Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Quantified KM value example number 127

In this job advertisement, found on LinkedIn, we find an example of quantified value delivery from KM.

Image from wikimedia commons
The job advertisement, posted a week ago, is for a "KM Manager" for Shell, based in the Hague, who will run KM for Shell's Projects and Technology business. It contains the following paragraph.

Over the past 6 years, we have built a comprehensive set of structures, processes and applications supported by Working Out Loud behaviors, and implemented this Solution across Shell’s Technical Functions and C&P. This program has touched approximately 43,000 Shell staff in Technical Functions. A total value of over US$480 million has been delivered through application of key practices in Shell’s business activities. Our ambition is to achieve US$ 1 bln by the end of 2020.
Thats a lot of value in 6 years, and an ambitious target!

Monday, 22 July 2019

3 reasons why people don't share knowledge

A recent article from HBR identifies three reasons why people don't share knowledge. 

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Image from meco 6925 on Flickr
There are many reasons why people don't seek or share knowledge; the 3 most basic being that they don't think of it, they don't know how, or they don't want to (Unaware, Unable, Unwilling).

From an HBR article earlier this month, named Why Employees Don’t Share Knowledge with Each Other, comes another analysis, and the identification of three factors which inhibit knowledge sharing.  These are as follows:

People are more strongly influenced by internal incentives (the authors call these "autonomous motivation") than external incentives ("controlled motivation"). Examples of both these can be found in my blog post "20 incentives to swing the KM behaviour balance". We can also see the strength of internal vs external incentives in  Shell's analysis of incentives, and NASA's approach to incentives. This particular issue is related to the Willingness to share. As the HBR authors say:

Our results showed that knowledge sharing is more likely when employees are autonomously motivated (for example, they’d agree with the statements “It’s important to share what I know with colleagues” or “It’s fun to talk about things I know”). In contrast, people are more likely to hide their knowledge when their motivation is driven by external pressures (“I don’t want to be criticized” or “I could lose my job”). This means that pressuring people to share knowledge rather than making them see the value of it doesn’t work very well...  Interestingly, in the Chinese sample, controlled motivation was associated with increased frequency of knowledge sharing but not with greater usefulness of what was shared.

People share more readily if they are involved in Knowledge work (what the HBR authors call "cognitively demanding work"). This is probably more related to Awareness of the need to seek and share, rather than Willingness or Ability. As the HBR authors say;

"Because cognitively demanding work can be more interesting and stimulating, and also more difficult and challenging, we expected that people would both enjoy sharing information more and see a greater need to share. Similarly, because having more autonomy in one’s work leads to finding it more meaningful, we’d expect to see the same propensity for sharing". 
Knowledge work requires knowledge, knowledge becomes a precious commodity, people become aware of its value, and knowledge sharing and seeking emerge as behaviours which drive a knowledge marketplace within the organisation.


Finally, people are less willing to share if others are relying on them. This is counterintuitive. The HBR authors say that;
We expected that if respondents perceived their colleagues to be dependent on them, they would be more willing to share knowledge and less likely to hide it. Much to our surprise, we found the opposite. When people perceived that others depended on them, they felt pressured into sharing knowledge (the controlled type of motivation), and this in turn promoted knowledge hiding. This could be because frequent requests from colleagues created more demands on their time — quite a rare commodity these days. People often chose to prioritize their own tasks over sharing knowledge and even pretended not to have the information being requested.
Notice the assumption in the last paragraph - that "their own tasks" do not include "knowledge sharing". This is a typical factor where KM is not yet treated as "part of the job" and instead is seen as something separate and different. KM is then seen as competing for your time against the "real job" rather than being part of the real job.  This was the sort of thing that Elon Musk was trying to counter in his email of last year.

So the conclusions from this are, for knowledge work, ensure that knowledge seeking and sharing are seen as part of the job, and incentivise them wherever possible using internal incentives - the desire to be recognised, the desire to help, and the desire to do a Good Job.

