Friday, 15 December 2017

3 principles for an effective learning system (example from the Army)

Here are three powerful principles about building an effective learning system. 


The principles come from  iraq his interesting article about CAVNET - an online forum for the junior leaders of the US Army 1st Cavalry.

It's worth reading the whole article, but I share below some of the points made by Major Patrick Michaelis, the founder of CAVNET, who was Battle Command Officer and Task Force CKO for the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq at the time the article is written (2005). These points are important, in helping define an effective learning system.

  • Firstly, Michaelis had a clear view of the purpose of the learning system. The enemy was adapting faster than the Army at the tactical level, and company-level leaders had little chance to physically interact. Therefore an online system was needed.
  • Secondly, he had a clear view of the scope - - "designed to prepare for the next patrol, not the next war", and focusing on "actionable" (contextually-based) knowledge which could be incorporated into the patrol plan, prep, and execute cycle. This meant focusing on the HOW - the tactics.
  • Thirdly, it had to fit the tempo of life in the Army. As Michailis says, "One of my baseline evaluation criteria is that it had to compliment a commander's battle rhythm rather than complicate it ... It was my belief that if a commander could not get on, get information, post information, and get off within about 10 minutes, it would be useless".

These three principles resulted in a simple but very effective way of sharing knowledge, over and above the AARs at unit level, and the development of Army Doctrine.

Does the system work? Michailis provides two anecdotes to illustrate the value delivered by CAVNET
"A leader posts a report that his unit experienced an IED that was cloaked by a poster of Moqtada al-Sadr. On the other side of the city, a commander taps into the CAVNET and reads the post. Though he is in another part of the city, he has been involved in operations that require removing posters posted on IIG [Iraqi interim government] projects. He briefs up his leaders before they execute a normal combat patrol. One sees a poster that mirrors the description given by the original post. Instead of ripping it down, he calls EOD [Explosive Ordinance Disposal], who discovers that it is rigged as an IED.

"In another instance, a scout platoon leader from 1-8 Cav.  was given the mission to conduct sniper operations. He had never really executed a mission like it before. He looked on the CAVNET, where a commander from 1-9 Cav, in another part of the city, had posted notes and TTPs from employment of snipers over the past months. The Scout Platoon Leader from 1-8 was able to integrate what he had read from the CAVNET into his planning, preparation, and execution cycle".

Thursday, 14 December 2017

4 ways in which communities of practice can be embedded

Here is a really interesting article about the ways in which Communities of Practice can be embedded in an organisation



Coins embedded in a tree @ Longshaw Estate, Derbyshire The article is  about the management of Networks of Practice  in the development sector, and how to draw the balance between managing them too much, or too little.

The authors (Marlous Agterberg, Bart van den Hooff, Marleen Huysman and Maura Soekijad from the University of Amsterdam) come up with an interesting model, where they recognised four forms of "Embeddedness" which they believe are important to the effective operation of these networks. They describe these as follows

  • Organizational embeddedness: the extent to which the knowledge shared in the network is relevant for and integrated in the formal organization. Further divided  as follows
    • Institutionalization - the extent to which outcomes of the network can be applied in the formal organization as rules, routines, strategies, etc
    • Relevance for organization Extent to which knowledge sharing in the network is considered valuable for the organization
  •  Embeddedness in practice: the extent to which the knowledge shared in the network is relevant for and integrated in the  local and daily practices of network members. Further divided into 
    • Relevance to practice - Extent to which knowledge sharing in the network is immersed in the daily local practices of members ‘
    • Common practices - Extent to which the network members use the same practices
  •  Relational embeddedness: the extent to which the network is embedded in the social ties  and elements such as trust, mutual expectations, and identification. Further divided into 
    • Group feeling - Extent to which members feel they belong to the same group 
    • Trust -  Feelings of safety and trust in the network 
    •  Reciprocity - Willingness of network members to help other members
    • Face-to-face contact - Amount and possibilities of face-to-face contacts among network members
  • Structural embeddedness: the extent to which network members are connected to one another and know who knows what and how to reach them. Further divided into 
    • Connectedness - Extent to which members are connected to one another
    • Know who is where and knows what - Extent to which members know who knows what in the network and how to reach these people
These are all very interesting, and should be considered when setting up, running or managing communities of practice.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

What's the reporting line for KM in the organisation?

When you are setting up a KM function, where should it report?  Here are some statistics about the most common reporting set-ups.

