Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sharing What Works

CompanyCommand is one of the U.S. Army's communities of practice. It is a space for commanders of companies (150 men) share and discuss tough issues of command.

The Canadian Forces has its own unit that focuses on lessons learned.

The U.S. Army may not be the first place where you would think to look for communities of practice or rapid information sharing websites. But the reality is that learning fast from what worked and didn't work is a critical skill set in today's army.

So there are strong reasons to pay attention to what the U.S. Army is doing and learning about knowledge management and fast learning. Here are some deep articles that get to the variety, processes and tools of knowledge sharing that the U.S Army is finding useful. Nancy Dixon (author of Common Knowledge) has been working with the US Army on the process side of its knowledge sharing and knowledge management. In her blog, "Conversation Matters", she has been posting some enlightening articles about her experiences in guiding KM in the U.S Army:
  1. Company Command: A Professional Community That Works
  2. If the Army Can Put Its Doctrine up on a Wiki, You've Got No Excuse
  3. A Wiki for Generals
  4. Do We Really Need So Many Kinds of Social Media?
The last article is especially enlightening in describing the processes and tools that a large organization legitimately needs to share policy, business processes, mentor, collaborate, innovate, challenge existing practice. Knowledge sharing does not happen in one space or with one tool. There are legitimate reasons for diversity and a variety of tools.

There is a Canadian connection to the U.S. Army's CoPs. Tomoye Community Software is a long-time software company supporting communities of practice based in Ottawa, Canada. Tomoye has provided the software to some of the key communities that Nancy Dixon talks about. Here are some of Tomoye's links to their analysis of the US Army communities of practice:
  1. Company Command.
  2. Army Logistics Net LOGNet Case Study
It is no coincidence that Kent Greenes is now part of Tomoye's Strategic Advisors along with Nancy Dixon. Kent started his work in knowledge management by focusing on fast learning by project teams for better performance as CKO for British Petroleum. He has pioneered the concepts of Peer Assists and Learn Before, Learn During, Learn After.

Organizations need to see communities of practice, information repositories and social media tools in the wider context of what is important and necessary for the organization to share quickly in order to execute and innovate.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Conversation about Knowledge Sharing

Conversations can be entertaining or sometimes they are nothing to howl about. You be the judge!

Dr. Kirby Wright teaches a course in Knowledge Management as part of the Master of Arts in Communications and Technology at the University of Alberta. A team of his graduate students approached me for an interview as part of their project in the course. They have created a blog at Their blog is well worth a visit for a critical view (in the terms of a critique) of the state and future of knowledge management.

The interview is posted at Thanks to Carolyn Dearden for editing the interview down from 40 to 24 minutes. You get the nuggets without the sidetracks I can roam down sometimes.

So, if you are interested in my take on the state of KM, click on "KM Cafe chats with KM Expert Neil MacAlpine".

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

David Snowden's Seven Principles of Knowledge Management

Snowden posted an update to his three rules (heuristics) for knowledge management. He has expanded them into seven principles. They are good reminders of the principles of knowledge sharing. They provide a starting point to examine conventional wisdom on how humans learn and share knowledge. Since my experience in KM is that I forgot the essentials on a regular basis, I regularly remind myself to review them.

David's post, from Oct. 10, 2008 is a good place to begin.

His seven principles are:
  • In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge.
  • Everything is fragmented.
  • Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success
  • The way we know things is not the way we report things.
You need to read David's posting to get the full value of these principles. Without a regular dialogue on these principles, I find I am bound to repeat my past failures.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

You Have No Idea How Good You Are!

Tori Holmes, rowing the Atlantic Ocean

Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for creativity in the school. Watch the video to see what he thinks creativity looks like.

The simple reality is that youth and young adults are no
t challenged to find their real skills (usually not academic). Nor are they encouraged by parents, teachers and mentors to discover how good they really are.

Case in point: The young lady at the oars was 21, fresh from the Canadian prairies when she became the youngest woman ever to row across the Atlantic Ocean in 2006.

