Friday, 26 May 2017

Making Knowledge Visible

One of the biggest challenges in Knowledge Management is the invisible and intangible nature of Knowledge. How can we make knowledge, and knowledge gaps, visible to others?



 cup_invisibleYou can't see knowledge, you can't measure it, you can't tell when it's missing, other than by observing it's effects. This makes it difficult to identify opportunities for knowledge transfer, from someone how has knowledge, to someone who needs it.


If you could see knowledge, and you could see it's absence, then you would be in a much better position to set up the knowledge transfers that need to happen. You could say "Look, Susie needs some Red knowledge, Peter has lots of Red knowledge, let's introduce Peter to Susie".

But because knowledge is invisible you can't see what Susie needs or Peter has, unless you ask them.  How can a supplier of knowledge get in touch with a needer of knowledge if both the supply and the need can't be seen?

Here are four easy ways to make Knowledge visible, and to set up Knowledge Transfer opportunities.

The Seekers exercise


Seekers is a simple exercise, suitable for groups of 40 or 50 or more, and runs during a coffee break in a training session, or as part of a Brown Bag lunch. It requires blank name badges, so either buy a supply of badges, or if you are in a badged event such as a conference, ask people to turn their badges to the blank side. Ask them to write on the blank badge, in large clear letters, a question to which they would like an answer.

Ideally it should be a real work question rather than a home-life question, and a question where an answer would be really useful. Make sure it's a practical question! It should be "How do I best plan a program of data collection" rather than "How do I become the next CEO".

During the exercise, if people see a question they can help answer - either giving good advice, or pointing people to a source of advice - then they go and introduce themselves and offer help. After 20 to 30 minutes of pairing up and discussion, ask for a show of hands for "Who has received an answer?". You should see between a third and half the people raise their hands. You can then lead a discussion on motivation  - What motivated people to help? What would motivate you to ask questions of others? -  on the power of Asking as a driver for knowledge transfer, on "how we can make our questions visible to others as part of our work", and on KM approaches such as community forums and peer assist.

Knowledge Market


A Knowledge Market is a meeting to match up people who need learning, with people who can provide their learning. It is a way of connecting people to stimulate knowledge, make new connections, and identify new collaborative relationships, it is for connecting those who have problems with those that can potentially solve the problem in a very simple way. Knowledge Markets are commonly used within Communities of Practice.

At a Knowledge Market, you ask people to write (on post-it notes, or (better) on a large poster) two or three "Knowledge Offers", and two or three "Knowledge Needs". These should be real business issues - either an issue for which they have found a solution (a knowledge offer), or a business issue which they are currently facing, where they need access to more knowledge to help them make the correct decision.  Then you display these posters or notes, and ask people to walk around and identify

  1. A knowledge need they think they can help with
  2. A knowledge offer which they want to hear more about, because it will help solve a business issue for them.

Once these "matches" have been identified, then you set up follow-on conversations (either at the same event, or later) to transfer the knowledge.

An online (or physical) Knowledge Wants and Offers board

"Wants and offers" forums are popular as a way for people to sell and buy items (see this example). In the UK you see this in physical form in supermarkets, where someone looking for accommodation, or with a bed for sale, puts a card up on a notice board.

You can do the same for Knowledge, and provide an online site, or (in a shared office) a notice board (with pens, pins and cards) where people can post questions and offer solutions.  Online of course is easier, as you can click on a question to email an answer. Community of Practice discussion forums often become Wants and Offers forums, with people raising questions and offering solutions.

The Yellow Pages/People Directory

You may have some system of personal pages, where people identify their skills. Why not extend this to "knowledge needs" as well?

All of these methods make Knowledge, and the need for knowledge, visible, allowing matches to be made between Knowledge Suppliers and Knowledge Customers. 


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Which Knowledge Management Processes add most value?

I blogged yesterday about usage and value of Knowledge Management technologies. Here is a similar analysis, also drawn from our  2017 Global Survey of Knowledge management, of the usage and value of KM processes.


We asked the survey participants to rate these different KM processes by the value they have added to their KM program, including in the question the option to choose "we do not use this process" or "it's too early to tell".

