Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Client Inside the Organization

The “wired” patient"

Organizations are already struggling with the "client inside the organization".

Who wants to be the specialist or intern or nurse who meets with this patient in the next half hour?

Thomas Stewart has an really interesting commentary about "the client inside the organization" in this video clip from the Association of Managing Consulting Firms' The Lords of Strategy discussion panel.

Of course, what Thomas Stewart is talking about the connectivity that comes with the Internet. Marshall McLuhan’s maxim: “The medium is the message” is at play. In the early days of the Internet, we thought the Internet was about easy access to information. It is. But we are now learning that the Internet and its associated technologies are about “connectivity”.

This has profound impacts for organizations when we discover that the client that used to wait in the salesroom for the new car to arrive is now inside the organization. “The client inside the organization” behaves much like the “wired” patient inside a hospital. The Internet connected patient today has access to as much information (and sometimes more easily) and interacts with business processes as much as the specialists and hospital staff who are caring for the patient. The specialist is no longer the expert. The conversation about the best course for treatment is disruptive and complex. And of course, the client is right. The choices are about her. She has emergent information that she wants considered.

And we get this result because we don’t have management processes to manage the “client inside the organization”.

The Internet changes the way customers behave. The Internet changes the way organizations organize themselves. And we have to get away from business centred processes to people centred processes. Because that is how people who are easily connected to each other and easily connected to information are going to behave.

If this is not good news for business processes that require efficiency based on acceptance of the expert's opinion (e.g. the medical and law professions), guess what is going to happen to the mass merchandising models at work today. The notion that they are "all about the customer" is going to get turned on their heads.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Knowledge Management "Killer" Success Stories

Linked-In has a discussion group for chief knowledge officers. A discussion thread was started on the topic of "killer" stories where knowledge management had created value. The request came from a consultant who was trying to answer the skeptical senior executive's questions about the value of KM. Below is my contribution to the discussion. KM success stories are not widespread these days because high performing organizations have done KM long enough that the practice and the successes are embedded and part of the organizational culture. So I shared what I think are Canada's best examples of KM success stories.

By the end of this, if this sounds like advertising for the Conference Board of Canada's Knowledge Strategy Exchange Network (KSEN) ..... it is. Any organization in Canada serious about KM would get significant value by joining KSEN. I know I did.

The Conference Board of Canada has a KM CoP (Knowledge Strategy Exchange Network) that includes the big four accounting firms, KPMG, Deliotte-Touche, Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), plus the Bank of Canada, the Auditor General of Canada, Hydro Quebec, the Business Development Bank of Canada and Farm Credit Canada. There are also law firms, various departments of provincial governments and cities involved in the network. The network started in 2001 and with a reorganization in 2003 has supported the exchange of practices and strategy for KM in these organizations in Canada.

As long time practitioners of KM, most of these organizations have significant KM success stories. You don't get continued investment and resources to KM year after year unless senior managers judge that there is value for the organization.

Some of these firms have world class initiatives in KM. For example, Farm Credit Canada has Communities of Practice that evolved to be a key feed of information for strategic planning. Think about it. Who is exploring what is coming over the horizon (for clients, for the practitioners in the CoP, for their organization)? A good CoP will be doing this. The impact of CoPs on executive culture led to a restatement of cultural values and an employee code of conduct. That's just Farm Credit Canada. Hydro Quebec has a deliberate and organizational wide focus on succession management that has driven their KM program. If the deep expert on trouble shooting electricity power line malfunctions leaves the organization, the North American east coast may be at higher risk of a brownout. So Hydro Quebec has had success getting middle managers to pay attention to KM in their work units.

KM is an attribute of high performing organizations and as a result, I doubt that you will find studies that can show definitive rates of return solely to KM. You will also find those high performing organizations paying attention to innovation, project portfolio management, employee recognition, business process improvement, organizational learning and corporate values.

Good organizations consciously do KM (even if they don't call it that). Less effective organizations do KM poorly. But in some fashion they all do KM.
"Killer" KM success stories are out there. But the organizations who are successfully doing KM are not bragging about it because "It is the way we work".

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Most Revolutionary Question, thanks to Fr. Conor Kennedy

What kind of future do you want for your children?

In 1975, while in Malawi, my fellow Canadian, Rick Sutton and I would hang out with a Roman Catholic priest from Edmonton, Alberta. Father Conor Kennedy was originally from Ireland but he hung out with the Canadian CUSO (now VSO) crowd. Rick and I were teaching high school in Nsanje, Malawi through CUSO's auspices. Rick and I had these in-depth discussions about third world development. Rick grew up in the tougher neighbourhoods of Vancouver. I was a country boy from southern Ontario. We sometimes had divergent opinions but common Canadian ideals of what development meant and did.

Father Conor Kennedy had a strong influence on those debates. We would share our CUSO discussions about how to make third world development work. Conor got CUSO funds and support regularly for his parish projects, not because it was Christian or faith-based but because he did some really good development work in his rural community in Malawi. Conor sponsored some primary schools that worked with the simplest of materials but opened doors to children without means for an education.

Conor has a Masters degree in Adult Education (from the University of Alberta, I believe). So when he talked, we listened.

In one of those conversations, Conor said something that has always stayed with me as the most revolutionary concept of what sparks and maintains development. Rick and I were talking about the difficulty of identifying and starting good development projects particularly in the oppressive and manipulative one-party state that Malawi had evolved to.

Conor listened to the conundrums of teachers who were paid by and working for the government and then responded with his solution. Conor had set up parent councils with the schools he was sponsoring. He said: " I just ask my parents what kind of future do they want for their children? Out of that conversation comes the simplest ideas for starting change in a community. We do those projects first and we keep revisiting that question to move onto the longer term, more complex projects."

Conor pointed out the powerful impulses created out of launching that perspective on development projects for the local community. How hard will parents work for the future of their children? Where does the local politician and the tribal chief want to be on those projects? Running to the front to be seen bringing value to the projects. Corruption? You might get away with stealing from me but don't steal from my children. The ferocity of mothers defending their children is not to be trifled with.

We have stopped asking that question about rural development in rural Canada. We have trouble asking that question at the international and national stage when nations and companies invest, invade and defend their futures based on their self-interests.


What kind of future do you want for your children? What kind of future do you want for our children?

Back to Father Conor Kennedy. He still serves in Malawi with the Roman Catholic Church in the Dedze district. During the civil war in Mozambique, his parish was overwhelmed by refugees fleeing to Malawi for safety.

Before you brush off the Christian overtones of this man's work, read this from his days of sponsoring rugby in Edmonton. Conor is a Honorary Life Member, Edmonton Rugby Football Club.

A final word from Conor, where a lifetime in making development happen is summed up in these words:

"Integral Christianity, integral spirituality means ministry to body and soul. You can't divorce religion from the lives of the people. No way. Isaiah said that true religion in the sight of God is to look after widows and orphans. On the final exam, as I understand the Scriptures, we'll be evaluated on one issue: "I was hungry and you gave me to eat." If we don't score well on that issue we'll fail. Feeding people who are hungry is an absolute essential of the Christian church. Christ himself fed five thousand when they were hungry - and they were only missing an evening meal. We have to integrate development with our preaching. We must show that we're active in our Christianity and not just verbal. We must link religion and daily life and not just religion and Sunday worship."

Fr. Conor Kennedy, CSSp
Malawi, Africa