Tori Holmes is from Devon, Alberta, in the flat, dry Canadian prairies. She was keen about athletics but not an athlete. She was k
een about studies and art but not an academic. In many ways, she was an ordinary student in high school.

What made Tori exceptional was her sense of adventure. When Tori finished high school, we knew Tori was not going to follow the typical path to university or college and studies. She headed out for adventure. In her travels through Australia, she met a kindred spirit, Paul Gleeson from Limerick, Ireland.

The two happenstanced onto the Atlantic Rowing Race, "the ultimate test of the human spirit". Tori was hooked and the two non-rowers learned to row a one ton rowboat. Tori is 110 pounds soaking wet.

The 2005-06 Atlantic Rowing Race
from the Canary Islands to Antigua was beyond human limits. The tail end of a hurricane, two tropical storms and 3 low pressure systems created 40 foot swells. Six boats out of the original 26 had to be rescued. Tori and Paul, in a field of Olympic trained rowers, finished 13th in the race . To finish was an overwhelming achievement of perseverance and courage.

Tori and Paul's book, Crossing the Swell, launched on Oct. 4. Part inspirational adventure story, part travelogue and part romance, Crossing the Swell is an honest and intimate portrayal of what perseverance and commitment is made of. It is a terrific read and a bargain at $20 from Rocky Mountain Books (RMB) and Chapters/Indigo.

Tori and Paul invested in what they were good at, their sense of adventure, their commitment, their persistence. If we figured out what we truly were good at, invested $120,000 in a goal to leverage what we good at, would we have an amazing story?

Tori and Paul have an amazing story.

Now do the same from the organizational perspective. What is your organization, company, department really good at. Ask your clients and customers and partners. What they tell you may surprise you. And then take a look at Appreciative Inquiry to discover and build on how good your organization really is.

Jim Taylor, Roylat Corp Inc., has some practical guides and worksheets in Appreciative Inquiry to lead organizations through discovering how good they are. Jim Taylor's workshops are excellent introductions to build on the positive for change.

The Future of Knowledge Workers, a Survey

Termite Fishing: Collaborative Learning?

KM World magazine has a two-part report on a survey about the future of knowledge workers. Done by George Washington University and the Institute of Knowledge and Innovation it surveyed 125 professionals and executives. Executives and senior managers constituted nearly half of the respondents.

As you might expect, the top type of work in the future will be collaborative work (global consultancy, project design team, etc.).

The top rated skills for a young knowledge worker were team/collaborative skills followed specialized technical skills. The skills for future leadership were project management as the highest skill and expertise, followed by strategy and strategic thinking, and specialized expertise.

The top priority for new technology to support knowledge workers was collaboration tools. The range of tools described is daunting for an IT shop to integrate and support (from enhanced e-mail, search and portals infrastructure, virtual workspace tools and information processing tools for visualization, expertise location and business intelligence). Find that package in one integrated reliable software package!

For the future manager, enabling better decision-making and leadership support through content analysis and sense-making tools and business intelligence capabilities was identified. Those experienced in sense-making and business intelligence would likely argue that while software can help in illustrating trends and issues, the real work of sense-making and business intelligence is one of appropriately facilitated and focused conversations.

No one seemed to identify the challenge of on-going learning and tools that support learning, especially for new knowledge workers. While e-learning software may have reached the "trough of disillusionment", the challenge will be more acute in the future.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Recession, the Knowledge Worker and Human Resources

Even in a recession, like a bad penny, the concept that staff are knowledge workers keeps returning to haunt organizations. In eight months, the search for competent workers has flipped to retaining talent and keeping organizational knowledge intact while downsizing.

And Human Resources (HR) is expected to have the ideas since they understand organizational learning and training.

Unfortunately, most organizations will learn what HR already knows. The techniques and processes that helped new hires learn quickly are also the techniques and processes that help retain organizational knowledge as people leave.

In short knowledge sharing techniques of:
  • communities of practice
  • mentoring
  • lunch and learn sessions
  • business process maps
  • expertise directories of staff
are just as useful for retaining organizational knowledge as they are for fast learning by new employees.

What won't work is exit interviews, the mind dump from departing employees.