The chart above shows these processes in order of value from left to right, as a stacked area chart of responses, with the weighted value of the process overlain as a line (this line would be at 100% if all the participants that used this process claimed it had "high value" and at 0% if they all claimed it had no value). The height of the dark grey area represents usage, as the light grey area is the "Not Used" response.

288 people answered this question on the survey. from a wide range of organisations around the globe.

The processes are also listed below in order of the usage figures, and in order of the average value assigned by the respondents.

Knowledge Management processes in order of usage 
(most common at the top)
Knowledge Management processes in order of the assigned value when used (those rated most valuable at the top)
1. coaching and mentoring
2. project lessons capture (large scale)
3. after action review (small scale)
4. knowledge roundtables
5. Peer Assist
6. retention interviews
7. storytelling
8. action learning
9. knowledge cafe
10. crowdsourcing
11. open space
12. appreciative enquiry
13. Innovation deepdive
14. wikithon
15. positive deviance
1. knowledge roundtables
2. coaching and mentoring
3. project lessons capture (large scale)
4. after action review (small scale)
5. action learning
6. Peer Assist
7. retention interviews
8. knowledge cafe
9. Innovation deepdive
10. storytelling
11. appreciative enquiry
12. open space
13. crowdsourcing
14. positive deviance
15. wikithon


Comparison of usage and value

As with the Technology results, there is a strong correlation between usage and value. This could represent a tendency for the more valuable KM processes to get the greatest use. This is a perfectly valid interpretation.  An alternative argument would be to say that processes deliver more value the more they are used. Processes at the top of the list are mainstream processes, used frequently, and delivering high value. Processes at the bottom of the list are less mainstream, and deliver less value to the companies that use them, because those companies make less use of these processes. This is also a plausible interpretation.

Even with this interpretation, we could still look for "Good performing" processes which deliver more value than their popularity would imply (and so are significantly higher in the value list than in the popularity list), and "Poor performing processes" which deliver less value than their popularity would imply.

Under this interpretation, the best performing KM processes are technologies are Innovation Deepdive, Knowledge Roundtable meetings and Action Learning (both of them 3 or 4 places higher in the Value list than the Usage list) and the poorest performing processes in terms of value per use are Crowdsourcing and Storytelling.


Changes since the 2014 survey

We saw similar results in the 2014 survey, with processes such as Knowledge Roundtable, After Action Review and Coaching and Mentoring both popular and performing well. However there are also some significant changes in both usage and value.

Those processes which have seen the greatest most increase in use between  the two surveys in 2014 and 2017 is Project Lesson Capture, with a rise in usage of 5 places and in value of 6 places, and Storytelling (+7 in usage, +4 in value).

There have been some big fallers as well. Positive Deviance has dropped 9 places in usage and 8 places in value, and Crowdsourcing has dropped 6 places in usage and 9 places on the value list. We did not include Innovation deepdives in the 2014 survey. Peer Assist has also fallen in popularity, which is a shame


It looks like the old staples processes of KM - the knowledge roundtable meetings, after action reviews, lesosn capture, peer assist and coaching and mentoring - remain the core process set for Knowledge Management.




Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Which Knowledge Management technologies add most value?

Interesting results are coming through from the Knoco 2017 Knowledge Management survey, including this plot of comparative KM technology value.



We asked the survey participants to rate these different types of technology by the value they have added to their KM program, including in the question the option to choose "we do not use this technology" or "it's too early to tell".

The chart above shows these technologies in order of value from left to right, as a stacked area chart, with the weighted value shown as a blue line (this line would be at 100% if all the participants that used this technology claimed it had "high value" and at 0 they all claimed it had no value).

The top of the grey area represents the usage percentage for these technologies, as the light grey area above represents people who do not use this technology. The top of the green area represents the percentage of people who said this technology had added "large value".

288 people answered this question.

The technology types are listed below in order of usage, and in order of value.