Friday, 19 July 2019

11 ground-rules for successful After Action reviews

AAR is a quick and simple but powerful KM process. Here are 11 rules for AAR success.


After Action Review (AAR) is one of the most basic Knowledge Management processes - quick, simple and powerful when used well, and when used to drive change and improvement. An organisation that develops the AAR habit is well on the way to becoming an learning organisation.

AAR is a very simple process - it's basically 5 questions:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why was there a difference?
  • What have we learned?
  • What will we do about it?


However there are certain ground rules which need to be applied if AARs are to deliver value. The 11th rule is the most important! 
  1. Ask open and honest questions, offer open and honest response 
  2. There are no wrong responses; every response is someones viewpoint
  3. Leave preconceptions and prejudgments at the door 
  4. Leave hierarchy at the door as well – everyone’s knowledge is of equal value 
  5. Respect and listen to each other 
  6. Disagreement is positive and needs to be explored 
  7. Don’t rush to solutions  
  8. Get to root cause (the third question - "why was there a difference" - is really the first step in root cause analysis and you may need several more Why's before you get to root cause)
  9. Focus on real issues and learning, not individual performance evaluation.
  10. Keep the meeting brief and focused.
  11. Incorporate the learnings into future activity

Thursday, 18 July 2019

KM change is not top down or bottom up, but side to side

Is KM change better seen as top-down, or bottom-up? The answer is Neither; it's side to side.


Lighting a prescribed fire, from nps.gov
Thanks to Steve Dale for alerting me to this post from Digital Tonto entitled "True Transformation Isn’t Top-Down Or Bottom-Up, But Side-To-Side, which offers a really interesting take on transformation. The author, Greg Satell, explains that

Change never happens all at once and can’t simply be willed into existence. It can only happen when people truly internalize and embrace it. The best way to do that is to empower those who already believe in change to bring in those around them.
Some key points here;

  • Change does not happen all at once, and some parts of the organisation will change first;
  • In KM, change happens once KM is embraced and internalised;
  • People who have embraced and internalised KM will bring in others around them.
As I explain in this post, change moves like a fire.

You cannot light a fire all at once - you light a small part, and once this is burning, adjacent areas will also catch fire, until finally the whole area is ablaze (see picture above). 

Greg Satell gives several examples of side to side change -
  • How a revolutionary movement toppled the Serbian dictator Milosevic; 
  • How Experian moved to the cloud;
  • How Wyeth Pharmaceutical introduced Lean; 
  • How Circuit City transformed, and why it later failed. 
He proposes three main pillars of a side-to-side transformation, which I explain below in a context of introducing Knowledge Management into an organisation, and delivering KM transformation. 
  • Identify your apostles. As I explain here in my blog post about knowing your three internal market segments for KM, about 20% of staff are supporters of the idea from the beginning. Their response to KM is an enthusiastic "Yeah!", or even "Hell Yeah!". When you talk to a room full of people about KM, the "KM Light Bulb" will switch on over the heads of about a fifth of your audience. That 20% will become your allies, your supporters, your first followers and early adopters. These are the people who will run your KM pilot projects,  who will apply KM to problems of the organisation, who will embrace KM and deliver successful outcomes. 
  • Don't try to convince - empower. Don't try to sell KM on theoretical benefits; instead empower the first followers to sell KM based on the benefits they were able to deliver. Enable them to share their stories, recognise them publicly, promote their achievements; they will be your "Social Proof" which will interest and engage others. 
  • Constrain your movement with Values. Satell gives examples of changes which faltered because they were unconstrained by Values, and KM may well be the same (imagine cases where people try to apply KM to everything, or try to document every little scrap of knowledge, or set up hundreds of communities discussing trivia). Develop some principles for KM implementation which help people avoid going off track.  I suggest 10 KM principles here, and here are others.

That's how you do change. Side to side, wall to wall. And don't change back again.




