Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Embedding KM through accountabilities

Work gets done because people are accountable. KM also will get done if individuals are given accountability.

Work gets done because people are accountable. They are given a job, and they do their job. Where I have seen KM really live for a long time in organisations, it is because those organisations have

  • been clear on the job of work KM has to do
  • given that job to dedicated and accountable individuals, and
  • put in place a reporting chain though which that job or work is assigned and delivered.
Let me give you two examples of how this operates, using the vectors of Communities of Practice, and Lesson-Learning. The description below is based on a number of organisations who work in this way.

1) The organisation has a clear idea of the functional competencies it needs to be successful.
2) These competencies are owned by senior staff, working through competency owners, competency committees or functional excellence teams. These staff/committees/teams have targets and deliverables relating to competence protection and development.
3) The leaders of the networks and communities of practice report to these senior staff, and hold a business plan or performance contract with the senior staff, stating how they will develop the CoPs in service of competence.
4) The network leaders take accountability for the development of the CoP and for the development of the community knowledge base. They may have a small team (for example a community facilitator) to help, and may have a small budget or community business. 

If this accountability chain works well, then the network leader can track the development of competence through CoP metrics, including success stories and performance metrics. They report this upwards to the senior staff, who report against their own targets and deliverables.

1) The organisation has targets for project delivery (cost, time or quality targets).
2) These targets are owned by the Head of Projects, or some similar role.
3) Reporting to the Head of Projects will be an individual or small team responsible for project learning
4) This team, with the backing of the Head of Projects, takes accountability for the delivery of effective "learning from experience" within the project context. They monitor delivery of learning against the company expectations, they facilitate the lessons identification, and they operate the lessons management process, they drive re-use.

If this accountability chain works well, then the network leader can track the development of effective learning through metrics, and through improved project delivery (including learning curves). They report this upwards to the Head of Projects, who reports against their own targets and deliverables.

In both these cases, KM is given a job to do ("Improve or protect functional capability though CoPs and CoP knowledge bases", "Improve company performance through project learning"), has individuals accountable for that job, and has a reporting chain. The job is clear, performance is tracked.

That's how you really embed something for the long term.

Monday, 16 July 2018

When writing about KM, ditch the long words

Knowledge Management is a simple concept, let's explain it in simple words.

llanfair pg So much of Knowledge Management is about communication; the communication of knowledge, solutions, work-around, tips and hints, the communication of concepts and ideas.

Communication to stakeholders is the main thing we do as part of the change management associated with KM. Knowledge Management can be an alien concept to many people, and we need to be able to explain it to them, That means we may need to translate many of the concepts into simple words.

When this communication takes place through conversation, we tend to use ordinary words, laced with technical terms when needed. But when we write, somehow things don't seem to be so simple. We set aside the short and simple words,  reach for the fancy phrases and the longest words we know, and we perpetrate polysyllabic obfuscation.

Here's one I was reading earlier.
"the exploitation of complementary knowledge resources across businesses leads to a significant market- and accounting-based corporate performance effect".
which means "you can increase profit and market share by re-using knowledge"

And another
"To maintain connectivity and freshness of content within your knowledge ecosystem consider implementing a technology enabled knowledge transfer system".
I think that what this means is  "You can keep your knowledge up to date if you have the tools to communicate online"

And as much as I admire the work of teh late great Carl Frappaolo, his definition of KM lacks simplicity.
"Knowledge Management (KM) is the leveraging of collective wisdom and experience to expedite responsiveness and innovation".
I think this means "Knowledge Management is using what we all know, to respond faster and to come up with new ideas".

I am not sure any of us would say "expedite responsiveness" out lound in a conversation, but somehow it seems OK to write it.  I don't know why this happens. It probably happens to me as well - when you write you reach for the Long Words bottle, and sprinkle it liberally over the text. I am well aware that I have set myself up here for people to come up with examples of polysyllabic obfuscation from this blog, but I do try and keep things simple myself.

The perpetuation of polysyllabic obfuscation through redundancy and obtuse reiteration is often unnecessarily repeated as a distinct disservice to clarity and brevity.

Instead let's keep it simple!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Keeping a decision log as an aid to learning

A decision log can be a useful tool in learning, and as part of a KM system

Dia 91: Decisiones Many projects and many non-project bodies maintain a decision log, to keep track of, and to publish, the major decisions which have been made. This allows you later to revisit the decisions, and understand the basis behind them, in the light of later knowledge. If you know why decisions were made, then you know whether and when to revisit them.

