applicable - ie had KM moved on.

I agree with Prusak that we have made some progress but still a lot of firms do for example still see KM as having a large IT database which acts as a repository for documents or as I call it the large bucket approach with the hope of finding the odd gold nugget in it. But organisations have made slow progress on the people side of the equation.

In my next blog I'll be listing some of Prusak's comments and be putting my own observations on it. Also I've been reading tonight an article from Gunther Stahl from INSEAD on talent management as this is a theme that I've been commenting on recently and I think that managers will find them of interest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An interesting find to bring the human element into search facilities

I was browsing through Stumbleupon and came upon an article on cnet news highlighting a new programme launched by a company called Attendi. What this is a combination of a chat service and a search engine and I wondered whether this might have applications within knowledge management in an enterprise setting by bringing a human touch to the process.

I wonder whether this is a trend as I was reading in an American magazine which I subscribe to an article about a guy called Jason Calacanis who is developing a new search engine called Mahalo- who is hiring people who build search results by hand rather than relying on an algorithimic approach like Google. It's early days but an interesting trend to watch as people get overwhelmed by the information that Google provides look for and possibly pay for a customised service.

Anyway back to Attendi which highlights that it wants to dos something slightly different and to be the search engine that "bypasses Internet content and head straight for your brain." The aim is to provide answers for questions individuals have that have yet to be indexed on the Web.

Thinking about this in an enterprise setting - let us say that you want to find out for example how many widgets it takes to build a particular machine or what are the best precedents to use for a merger in Germany. A lot of internal search engines will bring up a collection of document with a variety of relevance to the issue that you are looking to find.

Searching on Attendi brings up a list of people who have volunteered to give information. Each person (or "Attendi") has a viewable profile. You can ask the system if you can chat with that person. If they are available online and respond, a chat window appears and you can ask them to share their expertise.

But answering the "Whats in it for me' question beloved of people when asking why they should share knowledge here's a thought.

Perhaps every time you answer a question or offer to share expertise this links into HR or even better you are ranked by your peers for the quality of your advice/information and you move up the rankings, this would be very useful say at appraisal time when your line manager looks at what you have done to share knowledge in the organisation . It would also be helpful for new starters to find out who the key players are.

Something I'd really like to work on one day with an innovative organisation and an open IT department to help the business mobilise it's knowledge resources.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thoughts on the uses for an internal blog

I was talking to an old colleague this afternoon as I was helping her with regard to starting an internal blog within her organisation as a means of helping her disseminate legal knowledge that is regularly updated in a format that people would find useful rather than the traditional e-mail approach.

She asked me if I had a simple few reasons that she could cite and how it could be spread in other areas of the organisation.

I've always been of the view that a blog could be of use for project management especially for updates as to progress rather than using an e-mail process but also as a means of capturing some of the lessons learnt. I also feel that it is also highly useful where people are spread out across the firm and being bought together on a project that either is multi office either in the UK or potentially where a project is spread across time zones.

There was also an article last June at by CG Lynch providing a set of reasons why an internal blog should be started by the company and I provided the details to my colleague. However I feel that they are a good starting point and I list them below as a reminder for myself but also as a guide for my colleague.

Here are some Reasons to Start themselves:
  1. Your enterprise e-mail applications are not easy to search.
  2. Your e-mail is lost in the eye of the "cc storm."
  3. Ex-employees can take it with them.

    If it's in a blog it's there when an employee leaves and not lost when an e-mail account and all the information contained in that account is archived when that e-mail account dissolves on the company systems.

  4. Too much wasted time checking in with colleagues.
  5. Organizational openness and accountability.
  6. People might already be using them.

    I utilised a password protected blog at one firm to provide a proof of concept blog to senior management.

  7. I'd also like to add that it is important for people to have the ability to use within Internet Explorer 7 or an easy to use aggregator internally.

    This is so that people receive the signals that a blog has changed as well as the ability to tag any posts with internally relevant markers say for example in a law firm it might be say company law, takeovers, Europe so that people can search by tags.
Blogs aren't the be all and end all for knowledge sharing technology - the world is evolving and we can't be sure what new technology will come along - but I do consider that they are an interesting way forward and are a key element of any knowledge management strategy in a knowledge based enterprise.

