Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The four most dangerous words in KM

There are four dangerous words you hear a lot when introducing KM. Here's how to respond to them.


Image from publicdomainpictures.net
"This organisation is different"

Those are the four words, and they usually appear in this context.


  • "Here is a story about how knowledge management helps organisations like this one"
  • "Yes it might work in that story, but our organisation is different; why should it work here?"
Sometimes it gets silly;

  • "Here is how KM works in legal firms"
  • "Yes, but those examples are all from large legal firms - we are different"
  • "Well, here's a small legal firm using KM"
  • "Yes, but that's a US firm and we are Canadian. We are different"
  • and so on
This comeback is one of the 5 most common objections to KM, and you hear it from senior managers when talking about KM at organisational level, and you hear something similar from project managers when talking about KM at project level ("We can't learn from the past - this project is different").

These are very dangerous words

They represent at best a closed attitude, and at worst a fundamental unwillingness to learn - a sort of arrogance, almost.  In a way they are true - every organisation is different. But on the other hand, every organisation is the same; all are made up of people who have to make decisions, and who need knowledge to make those decisions.

The way to address this argument is not to tackle it head-on - not to say "No, you are not different, you are just the same as everyone else" - but to start to discuss the details of when KM might be needed. For example;

  • "OK, you are different. Let's explore a bit how you use knowledge in your unique organisation. Give me an example of when your people might really need access to knowledge"
  • "Well, it's important to us to win work. When our people are in front of the client, and the client asks if we have any experience with a particular sort of project, it would be good if our people knew the answer so they could reassure the client"
  • "That's a good example. How do they get that knowledge at the moment?"
  • "They need to know it already. That's why we only send out most experienced people on client visits"
  • "What difference would it make if all your people had that knowledge at their fingertips?"
  • "We could make a lot more pitches and presentations, and I think we would see an increase in win rate"
  • "Would you like to hear how other companies have made that possible?"

The point is that every organisation is different, but the problems and issues they face are much the same, and when those problems are knowledge-related, KM can help.





Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Which KM implementation approach works the fastest?

The quickest ways to implement KM are by change management, and by piloting. The slowest are through top down directive, and KM by stealth. But how do we know this?



I blogged yesterday about how long it takes on average to implement KM, but how can you get ahead of the curve, and deliver KM quicker than the average?  We conducted a big global survey of KM this year. following on from a previous survey in 2014. In both surveys we asked two questions:

How many years have you been doing KM?

  • 0
  • .5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
  • 8
  • 16
  • 32 years


Which of these best expresses the level of KM maturity in your organisation?
  • We are in the early stages of introducing KM
  • We are well in progress with KM
  • KM is embedded in the way we work.
Yesterday we used these data to look at the average length of time organisations have been doing KM, for each of these maturity levels, which gives us a measure of the speed of KM implementation.  And then, of course, we can look at factors that influence that speed.

One of the most obvious factors would be the implementation strategy, and luckily we asked the survey respondents the following question:

How has KM been implemented in the organisation? Please choose the answer closest to your situation.

  • A KM pilot phase followed by a roll-out phase 
  • As a change management approach 
  • Introduce and promote technology 
  • Introduce processes (eg CoPs, lesson learning) 
  • Introduce technology and hope for viral growth 
  • KM by stealth/Guerrilla KM 
  • Top down directive to the entire company 
  • Not decided yet 
  • Other (please specify)

The chart shown here combines these three questions for a combined dataset from the 2014 and 2017 surveys, with duplicates removed. In total 522 people answered all 3 questions. The chart shows

For organisations who have chosen each of these implementation approaches, what is the average number of years they have been doing KM, for each of these maturity levels?



For example, organisations using a change management approach and who say they are "in the early stages" have been doing KM on average for just over 3 years, whereas if they are "well in progress" they have been doing KM on average for just over 6 years.

These numbers give a proxy measure of the speed of KM implementation, and the approaches are ordered from left to right in order of overall implementation speed.

The fastest approaches to KM implementation are a Change Management approach, and a piloting phase followed by roll-out.

Change management is the overall quickest approach. Piloting gets you out of the "early stages" more quickly than any other approach, as a successful pilot means you are well in progress with KM already, but the roll-out phase may keep you in the "in progess" phase for longer. A combination of Change Management and Knowledge Management Pilot projects is the approach we at Knoco recommend for Knowledge Management implementation.

KM by top-down directive and KM by stealth are the slowest approaches.

"KM by stealth" organisations which say they are well in progress have been doing KM for nearly 12 years; double the number for the change management approach. KM by top down directive is almost as slow.

If you are unsure about your KM implementation strategy, hopefully these results will give you some guidance. 

