Friday, 5 January 2018

You wish to point and sneer? How will that help, precisely?

There have been recent news reports about leaks on-board the new British aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.  The ship is currently undergoing sea trials, during which all systems and crew will be tested before being declared fully operational.

The purpose of the trials is to check that the ship is fit for purpose, and to familiarise the crew with both it, and each other.  In knowledge management-speak, this is part of what is known as 'learning before'.

High-performing organisations invest time and resources in deliberate learning before (i.e. through KM planning), during (i.e. through Peer Assists) and after (i.e. through Retrospects and Knowledge Harvesting Interviews) key activities, to identify key knowledge that can be reapplied in the future, thereby saving time, money and improving performance, quality and safety.

Is the ship meant to be fully operational yet?  No.

Are the crew meant to be fully trained on it yet?  No.

Have time and resources been allocated to enable this 'learning before' to take place? Yes.

Are these so-called 'leaks' normal in ships at this stage of their life?  Yes.

Are they attended and reduced so that the risk is as low as reasonably possible? Yes.

Is highlighting a so-called leak like this helpful in any way?  No.

Does the media care?  Of course not.

In his book, 'Just Culture' (reviewed on this blog here), Sidney Dekker sets out the tensions between learning and accountability and reminds us that the clamour for 'heads to roll' after each and every mistake and oversight almost always has the opposite, unintended effect.  Instead of encouraging others NOT to make mistakes, such caterwauling merely warns others to cover up their errors, thereby ensuring learning does not take place and performance does not improve.

Pointing the finger when things appear to go wrong, finding someone to blame, using words like 'fault' - these are all evidence of a workplace culture that is anything but 'just'.  In such places, learning from experience is all but non-existent and performance way below where it could be.

For a chat about how to develop a workplace culture where learning from experience, before, during and after key activities, please contact me direct or via the Knoco website.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Knoco comes to Dubai!

This blog has been relatively inactive in recent weeks, for which I must apologise. 

The thing is, for the last 2 months I have been discussing and planning and re-discussing and re-planning a big knowledge management (KM) project for a client based in Dubai.

It's taken a significant amount of time and effort, not just to clarify the scope of work, but to clarify what both client and consultant think that scope of work entails.

Well, I am now deployed and approaching the end of my first week in this busy city.  I'm still busy but closer to my comfort zone than before, so will make an effort to blog here, on some of the issues I encounter and the KM solutions we propose and implement.

For now, the kind of work I'll be doing includes:
  • Knowledge Management Assessment and Benchmarking - through workshops and interviews with staff from across the client organisation;
  • Designing a Knowledge Management Strategy - again through workshops and interviews with the client's senior leadership team;
  • Conducting a Knowledge Scan - identifying the critical knowledge areas and assessing the extent to which they are documented or within the heads of a few experts;
  • Running our Learning Culture Survey - to examine people's behaviour and attitudes towards learning and collaboration;
  • Designing a Knowledge Management Framework - to enable knowledge to be discussed, captured, organised and accessed in a systematic way;
  • Creating an Implementation Plan - to set out the sequence in which new elements need to be introduced, at what cost, and by whom;
  • Piloting and 'Quick Wins' - testing and proving concepts, to create value and build support for further implementation;
  • Training - providing the KM team and others with the basic skills needed to manage knowledge, such as interviewing, facilitating, and structuring knowledge.
So, I will be a bit busy!  But, as they say, if you want to get something done, give it to someone that's busy, and I would very much like to hear from anyone interested in KM, either for an informal chat or to explore ways in which Knoco can help ease their pain....

I'll be in Dubai until the end of September and if anyone would like a conversation about knowledge management - either out here or anywhere in the world! - please contact me direct, or via the Knoco website.

Monday, 26 June 2017

How in the world do you do KM?

Hot off the press, the Knoco 2017 Global KM survey is now available!

The survey revisited the topics first surveyed in 2014, such as:
  • Reasons for doing KM
  • Maturity levels
  • KM scope
  • Challenges
  • KM skills
  • Implementation and governance
  • Value created
  • KM budgets
  • Technology
  • KM processes
  • Best practices
  • Lesson learning
  • Culture
  • Communities of Practice
In 2014, we had over 200 responses - this time the number surpassed 400!