The Experienced Manager Builds Capacity for Learning in a Down Cycle
Experienced managers recognize the opportunity in a downturn. It is an opportunity to train staff and build capability for new business opportunities once the recession recedes. It looks like you have about a year to get new organizational learning initiatives going.

Communities of Practice are Organizational Learning on Steroids
At the top of HR's list of "things to do" should be communities of practice (CoPs). All the other techniques can happen as supporting activities to CoPs. Communities of practice may be already present in your organization. But they get more robust if a corporate sponsor steps forward to validate them, even if it is only to buy lunch. What really makes them robust is if HR steps forward to provide corporate support for:
  • organizing an agenda
  • recording minutes
  • keeping a team space active.
Without corporate support, most CoPs are like volunteer organizations, flagging after the passionate volunteers burn out.

Starting communities of practice for organization benefit is not wise. Nancy Dixon, author of Common Knowledge, had some critical advice to Farm Credit Canada that is not captured in the conventional guides to CoPs. The HR professionals who started the CoPs found the CoPs were failing. Nancy Dixon pointed out that communities of practice follow a modified Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
  • What's in It For Me?
  • What's in It For Us?
  • What's in It for the Organization?
You need to solicit "What's in It For Me?" anonymously from CoP members to get the topics that will have them show up for the next CoP meeting.

But once communities of practice fill the personal and group learning needs of staff, be prepared. They will also evolve to sharing strategic information. In Farm Credit Canada, the corporate support unit that supported CoPs evolved into a strategic business intelligence unit.

Communities of practice can be HR's role in strategic information management for the organization.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Information Management Taxonomy, a teaser

Here is a snapshot of Alberta Agriculture's draft of what taxonomy would look like for the corporate support processes in information management. This is only a partial picture of this category.

But in terms of the structure of a functional taxonomy, "Information Management" would be considered a FUNCTION. "Information Access Management" would be considered a Sub-Function and "Information Request" would be considered an activity.

So in the Government of Alberta model there are three levels. Nominally there is a fourth level, tasks. But for the most part information will be classified with enough granularity with three levels.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The (Hopeful) State of Information Management

To Hope: Look with expectation and desire (Concise Oxford Dictionary).

Information management (IM) is at a hopeful state. And just in time. Finally, enterprise document management systems are getting sophisticated enough to support the emergent systems of information classification and information metadata. With that hopeful, emergent development, information management will bring enough structure to unstructured information so that it can be managed.

Information management is a fundamental support to knowledge management. Most organizations find that organized enterprise information is as essential as a library is to a university. In the early days of knowledge management, there was a rush by software companies to proclaim that their e-filing systems could be leveraged into knowledge libraries. Unfortunately, in the early days, most of the software companies and many early knowledge management gurus journeyed into the information jungle without ..... librarians.

Librarians and libraries get no respect. Witness the page ripping from priceless historical documents and the upending of book racks in the movie "Angels and Demons". Bad, bad Robert Langdon. But with names like the Dewey Decimal Classification system, it's no surprise that eyes glaze over when information classification is discussed.

Nor do records managers get respect. There was a time when nobody touched the business and working files of an organization except administrative assistants who were trained in the arcane rules of records management. Staff or managers who had the audacity file their own files were taught through the dreaded "the file the manager put away and never could be found again" experience. But when personal computers arrived on staffs' desktops, administrative assistants were downsized and information chaos arrived unfettered. Every new information sharing technology
(e-mail, instant messaging, websites, blogs and wikis) came without information organizing rules and tools .

To cope, businesses created information duplication, which became mislabeled "information overload". Information storage was cheap. Search engines promised easy retrieval.

Librarians and records managers became Cassandras, warning of apocalyptic melt-down. Pick your poison: system crash, e-Discovery, information security breaches. Only on business critical information (websites, legal documents, executive correspondence and advice to executives) did the organization make any effort to manage the information. But that happened behind the scenes and usually with the bare minimum of staff training.

So, of course, knowledge libraries failed.

And of course, the real message of early knowledge management got lost. There is critical information, how to do work and business intelligence, that all in the organization needs to be able post, find and discuss. Today, we expect to find this information on the business' intranet portal.