It is important to remember though that these must support the business processes in a firm and aid the employees in that firm to do their job efficiently. We must also consider that there are other techniques that we can utilise - it all depends on the type of work being undertaken and what people feel works best for them. It must work for the individuals that work for the team as well as supporting the company and it's delivery of a service to it's clients.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to fill the talent gap

I was reading last night - couldn't sleep too well about a recent article by Douglas Ready and Jay Conger in the Wall Street Journal about how global companies are finding it harder to fill critical jobs - either by struggling to find recruits or because as the demographic forces work against them and the other pressures haven't developed internally people to step up into these roles. Also I wanted to write a longer article as this is my 102nd blog posting since I started Knowledge and The Cardinal.

The article highlights that organisations aren't looking at these as a whole but as separate issues. They analysed about 40 companies and the conclusion was that companies need to have a unified plan to tackle these issues as a whole rather than individually. They hypothesise that the five problems that I'm going to write down are starting to converge and that "the perfect storm was brewing'

The saw the five problems as follows
  1. Emerging Markets

    As companies flock into the BRIC countries and other emerging markets the demand for talent is outstripping supply. Also companies external to the local market aren't always fully aware of the cultural sensitivities and what motivate someone in the local market may not in say India.

  2. Narrow Thinking

    Because a number of firms are still focused on the business unit and to maximise the opportunities of that unit rather than looking to generate new profits from harnessing mixed products that utilise a number of skills to deliver a new product or service to either existing or new customers. A lot of firms are based on maximising say their billable hour target rather than on their collaboration with other colleagues. Basically we don't have enough managers who look beyond the box.

  3. Demographics

    I have talked about this on a fairly regular basis in other posts but effectively the baby boom generation is leaving or will be leaving the work force with all their experiences over the next 15 years. The article says that 30 million managers will be going in the next 5 years. Also because of the delayering and the move towards the lean organisation - reduced the opportunities for people to develop. It is interesting to note (and there may be another reason for this such as staff retention as the ability to reach partner is curtailed) that for example law firms are creating some new tiers in their organisations be it Director or Senior Associate. This neatly brings me on to Point

  4. The Expectations Gap

    We know that Generation Y in our workplace does not see that working in one organisation is a lifetime contract - studies have shown that they expect to work in about 6 -8 locations in their working career. As the talent shortages bite home in the next few years expect to see more demand by employees for what they want from work and maybe to the chagrin of IT Departments wanting to use computers other than Dell (Apple Macs anyone)

  5. Revenge of the Clones - or as the writers call it Blind Spots

    When I was doing my masters under organisational behaviour one of my professors mentioned studies that stated that managers tend to hire promote and reward people who look, think and behave like them. This leaves people open to some major blind spots in attracting the talent that your organisation needs in the future.
As part of their study at these 40 global companies 97% of respondents said that their company had a formalised succession planning process for senior executives. However 97% said that their company didn't possess a free and flowing talent pipeline.

So what are their proposed solutions

  1. Make your talent plan match your business plan.

    If you know and can exploit the capabilities that let you as a company provide unique and profitable value to your customers then you should look to build those capabilities amongst the people that you employ. This is for everyone and needs extensive training and goes beyond the pony and trap show that most corporate inductions are.

  2. Talent Management is everyone's job

    It's not just HR's job the best firms had deep commitment and accountability amongst senior managers to develop the next managers. Managers need to recognise that they are coaches of growth and learning as well as making the numbers and making sure that their talent pipeline is as full and as flowing as it can be and committing to deliver on this.

  3. Support Matters

    I remember talking to one lawyer who had just been made a partner who said to me that the jump was like going from the 1st Division of English football to the Premier Division. The lawyer felt that although the promotion had been based on the ability to hit high billing hours nothing had been really prepared in taking on the challenges to face the new assignments. I'd always felt that people in that position as well as proper managerial training should be assigned a per partner mentor and then for the 1st year as a partner would help them as they stepped on to that ladder by providing coaching and feedback. Well this is what one of the proposed solutions is.