The statistics are drawn from all respondents to our 2014 and 2017 global KM surveys. Any any multiple responses from the same company have been removed from the dataset, leaving 503 responses.



The results can be seen above.

The main conclusion is that there is no single common reporting line for KM.
  • The most popular reporting line (20% of respondents) is for KM to report directy to senior management. 
  • The second most common response (16%) was "Other" - indicating that there are a vast number of reporting lines for KM
  • Third was Operations (12%)
  • Then IT (9%)
  • Then Strategy (7%)
Then there are a whole number of other options.

I tried cross-correlating these with the scores for "KM satisfaction" but there was no correlation - almost all the reporting lines were associated with a satisfaction rating of between 2.5 and 3 out of 5.

Respondents in the "Other" category include
  • Health and Wellbeing Division 
  • Knowledge which is different than L&D 
  • Different departments, depending on Business Unit 
  • Information Technology + Business transformation program 
  • Services coordination 
  • Finance 
  • Corporate Services 
  • Dual: COO and Firmwide 
  • Managing Partner - Legal 
  • Knowledge and Information Services 
  • Fire & Incident Management 
  •  Corporate 
  • Naac 
  • Executive Committee 
  • Dirección de Estudios 
  • Management and Coordination 
  • Corporate communications and Knowledge management 
  • Finance 
  • Audience in the CoP Meetings 
  • CEO 
  • Each Division has its own KM team and report to the director of division 
  • Customer Support 
  • Research Analytics and Knowledge 
  • enabling the delivery of products and services to customers through long term strategy, planning, and infrastructure delivery. 
  • Sport Science and Medicine Director 
  • Customer services entral Services - Information Management 
  • Innovation and academic development 
  • KM 
  • Business Systems 
  • Business Services 
  • Business Development & Wider Knowledge function 
  • Quality and Operation department 
  • Distributed model - embedded within organizations 
  • Technical Services 
  • Corporate University
  • each department has its own KM strategy 
  • Management Development Department 
  • Private offices group (ministerial) 
  • Client Experience (formerly learning and development) 
  • Combination of several departments 
  • Directly to the Portfolio Management, 
  • KM and strategic projects team 
  • Corporate Resources 
  • all part-time and from diverse departments. 
  • Planning and evaluation 
  •  Secretariat Office of the Deputy 
  • Multiple projects flowing up to the Program Manager 
  • No clear ownership - is integrated into our business, not even named up as KM 
  • My organisation is within IT. However, we have way more mature KM organization lead by an Ex. Dir. which is part of the manufacturing division. R&D is also starting something more formally. 
  • Education Research 
  • Business Excellence 
  • Safety 
  • HSE.... Portfolio Division 
  • Future Business Enablement 
  • Policy analysis & Research 
  • Professional Services and Technical Support 
  • The name of my function is Technical Excellence and it is a corporate function. 
  • It could be classed as Business Improvement,  Separate reporting line, Strategy. Performance 
  • Policy 
  • there is no KM role as such for the company as a whole - we report to the CLO 
  • Consumer 
  • Market Insights and Business Intelligence teams 
  • HR and Engineering dept/division 
  • Strategy, innovation and risk management 
  • Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning 
  • Science Group 
  • Perfomance 
  • Planning and Evaluation 
  • Management 
  • Administration 
  • Technical planning and projects 
  • volunteers and strategy 
  • Corporate Resources 
  • Education and quality 
  • Institutional partnerships 
  • Corporate Services 
  • Capability and Service Managemnt 
  • I answer to the Service Line Leader 
  • Supply Chain 
  • Customer operations director 
  • Corporate Development


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

An unmoderated community is its own worst enemy

Here is a very interesting talk, by Clay Shirky, the writer on Internet Technologies and Society



Public Enemy In the talk, he points out that over the history of online collaborative groups using social software, there is a predictable pattern which emerges time after time in open unmoderated groups, namely that the behaviour of the group will (if unchecked) subvert the purpose of the group.

He mentions three behaviours;

the first is that the group will move away from chatting about the purpose of the group, to online jokey, rowdy or flirtatious behaviour.

The second is that the group will move away from chatting about the purpose of the group, to ranting about a "common enemy".

The third is that the group will select a person or a document or principle to "venerate" to the point where it becomes unchallengeable. The second and the third are, I think, the reasons behind the silo mentality that creeps into online groups.