Monday, 26 June 2017

How long it really takes to embed Knowledge Management

In the wake of our recent 2017 survey, here are some more data about how long it really takes to embed Knowledge Management.

We conducted a big global survey of KM this year. following on from a previous survey in 2014. In both surveys we asked two questions:

How many years have you been doing KM?

  • 0
  • .5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
  • 8
  • 16
  • 32


Which of these best expresses the level of KM maturity in your organisation?

  • We are in the early stages of introducing KM
  • We are well in progress with KM
  • KM is embedded in the way we work.

If you combine these questions, then you can get a measure of how long it takes to reach the various levels of KM maturity. The graph below is just such a combination, and represents all datapoints from the 2014 and 2017 surveys with duplicates removed - a dataset of just over 750 organisations.

Full dataset



This is the full dataset, and we can see that the transition from "early stages" to "well in progress" takes normally about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal), and the transition to fully embedded takes normally about 20 years.  There is a large spread - some reach maturity far faster than others.

We can also see some strange anomalies:
  • organisations which have been doing KM for 0 years, yet it is fully embedded - either these are spurious data, or organisations who feel they are doing KM without the benefit of introducing a formal KM program
  • organisations which have been doing K for 32 years, yet are still in the early stages - either these are spurious data, or organisations who feel they are doing KM for ages but in a half-hearted manner, or doing it "under the radar".



    However this full dataset may not be too helpful, as we know that embedding KM takes longer in larger organisations. The graphs below show sections of the dataset for small, medium and large organisations.

    Small organisations



    We also asked the participants to answer the following question:

    How large is the organisation (or part of the organisation) you are decribing in terms of staff?Please select the closest number from the list below.
    • 10
    • 30
    • 100
    • 300
    • 1000
    • 3000
    • 10000
    • 30000
    • 100000
    • 300000
    The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, but only for those 148 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 10, 30 or 100.

    We can see that the strange anomalies of "doing KM for 32 years and getting nowhere" belong to this size range. we can also see that the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes just under 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal),  but the transition to fully embedded takes about 6 years.

    Medium organisations




    The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, for those 351 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 300, 1000 or 3000.

    Here the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal),  but the transition to fully embedded takes about 20 years.

    Large organisations



    The graph above is the same plot of maturity v number of years, for those 3255 organisations where the respondent chose a size of 10,000 staff or larger.

    Here the transition from early stages to well in progress still takes about 4 years (if you take the 50% level as normal),  but the transition to fully embedded takes 32 years, as half of the respondents at the 32 year mark said they were still "well in progress".

    Conclusions

    The obvious conclusion is that implementing KM takes a long time, and the bigger the organisation, the longer it takes. However we can be a bit more subtle than that, and conclude as follows:
    • The early stages of Knowledge Management take on average 4 years for any organisation, before you can begin to say " we are well in progress".  20% of organisations may get to this point within a year, another 20% may take 8 years or more.
    • The time it takes to reach the point where KM is fully embedded depends on the size of the organisation, with an average of 6 years for the smaller ones, to 32 years for the very biggest. 
    These are average figures - some implementations are faster and some are slower. Tomorrow we might start to investigate what makes the difference in the speed of Knowledge Management implementation.


    Friday, 23 June 2017

    The importance of Reflection in KM

    We don't learn by doing, we learn by reflecting on doing, which is why your KM program should include reflective processes.


    Kolb learning cycle. Publ;ic domain image from wikipedia
    There is a popular quote on the Internet, often attributed to John Dewey, that "We do not learn from an experience … We learn from reflecting on an experience". It probably isn't from Dewey, although it is a summarisation of Dewey's teaching, but it does make the point that no matter how broad your experience, it doesn't mean you have leared anything.

    Let's match that with another Internet quote, attributed to Paul Shoemaker "Experience is inevitable, Learning is not". Without reflection, and without change as a result of that reflection, nothing has been learned no matter how many experiences you have.

    "Observation and Reflection" is also a part of the Kolb learning cycle, shown here, which is a well-established model for how individuals learn.

    Knowledge Management is not so much about Individual learning as about Organisational Learning and Team Learning, but reflection is just as important in the KM context. Reflection  needs to be introduced to work practice through the introduction of reflective processes such as the following:

    • Introducing After Action Review as a reflective team process, to allow teams to reflect on, and collectively learn from, actions and activities;
    • Introducing Retrospect as a reflective team process, to allow teams to reflect on, and collectively learn from, projects and project phases;
    • Introducing processes such as Knowledge Exchange to allow members of a Community of Practice to reflect on, and share, their practice;
    • Introducing processes such as knowledge interviews to guide experts through structured reflection on their own experience, and top make this public for others.