  4. Measure what matters

    Ask your HR department what metrics they are using and if they have one for talent development. for instance what is your retention of key employees and high potential ones (if you have identified these people in the first place). Also look at why you have to go outside your organisation to hire someone new - is it because you haven't developed your talent line internally - or is it to meet the needs of a new strategic direction.

    How many talent reviews do you hold and is it a real one or do you see it as a bureaucratic form to be filled in and filed away. Also are your managers appraised on how they ensure that peoples training and development aspirations are delivered on an annual basis. I've seen on more than a few questions training aspirations placed on a form and then re said at the next appraisal.
I thought that it was an interesting article as talent as well as knowledge sharing is I believe one of the biggest managerial challenges that faces us over the next 10 - 15 years. I think that professional services need to review the way that they develop their talent - and some are but one wonders how many are just talking the talk......

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

McKinsey on Management practices that work - lessons for knowledge managers

Recently received some information from McKinsey on the subject of what makes companies perform well. They studied and reviewed over 100,000 questionnaires to uncover the practices of 400 business units in 230 companies around the world. Unfortunately, it doesn't say how many of these were knowledge based organisations - but one can imagine that there was a goodly percentage.

The analysis eventually discovered a common winning combination: They were

  1. clear roles for employees (accountability), 
  2. a compelling vision of change (direction), 
  3. and an environment that encourages openness, trust, and challenge (culture). 
Apparently no other option came close in improving organisational performance.

What’s more, the study found that organisational and financial performance correlate directly. An analysis of a global energy group’s production facilities, for example, suggested that for a facility of typical size and margins, better organisational performance had a payoff of $25 million to $30 million. Whilst this doesn't directly extrapolate to say a professional service firm - energy groups have been fairly successful in delivering returns on knowledge management. 

I was particularly interested in point no 3 as if that type of culture is truly in operation then it is likely that knowledge sharing in an organisation will flourish. 

Also it needs courage from the leaders not to abandon the way forward when the transition to a new way of working and performance may suffer slightly whilst your team are developing new ways of knowledge sharing. 

It also does not take into account the concept of tight and loose coupling as mentioned by John Roberts within an organisational structure and my next post will be on this concept.

However one area that is lacking is in disciplined experimentation and an ability to fail. I've always found that if we are allowed to fail responsibly we not only learn lessons but can pass those lessons on to fellow co-workers.

Although an interesting article, I feel that it needs to perhaps extend this research to the knowledge based organisation.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another Comment on PSL's courtesy of Ron Friedman

A bit I forgot to add to my earlier post on PSL's I noted on Strategic Legal Technology blog and Ron Friedman which backs up both claims that the role of the PSL in UK firms is definitely changing and that the traditional PSL role will diminish in forward thinking law firms..

He wrote and I quote directly from his article.

At the risk of oversimplifying, UK firms have focused on a relatively labor- and human-intensive KM, relying heavily on practice support lawyers (PSL). In contrast, the US firms have focused on relatively technology-intensive KM, relying far more on software than on humans.

The traditional role of the PSL, however, appears to be changing. One sign of the change is the upcoming September 20th conference in London, Capitalising on the client-focused professional support lawyer role by the Ark Group. I have co-chaired Ark KM conferences in the US, so know that Ark gives careful thought to constructing an agenda that reflects current issues.

I am intrigued to see that this conference “will review the drivers for the PSL role becoming increasingly client-focused and how professional support needs to be able to encompass elements of client service, marketing and business development in order to remain competitive with other firms.” Speakers are from leading firms, including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Allen & Overy LLP, DLA Piper UK LLP, Eversheds LLP, Herbert Smith.
 LLP, Norton Rose, CMS Cameron McKenna LLP, Addleshaw Goddard LLP, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP."

Thought for a Friday afternoon and a response

From Jeffrey Pfeffer

"Everybody has equal access to knowledge - however not everyone acts on it which gives an organisation competitive advantage"

I also read a great article from Bruce MacEwen who writes the excellent Adam Smith Blog on Knowledge Management. I wrote back to him and he was kind to post my response which is here but if you want to read it in full then click here .

I notice that there is a comment from another reader and I'd like to comment a little.

To me yes there are hidebound firms - but I do agree with his comments regarding altruism and have seen people that do give information for no desire for reward but academic research has shown that people do expect reciprocal altruism - or as I call it the God father approach to KM. 