What happens as a result of these tendencies, is that the conversation becomes trivial, entrenched or off-topic to an extent that the group cannot deliver its purpose. Either the group is shut down, or stays at a trival or entrenched level, or else it develops a system of internal governance, such as a moderator, tiers of contribution, a constitution or a charter. This system of internal governance will act to protect the aims of the group from the behaviours of the individuals (the groups "own worst enemy") and is generally the only chance for survival of the group.

Clay's point is that you cannot separate the social issues within the group from the technological issues. The technology becomes a new playground on which the old battles are fought. And yet he says that time-and-again organisations will introduce a new technology, expect certain behaviours to emerge as a result, and be surprised and frustrated by the fact that "the users don't behave like they should".

He concludes three things

  1. As you cant separate the social from the technical issues, then ensure the group addresses the social issues from the start. This is where the bedrocks of Communities of Practice come in - the facilitator moderator, the community charter, the behaviour ground-rules.
  2. There will always be a core group. Clay calls these "members" as opposed to "users", and they are the people who care about the purpose of the group.
  3. The core group has rights that trump the rights of the individual. Generally it is the core group that writes and "enforces" the charter.


I think this is an excellent reminder NOT to just introduce a social technology and "expect knowledge to be shared". History has shown, time and again, that this does not happen.

Instead you need to plan for the social dynamics, operate the group as a community of practice, appoint a core team from the start, and a leader, and develop a charter that sets the purpose of the group, and lays out some ground rules to protect the group from its own worst enemy - itself.



Monday, 11 December 2017

Head of KM - example job description

Another example role description for you, this time for the Global head of KM for Herbert Smith freehills, the massive multinational law firm (found on LinkedIn).


It's a really nice job description, with a good focus on the overall objective of the role (bullet point 1) and on change management (bullet point 6)

Primary Responsibilities:
  • Ensure all Practice Groups collaborate effectively and focus business services knowledge components on winning work and doing work more efficiently
  • Work closely with the global Knowledge and Learning leadership team and team members to achieve global strategic alignment.
  • Develop and execute a roadmap of clearly defined projects and initiatives aimed at supporting the firm's knowledge management strategy, and the firm's business strategy.
  • Create new internal support service roles, processes, tools, and fee-earner competencies aimed at evolving and modernising the knowledge and intelligence support services provided internally at the firm.
  • Identify and implement process, technology or resource change/transformation projects aimed at reducing the firm's cost of production and maintenance of existing and new knowledge assets. e.g. document management systems, AI etc
  • Lead the change management of knowledge sharing In conjunction with other K&L teams
  • Drive a clear methodology around the transfer of tacit knowledge and reuse of best practice
  • Develop and launch new-to-market knowledge based products or services that create new or additional revenue streams for the firm, and increase the impact of current "thought-leadership" publication production processes.
  • Lead and represent knowledge management's evolving service offering and capabilities during direct involvement with:
  • Legal Project Management function activities related to mapping legal processes - aimed at identifying and delivering enhancements to processes through knowledge services that positively impact the margin of the matter.
  • Business Development pitch creation and delivery, aimed at promoting the use and value of the firm's knowledge services to prospects during the sales cycle.
  • Client Care activities, aimed at promoting the use and value of the firm's knowledge services to clients to enhance revenue and/or client satisfaction and retention.
  • Develop and implement strategic initiatives aimed at reducing lawyer reliance on external subscription services.
  • Source and introduce new technologies, processes and/or resource models to increase the efficiency of relevant legal information delivery to fee earners in a right-time manner.
  • Oversee global legal content management and legal asset storage/repositories maintenance team so as to ensure that the firm's key legal knowledge assets are harvested, stored, matured and re-used in an effective manner - and in a manner that aims to optimise the firm's profit, reduce reliance on external sources, and reduce or eradicate manual asset maintenance burdens and costs.
  • Enhance and standardise existing global legal knowledge asset maintenance processes in a manner that reduces existing costs, decreases time taken to identify and edit legal content, and increases standardisation and risk mitigation/readiness.
  • Manage a global budget, ensuring that budget targets are met.
Key Performance Indicators:
  • The creation (in association with the Knowledge and Learning Leadership team) of a new target operating model and knowledge related role specifications for global knowledge personnel.
  • Cost reduction associated with knowledge asset maintenance.
  • Clear link to revenue creation target as a result of new client facing products and services.
  • Demonstrable link to the securing of fees from new clients based on collaborative involvement in sales pitches.
  • Demonstrable link to the increase of margin of selected strategic corporate transactions and/or dispute resolution matter types in collaboration with the Practice Group and/or the Legal Project Management team through the introduction of advanced knowledge management offering(s) or solutions.
  • Measureable impact on collaboration between practice groups e.g. number of client inactions with multiple practice groups in attendance.
  • Deliver to stated and agreed objectives within budget and on time.
Qualifications, Skills & Experience:
  • 10 plus years' experience managing a knowledge management function at a senior level in a legal or professional services environment
  • A robust understanding of current and emerging technologies relevant to client-facing knowledge industrialisation, internal tacit knowledge transfer, storage and retrieval enablement, and advanced collaboration tools
  • Proven experience at running large change projects in a professional services firm
  • A track record of innovative thinking, and the development and successful delivery of client focused service delivery transformation involving effective organisation of a firm's knowledge processes, systems and behaviours
  • Proven capability to independently develop, encourage and embed new ideas and approaches in a creative manner
  • Ability to collaboratively work with areas outside of the traditional Knowledge Management function
  • Commercial experience supporting the firm-wide leverage of knowledge assets, knowledge resources, and knowledge skills to support high margins
  • Experienced in dealing with ambiguity and adapting to changing circumstances

