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Friday, November 21, 2008

A very large apology

For those who have been following me on this blog and wondering where I've been - well a lot has happened over the last 5 months in my life and so blogging has had to take a very large back seat. In July we had an offer to move house which we couldn't turn down but to get the deal we had to complete by the end of August.

Then my wife went into hospital for her regular 6 monthly treatment at the end of July. Shortly following in August that she had a cancer scare which required treatment and another brief operation.

As you will appreciate, we then had limited time to arrange finance and organise the house move - but we managed to do so by the end of August. We then moved into the house and then went on a holiday for two weeks to the USA and also work related activities. We've basically been working on the house all the hours that we have had so time and energy have a limit. However I have still been reading and am keeping an eye on what is going on in the world of Enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management and will share my thoughts in due course.

The blog for me is a place where i can share articles and my thoughts on KM. I don't lay claim to being the most dazzlingly original (British understatement) but a place where I can access my thoughts and also practice what I preach in sharing knowledge.

An area that I was impressed in whilst I was in the US was a conversation I had with a couple of committed Obama fans as to how he was reaching out to people using Social media through his web site and how people and volunteers could help his campaign.

It's all a long way from Howard Dean's original effort in 2004 - but it will be interesting to consider the possible cross overs into business and how Obama uses this to get his message over once he is in power.

Here are some of the thoughts picked up today from the NY Times article in my inbox yesterday

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

E-mail RIP?

Been away on holiday so not been blogging as much

Found in Fast Company today

Business email will eventually be replaced by more accessible forms of communication like Twitter and company wikis."
- Inspired by Alex Iskold, ReadWriteWeb.

Remember wikis aren't just for use in knowledge management, but they are also useful as a means of collaboration and then when the project is finished can remain a repository of information about that project and give you insights into the contextual knowledge that you need.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Improving your use of Google

A good post by Dennis Kennedy via his writings on the ABA Web site. He has written a brief article on how to use Google effectively especially with searches.

So here is the article and if you use it in your blog be sure to reference Dennis Kennedy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Firefox add on you should have

I've been out and about watching the 20/20 cricket over the last few days at Edgbaston so my time for blog posting has been a bit limited. However last week I downloaded Firefox 3 and I've been looking for some useful extensions. Well I've found one and although it is in beta it does enhance my use of Google Reader by a company called feedly.

This has provided me with a good reading platform and allows me to save articles in Google reader but also I can pass them on to other people who follow me on Twitter and can be advised instantly of a useful web site or web article. For me the good integration with Google Reader is excellent though I did have to delete some feeds that were saved to Google Reader from some of my other sites.

A nice piece of eye candy is the ability to create a screen saver of articles and then click on this to read. It would be great to have say on an intranet where new articles appear as a screen saver and then you click on the article that you want to read. A good attention grabber.

I should say that this is available on Firefox only and is still a work in progress and no doubt will improve over time. It is the one function, that would make me switch from using google reader as my standard blog reader and saver.

Monday, June 16, 2008

iPhone - a 3rd revolution?

Now that it is one week since all the hoopla of the WWDC and the launch of the iPhone Version 2, I've been reflecting on this and also thinking whether this is the time for me to switch.

The new iPhone answers some of the questions that I had in terms of allowing 3 G and GPS and also for its future if it is going to really tackle the corporate market - dealing with CIO's queries about working with their systems.

The main point was the price point - numerous bloggers felt that iPhone 1 was really aimed at the first adopters and the price in the UK of £100 for the 8GB version is within peoples pain threshold especially as in the European market - most phones are free and subsidised by the supplier.

The main thing was that although some of Apple's work in this area is a slight sense of catch up technologically - what no one does better than Apple is in ist very high standards in terms of design (the wow factor) and more crucially the ease of use for people. Talking to users of the iPhone 1 they said that even with it's limited offering they found it easy to use a significant number of the functions as well as the music (remember this doubles as an iPod also).

A number of commentators highlighted that Steve Jobs looked unwell (even though he is 53 - he did have surgery 4 years ago for pancreatic cancer). He also delegated a lot more of the key note to other speakers than he has in the past.

Maybe the iPhone is Steve Jobs 3rd revolution in the field of technology in terms of computers. He 1st did this in 1984 with the original Macintosh by utilising the GUI we all use today. Then the 2nd revolution was the developmenht of the iPod and iTunes and now the iPhone with it's attendant app Store which makes it into a handheld computer with software.

Apple have always tried to make using the technology not only a triumph of design but also an easy to use for those of us who aren't computer geeks.

Simplicity uber alles would summarise the Apple technology for me and why I will continue to use it.

If the iPhone is to Steve Jobs last major contribution to consumer technology, then what a way to bow out - most of us never have the opportunity to be revolutionary - he may have achieved three revolutions in his career in consumer technology and interestingly bought them closer to what Bill Gates wanted in terms of a computer on everyones desk. Jobs may have liberated that to one in everyones hand.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I was reading an interesting article last night from McKinsey's which was an interview with Marina Levinson the chief information officer of Net App in California.

I'm always interested in trends in this area as I have worked in organisations where the IT function seemed to take a perverse delight in hindering and not helping the business to develop or even automate certain functions or helping us to analyse information.

It was interesting, that for the major parts of the business that had say a global aspect, that there was a key decision maker in the IT department who was allocated to cover that business.

In these days where more organisations are covering a matrix style organisational structure and project teams that form and dissolve that a key IT person who can deliver IT that helps that business improve itself and understands the type of business and the work that it undertakes would be of benefit. The hope is that they would be a partner and not a stopper.

Based on that the concept of the IT link to a large part of the business would enable that person to answer two key questions in my mind:-

' How can IT help my division to be able to collaborate effectively, to assist innovation and to capture and share knowledge with a high level of systemic reliability'

' What are your business challenges and how can IT aid you in delivering on these challenges.'

The IT person attached to the business should look to see where the capability gaps are - ie does the IT support the divisions strategic delivery plans.

They should also consider whether they should buy in IT - or if the capability exists build the software them selves.

This week, there has been a major conference on Enterprise 2.0 and I find one particular question and response of interest in the light of that conference and also from a KM viewpoint.


In the last decade, companies made major investments in automating structured processes and routine tasks. More recently, investment has supported knowledge workers who base decisions on a combination of structured and unstructured input and dialogue. How do you see this shift?


There isn’t much innovation left in the structured world. If you want to innovate, you really need to look at collaboration and the creation of communities. Businesses are not as advanced as consumers in creating these communities, but I think there are a lot of opportunities for very interesting innovation that we haven’t seen yet.

We have some of this activity happening at the grassroots level in our company, such as deploying wikis for the engineering staff. But it will become necessary to develop a Web 2.0 strategy that benefits the entire company. You have to allow some chaos at first to get people to experiment. But at some point, you have to create a framework, some kind of order. And, of course, it’s impossible to quantify the benefits right now—you just need to believe that collaborative technologies help to improve employee productivity.

Amen to that and I also see the job of the IT person to ensure that projects are delivered - one post I read last week about how to kill enterprise 2.0 in the business had this quote.

They will grind down their early adopters until they give up. I'd like to add that this can be done through the bureaucracy within companies where a good idea is lost in some Kafkaesque procedure until either the idea is lost, or takes so long the technology is obsolete.

I've put a link to Euan Semple's article here and it is interesting to read as are the comments. It begs two questions.

  • whether the majority of organisations are like this and
  • are IT departments themselves agents of change or agents of reaction.