Technology type in order of usage 
(most common at the top)
Technology type in order of value delivered  when used (most valuable at the top)
Best practice repository
Document collaboration
eLearning
People and expertise search
Enterprise search
Enterprise content management
Portals (non-wiki)
Video publication
Question and answer forums
Blogs
Lessons Management
Microblogs
Brainstorming/ideation/crowdsourcing
Wikis
Social media other than microblogs
Expert systems
Data mining
Innovation funnel
Semantic search
Enterprise search
Best practice repository
Document collaboration
Enterprise content management
eLearning
Portals (non-wiki)
People and expertise search
Question and answer forums
Lessons Management
Expert systems
Brainstorming/ideation/crowdsourcing
Microblogs
Video publication
Social media other than microblogs
Wikis
Semantic search
Data mining
Innovation funnel
Blogs


Comparison of usage and value

There is a strong correlation between usage and value. This could represent a tendency for the more valuable technologies to get the greatest use. This is a perfectly valid interpretation.  An alternative argument would be to say that technologies deliver more value the more they are used. Technologies at the top of the list are mainstream technologies, used frequently, and delivering high value. Technologies at the bottom of the list are less mainstream, and deliver less value to the companies that use them, because those companies make less use of these technologies. This is also a plausible interpretation.

Even with this interpretation, we could still look for "Good performing" technologies which deliver more value than their popularity would imply, and "Poor performing technologies" which deliver less value than their popularity would imply.

Under this interpretation, the best performing technologies are Enterprise Search and Expert Systems (both of them 6 places higher in the Value list than the Usage list) and the worst performing technologies in terms of value per use are Blogs.

This does not necessarily mean Blogs are a bad technology; it probably means they are not being used in ways that add KM value.

Changes since the 2014 survey

We saw very similar results in the 2014 survey, again with Blogs being the poorest performing technology given their usage figures, and again with the best performing technologies in terms of value vs use being Enterprise Search and Expert Systems.

Those technologies which have most increased in use between 2014 and 2017 are Microblogs and video publication, and not surprisingly these have also seen the greatest increase in value delivery as well. The technology which has decreased in use the most over the last 3 years is the innovation funnel technology.



Tuesday, 23 May 2017

What the NASA CKO said about KM policies

Knowledge Management policies are still rare, and opinion on them is divided. Here is what the CKO of NASA said about the topic.


Image from Wikimedia commons
Knowledge Management policies are coming.

When the ISO KM standard is in place, next year or the year after, a KM policy becomes a requirement under the standard. This requirement is not unique to KM - all the ISO Management System standards reauire a policy. After all - can an organisation be said to have adopted a management system if there is no policy?

However many people are resistant to KM policies. "Added beauracracy" they say. "We have a strategy - we don't need a policy" they say. "We are getting by OK without one" they say.

The NASA CKO, Ed Hoffman (now retired from NASA) used to be similarly sceptical, but is now a big convert. Here is what he says on the matter.

"A policy sends a number of messages.

First, it declares that we, as an organization, recognize what’s important.

Second, it identifies a community of people who are held accountable for taking action.

Third, a policy indicates that the organization and its leaders want to make sure things are done the right way. It sets a course without being overly prescriptive.

Fourth, excellent organizations make a practice of communicating what they really stand for".

This is hard to argue with really. The policy is "a statement of what we really stand for", and if you don't have a policy for KM, do you really stand behind the topic?

The NASA KM policy is not a top-down mandate but establishes a federated approach for governance of knowledge.  As the CKO says

"Each center and mission directorate will develop its own strategy, with the understanding that knowledge will be shared across the agency to the greatest extent possible. The policy unifies these efforts.

I am optimistic that the knowledge policy represents a significant step toward helping NASA achieve its potential as a learning organization. We have built a community that shares a commitment to sustaining NASA’s knowledge resources, and we have charted a course toward greater integration across the agency.  
If you have been doing Knowledge Management for a few years - if you feel that KM is becoming embedded in the organisation, but needs greater integration and greater commitment - then your next step is probably to craft a Knowledge Management Policy

Monday, 22 May 2017

A value-led KM story

I have blogged many times about how Knowledge Management should be value-led, and driven by the needs of the business. Here's a story of how one KM Community leader helped define that value in a very graphic form. 


