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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.