The hopeful state is the emergence of generic and now practical metadata standards. Metadata is data about data. Much of this experience is coming from the web content management systems. Metadata is necessary in web content management because content owners (authors) need to be reminded when their articles becomes stale and need revision or removal. Metadata is needed for the publishing process (and it can help in findability, mashups and value adding information).

Information classification systems for corporate business processes are now reaching the generic state. My last project before leaving the Government of Alberta was to look at an information classification system for corporate processes. The revelation, slowly being digested particularly by the records management community, is that if you want staff to take ownership of their information, you have to approach it from their perspective of corporate and business processes.

In "functional classification" taxonomy, the word "function" is (nearly) a synonym for "business process". With that revelation, the reasons for a enterprise content management system start to make sense. There are business processes. Map the business process; define where information comes into and out of the business process; build the information classification system and the enterprise content management software to support the business process. So focusing on corporate support services processes (human resources, finance, IT, IM and yes, knowledge management) has led the Government of Alberta to a generic information classification system. It's about 80% of the way there.

In the words of Gerard Vaillancourt, Acting Director for Information Management, Alberta Agriculture, "This is found knowledge. We can take this as tablets of stone and not reinvent the wheel". So the hard work of Teresa Richey, Director of Information Management, Alberta Employment and Immigration, the training and promotional skills of Karina Guy, g2 Management Consulting and the Service Alberta IM crew have gotten information management to the hopeful state.

Of course, you could take this as a promotion for the ARMA National conference next week (May 31 to June 3) in Edmonton. You will find some of the historical issues of information management on the agenda but you also find a hands-on session process mapping. See the detailed program.

Finally after a decade, the promise that led Tom Davenport to collaborate with Larry Prusak on "Working Knowledge" is within sight. Davenport's field is business process management. The alignment of information management software and information architecture to support business processes is getting near. It will finally make knowledge libraries and the corporate intranet provide the support for
business intelligence and how to do work that Davenport anticipated.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Social Media, Mack Male and knowledge sharing

At the end of Mack Male's presentation to the Edmonton KM Network on April 2, I gave him high praise. I told him he was a different kind of animal.

Mack D. Male is a software developer in Edmonton. But he is also a knowledge connector in Edmonton's start-up community. One of the organizers and presenters at DemoCamp6, Mack D. Male has been a guide to Twitter (Edmonton Journal article, Mar. 7). Mack is both a leader in promotion of social media tools and someone building social media tools. ShareEdmonton is his version of how to aggregate and share events going on in Festival City.

People like Mack are quite rare. It is his ability to work behind the scenes and then to advocate publicly that combined with his skills as a software guru make him a different kind of animal. He is someone to follow (on his blog, via Twitter, via DemoCamp).

Here is his April 24 interview about Twitter on CityTV

Mack gave one of the most insightful presentations on social media and particularly Twitter that the Edmonton KM Network has heard.

His Twitter 101 slides are available at:

To view his presentation to the Edmonton KM Network Click --> Social Media 101

As a person interested in really good information sharing, I can learn from Mack.

Mack and Cam Linke are pioneering new ways of succinct knowledge sharing and networking. See the Gateway article on IDEAfest and DemoCamp6 on the way they get succint knowledge sharing to happen in a 15 minute presentation/question period.

And if you are interested in seeing this process in action, attend a DemoCamp. Next one is n May 13th at 6:30 at the University of Alberta ETLC Room E1-017.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wisdom is personal

Ron Weisenburger says wisdom is personal.

This is not the normal reaction of a dog to an intruder at his dinner bowl.

Could this dog teach this behaviour to another dog? Not unless the other dog was a little bit wise to the intruder too. Not unless the other dog trusted the wisdom of the "wise old dog".

Wisdom cannot be taught to the unexperienced. You have to be a little bit wise to want to listen to wise people's stories. But wisdom is shared through stories.

So, if we want to learn wisdom, we listen to wise people's stories.

There is some acceptance that knowledge organizations that employ knowledge workers exist. Consulting engineering, accounting firms and law offices could legitimately argue that they are knowledge organizations.