    It is only through introducing reflective processes such as these, and then acting on the new knowledge gained, that your organisation will stop just Experiencing, and start Learning.


    Thursday, 22 June 2017

    KM as distillation

    I heard a useful metaphor last week - Knowledge Management as distillation.

    Image from wikimedia commons
    Knowledge is involved in almost everything we do at work, and the work products we create contain the outworkings of that knowledge. However just collecting work products is not Knowledge Management, as that knowledge is scattered and diffused across so many documents.

    Similarly connecting people is not enough, as the knowledge remains scattered across many heads.

    When the knowledge is scattered like this, then every knowledge seeker must do the same task of sifting, sorting and distilling out the knowledge. With commonly-used knowledge, this is wasteful, and it is better if someone (a subject matter expert or a community of practice) does the distillation in advance.

    Distillation of knowledge could include:
    • Looking through community discussions, and drawing out the conclusions
    • Reviewing multiple proposals and compiling the best and most successful bits of each
    • Searching a collection of Lessons and turning them into guidance or checklists
    • Comparing many version of templates and finding the best
    • Holding a knowledge exchange to compare multiple practices and co-create the best
    Providing such a distilled knowledge product is far more useful than expecting people to search through multiple sources every time they need guidance.

    Wednesday, 21 June 2017

    Quantified value stories 112, 113 and 114; three examples from customer service

    From a blog post called "In praise of Knowledge Management" come the following examples of quantified KM value, all from customer service centers;


    Image from wikimedia commons
    • "A leading European mobile phone retailer saw a stark increase in contact deflection of 27.3 percent while markedly improving NPS  (Net Promoter Score) by 12 base points after implementing a knowledge management system".
    • "One of the largest global insurance providers realised a massive decrease in agent training costs by 50 percent, and a sharp drop of 30 percent in complaints".
    • "An Australian Government agency saw its customer satisfaction levels surge to 93 percent as well as raise agent satisfaction and reduce handling time by 53 percent".


    The article concludes that "it is these kinds of success rates and improvement which make knowledge management a serious contender for inclusion in any list of top ten contact centre technologies".

    Tuesday, 20 June 2017

    How to avoid Dualism in Knowledge Management

    We tend to divide Knowledge Management into opposing categories. Sometimes this is useful, but often this dualism is illusory. 

    Image from wikimedia commons
    Dualism is the idea that, for some particular domain, there are two fundamental kinds or categories of things or principles. It is an "either-or" mindset, which seeks to separate things: mind and body, for example, or good and evil, or Yin and Yang.

    Dualism is often a western mindset, and many eastern philosophies take a different view, where apparently opposite or contrary forces like Yin and Yang may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent, and may give rise to each other as they interrelate (see picture!).

    There has been a lot of dualism imposed on Knowledge Management - seeing things as alternatives rather than parts of a spectrum, or parts of a total system. For example, consider the following Knowledge Management questions, all of which I have heard asked:

    • "Which is more important - Questions or Answers?"
    • "Which strategy are you taking - Connecting or Collecting?"
    • "Is KM best introduced Top-down, or Bottom up?"
    • "Is KM all about People, or Process, or Technology, or Governance?"
    • "Which should I focus on - Conversation, or Content?"
    All of these questions assume dualism, and only make sense if you assume dualism.

    Now consider the following non-KM questions, and tell me if they make sense:
    • "Which is more important - the positive terminal on a battery, or the negative?"
    • "Which approach do you take when walking, using your right leg, or your left leg?"
    • "Is it better to begin with breathing out, or breathing in?"
    • "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
    • "Is a coin all about the Heads, or the Tails?"

    These second questions are ridiculous, and we know they are ridiculous because they try to apply dualism to something we know is a system - an electrical current, breathing, a coin, chicken-breeding and bipedal locomotion.

    For me, the first set of questions are equally ridiculous. They also are applying a dualistic mindset to something that is a system.

    • Questions and Answers are both equally important (or equally unimportant) in Knowledge Management. They are Demand and Supply, and both are needed for the flow of Knowledge. One without the other is pointless.
    • You should be developing a Connecting AND Collecting strategy. These are not alternatives. 
    • KM is best introduced Top-down AND Bottom-up. Both the Top and the Bottom are stakeholders and both need to be involved. 
    • KM is all about People, and it is all about Process, and it is all about Technology, and it is all about Governance. These are the 4 legs on the KM Table. 
    • You should focus on Conversation AND Content. Content is something to talk about, Conversation is where Content is born and where it is Tested
    In each case the apparent opposties may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent, and may give rise to each other as they interrelate - juts like Yin and Yang.

    Beware the Western Dualist Mindset, that loves alternatives and opposites. KM is less about "either-or" and more about "both-and".

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