Image from wikimedia commons
The story was told to me by my friend Johnny, who was at one time the leader of a highly successful Community of Practice in the Oil Refining sector. The great thing about Johnny's story is that way that the Community were able to make an enemy of the waste in the production process.

Johnny took this Cost of Lost Knowledge and personalised it as a thief - "The Phantom".

Here's Johnny's story.
"It is always a hard one - to wrestle with the value that a community can deliver. It is very difficult to measure somehow. In some ways you just know instinctively that it has made a difference, but to actually pin a monetary value on it, is sometimes very very difficult.

"However, we recognised that in the operating area, there was money disappearing. Every year, while the plants are running, we say "this plant could have run better - we could have got more out of this asset". So we have lost money somewhere along the line. 
"We like to spin it around, and say that it is money that has gone to The Phantom. It has disappeared, you can't recover it. So we need to go after this Phantom Money. 
"One of the tools that we have in the Community tool box is "Capturing The Phantom". We actually go after the drips and the bits and pieces like that. And shared learning is very important. If you can capture what people have done before you, you can get enormous value from that. We can start to measure that less and less money is going to The Phantom. 
"People understand what The Phantom is, and they also understand that we can maybe capture The Phantom, but if we take our eye off it, The Phantom will come back. The Phantom will always come back!"

Friday, 19 May 2017

27 ways in which a Community of Practice can add value

How can communities of practice add value? Let me count the ways.


Image from wikimedia commons
Here's a list we made of 27 different mechanisms by which a community of practice can add value to an organisation.

No doubt you can think of more!


Community members can
  1. solve problems for each other 
  2. Learn before" starting a piece of work - using the CoP as a "Peer Assist" mechanism
  3. "Learn during" a piece of work, drawing on the knowledge of the CoP
  4. "Learn after" by sharing lessons with the community
  5. support each other emotionally, through messages of support or congratulations
  6. benchmark performance with each other 
  7. exchange resources through the community, such as tools, templates and approaches
  8. collaborate on purchasing (buying things that any one member could not justify) 
  9. collaborating on contracts (using the purchasing power of the community) 
  10. cooperate on trials and pilots 
  11. share results of studies, and maybe remove the need for others to re-do the same study
  12. exchange equipment (re-use old equipment, share spares) 
  13.  mentor and coach each other 
The community collectively can
  1. collaborate on a community blog, to act as a real-time story of what the community is collectively learning
  2. act as a learning resource for new staff
  3. build and maintain documented Best Practices, perhaps using a community wiki as a shared knowledge base
  4. build and maintain a curated document base as a shared resource
  5. decide a taxonomy and/or metadata scheme so members can record their knowledge in a consistent way
  6. recognise the most useful resources (for example through feedback and voting)
  7. recognise the most helpful and generous sharers (for example through "contributor of the year" awards)
  8. develop lists of common risks and warning signs (and what to do when you see them) 
  9. develop checklists and templates for member use
  10. create knowledge products for use by clients or customers
  11. identify knowledge retention issues 
  12. identify training gaps and collaborate on training provision 
  13. innovate new products, services or opportunities by combining ideas from everyone
  14. advise the organisation on strategy

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Are communities of practice getting smaller?

A preliminary result from the Knoco 2017 survey suggests that Communities of Practice may be getting smaller over time.




In our 2017 survey of Knowledge Management around the world, we asked a series of questions about Communities of Practice, one of which was "What is the typical size (number of members) of your CoPs and Knowledge Sharing networks?    Please choose the nearest number from the list below".

We then gave them a series of size ranges to choose from (given that we had responses form organisations from 10 people to 30 people).

The graph above shows the number of responses for each size range, and I have restricted this graph to internal CoPs rather than external. The results from this years survey are in blue, and the results from the 2014 survey are in red.

The number of CoPs of around 10 people has increased over the last 2 years, while the number in every other size range other than the largest has decreased.

The plot below shows this as a percentage of the results rather then the absolute number of results.



This is an interesting result, and if real is perhaps rather worrying, given that larger CoPs generally perform much better than smaller ones. 

Has anyone got any ideas why CoPs seem to be getting smaller, or smaller CoPs becoming more common?

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