And there are some that argue that wise organizations need to emerge (See "From learning organization to practically wise organization"). With every collapse of the American stock market, there are calls for more ethical banks, stock brokerages, etc.

I am venturing into philosophical territory that I am not competent to talk about.

So, I offer a practical observation. I have only ever seen one wise organization.

If a wise organization has a well defined path of learning and service for its members, a clear set of operational principles for the organization, mentorship, a clear, simple (hard work to get to simple) purpose, then you might to look at Alcoholics Anonymous as a model of a wise organization.

Surprised? Take a look at the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, the role of the sponsor and "The Big Book". And purpose? Check this out: Information on A.A.

I think that if you are thinking of a wise organization, your challenge is to model A.A.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Common Myths About Knowledge That Hold Us Back

At the end of our Edmonton Km Network meeting last week, Stu Muir, Tri-Global Solutions, asked a really good question. "What are the common myths (about knowledge management) that are holding us back?"

Some in the earlier posts in this blog address some of the misconceptions that get in the way of encouraging and coaching really good information and know-how sharing. But the diagram above offers up a simplistic and ultimately dangerous model, The Knowledge Hierarchy.

David Snowden challenges this model in his blog "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement". And bless his soul, I have seen where Larry Prusack referenced this hierachy.

Every time I have a conversation about knowledge management, this model usually shows up. I have heard Deputy Ministers and CEOs reference it. It is popular because it is simple and it is dangerous because it is too simplistic. When Peter Drucker introduced the concept of a "knowledge worker", he wasn't thinking that the organization also would move up this hierarchy to become a "Wise Organization".

Data is translated into information. Information moves up to knowledge. Knowledge coupled with experience becomes wisdom.

To see the fallacy of the model, add "management" to the end of each of these words and then ask the question: "Can you actually manage it?"

Data management, yes and for most organizations, absolutely essential. Information management, certainly some information and not easy. Knowledge management, critical knowledge and hard to do. Wisdom Management, who wants the title "Director of Wisdom Management"??

Let's cut to the chase. All your customers and clients are interested in is really good information (that they can use for making a decision). They don't care about your know-how or what you know about. Really the only person who does is your supervisor. But your customers and clients rate your expertise on whether you provide really good information.

Really good information requires the sieve of the expert's know-how. Understand this and then you will start to see where you can help staff and the organization generate and share important information.

Please leave The Knowledge Hierarchy outside the door when you talk to your Executive about knowledge management to improve critical information sharing. While this hierarchy may seem to be helpful in arguing for a knowledge management strategy, remember this. All they are truly interested in is how your initiative will help the organization generate and then share critical, strategic information.

If we must discuss knowledge, recall what we know and don't know. "We don't know what we need to know until we need to know it." That is the challenge for individuals and organizations and no amount of data to information to knowledge to wisdom is going to solve that.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

When We Don't See the Baobob Tree

This is the picture I never took the first time I was in south central Africa.

The Baobob Tree is pretty unique (and strange) but relatively common in the southern Rift Valley of Malawi. You would think that seeing a tree this unique would require taking a picture. But this became a classic "can't see the tree because of the forest" story. Within in a month of working in Malawi, baobob trees just became part of the landscape. In spite of some outstanding specimens in Nsanje, I never took a picture. They were unique to a newcomer but part of the savanah for the locals. And while they were certainly noticeable, I even took for granted their importance as a local food.

A couple of meetings last week flagged that organizations are at risk of not seeing the "baobob trees" in their midst. As the recession digs deeper, the pressure is on to justify existing projects, collaborations and training. Even more important is to move onto the new and innovative that will position the organization to stay competitive during tough times.

Organizations are at risk of not seeing their core cultural and competitive strengths because they are taken for granted; simply assumed to "happen" and in some cases, something to be discarded in the rush to downsize and trim budgets.

Organizational learning, knowledge sharing and other corporate supports are easily at most risk. They are hard to explain; focus on behaviour rather than outcomes and require regular coaching.