I'd also like to agree with a comment from Steve Dale who cross posted this article. I agree with him that in some organisations the phrase one size must fit all is used.

The beauty of Web 2.0 is in it's flexibility and ease to set up and if people within an organisation are frustrated by the lack of internal solutions then they will go and find workable external solutions that are cheap enough to sneak below the budgetary radar.

Knowledge workers require IT that helps them in their job and answers the top two questions. These tools can help and support a firms knowledge management process though it is always the people first and the technology second - you shouldn't start by looking at it through a technological prism.

In the end the IT is a tool that can help you move from being an island of knowledge to an army of people who see knowledge and its use as they key weapon in your businesses future survival thorough collaborative and connective technology and person to person communities.

As regular readers will know - KM in my eyes is the convergence of people, technology and process to help the organisation meet its strategic aims.


Many thanks to Doug Cornelius and all the others who have placed their thoughts on the E 2.0 conference during the course of the week. I wish I could have been there - despite the problems with the wifi - their posts have been excellent and I will no doubt post about this during the course of next week when I've reflected on it

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Keynote Speech from WWDC - announcing iPhone

Here is the link to the keynote speech at WWDC from last night. First reaction looks promising to the new version - presses most peoples buttons, though a few would want a better camera and the ability to MMS - though I think the second will be answered via App store - anyway enjoy the performance. Note also how Jobs crafts his message and does his presentations - very simple but very effective.
(PS - this will also be on iTunes as a vodcast - so that you can download)

Monday, June 09, 2008

iPhone 2.0 with 3 G announced today.

Here is the video of the new iPhone for people to look at. I think that Apple have come up with an offering that every IT manager will be looking at over the next 12 months and may have a queue outside their door for tomorrow morning especially as major firms in the Fortune 500 have been using it and finding it completely satisfied with the way it integrates into their enterprise system. 

Apple for me have answered every question that has been posed at it - in terms of price point etc and features that make it a no brainer for me - even the ability to post a blog entry and to twitter.. 

Just hope that o2 don't queer the pitch in the UK with the 3G option by poor pricing. No doubt this will all be sorted by launch date of 11th July in the UK.

For those of you interested and with pictures here is the link to Appleinsider

Friday, June 06, 2008

Web 2.0 - is it at a financially viable tipping point?

I've been looking at Web 2.0 sites more following downloading the excellent Flock browser which is one of the best that I've seen for handling all my social media and RSS needs. Though I've been noticing some simialrities between Web 1.0 and 2.0 - in that there is a lot of money probably being put in by venture capitalists into these sites I didn't realise how many sites there where out there until I say the directory of web 2.0 sites that some one has compiled at go2web20.

I don't think even allowing for the incredible growth of this market, that all these sites are going to be taken over by Google/Microsoft et al - so some of these are going to either fold or consolidate over the next year or so especially as the credit crunch bites in the global economy. I've tended to stick with social media that I think is likely to make it through either because of it's connections with large players - or it's ability to stand on its own financially (in my unsophisticated opinion.

Just something for you to think about when using social media for something work related. Being cuatious I have both browser and social bookmarking for all my bookmarks just in case one of the SM sites folds.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 Conference & WWDC - some pre-thoughts.

This conference is in Boston next week and I wish I was there to listen to people like Andrew McAfee talk about it. He basically has given E 2.0 some academic kudos as well as being a thoughtful blogger.

From what I'm reading around in the blogosphere, there is some guerilla infiltration in to the enterprise of Web 2.0 softwarebut as of yet security conscious IT departments are trying to block usage.

Whereas new entrants when confronted by legacy systems are wondering why the companies they work for haven't got the tools they are using as students.

I think also that there is still the perception by senior management as there was in the early days of the Internet that having Twitter, Face book etc is a slackers charter.

So next week I will be looking at what is posted out of the conference and be making comment for people to view.

Also next week - is the WWDC (developers conference for Apple.

The big player here will be iPhone with the 2nd generation likely to be launched. I think that this will be big as Apple launched a development kit for people to develop extra applications for the iPhone.

A bit like enterprise 2.0 will we see people over the next 12 months using these rather than the ubiquitous blackberry - probably not but I wouldn't want to be like one dinosaur sounding IT manager who is quoted as saying we are a blackberry shop and that's the way we are going to stay.

Be interesting to see how and if that starts to change as more enterprise friendly applications are developed in the near future and what is announced at WWDC. Though I do realise that IT Managers do have a number of issues such as compatibility that they need to consider - I don't think that you can just write off the iPhone especially if the enterprise element is sketched out in more detail next week.

UPDATE - the quote in full which I referred to is as follows.

"I have nothing against iPhone. It's great," says Manjit Singh, CIO at Chiquita Brands International Inc. "But we're a BlackBerry shop, and I don't think iPhone brings anything new to the table. It has a great user experience, but that's all."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Knowledge Management Tools and Techniques

My previous link about Tax freedom day shouldn't negate some of the excellent work being done by IDEA which is the improvement and development agency for local government. I often browse over to their site as I'm aware that they have an interest in knowledge management and one of my fellow bloggers Steve Dale does a lot of work with them - so this is a belated hat tip to him also. Anyway if you are just thinking about possible tools and techniques for knowledge management for your business, can I recommend their recent publication covering this (click on the title for access to the link)

It breaks the tools up into three key sectors namely

  1. Connecting people to information and knowledge
  2. Connecting people to people
  3. organisation improvement.
It covers the time and tested classics in a informative and easy to digest format that would provide a good starting point especially when dealing with busy managers.

I'm very happy to passon this link to people and would recommend people to bookmark this site in their favourites.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tax Freedom day

For those of us in the UK, today as the Adam Smith Institute reminds us is Tax Freedom day. The day we actually start working for ourselves and finally finish paying for the government expenditure. As the ASI points out this day is steadily increasing and is now a week longer than it was in 1997. (It was April 27th in 1965).

Governments of all persuasions should remember Colbert's maxim on taxation. He said that the art of raising tax is to ensure that you pluck the feathers without the geese noticing.

Looking at recent headlines, - I think the geese have and they have a sharp bite.

If you'd like to read more, then click on the title to this post.

Jack Vinson's thoughts on Knowledge Management

I've been reading a lot of Jack Vinson's blogs on knowledge management and always found him to be a pragmatic knowledge manager. I'm pleased to see he's been quoted by Stan Garfield over at Hewlett Packard - who asked him what words of wisdom he'd want to pass on.

Jack has two points that he makes that chime in closely with mine

Words of wisdom on KM:
  • It's not about the knowledge, it's about connecting people who have useful information to those who need it - whether you connect them face-to-face, or it is mediated via technology (and time).
  • It is very easy to get locked into one method of doing knowledge management. Be curious about options for KM. Test things out, ask your colleagues. Then make your decisions as they work in your environment."
I've always believed that people are the most important element in knowledge management, but I am excited by the range of potential options that are available for firms to use - if they are brave and trust their staff. It reminds me of the conversations that I had when the Internet was in it's infancy and I campaigned with managers to allow it in. They felt that people would goof off and productivity would suffer. It didn't because people used it to access information that they recycled.

The second one is all too easy to get sucked into. The danger of a one size fits all paradigm - there are always some options and try to devise a system that is flexible and meets the internal communities needs. They may not always work first time out - but it is always a learning experience that we can use for version 2.

Social Media in plain English

As many of you know - I'm a great fan of Common Crafts excellent videos as a way of explaining briefly - some of the new ideas going round.