Some public bodies publish their decision logs, for example some of the UK police and crime commissioners have public decision logs.

But how helpful are these logs for learning purposes? A simple decision log will record which decisions were made, and by whom, but there is often no way to go back and understand why those decision were made.

The Washington DNR site has a good decision log template including a column for decision rationale and one for the alternatives considered, but even that one lacks the "assumptions" column, and often one of the major causes of learning is that our assumptions were incorrect.

In engineering, the Toyota A3 report acts as a decision log for product design, and is a simple and visual way to keep track of engineering decisions, recording

  • The problem
  • the details of the current situation
  • root cause analysis
  • the "target state" 
  • the alternative countermeasures to address root causes
  • the chosen implementation plan with accountable actions and costs
  •  a follow-up plan, including preparation of a follow-up report 

These reports are used to communicate decisions in review meetings to build a knowledge base about good practices in product development, and to develop a final Basis of Design document.

If a decision log is to be useful as a learning tool, then it needs to cover some of the same ground as the A3 report, and to record.
  • The problem that needed to be addressed (in therms of the difference between the current reality and the desired state)
  • An analysis of the problem
  • The alternative options that were rejected
  • The decision that was made
  • Why that decision was made, i.e. the deciding factors that resulted in choosing that particular option
  • The assumptions behind the decision.

So on a crucial project, consider the use of a decision log, but make sure you record the assumptions and rationale behind each of those decisions.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

What does embedded KM look like?

Embedded KM is as normal as any other embedded work practise, such as budgeting or time writing.

budget cambodge People often ask "what does embedded KM look like? The answer is that it looks like any other embedded management discipline. It's a work habit - something you dont think twice about.

Just in the way that "doing your budget" is fully embedded into the project cycle, do "doing your km plan" can be embedded into the work cycle.

Just like "completing your timesheet" is seen s a required step within financial management, so is "doing your lessons capture" seen as a required ad embedded step. Budgets ad timesheets are just "things we do as part of the job", and one day you will find the processes of KM becomes equally embedded.

Just like budgets and timesheets, when KM is fully embedded we will do the KM processes naturally and without argument. We will know the processes are expected, we understand their point, everyone else is doing them, and if we don't do them, people will be taken aback. It's just a part of the way we work, and the things we do.

That's "Embedded"

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Knowledge Management Survey report - now free access

We have decided to open the results of our KM Survey to the public.

In April 2014, and again in April 2017, Knoco Ltd conducted a global survey of Knowledge management activity and trends. Participation was free and confidential, and all participants received a free Knowledge Management Survey report. Over 700 people have taken part in the surveys; mostly individuals leading Knowledge Management activities or members of Knowledge Management teams. A combined Knowledge Management Survey report is now available to interested parties.

The main outputs from the report are listed below, and the survey report contains 45 charts and 29 tables of data.  You can order a copy here - all we ask for in return is to know who you are, and what use you plan to make of the survey.

We have put a vast amount of work into the report, we are really proud of it, and we are very interested in what people make of it and how they use it. So please fill in the order form online, and we will mail you a copy within a day or two.

Survey contents include items such as:

  • The maturity of KM across the world, across business sectors, and by company size. 
  • The length of time it takes to reach KM maturity. 
  • The main reasons why people give up on KM. 
  • Typical KM budgets and how they vary with company size. 
  • Typical KM team sizes and how they vary with company size. 
  • The skills within KM teams, and where they report. 
  • The focus areas, business drivers and strategies for KM across business sectors. 
  • The benefits delivered through KM, in dollar terms, and intangibles.
  • Business metrics impacted by KM. 
  • How KM is embedded, and the impact on value. 
  • KM technologies, their function, use and value. 
  • Enterprise content management. 
  • KM processes, their function, use and value. 
  • The main KM governance elements in use, and how these vary with KM maturity. 
  • The most common barriers and enablers for KM. 
  • The effectiveness of various KM metrics and incentives. 
  • The main cultural isues and where they prevail. 
  • The popularity and effectiveness of Best Practice approaches, how they work, what value they add. 
  • The popularity and effectiveness of Lesson learned approaches, how they work, what value they add. 
  • The popularity and effectiveness of CoP approaches, how they work, what value they add.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

"What would you do differently next time"? The crucial question.

