Tuesday, 20 November 2018

What you need to know about social tools and KM

Here is a very interesting article from HBR entitled "What managers need to know about social tools" - thanks to Anshuman Rath for bringing it to my attention.  It's well worth a complete read.



Image by Codynguyen1116
on wikimedia commons
The article by Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley, from the Nov/Dec issue of HBR last year, looks at the way companies have often introduced social tools - often because “Other companies are, so we should too” or “That’s what you have to do if you want to attract young talent”  - and describe some of the surprising outcomes.

Here are some of the points the article makes, with excerpts in quotes:

  • Use of these tools make it easier to find knowledge, through making it easier to find knowledgeable people.
"The employees who had used the tool became 31% more likely to find coworkers with expertise relevant to meeting job goals. Those employees also became 88% more likely to accurately identify who could put them in contact with the right experts"

  • Millenials are not keen adopters of enterprise social tools.
"Millennials have a difficult time with the notion that “social” tools can be used for “work” purposes (and are)wary of conflating those two worlds; they want to be viewed and treated as grown-ups now. “Friending” the boss is reminiscent of “friending” a parent back in high school—it’s unsettling. And the word “social” signals “informal” and “personal.” As a 23-year-old marketing analyst at a large telecommunications company told us, “You’re on there to connect with your friends. It’s weird to think that your manager would want you to connect with coworkers or that they’d want to connect with you on social media [at work]. I don’t like that.”

  • How people present themselves on internal networks is important to developing trust.
"How coworkers responded to people’s queries or joked around suggested how accessible they were; it helped colleagues gauge what we call “passable trust” (whether somebody is trustworthy enough to share information with). That’s important, because asking people to help solve a problem is an implicit admission that you can’t do it alone".

  • People learn by lurking (as well as by asking).
"Employees gather direct knowledge when they observe others’ communications about solving problems. Take Reagan, an IT technician at a large atmospheric research lab. She happened to see on her department’s social site that a colleague, Jamie, had sent a message to another technician, Brett, about how to fix a semantic key encryption issue. Reagan said, “I’m so happy I saw that message. Jamie explained it so well that I was able to learn how to do it.”

  • The way social tools add value to the organisation and to the individual is to facilitate knowledge seeking, knowledge awareness, knowledge sharing and problem solving. The authors give many examples mostly of problem-solving, and about finding either knowledge or knowledgeable people. One example saved a million dollars, and i will add that to my collection of quantified value stories tomorrow.

  • The value comes from practice communities. The authors do not make this point explicitly, so perhaps I am suffering from confirmation bias here, but they talk about the "spread of knowledge" that they observed as being within various groups covering practice areas such as marketing, sales, and legal.

The authors finish with a section on how to introduce the tools, namely by making the purpose clear (and the purpose may be social, or it may be related to knowledge seeking and sharing), driving awareness of the tools, defining the rules of conduct, and leading by example.

The article reminds us again that social tools can add huge value to an organisation, but need careful attention and application. Just because Facebook and Twitter are busy in the non-work world, does not mean similar tools operate the same way at work.

Monday, 19 November 2018

4 roles in the simple KM model

Last week I blogged about the simplest and best Knowledge Management model - if you missed it, follow the link. Now let's look at the key KM roles within this model.


This model is a process-based model, and is based on the flow of knowledge in and out of team and project work, and in and out of the tacit and explicit repositories (the Community of Practice, and the Knowledge Base respectively).

We can also overlay the accountable roles for each component, and that is what I have done in the diagram shown here.

We have four main roles, but as described below, two of them may be combined. There may be a number of other subordinate roles, but these four are the minimum. None of these roles need be full-time, especially in small companies, and can be part of someone's role portfolio.

Here are the four roles -
  1. The Owners (/custodians/Stewards) of the Knowledge Assets, represented in the picture by the person in brown holding a pen. We describe this role in our page on the Knowledge Owner role, and in my blog post on Process Ownership. There should be one Knowledge Owner for each important topic.
  1. The Leaders (/facilitators/moderators) of the Communities of Practice,  represented in the picture by the person with the red tie holding a pen. We describe this role in our page on Communities of Practice. There will be one Leader  for each Community of Practice.
Note that in some organisations, the CoP leader also acts as the Knowledge Owner for that area of practice, in which case roles 1 and 2 are held by the same person.
  1. The Knowledge Managers (/KM champion/Lesson Integrator) working in the teams and projects, represented in the picture by the person in a cap holding a spanner. We describe this role in our page on the Knowledge Manager role, and there are several example descriptions of this role in my blog posts tagged "Role". There will be one Knowledge Manager for each major department or major project.
  1. The Knowledge management team, represented in the picture by the person with the necklace. We describe this role in our page on the Knowledge Management team roles, and there are several discussions of this role in my blog posts tagged "Role". There will be generally one Knowledge Management team, although in major multinationals there may be one per business stream.