(Picked it up via RSS feed but also thanks to Steve Dale for also picking it up- stops me missing things)

They've recently done a recent video on what social media is.

If you click on the video then it will play

Social Media in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

A good use of analogy - using ice cream. I think that there is a lesson for any company which is looking to update its internet site in the near future. Start to get feedback from your fans known and unknown to comment on your site or products. Perhaps contact them with some exclusive products such as thought papers and ask them to comment in advance. Beta testing for thought papers.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Coming back

I'm sorry if I haven't been posting for some time, but I've been busy dealing with some issues post conference in Hong Kong. Also about once a year, I try to take a break from posting, to stop myself going stale - but also to try to be a little more thoughtful in my blog posts.

I usually recognise the signs of staleness, and my wife who reads my posts is a very good judge of when I'm not writing at my best.

So I've stared posting tonight and I think that I will have some more interesting posts for people to view and hopefully learn from.

I write the blog mostly as an aide memoire to myself but if one person reads what I put and finds it helpful, then I feel I've helped a little to share knowledge.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Back and mea culpa

Well I'm back after a tiring trip to Hong Kong which was eventful and also dealing with the aftermath of the event as well as dealing with a house move and so on and so forth. I will be now trying to do my weekly blog now that things are back to normal. Certainly after seeing the ease with which video is being used, I will be certainly looking at increasing the use of video to not only capture knowledge and other things but also as a means of communication. I think that looking at HD video is the way forward. Steve Jobs about two years ago said this was the year of High Def. I think he was two years early - certainly for the UK. Video camcorders can now be bought with high def for under a £1k mark and I can remember 3 years ago where a video camcorder cost roughly £800 and now it is down about £300. Credit crunch or not - I think that in about 2 years time technology will bring hi def to being the de facto standard. I'd certainly like to try that as an experiment at either a COP or another skills network.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blog takes a rest

Attended a conference on talent management - picked up some good tips and will blog on these after reflection. However off to a conference in Hong Kong tomorrow and will be gone for a week. Might try to capture some thoughts, but the blog might be a bit light next week.

Can I leave you with a great presentation called shift happens - it does bring the information age home to people. If you are complacent, then this video might give you the kick you need. I can remember when computers were the size of desks and I changed programmes with punched cards. We live in the knowledge age rather than the brawn/machine age.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Web 2.0 conference update

This has kicked off and the twitter posts from some of the luminaries are keeping me up to date via Netvibes. As I'm helping to arrange a conference in Asia my updates will be a bit brief. However, there was an interesting talk given by Tim O' Reilly that was posted on CNEt which I attach the link to in the title bar. Interestingly a lot of the old big computer companies were there, maybe they can start to see gold in Web 2.0 for the enterprise and using their brand name to get on the ladder.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My tweetcloud

I use twitter from time to time and a mac colleague pointed out this useful little idea, so that I could see what words were being used. It acts like a tag cloud on delicious. It would be useful in a work setting if you could aggregate a couple of feeds and see what people were talking about in the enterprise. My blogs will be a little light this week as I'm preparing an overseas conference in Hong Kong and it's getting down to the last few days - so it tends to be all hands to the pump with last minute adjustments.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Results of a Mac trail in IBM.

Many thanks to Mac Rumors who have posted the results of trails carried out inside IBM to see whether they should try Mac within IBM. They've just carried out the first pilot and I thought that readers might be interested in the results which I've copied in full.

The first phase of the pilot program was conducted between October 2007 and January 2008. During this phase, 24 MacBook Pros were distributed to researchers and used as the primary notebook, with the employees' existing ThinkPads acting as backups if needed.

Of the 22 of 24 who responded, 18 said that the Mac offered a “better or best experience” compared to their existing computer, one rated it “equal or good,” and three said the Mac offered a “worse experience.”

Seven reported having no or marginal prior knowledge of using Macs, while 15 reported having moderate or expert knowledge of the platform.

Other highlights:
- 86% of pilot users requested to keep the Mac
- More new hires are requesting Macs
- Research and Academic clients have a growing Mac community
- IBM internal software made for Mac was easy to install
- Some key software was unavailable for Mac, including DB2 and Websphere Application Server, Rational Application Developer IDE for J2EE apps, WebSphere Integration Developer SOA development tool, and Microsoft Visio. (which can be got round either with boot camp or Parallels (my italics)

Some Comments:
- "When presenting at customer or external meetings, I have been greeted with the 'wow factor.' 'Where's the ThinkPad, IBM uses Apples now?'"
- "This can free us from the Windows stranglehold."
- "It has been easier learning the Mac than learning Vista."
- "The ability to run Windows XP in a VM under Parallels is a great feature."

Personally I know that I work about 10 to 15% faster using my Mac at home, though it is always getting the IT boys to go for a trail - though I do see a large Mac community at work and maybe it might be worth a trial other than in the ubiquitous graphics department being the only ones in a large corporation to use it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brad Bird talks on Innovation

One of my favourite movies is the Incredibles - I think the animation and the dialogue are absolutely brilliant and also Pixar is owned by a certain Steve Jobs.

Interestingly there is a McKinsey article out today interviewing the director Brad Bird who has two Oscars - one for the I's and the other for Ratatouille( which wasn't too scruffy either)

He highlights that innovation can come from unexpected places - the Internet came out of the Defence Department originally to set up a communications network that would survive a nuclear attack.

Bird was hired because the owners feared that they were getting complacent after a run of success and hired him to 'shake things up' The owners including Jobs said that he could expect robust discussion but that if he could convince them, they would change the way they did things.

When they were talking about the I's people said that to do this would take ten years and $500 million to do.

He set out to look for the frustrated artists - the people who nobody was listening to because the company was doing well. He listened to these 'black sheep' and gave them the opportunity to run with their ideas and basically slashed the I's production time at a lesser cost.

He was asked whether black sheep make better innovators. Bird says he is looking for involved and engaged people, and they can range from being quiet to very loud and evangelical. A common thread was that they have a restless probing nature and want to get to the problem.

Team dynamic s are also important especially if you have cross functional ones and the managers job is be creative in a harmonious way - imagine a symphony orchestra.

The important thing is to allow people to put their head above the parapet without getting it shot off. If you are the sort of manager who jumps all over people when they disagree then you are not going to get innovation. Once people know that it is OK to challenge their managers thoughts because they have a better idea - then their learning curve in Bird's opinion goes up. Up to a point Lord Copper - at the end of the day, the manager can't abdicate responsibility to the team - he still has to be convinced.

Morale of the team is also important - he reckons that bad morale means that for every $1 you spend then you get 25c of value Vice versa - he thinks it is $1 spent = $3 value. He thinks that companies don't always pay as much attention to morale as they should. He had worked on a number of disaster projects and noted that these were where people didn't feel invested in their work and any efforts to bring up problems were rebuffed.

The interviewers ask him apart from engagement and morale what is important

He says 'The first step in achieving the impossible is believing that the impossible can be achieved. Going back to the complacent company scenario at Pixar. He challenged them and said that this company was founded on doing stuff that was too ambitious. He states in the article " You guys have had nothing but success. What do you do with it? You don't play it safe - you do something that scares you, that's at the edge of your capabilities where you might fail. That's what gets you up in the morning.

I particularly liked that quote as it was the thrust of what Frank Dick said at a talk I attended earlier this week. He referred to the fact that we are at our best working in areas of white water turbulence not calm seas.