I also don't believe that the PSL is dying out, I feel that the role needs to change and this is agreed by the reader who is looking at the role of the PSL in his firm and that the old style PSL who just does research will diminish and disappear. They will have to add value to the process and get involved in value added processes such as say an employment PSL running training course for particular clients. However, I think that firms will have to review their PSL's career paths - something I see this week Herbert Smith have started to do.

I have also read 'The Modern Firm" by John Roberts and also have read The Wealth of Nations so am fully aware of Adam Smith's views expressed in his work on Moral Sentiments and Wealth. 

My view is that if law firms or any other organisation wish to survive, then they will need to adapt and allow their employees and the organisations they serve to be able to create knowledge, capture that knowledge, connecting people and then finding ways to circulate that knowledge.  

One quote is quite apposite from Adam Smith "How selfish soever man may be supposed there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness necessary to him though he derives nothing from it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Meredith Levinson's ABC of Knowledge Management

If you are a manager and you are trying to get the hang of this knowledge management exercise, I came across last night on the CIO Web site this great article by Meredith Levinson which I would commend as a good starting point. Even if you are an experienced knowledge manager - it is stool a good aide memoire.

It answers those questions such as
  • What is Knowledge Management?
  • How can I sell a KM project in my organisation?
  • What technologies can support KM?
  • How can I demonstrate the value of a KM initiative?
  • and a number more
So if you'd like to find out more then click on this link to CIO - ABC of KM

By the way it might come up with an ad - just click on skip this ad to move it on to the article.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bad Day at Black Rock

Been a bit busy on the job hunting front and had a bit of a bad day on Friday when 3 jobs I had been interviewed for came back to say that unfortunately I had not been selected - mainly due to over experience - anyway onwards and upwards.

I had an interesting e-mail on Saturday evening from a colleague which highlighted how people are using Amazon's Mechanical Turk as a means of searching for the lost aviator Steve Fossett. This involves people getting involved in Human Intelligence Tasks or HITS and getting paid for it if it is acceptable. 

I noticed that by this afternoon it was on the BBC web site so I imagine there are links all over the blogosphere. I'll be doing some this evening - but if you'd like to help then click on this link below.

Another example of using the crowds of people approach and viral marketing to provide useful knowledge. I often wondered when I was devising the knowledge management strategy at one firm whether there was a way we could use a mechanical turk approach to solve problems. I did come up with an answer to this but am not putting it out for the moment. 

Off on the search then.......

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

About to start a project - do you use prospective hindsight

One of the ideas, that I worked on was a variant of that well known practice within knowledge management of carrying out an after action review to gather the lessons and knowledge from every major project. The area that I looked at was going to be a before action review. The aim was two fold - one was to gather some of the participants  thoughts on the project and to tap in to their tacit knowledge. The other was to stop projects failing which they tend to do at regular intervals. I wanted people to bring their experiences to the table and to contribute any reservations or benefits before the team set off down the road so to speak.

There is an interesting article within the Harvard Business Review for September 2007 which highlights work done in the 1980's by Mitchell, Russo et al which discovered that 'prospective hindsight - imagining an event that has already happened increases the reasons for future outcomes by up to 30%. 

Gary Klein has utilised this research to suggest a pre-mortem approach to projects, which is used to identify risks - and asks team members to imagine that the project has failed spectacularly.  

Project members then write down independently every reason that they can think for the failure. Then team members are asked to read one item from their list (bit surprising this one as people depending on the culture of the firm will probably read out the one that is the least politically sensitive). 

It was interesting to read how this had been used to tap into a participants tacit knowledge and the groups social network to solve a potential project stopping issue.

It is interesting that Klein concludes as I did in my proposal - in that project team members then feel valued for their intelligence, experience and that other team members can learn valuable lessons from them. 

Also by examining problems at the start it also acclimatises people to look for early signs of trouble in the project and hopefully avoid the need for a painful after action review where people are too busy avoiding blame that useful knowledge doesn't get discovered and used for the benefit of the organisation.