Friday, 8 December 2017

50 shades of knowledge management reprieved

To mark the return of this blog after a short hiatus, here is another popular post from the past, first published 5 years ago.


  color wheel
The knowledge management world is large and complex, with many different understandings of what the term means, and what it encompasses.


Here is a first-pass map of the Knowledge Management Landscape, and some of the nooks, crannies, islands and archipelagos that make up that landscape.

Or if you prefer, the 50 shades within the KM rainbow.

Lets start down the data end, where the knowledge management landscape meets the border with data management. KM's interest in data comes from combining data through linked data, and looking for the patterns within data, though data mining, so that new insights can be gained. Where this is applied to customer data or business data, then we get into the analogous disciplines of CRM and Business Intelligence.

Next to data comes Information, where knowledge management is involved in several ways. For example the structuring of information, through classification systems (taxonomies, ontologies, folksonomies) or information tagging. Or else the retrieval of information, where knowledge management encompasses enterprise search, semantic search, expert systems and artificial intelligence. Or the presentation of information, through intranets, or portals, supported by content management. The presentation of information, as well as the creation of explicit "knowledge objects" is an important component of customer-centric knowledge management, closely allied to the creation of customer knowledge bases and the use of knowledge centred support. Knowledge based engineering is a discipline where engineering design is done based on knowledge models.

The creation of explicit knowledge is a significant part of the KM world, containing many shades of its own. Knowledge retention deals with capture of knowledge from retiring staff aka Knowledge Harvesting), lessons management deals with learning from projects, as do learning histories based on multiple interviews.

Another part of the landscape is the organisational learning corner. This abuts the border with learning and development, but is concerned with learning of the organisation, rather than learning of the individual. In this part of the KM world we find action learning, business-driven action learning, and lesson-learning, plus analogous disciplines such as e-learning, coaching, and mentoring.

Organisational learning abuts the area of knowledge transfer, where we look at dialogue-based processes such as peer assist, knowledge handover, knowledge cafe,  baton-passing, after action review, appreciative enquiry, and so on - processes that are focused on knowledge, but are closely allied to other meeting disciplines.

Knowledge transfer between people - the tacit area, or experience management, takes us into the area of networking. Here we find the communities of practice, the centres of excellence, the communities of interest, and the social networks. The latter, of course, is closely allied to social media - social media being the technology which supports social networks. Then we have storytelling, as a means of knowledge transfer, crowdsourcing, as a means of accessing  knowledge from a wide source, and collaboration as a sort of catch-all term (supported by collaborative technology).

There is a whole innovation area to KM as well - open innovation, creativity, deep-dives etc

The finally we have the more psychological end of knowledge management, where we have disciplines such as epistemology, sense-making, complexity theory, decision-making theory.

Plus of course the part of knowledge management that deals with the lone worker - personal knowledge management.

So there are our 50+ shades of knowledge management - if I have missed any, please let me know through the comments option!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The ISO KM draft standard is now available

After a couple of years of development, the ISO KM standard (ISO 30401) is now open for discussion of the first committee draft.


You can buy a copy of the draft standard from the ISO site for 58 swiss francs, or your own national standards body may allow you to view and comment on the standard online. The British site for review and comment is here, for example (you will need to register).

You have until January 16 to comment, after which the comments will be reviewed by the national standards bodies and passed on to the working group for ISO 30401 for review and revision.

All comments welcome!

My views on this standard can be found in the blog post below:


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