So together with the simple process flow model, we can map on the organisational design of roles and accountabilities which are needed to ensure KM happens.

Friday, 16 November 2018

The simplest and best KM model?

Another reprise from the archives - a reminder of one of the simplest but most useful KM models for a project-driven organisation



There are many Knowledge Management models available, and you can find a selection of them on the Knoco KM Models page.

The one I present to you today is perhaps the simplest and the best, as well as one of the earliest to be created, and one of the most robust. You can almost certainly use this model as the basis for your KM approach.

Let me talk you through it.

At the base of, and as the basis for, the model, we have the teams and projects in the organisation learning Before, During and After. I won't expand on this part of the model; if you need to know more, see my blog post on learning before, during and after.

However the knowledge that the team or project has gained, if it is of value to others, needs to be "pushed" somewhere (the blue arrow on the right of the diagram) (see more details on Push and Pull in KM).

The knowledge can be pushed to one of two destinations - it can be shared, through discussion or presentation, with other teams and/or members of the relevant community of practice. Or it can be placed in some form of Knowledge Base (a lessons management system, for example).

The communities of practice represented the networks of practitioners around the organisation, where much of the knowledge may be held tacitly, and is shared through discussion.

The knowledge base is the managed repository for explicit knowledge (ie not a repository for all forms of information, but for knowledge) where knowledge gained from the individuals, teams and projects is synthesised into knowledge assets.

The knowledge from both of these stores - tacit and explicit - can be accessed through Knowledge Pull (the left hand blue arrow) to allow teams and projects to Learn Before their next activity (by searching the Knowledge Base, and asking the Community of Practice).

There you are - a very simple model of 6 components

You can complicate the model further if you need to, but it's a very good starting point for building your Knowledge Management Framework. I have an additional blog post on the four roles within this model.

I remember drawing a version of this model in Shepperton, UK, in 1997 (pre-PowerPoint - it was drawn on an acetate slide) and it has proved robust and valuable ever since. 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The principle of local value in KM

KM will be adopted if people can see local value - value to them - in using it


Former Value City Department Store in Boardman, Ohio How can we help people see that Knowledge Management is a "good thing"?

People need to see not only that Knowledge Management delivers value to the organisation, but also that it delivers value to them as individuals. So talk to them, and find out

  • What are their local business challenges?
  • What are their local "hot issues"?
  • What knowledge would help them with these issues and challenges?
  • How could Knowledge Management give them access to this knowledge?

Then find some stories or case studies, where other people in similar situations have been able to use Knowledge Management not only to deliver business results, but also to make their own lives easer.

Go by the "Principle of Local Value".

People will adopt a new idea, provided they see it as having tangible value in the local setting. Help them see the local value.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

2 types of community of practice.

There are two main types of community of practice depending on how knowledgeable the community members are.


One type of community of practice exists to connect knowledgeable people, so they can share knowledge with each other and act as a resource for each other. The other type exists to connect learners, so they can learn together. In this example much of the knowledge comes form outside the community. We can call the first type a Knowledge Community, and the second a Learning Community.

Type 1

The standard view of the Community of Practice is that of a network of people who collectively act as a mutual knowledge resource. Within the Community is a wide range of experience - from highly-experienced old-timers, to relative newcomers - experts and newbies sharing the same community. Through asking and answering questions, they provide each other with useful knowledge that helps each practitioner to perform their work better. Often the answers to questions come from the more experienced staff, but this is not always the case, as I explain in my blog post about the Long Tail of Knowledge.

This is the model of Community of Practice that we see in the standard case studies, from the likes of Shell, IBM, Fluor and ConocoPhillips.

The role of the leader or facilitator in a Community of Practice such as this is to provide the conditions (culture, technology, behaviours) that allow conversation to happen, and then sit back and watch it happening, intervening only if necessary.

This is a knowledge community. Everyone is a knowledge user, everyone is potentially a knowledge supplier. The knowledge flow is multi-way, and the knowledge primarily comes from within, and circulates within, the community.

But this is not the only sort of Community of Practice.

Type 2

Takes for example another famous case study, the US Army "Company Command" CoP. The Army creates 2000 company commanders a year - it is the soldiers first command assignment - and they stay in post for 2 years. There is therefore a CoP of about 4000 Company Commanders, with an average of 1 year experience in the role.

This is not a CoP that holds the knowledge itself. The CoP is not the primary source of experience, because they are all learning together. The Community, in this case, exists to support the individuals on their learning journey, rather than to be a closed system of knowledge exchange. This is a community of learners - almost everyone is a knowledge user and only a few are knowledge suppliers. Plenty of newbies, no experts.