One area that he mentions is the presence of a creative culture - and I think that the interesting comment is the creation of a big atrium area which is a central meeting area. However Steve Jobs put the cafeteria, post rooms ,meeting rooms and the bathrooms in the centre. Jobs realised what any good knowledge manager would tell him that when people meet with one another either by design or by serendipity then things happen - social networks are formed and you meet people who might help you make an introduction to a person who might help you.

Interestingly they have a Pixar University (which seems like something that Rover did - but was also used at Walt Disney). I've always believed that learning doesn't stop after university and that learning is life long. However as we grow older with additional responsibilities it does get more difficult and we can lose the ability to learn new things or undertake new challenges.

For me I'd like to learn more about how to do a movie and edit and post it on the Internet or even internally. Some people might want to learn about graphics. Like bird I believe that we have to learn things that are outside our own area makes us a more complete person and also gives them the confidence to move to learn in other areas.

He also challenges leaders to be subversives and occasionally to have a person who is not a yes man but challenges your way of thinking.

He also recognises that innovation can be undermined and it was nice to see my old friend the passive aggressive organisation getting a good run out again.

Bird doesn't like people who in public or in a management meeting are supportive but once they get back into the safety of their department peck away at the proposal. He soon gets rid of these people as soon as he spots them.

It is recognised that leaders can inhibit innovation and he goes back to his earlier point on complacency - he strongly believes that you should never be satisfied and that you should have the attitude of a student of your craft and keep working to improve.

The human condition I believe demands that we look to climb mountains instead of climbing into valleys. Only by climbing those mountains can we see new horizons, live on the edge and truly be human.

Occasionally we need to help pick our colleagues up if they have fallen over and coach them to climb this mountain but in time give them the confidence to climb their own mountains and to teach others the same knowledge.

The first owner at Coke once said that the world belongs to the discontented - Brad Bird seems to have picked up the same baton and is running with it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rail Crisis on the Horizon??

An interesting article from the Adam Smith Institute posted today - that I've just captured for review later. You can read it here It would be interesting to read what experienced rail people have to say. It is interesting to read Dr B'Ching's columns in Private Eye on a weekly basis as well as other articles in Rail Magazines and blogs by Christian Wolmar to come to the conclusion that something is dysfunctional in the British Rail Industry.

Is the Adam Smith idea the way forward for the British Rail Industry or have we been witnessing re-nationalisation by stealth and that a second full re-privatisation is needed. I note that the ASI are holding a conference in early May so maybe this post is the start of a precursor to that. I'll be sure to post any blog posts on this conference into this area for others to pick up on.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Team Working and Lawyers - follow up to tonights earlier post

Thank you to a Strategic Legal Technology post from Ron Friedman this evening. 

One of the snippets posted covered recent comments by Jordan Furlong about law schools and team work (and the lack of it). 

I'd always considered that it was law firms and their culture that tended to drum team working out of its trainees but it apparently happens earlier in the law schools. (I'm sure not all law firms are that way - though from reading some of the blawgs and reading Legal Week I'm not so sure now)

When I was studying some of my happiest times where when I was talking to fellow students from all over the world and gaining new insights that I would never have had in the first place - if they hadn't been so open and hopefully they felt that I contributed as well.

Knowledge sharing is an entree into the world of innovation if we have or are allowed to make time for it as well as having a good team working relationship. 

Anyway click on the title of this post to read the article

The future challenge to knowledge management

I've been catching up with some reading this weekend. The front cover of the Economist is titled "The Great American slowdown' and that they consider that the American economy has slipped into recession. and that the American consumer is in no fit state to start picking up the baton and start spending, in fact they are starting to re trench. I don't think that the recession will be deep but in America and for the world it might be long. However, I think that the concept of economic decoupling might mean that the recession is likely to be uneven in its impact especially in India and China.

I was then reading an article in Legal Week covering knowledge management - side by side with an interesting article by Bruce MacEwen over at Adam Smith who comments on the economics of law firms.

This has started to posit a thought in my mind regarding knowledge management in organisations as a whole. The thought is this - is a recession in the world economy going to help or hinder knowledge management in organisations.

One of the areas that I have studied is the lack of time that people have to share knowledge within their organisations - now you would argue that as a recession bites that a wise management would work with people and encourage them to replenish the organisations knowledge banks to make up for the reduction of work volumes and also start to develop both client and internal knowledge networks.

However if you have an economic model of business that charges according to time spent on a matter, and rigidly keep to it, then if those people don't hit the targets and you decide to lose them, then you take a double hit a loss of potential fee earning when the economy turns up as well as a loss of knowledge. 

I'd be taking the hit in term of fee income but retaining people for the turn up and for those areas which aren't so busy ensure that they are updating their knowledge banks, more training, increased mentoring and those all important client and social networks so that they have got the reserves to draw upon to become better problem solvers both internally and externally.

Of course if you start to make people redundant , then you send a message that you keep working as hard as you did and that sharing knowledge still isn't on the managements agenda be it good times or bad times. This leeches into the organisations culture and then future knowledge sharing becomes more difficult because of the Hawthorne effect described by Roethlisberger and Mayo.

In a recession, because of the fear of redundancy, most people traditionally will decide to hoard knowledge, thinking that this is the way to stay safe by concentrating on their own work silo rather than helping colleagues by sharing knowledge. Will managers reward those who share knowledge or those who hoard - the decision is up to senior management to decide which side they choose to reward.  People surely should not be measured in how many hours that they work in a week, but in how the solve a clients problems and work with their fellow colleagues both as people but also by sharing knowledge for the betterment of all.

At the end of the day people learn that sharing knowledge isn't a core concern of the organisation and because of this learn not to share knowledge within their organisation and that being homo economicus - the return on investment does not match the original investment. 

However people are not wholly economic animals and even Adam Smith recognised this when he said 'that an individual stands at all times in need of the co-operation and assistance of great multitudes'  He also states in Moral sentiments with a quote on which our well being in the future might depend " How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness to him, though he derives nothing from it." 

I talk about reciprocal altruism, and believe that people do share knowledge even though they might gain nothing from it now - they share it because of care for a fellow human being and for me the ability to look into a mirror and see the person my parents wished me to be and that ones active principles should be that of generosity.

 Though I recognise that the temptation in troubled times must be immense not to share knowledge with a colleague who you suddenly see as a competitor and that you may have to fight figuratively speaking to save your job, your standard of living of you and possibly your family. 

Does knowledge sharing go even more backward in your thoughts at this time or do you have enlightened management that supports knowledge management in tough times recognising it as an investment in the future of the organisation or do they see it as an easy target for budget cuts a nice to have rather than a core necessity. It is a long term change for senior management in any professional services environment and I don't think that any one management theorist has all the answers - but it is a challenge that we need to address to keep our organisations going in the future.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our Nomadic future

An interesting piece in about the rise of mobility with wireless communication. The article I'd like to read and reflect on and post a note next week, but it will be interesting to read how wireless technology will impact not only on our work places, but how it might impact on cities, work patterns and the way that we design our offices of the future.  Would I like to be a permanently on nomad with the freedom to roam but also recognising that it will be easier for people to watch me though Twitter, Facebook Second Life etc etc.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The business value of Twitter

On occasions I like to go over to CIO to see what Chief Information officers are talking about. Well following my recent posting on Twitter I have been interested in whether organisations will find a use for Twitter - any way here is an article by Abbie Lundberg that could act as a starting point for discussion. I have also seen comments from other bloggers on this point so - obviously it is a technology that may come into the work place and have a role though at present I want to consider it further.