Monday, September 03, 2007

All work and no play

If you have Google Earth and the latest version of it - they now have a flight simulator as an option

If you click here are the instructions

With a mouse it is quite a tricky operation and I've had a few prangs but getting the hang of it. Joysticks I think would be a better option. It works on both Mac and Windows platforms.

Anyway - enjoy

A light day

I've been chasing a few things up today but did some light reading over the weekend about projects and harnessing the wisdom of expert crowds as well as some old McKinsey articles about 'the war for talent'.

A couple of quotes stuck out from some of the articles and I thought that I'd like to share them with people just for a thought stirrer.

From Mary Cullinane at Microsoft's Partners in Learning.

"Companies are getting worried that they're not going to be able to find enough good employees."

From Scott Allen and David Teten in their book "The Virtual Handshake"

"Your success is driven in large part by your ability to leverage the community you build around you."

And finally - courtesy of  David Gurle quoted in Fast Company.

" A communications tool is only as good as the number of people it can reach."

I thought of these quotes to bear in mind when thinking about knowledge sharing in organisations when we consider the role of new collaborative technology and the human element. I'll be posting in a bit more detail on some of my reading during the week.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Encouraging people to place information on your internal blog/wiki.

Reading through a number of e-mails, I came upon a report from McKinsey released this month by Jacques Bughin on how companies can make the most of user generated content.

This report discussed that it needs a core of enthusiasts who make quality contributions to kick start the process. It looks at the lessons that organizations which are planning to use corporate blogs and wikis can learn from on line video sharing sites.

One of the areas that the report looked at was that research in Germany in on line video sharing had discovered what I said following my research for my MBA thesis. This is that people share knowledge for such motives as " a desire for fame, and a feeling of identification with a community to encourage collaboration and participation."

McKinsey also found that a few users posted the most popular content. “Depending on the site, just 3 to 6 percent of the membership added 75 percent of the videos available for download, and videos from just 2 percent of the member base accounted for more than half of all videos viewed. These figures resemble those reported in studies of other kinds of participatory media, including wikis, bulletin boards, and photo-sharing sites, where 5 to 10 percent of the users contribute half to all of the content.”

When I carried out a knowledge audit in one organisation, I discovered that it was only a few people who provided the bulk of the knowledge sharing following the 80:20 Pareto principle. Although it would be pleasant to have more people posting and sharing their knowledge, I do wonder whether these pioneers can encourage others to contribute - allied to changes in the companies culture and review systems which 'encourages' people to share knowledge as a means of getting ahead.

The article highlighted, that at a cable company, contributors to an internal wiki did so because of social factors such as reputation building. Team spirit and community identification were other main elements motivating them to contribute.

It is nice to have this confirmed as this has been my consistent discovery over my years in knowledge management in professional service firms and shows that Mayo's Hawthorne principles are alive and well in the 21st century. If you can get knowledge sharing into the company culture and it becomes the way we do work around here, then employees themselves become to continuing drivers of knowledge sharing with minimal management involvement.

It was also interesting to note the role of managers in the process and the action that they took to encourage employees who had developed a high level of connections.

The McKinsey article highlighted that these managers then “examined its internal e-mail system to identify key staffers with wide social networks within it. They then encouraged these employees to post suggestions about improving the company’s processes. Identifying thought leaders and promoting their participation boosted the number of contributions and improved the quality of the postings.”

The article then goes on to highlight that other firms such as Intuit use a rotation system that invites selected employees to contribute to that company's internal online dialogues. This I thought was useful in encouraging knowledge sharing to go beyond the core of highly interested people. The article encourages companies to look beyond this sole area for approaches to maximise the quality of content.

In organizations these sites flourish when they can answer the "Whats in it for me" question. These sites gain traction when new visitors as part of their induction or through word of mouth discover high quality content, then contribute high quality content which then leads to a virtuous circle.. This may mean helping the people who can act as 'guardians' to ensure the quality of the knowledge is of the highest utilising some of the techniques that we see in the linux or open source community.

People may do it as an above and beyond option but wouldn't it be a better idea if the organisation allowed time for people to undertake this work on the company time and to be recognised for it. I'd also like to see companies utilising software similar to Apple's ILife suite to make it as easy and non bureaucratic as possible to share knowledge utilising rich media and not just relying on printed documents.