The role of the leader or facilitator in a Community of Practice such as this is to promote and facilitate the learning journeys of the members. So for example, in Company Command, they provide the following learning tasks.
  • Quizzes
  • Discussions initiated and coordinated by the leaders
  • "Book clubs"
  • Interviews with leaders
  • Video interviews
  • "Challenges" - discussions on typical scenarios a Company Commander will face
  • Community blogs
  • Community email newsletters
(Please note that the Community leader is not Teaching, but is still actively facilitating and directing the learning activities). You will see few if any of these activities in the Flour/ConocoPhillips style of CoP, because their communities contain experienced people rather than being a community of the inexperienced.

Company Command is not the only example of this type of Community of Practice, and it will be a useful Knowledge Management tool in any organisation which regularly has to provide knowledge to a large population of inexperienced staff (see my blog post on the influence of demographics on KM - this type of situation is likely to be more common in the Far East than in Europe or the US).

So, as always, choose "Horses for Courses" as we say in English. Choose the KM approach that suits your organizational context. That may be type 1 or it may be type 2.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

How to find the "unknown knowns"

The Unknown Knowns are a major component of experts' tacit knowledge, and to uncover these, we need Knowledge Pull



Unknown People There is a lot of knowledge out there in the organisation that we Don't Know That We Know, and one of the truths of Knowledge Management is that we don't know what we know until we need it, or until someone asks us really deep and probing questions.

That's why an effective Knowledge Management program cannot be based on individual volunteering or publishing of knowledge, aka Knowledge Push, as this only find the Known Knowns.

Sometimes you find organisations who have set up a system whereby people are required to identify lessons themselves and to add them into a lessons management system, or to identify "knowledge objects" and add them to a database, or to identify new ideas and improvement suggestions and add them to a Suggestions Scheme.

I am not as huge fan of Push systems like this.

I think you capture only a small proportion of the knowledge or ideas this way, because you miss the Unknown Knowns.  People are not aware that they have knowledge and ideas, and if they are aware, they often discount the knowledge as "not important".

Instead, don't wait for knowledge, ideas or lessons to be volunteered - go seek them out. Go and do some proactive knowledge identification.

There are two main approaches for doing this; reactive, and scheduled.

The reactive approach requires someone to identify particular successes and failures from which to learn. The failures can be obvious, such as safety incidents or significant project overruns, and many companies have mandatory processes for reviewing these failures. But how do you spot the successes? Maybe you can use your company benchmark metrics, and seek to learn from those departments with the best results that year. Perhaps you could work with the knowledge from the manufacturing plant that never had an accident, as well as from the one with frequent accidents. Maybe you can look for the best sales team, and look to learn the secrets of their success.

Or maybe you can do both successes and failures - I did a very interesting study not long ago for an organisation that measures staff engagement using the Gallup survey. We picked the ten top scoring sales teams, the ten bottom scoring teams and the ten teams which had shown the most improvement over the previous year, and interviewed the team leader and a team member of each one, to pick out the secrets of successful staff engagement.

An alternative approach, common within project-based organisations, is to schedule learning reviews and knowledge exchange within the activity framework. These could be

  • After Action Reviews on a daily basis during high-intensity learning, or after each significant task 
  • Peer Assists early in each project stage, or during project set-up
  • Retrospects (or some other form of Post Project review) at the end of each project stage, or at each project review gate
  • A Knowledge Handover meeting at the end of a project, to discuss new knowledge with other projects
  • A Retrospect (or some other form of review) at the end of a bid process, when the company knows if the bid has been successful or unsuccessful.

There are many advantages to the scheduled approach. Firstly, success and failure are components of every project, and if every project is reviewed, lessons may be identified which can avoid the big mistakes later on.

Secondly, if lessons identification is scheduled, it becomes a clear expectation, and the company can monitor if the expectation is being met. This expectation is common in many organisations, thought the rigour with which the expectation is met seems to vary.

Finally, by scheduling and facilitating the learning dialogue, you can uncover the knowledge that nobody knows they know, until they start to discuss it.


That's how you find the Unknown Knowns.



Monday, 12 November 2018

"Buried Treasure" - A KM selling point to senior management

This is an argument you can use with your senior management, when trying to sell Knowledge Management.
Image from wikimedia commons


Knowledge is a resource you already own; you just haven't properly monetized it yet. 
Any organisation is rich with knowledge, and our organisation pays a lot for knowledge already (60% of the non-capital spend according to Larry Prusak). That knowledge is a very powerful resource, but it's mostly locked away in silos, and in the heads of individuals. 
All you need to to, do release the value of that knowledge, is start to link up the people so the knowledge can be sought and shared.  
You don't need to buy the knowledge - you own it already. All you need to do it free it up to move to where it is needed. It's like a buried treasure, buried in your own back yard, and Knowledge management is the spade you can use to dig it up.
The great advantage of this selling point is that it calls on two primary instincts; the instinct for Gain, and the instinct to not Lose something you already own. It also suggests sunk costs - that you have spent so much on knowledge already - and that KM is a modest on-the-top expense to liberate that sunk cost.

Try it with your senior managers - it just might work!





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