To learn from the past, we need to reflect on the past, and questions are crucial for prompting reflection.

Do differently? - edited...When you observe the conversations and presentations at conferences and in organisations, they are very often stories about the past.

"We did this, we did that, this happened, we met these obstacles and through perseverance we achieved success"

It is possible to learn from these stories in a general sense, but often these stories are narrative and not reflective, and it is from the reflection that knowledge arises.

The question "If you were to do this again, what would you do differently next time" is an excellent question to provoke reflection. It is a question that we use all the time in After Action Review and Retrospect, but it is one that you otherwise rarely hear at work, and almost never hear raised at conferences.

Many times people at work, or people at a conference, would ask each other “what did you do, how did you do X, how did you respond to Y”, and what they would get in reply would be, effectively, history. The replies would help you understand what the team did, but not understand whether this is a good thing to do, and bad thing to do or a random thing to do.

But if someone is asked “what would you do differently”, you can't answer with history; you have to answer with analysis and with insights.

The progression from Observations ("What we did and what happened") to Insights ("This is why things happened he way they did") to Lessons ("This is what I would do next time") is a process of analysis, and needs t be driven by questions - either questions from a facilitator or a third party, or by self-questioning.

History is not knowledge. It is analysis of history - reflection on history – that creates knowledge. We need to ask, not just “what did you do”, but also “with reflection, what would you do differently” if we are to get a true knowledge.

Monday, 9 July 2018

How long does it take to implement KM?

Knowledge Management can be started quickly, but takes a long time to fully embed. Here are two sources of data that show exactly how long.

Over the past few years we have helped many organisations to benchmark their "current status" of Knowledge Management. They ask for this for a number of reasons. Sometimes they want to see where they need to improve. Sometimes they need to see IF they need to improve. Sometimes they need to set a benchmark so they have something they can measure future improvement against.  The benchmark is a measure of the level of completeness and application of their knowledge management framework.

Recently we looked back on some of our benchmark data, and looked to see if we could find any trends. Well, we could.

The first trend appears when you look at how the overall benchmark score varies with the length of time KM has been addressed by the organisation. The graph above shows the overall KM score (from zero to 5) for about 25 organisations, plotted against how long they have been deliberately working with KM, in years. Bear in mind four things when you look at this plot.

  1. not all organisations want to score 5 out of 5, and 4 out of 5 is a pretty fine score.
  2. nobody scores more than 5, so the plot will "level off" at 5
  3. every company starts at a different level. Knowledge Management is something that mos companies do some of, without even trying. There is a big range of scores on organisations who are just starting KM implementation. If you already have a collaborative, open and supportive culture, you start at a higher point, and get good pretty quickly. If your culture is hierarchical, blaming and closed, it's going to be a much longer journey.
  4. the people who call us in are often "stuck" in their KM efforts. That's why they call us in. So "low scoring" companies will be over-represented here.

However also note on the plot the two red points joined by a red line, which represent the same organisation measured at an interval of 2 years, showing good progress. Similarly the two green points joined by a green line represent a different organisation, measured twice, at a 3.5 year interval, showing a similar rate of progress.

The black line is a simple linear trend line. It is there for guidance only - we really need some sort of exponential fit, but I could not get that to work in Excel

My conclusions from this plot are as follows;

  • Firstly, fully implementing Knowledge Management is a slow process. The earliest a company has reached level 4, from this dataset, is 4 years. The black line suggests an average of 14 years to get to level 4.
  • Secondly, you can speed up your implementation. The black trend line represents "natural drift" towards Knowledge Management, while the red and green lines bot represent a deliberate, focused and resourced KM implementation program. If you followed the red line trend, you could start at level 2 and get to level 4 in about 3 years.
Lets compare these figures with a different set of date, from our surveys in 2014 and 2017 (copies of the report available from the Knoco website), as described in this blog post from a year ago.

This plot shows that 
  • About 10% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 4 years
  • About 20% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 8 years
  • About 50% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 16 years
  • About 70% of companies have achieved fully embedded KM within 32 years

The blog article breaks these data down further, showing that KM implementation is quicker in smaller companies, and slower in larger, but the overall conclusions are the same from both graphs shown here.

KM a journey, it's a slow journey, the fastest you will get there is about 4 years, different organisations start from different places, but faster progress can be made if you pay attention to implementing Knowledge Management as a project.

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