But they also guarantee the highest levels of performance for organizations. When a team or corporation is not able to repeat their performance levels from the previous years (for example the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2008), you first have to look to changes in behaviour if there hasn't been significant changes in personnel.

Knowledge sharing is a behaviour. It is easy to have a slump and difficult to recover once the slide has begun.

Organizations looking at their competitive advantages for the future have to be careful to avoid the practice of not seeing the baobob trees. They are the competitve advantages that are taken for granted and if properly leveraged will be the platform for the next level of innovation in the organization.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's about the social

"It’s not about the media, but the social. We crave to be social." Dean Shareski.

The Edmonton Knowledge Management Network is getting going again on Thursday, April 2, noon, Boardroom 5L, 5th floor of the Commerce Building. The reason I am talking about an event that those outside the Edmonton area (Alberta, Canada) can't get to will make sense if you persist in reading.

Mack D. Male (his blog is MasterMaq) is talking to the Edmonton KM Network about "Social Media: What to pay attention to?"

Mack is a high end user, advocate for Twitter. And the reaction to Twitter has been the same as we experienced 14 years ago with the Internet: "A time-wasting play toy and worse an information channel we can't control". Welcome to the 21st Century.

I can't make the case for Twitter and other social media tools for enabling conversations. Mack Male will do that two weeks from now. So look for some posts after his presentation. In the meantime, I will direct you to Dean Shareski's blog for some insights.

Dean Shareski is a digital learning specialist in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. His website is a treasure trove for those trying to navigate their way through organizational learning and technology. Framed with an uniquely prairie perspective, his observations bemuse and incite me (hopefully you as well).

"In Praise of the Pop-In" is Dean's commentary on the need for the social in our life and how it has eroded as we have gotten more organized and busier. His comment is that Twitter has become the ultimate "pop-in". And the Internet enables connectivity so that we can "pop-in" with folks that perhaps we never or rarely see face-to-face. He then goes on to describe how he sees schools using these tools for learning. You can generalize those to organizational learning as well.

Dean finishes talking about serendipity. My version is that it is the opportunities created in having conversations that creates serendipity.

Serendipity does not happen by chance.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Learning on Steriods, DemoCampEdmonton6

I attended my first DemoCamp, Friday. A group of young IT entrepreneurs taught me about effective knowledge sharing and the power of a passionate community.

Mack D. Male has a very good summary on his blog (MasterMaq) so I won't repeat the details here. I'll just say that Mack is a bit too modest in his evaluation of what was the demo of the night. I was interested in the concepts that might have legs. Mack's concept of aggregating "what's going on", activities in the Edmonton area, would be pretty attractive for websites that are trying to create real presence around a location. Taking the idea further, I think he is onto something if you consider trying to aggregate events around a topic or area of interest.

While what was being demonstrated at DemoCamp was very interesting, from a guy interested in how communities work and share knowledge
, the process was what caught my interest.

Each Demonstrator was given 10 minutes to show what their "in-development" software would do. Then there was 5 minutes for questions. With 140 people in the room, the essentials of the concept got a good critique. Then it was on to the next presentation.

5 presentations. Over in just about an hour. Out the door to the SUB bar for the real information sharing. I didn't go to the bar so I know I missed the most important part of the process.

But what impressed me was the tools to share information before the presentations (Twitter was up on the projection screen). Video cameras recorded the demos. And the level of information sharing and honest critiquing.

Short, intense and yet you walked away with enough information to keep your brain churning on the potential of the concepts presented.

As a forum for sparking and furthering innovation, DemoCamp works.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What I have learned from IT

Here is a somewhat overstated summary of some key principles you should understand if you work with IT. This is not taught in MBA courses (and it should be). That explains why organizations (private and public) do such a poor job of leveraging their competitive advantage through software and hardware. Most business managers and Chief Information Officers do not understand these principles.

In fact I would argue that if a Chief Information Office (CIO) or a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) cannot take the one-liners and provide the paragraph of explanation, you should not hire them.