I use Twitter and might try to find fellow like minds to try it out as an experiment to see where it leads. for example I saw it being used very effectively to monitor the progress of the Olympic torch through San Francisco this week and can imagine it being used especially useful with selected groups of people in a global setting.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The mighty Liverpool march on

Even if you were a neutral (which I'm not) that was a great match full of entertainment and skill which was a (nervous) joy to watch. I thought that the gap between the two side was miniscule though Arsenal did outpass us. As in somethings in life it is looking after the small things that make the difference and it was the ability of Torres to turn and deliver a stunning goal and Arsenal having a slightly small man on the post that meant he wasn't able to deal with Hyppia's header was the difference between success and failure.

Anyway I'm going to bed a happy bunny.

Monday, April 07, 2008

RSS in three minutes

A colleague asked me today about RSS and I gave him a quick description but directed him to this link from Commoncraft (once again thanks to Lee Lefever) and if you click on the title it will open the link.

This is a great three minute guide to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) with pictures and video.

Here is the link in the title to this blog so enjoy and maybe if you are trying to explain it to your boss or a fellow colleague it might help.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A wiki primer for people to use

Blast from the past article from last year but still worth sharing

Business Week has a series about wikinomics which I'm posting here as a means of sharing it for people

The series is posted here and has a variety of topics covering

Innovation and getting ideas from outside the organisation and the Wiki Workplace that I would also commend to people interested in this area.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

APRIL FOOL - Law firm to run sheep pilot scheme

I like to look out for the best April Fools web ones over lunch and this one is one of the best on today's Lawyer - I think that the name of the person hired gives it away.

Click on the title of this post to see the link.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Upcoming articles

I was reading an article over the weekend by Dan Roam covering the use of visual thinking to solve problems. 

As a mind mapper I know how an image can be used instead of a memo to convey ideas. I use Mind Map on my Mac but not as yet at my current workplace. 

I'll be interested to see if there are any insights that Dan has and be sure to post them in due course. I'm also reading an article on trust and as a knowledge manager, this is an area that I examined in my thesis and has been a subject of past blogs - if you click on the title of this post it will take you to one of my favourite posts.

Knowledge Management on the decline??

There has been an interesting article from the Harvard Law school that I saved last year and from time to time I re-read old articles to see if they are still relevant and it is. Looking at this article a year later the debate has moved on, though companies still believe that giant databases of information will solve their problems. Knowledge management to my mind is still predicated on people processes and technology as well as organisational culture and norms (back to Hawthorne). But a bit like the bible the most important of these are people and giving them the ability to connect and share information be it over a coffee, doing an after action review, sharing a story about how to deal with a client. It is allowing people to meet and make that primitive connection that encourages you to share that tacit knowledge. However if you are in a large organisation you can't always meet everyone and so the rise of social web 2.0 technology that I ramble about on supports the social sharing of information.

Here is the article from March 2007.

Knowledge Management on the Decline?: The law of diminishing returns is affecting those firms that invested heavily in giant IT databases - because a lot of that information is becoming available on line and it’s quality is steadily improving. It does beg a question as to say in 5 years time will in house precedents (or at least the vast majority of them) be as quaint as a buggy and whip.

Therefore firms will need to look at the way that people share knowledge if they wish to maintain a competitve advantage over their rivals.

Competitive advantage comes from possessing some attribute that is valuable, rare and not easily substituted - the tacit or people knowledge in a firm is that advantage not as previously perceived what is held in a database.

Another article highlights the rise of Generation Y lawyers who want to have their own internal blogs as a way of advertising their expertise to other people in the firm, so that they can undertake work on interesting projects.

Firms have noted a significant rise in the number of requests for blogs especially and even Microsoft has noticed - putting a blogging facility into Sharepoint 2007.

Also they want to have a say in developing more flexible taxonomies than the ones that they feel are foisted on them by IT departments that aren’t lawyers and don’t always bear reality to what and how they work.

Always remember, the technology is there to help people with their day to day work and that without the people getting involved - you end up with an expensive white elephant.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

E-mail Collaboration vs Wiki Collaboration.

As many of my readers know, I am interested in how wikis can help us to collaborate and as a picture can say a thousand words, I thought that I’d share this diagram as used by Chris Rasmussen but picked up on via Jim McGee.

Serendipitously on the day that I picked this up a work colleague came and asked for my help in trying to pick through a wade of e-mails to try and ensure that he had not missed anything in respect of the requirements for a piece of work he was undertaking.

Well about 90 minutes later after reading through a blizzard of papers I had actually bottomed out the request. After about 30 minutes I was looking at this picture and wishing that someone had used a wiki in this instance. There have been a few times ie when working on a conference, that I have also thought about the wiki way.

However although the diagram makes it look easy, I think for a lot of senior managers it would take a leap of thought for them to move to using a wiki wedded as we are to e-mail.

Also a lot of firms don’t have RSS feeds as they are still using IE 6 and would have to put a specific watch on the page which means that you get an e-mail caught up in all the detritus of other e-mails – an interesting one would be if it linked up to something like Twitter in an enterprise setting so that the post would generate a twittergram. alternatively have a discussion with your IT department about using safari for Windows or Firefox - both excellent browsers with inbuilt RSS readers.

I'd also like to think that organisations might have two uses for wikis - one for collaboration and one for knowledge management - one to look at for the future.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Social Bookmarking - a easy to understand video

From time to time in this blog I've used Lee Lefevers excellent animations at Commoncraft to get over to people some of the basic principles of social bookmarking. I've used it now for the best part of 24 months and use this instead of book marks on my own web browsers.  If you were like me a novice at social bookmarking, then this is a very good primer.

For me I can definitely see this having a use within a Enterprise setting - imagine that you have a skills based community covering an issue. There are no doubt web sites that cover this issue and you can save these social bookmarks to a group using a tag. As an example I am a member of a Mac user group. A number of us have set up a group and lets call it WMUG. By using a tag called for:WMUG everyone who subscribes to that group can see what people have posted as a bookmark - how it has been tagged but of course you can also see what bookmarks they have as well as those that they are really interested in.

The tags are also useful as they utilise the language that people who are interested in a particular issue say macs will talk, such as Leopard, Finder, Dock, Stacks, Time Machine. This is what is known as a folksonomy and breaks away from a taxonomic structure and gets people to use the language of their issue or interest.

I'd like to see this tried to support a community of practice or whatever name your organisation calls it. once again it breaks through the rigidity of corporate intranets and allows people of a certain interest to share information that they have found on the net.  I'm not decrying corporate intranets they do have a place within the organisation and maybe within the organisations own intranet, there are useful articles that can be tagged and shared within people within the organisation using a social bookmarking tool.

Enjoy the video and if you do share it, then ensure that you give Lee and Commoncraft the credit they deserve and consider how an easy social bookmarking might be used in your business

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Innovation Insights - blast from the past.

Over the weekend I was reading an article with Bill Campbell, who runs Intuit but prior to that was involved with Apple.

Two interviewers spoke to him recently for his thoughts on Innovation and as I’m on a bit of a roll here as I’m talking in a few weeks time on knowledge management and innovation in London so some additional quotes might be useful - but also it does chime in with what I’m talking about. Although the thrust of his discussion relates to Engineers some of his comments would cross boundaries. Quite a lot of his thoughts are already reflected in some of the work that I am looking to carry out in this firm.