Wednesday, 17 July 2019

But what knowledge do you need to manage?

When beginning with KM, don't start with the How; start with the What.


We frequently find that when people start thinking about Knowledge Management implementation, they start thinking about the solution first. They may research technology, they may seek out some excellent processes, they may (if they are smart) think about the roles and accountabilities the company will need, and they may contemplate the use of communities of practice, global task forces, virtual teams, blogs, wikis, and any other of the trendy solutions that are popular in the market place.

This is all great thinking, and if they have done well, they may come up with a holistic solution, of Processes, Accountabilities and Technologies, which provides an excellent framework through which Knowledge will flow around the organisation. They have sorted out the How question.

However the question that is often not asked, is the What question.

"What knowledge do we need to manage?" 

This is one of the fundamental questions to get right in your Knowledge Management strategy (this blog post is not about the Why question, which of course is the other fundamental question, and even more important). 

As consultants, one of the greatest Knowledge Management insights we bring to client organisations is that you don’t have to manage it all; just manage the 20% that makes 80% of the difference.

Find out;

  • Exactly what knowledge do we need to flow around the organisation? 
  • What’s the high value stuff? 
  • What’s the knowledge that will give us a competitive edge? 
  • What is the knowledge that will give us “first learner advantage?
  • What knowledge do our people need, to help them make teh decisions that will drive growth, prosperity and customer satisfaction?


If you focus your effort proactively on the knowledge of highest business value - the business-critical knowledge areas -  then your KM efforts will not only be easier, they will deliver far higher benefit.

Focused KM systems add maximum value. By focusing on the 20% of the knowledge that delivers the 80% of the value, it maximises the rate of return on your KM investment. People are busy, time is precious, and so it makes sense to focus your precious time on the highest-value knowledge.

So before you get too far with your KM implementation, ask yourself two questions -


  • Why do we need to manage knowledge better?
  • "What knowledge do we actually need to manage?"


The ISO KM standard (ISO 30401:2018) requires you to ask these two questions, plus a third one about stakeholders (the Who question) before you get anywhere near the question of How.

If you want to know how to determine what this critical knowledge is, read this newsletter and see this blog post for advice, also this one. Start with the strategy of the organisation, ask what do we need to do to deliver that strategy, then ask what do we need to know, to be able to do these things. And once you understand the critical knowledge, find out where it lies and who currently holds it, and then determine what tools, processes and roles you need to make it more widely available to the people who need it.

Generally you find the What by starting from the Why. That leads you to the How. Don't start from the How - that is the wrong end of the chain.



Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Rocks and Sponges - Teachability and the desire to learn

According to one expert, people are either Rocks or Sponges when it comes to learning. 


The most powerful thing that leaders can do to help Knowledge Management succeed is to drive that desire to learn as part of the corporate culture.  If the drive to learn is there, the drive to share will follow. The desire to learn makes Knowledge into a valuable commodity, and where a commodity has value, a market inevitably arises.

But how do you instil a "desire to learn"?

Sir Clive Woodward, the sport coach and Elite Performance speaker, calls it "Teachability" - another word for a "Learner Mindset". He says
"To have a great team you need great individuals, but you also have to have Teachability ... In business or in sport you are a sponge or a rock. A sponge has a hunger for learning and taking on new knowledge  ... building a team full of sponges will lead to an exciting and vibrant environment where new ideas flourish and the norm is challenged".
You cannot teach someone something if they think they know it already, and you can't share knowledge with someone who doesn't want to know.  They are like a Rock - the knowledge just bounces off. The sponge however is thirsty for knowledge and will soak up all they can find.

We talk so much about developing a "culture of sharing", but that will achieve nothing without a "culture of learning", and without turning people from rocks into sponges. It is only sponges that turn into high performing teams. Having just one rock on your team is enough to vastly reduce your chances of winning.

Turning people from rocks into sponges.