  1. Software salesmen lie: Software salesmen say that they sell integrated suites of software. They say that their software will work with other companies software (open standards, supporting third party software). But you don't have to scratch very deep (sometimes just below the company branding) to realize that the components are built differently and integration is a code word for customization after installation. e.g. Microsoft Office is an integrated suite. NOT.
  2. The primary work of IT is software and hardware integration: See above. Nobody has any idea of how difficult, complicated and frustrating software and hardware integration is. There is no repeatability in software or hardware installation. Update one software component and the ripple of unanticipated integration issues can bring the entire network down. IT's primary work is not software scouting, implementation and maintenance. It is the continuous task of troubleshooting and developing custom software to deal with integration issues.
  3. IT prefers "one throat to choke". IT prefers single source supply versus best of breed. See above. If IT can catch software salesmen in a lie ("we have an integrated suite"), they can force the software supplier to troubleshoot and solve the integration problem. Buying "Best of Breed" allows software salesmen from one company to point to software salesmen from another company and say: "They Lie; their product is the source of your problems. Not Us". IT is forced to become software developers and integrators in order to stitch software applications together. This is why your IT people know the software better than the software developers.
  4. Business rules precede software: Software salesmen love to talk directly to business users. "Business users understand their needs best". This is patent nonsense. Business users, shown a shiny sports car, will want a shiny sports car when what they need is a minivan. Until business users do the hard work of defining the business process, the workflow, the supporting information in and out of the process, they do not know what they need. And they certainly can't define a hierarchy of wants. Because software is built over time to satisfy many wants and needs, the tool becomes a giant "Swiss Army" knife. Business users get lost in the complications of the Swiss Army knife when they need a steak knife. The whine: "It's too complicated" is a symptom of software purchased before business rules. Simple takes work.
  5. The pathway to innovation and business improvement leads through IT: Every time a CEO, a deputy minister or a politician announces a new innovative way to do business, the people affected hear the message and turn to ..... their computer. If they can't find the supporting tools and information there, the innovation is stillborn. The innovation or the process improvement isn't real until it shows up in the tools that people interact with.
  6. The business management guru that came up with the concept of IT outsourcing should taken out and shot: See above. If the people who work most closely with business units in improving their business processes and developing the underpining software supports for business innovation have their work outsourced to ...... India??? What about intellectual capital that the organization needs to keep close for competitive advantage? Isn't that at work here?
  7. Nobody says Thank You: When IT works well, things just arrive at your computer. When things break, work stops. Guess what IT hears about. Consequently, some very intelligent and gifted people get cabbages and contempt much more regularly than thanks. See Number 5. Can your business afford over time to erode the enthusiasm of intelligent and gifted people? Nobody says Thank You to IT. So it is incumbent for those who work closely with IT to do it on the organization's behalf.

So Thank You, IT.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

People are canny

They will appear to conform. (Larry Prusak).

The fifth rule of thumb for Knowledge Management is from Larry Prusak, coauthor of "Working Knowledge" (with Tom Davenport). "Working Knowledge" came out in 1998 and is one of the foundational textbooks of Knowledge Management.

This rule of thumb is about change and it is not unique to knowledge management. But because knowledge sharing is part of change processes, you do have to be conscious that people will be canny; they will appear to conform.

So watch the crowd.

This is particularly true with communities of practice. If they operate long enough, they start to be agents of change acting horizontally across the organization. And the inevitable question will arrive: "What the !!*%#@?? are those people doing?"

Which is why communities of practice need to look ahead and be ready to make their case with a Term of Reference that describes how they add value to the organization as well as the fundamental value they bring to individual members and the community of practice.

While change management is very useful in describing the specific project management steps and processes of a change process, coaching knowledge sharing processes and tools is more free form.

So if you are supporting knowledge sharing in an organization, particularly communities of practice, be canny. Managers will appear to be supportive (some, at heart, are not). Some CoP members will seize the opportunity to advance their own causes under the banner of the CoP. The two in combination set the scene for the accusation that "the inmates are running the asylum".

Your role is to sift through the players and determine whether
truly they are "willing". If not, be canny yourself and recognize that all appearances aside, they are not partners in knowledge sharing.

Partners meet two criteria:
  1. They are willing
  2. They are able.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I know more than I can say

And I will say more more than I can write down.