With regard to innovation, he feels that it is important to provide people with time to work on things of their choosing that may be breakthrough thoughts that can replenish your business core. (I’ll be writing about core businesses another time.) These projects are then reviewed and evaluated and have the opportunity to become a mainstream product.

He acts iike a venture capitalist would act and wants people to come up with a basic business plan in terms of who is the product for, what do you think the market is likely to be. What will this do and how much of peoples behaviours will have to change. Effectively Campbell is operating what is known as a Schello screen with a Real/Win/Worth it bias - I have more details of this if people are interested.

He feels that it is important to give the’ crazy guys some stature and importance. He feels that if you start from that you have a better chance of maintaining a cutlture of innovation.

He also feels that it is important for a CEO to meet with people and have an open forum where people could highlight what was making life difficult for them with regasrd to their work or what they were struggling with and how projects that might be being balked could be bought forward. The important thing is that the innovation should be looking to solve the problems that consumers/clients want.

Campbell then goes out of his way to say that he is not an innovator - he sees his role as CEO to ensure that the right people are in the room and that the crazies have an opportunity to contribute. He sees empowered people having the opportunity to contribute is one of the single most important thing that you can have in a company.

He also expects that he needs to accept failure - if you demand perfection, then people are less likely to innovate because you cannot anticipate every nuance in a complex world.

As I learnt in my entrepreneurial studies most entrepreneurs deal with the imperfect idea and tweak it as they go along. Remember the great quote from Edison who spent ages trying to get the bulb to work and said to a friend who asked him why he had failed to develop the bulb.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

He also feels that it is important to give people time off - especially if they have been working on a long or hard project to go and have some time off outside of their normal holiday and when they come back they are refreshed and can do the hard work. Also he feels that they can reflect on their experiences and pass those lessons on and use the break as a means of looking at a project with new eyes which means that they will do better work.

Campbell then goes on to say that in addition to innovation that he also pushes hard on best practices. He wants his employees to have a hunger to discover best practice so that in the absence of innovation there is the small tweak that will make the team/organisation more effective He gives high grades to people who know what is going on in their industry and can adapt quickly to meet the problems that clients have.

Effectively he is saying that technical excellence is a base but that it needs to be aligned with commercial knowledge - not only of the client but the industry drivers also.

It is an interesting article and is definitely going into my folder of articles covering innovation as it is one of my passions and one which knowledge management can help to deliver in a organisation.If you wish a copy, I will look to dig it out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dilbert and innovation

One of the elements that brightens my day is looking at Dilbert. When I got home last night, there was a great cartoon for the day, which should be read in conjunction with my post of February 27th. How many times have you presented an idea to people in your team and then asked for feedback from them.

I have to admit I've been in a fair few meetings where this level of feedback shown to Dilbert has been given albeit in different words.

Maybe companies should impose the rule that Unilever did which was to encourage 'Build' i.e build on what people have said rather than looking at the negative.

My personal idea is that for every negative comment a person has to come up with three positives about an idea. A more positive approach to new ideas at least makes the person feel as if they have had a hearing rather than discover the soul sapping comments that make you feel thin inside.

I'm sure all of us can relate to Dilbert's experience at one time or another but wouldn't it be nice if it was the exception rather than the norm in an organisation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Twitter and the enterprise

As regular readers of the blog will be aware, I have a regular link to the people of Commoncraft and their useful videos/animations that explain wittily some of the products involved in Web 2.0.

Well they have now done a video on twitter which is a form of micro-blogging. It basically asks people what they are doing now in 140 words.

I have been using Twitter now for about 4 months and use it to update friends what I'm up to. I'm also interested in what it might do within an enterprise setting. Imagine, what it might do - telling people where you are - if you are available to be disturbed or not or even if you are out of the office. Of course it might be of use to help you to connect to a group of people.

Jevon McDonald has recently commented on Twitter in the Enterprise and I've got doubts that at present it will work in enterprises that have only just started to implement wikis and blogs.

At the end of the day it is about demonstrating how a tool helps productivity. I think that a variant of it will exist in the enterprise and will become ubiquitous and that the I'm out of office message via Outlook will be somewhat outdated. Here are some other benefits to my mind
  • If you state that you are working on a widget, then colleagues in your network may be able to help
  • You could post a help message to your network.
  • Awareness of others ongoing work
  • Very low barriers to entry
  • The system might be able to save these tweets and rank the questions and answers in a form of low tech knowledge management. I understand that IBM is developing an enterprise Twitter called Blue Twit which is getting some traction though it is in it's early days.
However, a bit like SMS and Novocaine the law of unintended consequences will apply and someone will think of a different but radical use that none of us who are keen on KM or E 2.0 have yet considered

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Innovation is super fragile. It’s very easy to kill

This is my 150th post in nearly two years of blogging - never thought I'd have so much to put down in this blog - but the world moves and I like to capture peoples ideas and add my own thoughts.

Reading through one of the blogs from Luke Naismith, he has asked people to come up with known innovation killers.

I do recognise that managers are busy people who have time and budgetary constraints to deal with and don’t always have the time to consider the good idea that some one in their team has worked on.

I’m fortunate as a lot of my ideas in my working life have been taken up though not always immediately, though I’ve been though my career all the stages in the cartoon above.

I was reading an interesting article by one of my old professors Michael West at Aston University in Birmingham.

He highlighted what Machiavelli wrote in ‘Il Principe’ that innovators face a perilous journey because they face opposition from those that have a vested interest in the status quo and only lukewarm support until it has been proved by people experiencing the innovation. The danger of being a pioneer sometimes is that you end up like in the Wild west with a lot of arrows in your back.

He also highlights research that there is a large body of research shows’ that individuals alone generate more ideas at least as good as groups working together. The best way rather than having a brainstorm session is 'to have individuals work silently on this for a few moment and then to have everyone share their ideas together – with the leader speaking last’ This avoids the leader framing the issue for the rest of the group especially subordinates.

Marshall McLuhan once said: “In big industry new ideas are invited to rear their heads so they can be clobbered at once. The idea department of a big firm is a sort of lab for isolating dangerous viruses.”

The usual idea killers that I’ve heard are

  • ‘It’s an interesting idea but…… then with 5 compelling and plausible reasons why one should delay in a manner that would make Sir Humphrey of Yes Minister fame purr with pleasure.
  • We don’t think that our clients will think this is something our firm should be doing
and my personal favourite
  • ‘Haven’t you got enough to do in the day’

Perhaps one day we can change the discipline when an innovation is discussed to say Yes and….. and build up the idea so that it is explored and developed before approval or rejection. Another useful technique is to use ‘ How to’ questions.

Ideas are fragile creatures and managers need to work to find ways to allow people to explore either individually (or if they feel the need a team) but also to provide a platform so that that idea can be exploited. People too are fragile and need to feel that if an idea has been rejected they need to know the rationale why, not to give up, and that future ideas are welcome.

Otherwise they tend not to use what you have employed them for – their brains, vision and skill and can become de-motivated individuals.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Facebook for the Enterprise

One of the things that I've been interestingly watching for is a company that can deliver a Face book style system behind the enterprise firewall. 

Well I was reading Macworld Uk on the net this evening - click on the title of the is post for the link to the article.

The article highlights work undertaken by a company called Work Light in the US in delivering this for a price of 10 Euros per user per month. 

WorkLight said that the application would allow employees to use Facebook to find colleagues by name, location, department, project and area of expertise, while allowing them to collaborate securely with peers using familiar Facebook capabilities. According to the company, WorkBook would also allow users see general and personalised company news direct from a Facebook news feed, and lets users create groups around shared interest areas and work-related projects.