When Sir Clive took over the England Rugby team, he was faced with the challenge to turn a group of rocks into sponges. He did three things;
  • He built the desire to be the best
  • He showed people, through data and statistics, how far from The Best they were, and
  • He bought laptops for the whole team, so they could study and learn about themselves and their opponents.
There is a story about how Sir Clive was working with one of the players, and showed him a flipchart of statistics demonstrating that he was the best player at his team position in England.  He was obviously pleased! Then he turned over the page, and showed that in world terms, he was the seventh best player.  This was a shock, and immediately the player began to think and plan about how he could  learn and improve.

Desire to improve drives the desire to learn


Sir Clive Woodward used the power of data to instil the desire to improve amongst his team, which developed the necessary teachability, and which led to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

We see the same influences in our Bird island game, when we finally show people the benchmark data, and they realise how much they can improve. The emotional shock they receive destroys the mental barriers to learning.

Sir John Browne did the same at BP, with his vision that "every time we do something, we should do it better than the last time". 

Business leaders can do the same - by showing their teams where they are under-performing compared to their peers, and challenging them to improve.

If we are to implement Knowledge Management in our organisations, then we need to be changing rocks into sponges, and introducing a culture of Willingness to Learn, by instilling a culture of Desire to do Better.

Only when these are in place, will Knowledge Management reach its full potential.





Monday, 15 July 2019

Knowledge Management and Innovation

What’s the link between Innovation and KM? Are they opposites? Are they the same? Are they two sides of the same coin? This post from the archives explores the relationship between the two.


 Here are some of our thoughts. As ever we would like to hear from you on whether you agree or disagree with our assertions on this topic.
  • Knowledge management takes over from Innovation at the point where an idea becomes knowledge, which is when you first test the idea, and first gain experience from which you can learn. 
  • New ideas can often spring from old knowledge combined in new ways - the Remix approach to innovation. 
  • Proactive innovation beats reactive innovation. Systems where employees volunteer innovative ideas are nowhere near as powerful as systems where planned conversations are held around work process. The Technical Limit process, for example, where work crews are led through a structured discussion seeking new approaches, often leads to step changes in performance. 
  • Networked innovation is a favoured model. Bringing together a series of fresh minds can lead to breakthrough solutions. The more diverse the network, the more radical the innovations can be, and we have experienced this ourselves at innovation-focused peer assists. Networked innovation forms the core of our Business Driven Action Learning approach. 
  • Both Innovation and KM need to sit within a single strategic umbrella, focused on organisational competence. This could be an Organizational Learning Strategy, for example. This strategy would map out the competence of the organisation, both current and desired, and map out its knowledge, both existing and missing. Missing knowledge, if it exists, can be learned or bought in, or created/innovated.
  • Innovation and KM are both driven by challenge. If people are not challenged, they will do what they have always done, using the knowledge they already have. The best way to get someone to actively seek for knowledge (either through innovation or re-use) is to give them a challenge they don’t know how to solve. We saw this when studying innovation in the Innovene (Chemicals) process, where innovation was driven by the sales force making promises that were beyond current technology. Ford drove incremental innovation by continually decreasing operating budgets. BP drives innovation by promising a continuous improvement in operating efficiency.  
  • Innovation and KM only come into conflict when used inappropriately. Reuse of old knowledge is inappropriate if it can’t do the job. This is known in English as "flogging a dead horse". Innovation is a waste of time if sufficient knowledge already exists. This is known as "reinventing the wheel". See the discussion here. 

Perhaps the greatest waste of all is when great ideas are lost because organisations fail to manage their knowledge holistically. Our South African colleague Ian remembers a classic example that demonstrates why it is important:
 ‘The importance of managing knowledge was highlighted during the 1990s in De Beers. Ilana, a young metallurgist, was given a project. Ilana found the solution in a visionary internal report written in 1971 – an idea that appeared before its time. The innovative solution radically improved diamond recoveries and cut costs – the new technology was rapidly deployed across the group’.

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