David Snowden's heuristic, rule of thumb, "I know more than I can say and I will say more than I can write down", takes us to 21st century Knowledge Management.

With this rule of thumb, David Snowden solves a long standing debate in knowledge management about “tacit knowledge”, knowledge in people’s heads and “explicit knowledge”, knowledge written down. How do you get the “tacit knowledge” out of people’s heads and into “explicit knowledge” written down in knowledge libraries?

And the social media gurus need to pay attention to this as well because all the talk about chatting, twittering, blogs, wikis, Facebook comes into focus once you understand this rule of thumb about knowledge sharing.

I know more than I can say: What do you know? More that you can say.

And I will say it first and say much more than I can write down.

So where does really good information first emerge? In conversation. And really good information may never get beyond that. What is easier to do? Talk for 5 minutes or write for half an hour?

Everyone I know in knowledge management starts to think, work and support conversation processes. David Snowden moved onto narrative analysis. Dave Pollard defined knowledge management as enabling enriching conversations in a community. David Gurteen is a master of facilitating knowledge cafes.

Why? Because really good information, really important information emerges first in conversation. What do I know? You can't capture all that I know. And I can't get it all out. I would be writing for years and much of it would be useless to the current issue of the day. So what you and I want to capture is really good information (which is transient because it is good only for the current context).

Where does it first emerge? In conversation.

Because "the medium is the message" and the Internet is about connectivity, the tools that are shaping our future are tools about connectivity (enabling conversations). So as you puzzle over the rise of Facebook, Twitter, texting, and blogs, return to David Snowden's heuristic:

"I know more than I can say and I will say more t
han I can write down".

Monday, March 02, 2009

I know what I know when I need to know it

"I know what I know when I need to know it" is another of David Snowden's heuristics, rules of thumb, about knowledge management.

Even more insightful is David Snowden’s corollary: “I don’t know what I need to know until I need to know it”.

Contrast what you know with what a computer knows about its information. Indexes, directories and lists of files. A computer knows instantly what it knows. Can you image what it would be like to be continuous aware of what you know? Insanity? What we know is more closely related to how this guy knows than to a computer. Malcolm Gladwell leveraged off David Snowden’s rule of thumb to write a book. “Blink” is about instinctual knowledge and how we make decisions and then construct reason trees to justify the decision we arrived at instantaneously because “I know what I know”.

David Snowden’s rule of thumb makes more sense of how we discover what we know (or don’t know) than the more famous and convoluted “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know. ” from the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in a 2002 press conference.

Worst of all, there are “unknown knowns” (Donald Rumsfeld missed this one). These are the things that we don’t know that we know, things known by part of the organization but not by the rest. This happens frequently in families, illustrated by the shriek from a teen-age daughter: “I didn’t know that you needed to know that!!”. To our chagrin, this also happens in organizations, sometimes with the same level of consternation and generally identified as a “lack of communication” at a future date during the retrospective.

The problem is that technology and knowledge libraries and frequent communications help but do not solve this problem. This is the way we are wired as primates to know what we know.

As a species, we have been communicating knowledge for a very long time and have gotten very sophisticated about it. Which leads us to the next rule of thumb.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The 21st Century Learner, You Tube videos

Thanks to Ron Weisenburger for sending me off to You Tube to see the first video linked in this blog. The second video I discovered while checking out associated videos.

Click the links to see what 21st Century Learners are looking for, what they are doing

Youth (and only youth??): 21st Century Learners.

Us: A View of 21st Century Learners

The inter connectivity we take for granted with the Internet and new technology tools is causing a profound cultural transformation. We assume the World Wide Web (www) means Whatever, Whenever, Wherever.

It affects us in our learning. It is the air our children breathe daily. It affects the clients we interact with as we coach and point to change.

It's about conversation. It's about the co-construction of information and knowledge. We are experts. Yes ....and No. We co-construct our most useful knowledge with our learning community, our clients, our peers, our gurus of expertise and experience.

It is about conversation. Knowledge management is about enabling really good conversations. If you are helping people engage in conversations, you are a knowledge manager.