More importantly, WorkBook provides compliance with existing security policies - enterprise security integration authenticates WorkBook users via corporate authentication facilities, enforces access control policies and supports Single Sign-On (SSO).

From my experience a number of firms intranet sites offer a lot of these so it will be interesting to see what the USP apart from a Facebook style interface it can offer an organisation. If it allows people to create these very easily with one click and also get involved in a talent market like Linkedin for the Enterprise, then this could be very interesting. Something for me to browse over and have a look at to see whether there is anything of interest to take this issue forward. 

I do think that intranets do need to change to match the flexibility of some Web 2.0 applications otherwise their end users will find other applications that help them do their work easier and with minimum set up time.  My consideration is that widgets iGoogle and NetVibes will all leach into the organisation.  

When I first started looking at the Internet in 1997 employers saw it as a danger - but in the end they saw the benefits - at the end of the day, this revolution will occur and the question is do you start to ride the wave now or wait until it overwhelms you. 

Yes there will be internet goofing - but there will also be the opportunities to develop communities of interest that might coalesce people about a range of interests and bring them into the spheres of people they might never have talked to across the organisation be it UK based or global.

The 6 minute approach to Knowledge Management!!

I knew that I needed a new approach to knowledge management and now German Scientists at the University of Dusseldorf have given me one - looking at the BBC web site this morning.

It highlights that a 6 minute cat nap can launch memory processing in the brain. Apparently they did a test on students to remember a set of words then given a hours break before testing – some were allowed to sleep for six minutes the rest kept awake.

So if you pass my desk and I’m sitting there with my eyes shut – just think I could be trying out a new form of knowledge management and not really asleep – but can you tell the difference……

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The talent powered organisation

This is quite a long post to make up for my recent lack of posting

An interesting little hand out by Accenture about the talent powered organisation which highlighted that the key to winning on talent is multiplication and not addition. I have been interested in this area of talent management hence my reading of posts that cover this subject.

Accenture like everyone else has recognised that talent in the future will become an organisations most important competitive asset.. They consider that companies who truly seek to become talent powered organisations will need to build a capability called talent multiplication.

I always love it when consulting firms consider that they have re-invented the wheel and sell an idea to companies at of course reasonable fees. If managers aren’t already doing this talent management and acting as T shaped managers i.e. driving the business forward and meeting their financial targets as well as acting as coaches of growth and learning, then I’d worry about the state of management development.

It highlights 4 specific capabilities

Defining talent

Defining your talent needs based on a clear understanding of key performance jobs and skills to meet the needs of the organisations future goals.

Leaders that articulate how talent creates value for the organisation

Then look to define these in to key competencies to help with either the development or recruitment of the talent needed.

Discovering talent

I do agree that companies need to be more innovative in the ways that they harness talent pools and may have to look outside their traditional local market to bring people in with the skills they have. Some people will look at the developing number of graduates being pumped out of especially India and China – but there has been some articles highlighting that further training is still required locally to bring them up to the required standard.

What is interesting is that HR departments (more on this later) should look at themselves as part of a value chain and look how they can improve their processes so that recruitment is a more speedy process.

Developing talent

Nothing new here – but the usual comment about the need to developing the capabilities of the employee linked in to the firms business needs. The interesting element is the speeding up of the process. I’ve been reading a paper last night by Chatti and Jarke on the future of e-learning and the failures of current learning management tools delivered via the PC or laptop – mainly because of the focus on content and technology. Though they consider that the use of Web 2.0 technologies might be the answer especially with the rise of social software which crucially as I’ve said for some time links people to people and especially through the use of wikis and blogs and the use of RSS allied to intelligent social search engines that build on user recommendations, reviews and filtering to locate quality resources.

I’d also like to see the option some time in the future to capture phone and video conferences so that these can be posted and utilised a la You Tube – basically little nuggets of information in a rich media format (something I was talking about in 1998 – but now a little closer to reality)

From having developed talent we move to

Deploying talent

No surprise here and it mentions the usual words about engaging the workforce to the organisations goals and it recognises as I have previously identified that these need to buy into peoples own personal & professional aspirations. Managers will have to become increasingly smart in the way that they develop systems that support talent markets. Line Managers and Supervisors will need to work harder in the appraisal process to ensure that agreed actions for improvement are followed through and ensuring that challenges that employees want to undertake are realised. I also consider that there will be a global internal organisational talent market where people identify projects they want to work on and will be rated on the skills experience and people management skills that they have bought to the team and receive ratings from the team leader on the spot rather than at an appraisal and even client comment.

Interestingly enough I was reading a post by Seth Godin on changing the name of Human Resources. A bit like Patrick McGoohan in ‘The Prisoner’ I am a man not a number and increasingly professional people will resent being known as a resource and some fungible commodity – I like to be seen as someone who is a professional and looks to add value to the process I’m not a natural resource like a tree.

He makes a suggestion that ties in with my earlier element of this post - i.e. Change the name of the department to Talent – some people might be cynical about this i.e. when this department went from personnel to HR.

However would the change of name to Talent change anything – possibly if you were the head of talent in your office, you understand that talent is becoming hard to find, difficult to manage and to retain. You may then look at the ways that you run your department and look at ways of reducing bureaucracy and liberating life for the talented knowledge workers that you have. As Godin concludes and I concur ‘Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.’

Monday, February 11, 2008

Great questions at the end of a major project or bid

Thank you to Matthew Homann at the non billable hour for capturing some of the great questions that you should try to capture at the end of every project.

I have made some alterations in respect of my own experiences but direct quotes via Matthew are in italics. 

These are as follows:-
  • What was the outcome of this project?
  • What was good for our client about the outcome of this project?
  • What were the areas of improvement for myself and the team
  • What was the best part of the project? 
  • What was the biggest pinch point in delivering this project?
  • What new abilities or knowledge have we learned from doing this project? (though see my point later in this post.)
  • What do we wish we had known when we started this project?
  • Briefly what were the 3 lessons of this project that other colleagues need to know?  (I suggest taking 5 good lessons and 5 areas for improvement. - but don't make that an inflexible rule)
The important element to do is not to just file it away as part of some closed file but to share it  - this could either be via a blog but ideally with a wiki style approach - so that people can add additional comments especially if you are doing a number of projects for the same client and want to capture points say about a clients preferences or key areas of concern or praise expressed on an issue.

I think though that it time is pressing then you can use these four steps which tries to cover all the points earlier - but still does not obviate the need to capture these in a electronically searchable format.
  • What were our intended results?
  • What were our actual results?
  • What caused our results?
  • What will we sustain/improve?
Interestingly though this article neglects the need for people to carry out a before taking action review which covers the following points that people should ideally carry out before carrying out a major project and to some extent a bid

 This might then deliver an answer before the need to say - what things did we wish we had known before starting.
  • What are our intended results and measures?
  • What challenges can we anticipate?
  • What did we/others learn in similar situations? (hence searching a wiki)
  • What do we think will make the biggest difference to success ?

Friday, February 08, 2008

20 thoughts for a successful meeting

I was reading the latest edition of Management Today last night and they had written down 10 ways to have a successful meeting.

I thought that I'd write down some of my thoughts just as a reminder to ensure that a meeting serves its purpose and runs smoothly.

Some of it is a bit Archangel Gabriel in desire - but if you aspire and do things in small chunks eventually you can eat an elephant......

  1. Do your homework - read all position papers in advance of the meeting.
  2. Write a bullet proof agenda. Don't be over ambitious - I've seen some agendas with 20 minutes to discuss a major strategic initiative. (See point 11 it may help) Stick to your agenda.
  3. Know who your allies are.
  4. Rehearse answers to awkward questions in advance.
  5. Take the sado masochists approach to meetings - give everyone a fair crack of the whip.
  6. If someone is quiet - ask them specifically for their view - especially if you know that they are an expert.
  7. Keep your meeting moving.
  8. Someone to take minutes.
  9. Agree and be clear about the next steps
  10. You are the ring meister - keep the lions in check.
  11. Get people to do position papers and then invite comment - it tends to speed up the process.
  12. When people come up with objections invite them to come up with two solutions.
  13. Build on what people say - don't be an idea killer.
  14. Leave people with a call to arms to take the matters forward.
  15. Remember the curse of Yes - you may need to check in with people to ensure they are positively acting on decisions reached in the meeting.
  16. People will agree a position in a meeting to conform to the will of the group - but all ready before they have walked out of the meeting they have already decided whether they will actively or passively support the initiative. (Have a look at my posts on the passive/aggressive organisation)
  17. Be a person of character - execute what you have agreed to deliver on in the meetings - ensure you can pass the shaving mirror test every morning.
  18. Ask what are we missing here - encourage people to take a deep dive at an issue.
  19. In a teleconference - ask people to say their name first before starting a point or joining the discussion.
  20. In a teleconference as for all meetings - people should be on time. (Punctuality is the politeness of princes my grandmother used to say).
One senior manager of my acquaintance allowed one minute for lateness and then locked the door and asked people to vote whether to let the late attendee enter. They tended to only do this once.

He felt that if they had to be at the Town Hall to collect a £1m cheque and had to be there by 10.00 they would break down doors - and felt that it was highly disrespectful to your work colleagues to keep them waiting more than a minute.

I think though that this is probably a bit draconian in terms of locking people out of a room even though it made the point somewhat vividly.

I'm sure that people have a number of tips that they might want to add to this post. Remember you may not be able to do these immediately - it is something to aspire to - remember Rome wasn't built in a day but it was built.

Monday, February 04, 2008

It's the end user!!

I saw this post by Gaping Void (Image © Hugh McLeod - 2007.) and thought of this when talking about new technology and introducing into an enterprise.

The software has to help the user and it has to match what they want to help them achieve their day to day work. It is why I like to use wikis because they are easy to use and easy to set up as are blogs. However all the technology in the world is like Ozymandias's legs - useless unless people want to share with their colleagues which is a social and cultural way of life.

It’s about recognising that we now live in a world where we use knowledge and information on a daily basis and that sharing it should be front of mind — that is:
  1. sharing ways of doing things
  2. sharing best-practice and better practice
  3. sharing information and where we found it
  4. being collaborative rather than secretive
The main problem I've found is that most intranet's that I've seen are too top down and also aren't very easy to utilise on a day to day basis and from experience, if people want to use the technology, they will find a way to do it to help them achieve the four objectives above and will by pass technology that does not assist them.

Intranets as they are currently formulated don't seem to be the way forward to foster collaborative work especially if it is of a multi office approach.

When I was trialling an extranet back in 1999, it was sold to sceptical partners because it took me 45 minutes to set one up from scratch and it could be deployed in an emergency - quicker than going through an overly formal approach. At the end of the day any system should deliver on the following points to help the earlier 4 points be realised:-
  • serve the end user and deliver benefits to the business
  • be simple to set up.
  • take no more than 15 minutes to train someone to use the system.
  • be simple to use.
  • the ability to preview.
  • a three step process - write, preview and post.
Does your intranet or any other system that you are using in your enterprise deliver this and if not should you be working with your IT team to deliver systems that achieve this aim. Just some thoughts based on some experience.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Genchi Genbestsu Chinese Sages and Communities of practice

A friend of mine sent in a piece that they picked up off another blog (sorry no link provided - but thank you Jim)

It relates to a chinese saying and as it approaches the Chinese new year, i thought that this was quite apposite.

Go to the People
Live with them
Learn from them,
Love them.

Start with what they know,
Build with what they have.
But with the best leaders
When the work is done
the task is accomplished
The people will say,
‘We have done this ourselves.’

This is a good thought to how an internal community of practice should work. Provide people with the tools either through a wiki or a blog, help them set it up provide them with a framework to capture knowledge, through storytelling etc, but also empower them to self explore and to come to realisations themselves and to internalise it.

I wass thinking about this and what I call the curious cat approach to management (yes I know what happens to curious cats) or as the Japanese call it genchi genbetsu which is to go and talk to people and go and observe the situation at first hand which helps you to define the problem and to hopefully refine the solution. It's not always possible but within COP's they are because they are closer to the problem and then able to design a solution.

i've always beleived that people when they have been involved and have a handle in designing the solution can reach that last line.

I'm planning to listen over the weekend to some recent downloads of podcasts from a few of the business schools so I plan to post some comments next week.

Gung Hei Fat Choy

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Keeping experience in the organisation

As highlighted on Friday's post

I was reading an article in the FT on how oil groups are scrambling around to retain experience within their organisation. Usually I put a link in to the article but as the FT is still subscription based tere doesn't seem much point.

It highlights work being undertaken at Chevron where it highlights that currently there aren't enough engineers to meet the needs of current work and a shortfall of 10- 15% by 2010.

It highlights that in the Energy industry - but I have from other conversations no doubt that it may affect other industries - that 50% of engineers there average age is 51 will be retiring around 2015. There will be some shortening of the knowledge gap by the influx of 5% of new entrants by 2010.

Firms are going to have to have a look at ways that they can retain these retiring engineers and more pertinently their experience - some firms are hiring them as consultants but other managers are looking at ways to retain these staff though phased retirement or offering flexible working hours or days.

We may be talking today about the credit crunch but as I have highlighted in other posts we ignore the retirement crunch at our peril.

Interestingly Herzbergs motivation theory has proved its efficacy in one quote in the article.

'Pay is not enough.. that alone is not going to get people to stay - employees want challenging jobs and a company that's culture is a large company with a small company feel.

My view is that companies need to be more innovative to distinguish itself from it's other competitors through rapid mentoring or by asking people to undertake work that will stretch them - not to breaking point but will rapidly develop their skills.

If you are an organisation with alumni are they utilised to help mentor people with some of the tricks of the trade. Or even more pertinently are you targeting other firms alumni who might be willing to sell their experience to you on a part time basis. However, the article does not highlight the probable need to ensure that they keep up to date and increase their experience levels with relevant knowledge.

Will your organisation have to look at other disciplines to fill in the jobs that need to be done.

It maybe that you will have to look to disaggregate your work using the new communications technolgy to let certain aspects of your work handled outside your organisation and then reviewed by yourselves as part of quality control. This is being done as most Lawyers know through Lovells innovation of using the 'Mexican Wave' to handle Prudential's property portfolio and this is probably spreading through other industries.

I have had a beleif for a long time that the manager of the future whilst being a strategist also needs to act as a coach of growth and learning - what Hansen calls a T shaped manager.

I conclude with a quote from Ross Dawson who says

' Almost all economic growth will come from talent. As the economy shifts to the intangible, everything that has value – knowledge, ideas, innovation, content, expertise, effective strategic positioning – comes from talented people.'

The Japanese have senseis but also for their top masters they are designated as living national treasures - so who are your people in your organisation who match that moniker.