For a copy of the survey results, please contact me direct or via the Knoco website



Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Get together with fellow KMers now and then - it's inspiring!


For a few days last week, I swapped Wiltshire’s winding lanes for San Francisco’s frantic streets.  I’d been invited to speak at KA Connect – a Knowledge Management (KM) conference for the AEC industry (i.e. Architecture, Engineering and Construction).  More about my involvement in a future blog post….

The conference was attended by a little over 220 people, drawn from the 3 sectors, and focused on 2 key themes:

·        Critical knowledge – i.e. how to define, capture and manage it;

·        KM strategy – i.e. how to use KM to support a firm’s commercial strategy.

In the parlance of the moment, I took a number of ‘take-aways’ from the event, some of which I’ll explore in future posts but, to summarise here:

·        After so many years of battling the yet-to-be-convinced, getting together with other people that ‘get it’ is good for one’s KM mental health!

·        Twitter enables speakers’ insights to reach the wider world within seconds which, for most people reading this blog, will always be remarkable;

·        Larry Prusak remains the Godfather of KM, and deservedly so;

·        As with military operations, so with life – prior planning prevents piss-poor performance….

More to come….

For a conversation about how managing your knowledge can help improve performance, please contactme direct, or via the Knoco website.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Ignorance can sometimes help innovation....

A great little story in the news today with a couple of insights for those of us interested in knowledge management (KM).

This Telegraph news article here tells how a 16-year old schoolboy on work experience helped address the problems encountered when a heart by-pass surgery patient's records are unavailable and there is no way of knowing what work has been done before.

Observing his father (a cardiologist) dealing with a patient in this situation, he asked whether there was some way of writing a code inside the patient, so that future surgeons would have the information they needed straight away, enabling further surgery to take place without undue delay.

This innocent question sparked an idea, which resulted in his father developing a system

Two observations:
  • The schoolboy was not part of the surgical team and had no direct or relevant experience that might have been helpful in this situation.  However, this 'ignorance' was to his advantage, as it meant he approached the problem with a fresh outlook.  In many day-to-day activities at work, there are times when a new perspective can help a team tackle a problem or improve performance and KM activities like a Peer Assist can help bring different perspectives to a team and new insights to a problem.
  • Thankfully, the surgical team did not suffer from the 'not invented here' syndrome, whereby people resist external initiatives or suggestions simply because they came from an outsider.  This is sadly the default workplace condition and all too often leads to 'groupthink', preventing or inhibiting innovation.  Teams that have developed a learning culture are more likely to be receptive to new ideas.
For a chat about bringing new perspectives to your team, innovation or knowledge management in general, please contact me direct or via the Knoco website.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

These things don't happen on their own, you know....

At university, I read Politics and Philosophy, which included a module called, 'Space, Time and Infinity'.  It was awesome.  I loved irritating my housemates by pretending not to understand vague terms such as 'this morning' or 'tomorrow night'...

Various theories have been put forward to show that time is a real phenomenon, as opposed to a construction of human thinking to help us make greater sense of the world and our place in it.

One of these is the 'entropic theory of time', which I shall simplify, if only to spare my blushes and retain your attention.

Entropy means 'disorder'.  Most things in our world, free from outside interference, will become disordered, thereby showing greater entropy.  It is this direction, from order to disorder, that shows the passage (and direction) of time.  Think of the untended, increasingly weedy garden, the neglected, muddy car or indeed any room in the house recently visited by small children....

So far, so what?

Much of human existence has required our 'interference' in things, to create and sustain the things that enable us to live the lives we enjoy today.  The food we eat, the clothes we wear and the transport we take have all been developed through our deliberately choosing to do things and to continue doing those things.  Some discoveries have been accidental (e.g. some vaccines, hot air balloons, Post-it notes etc.) but our exploitation of them has only been possible through our continued, deliberate efforts.

As it is with human history, so it is with knowledge management (KM).

Without KM, organisations remain in states of entropy, to greater or lesser degrees:
  • New ideas don't take hold and spread without the energy with which (or the channels along which) to move them - which means innovations remain isolated;
  • Lessons don't get identified and DEFINITELY don't get learned, without people making the necessary effort - which means the same mistakes get made, over and over again;
  • Best practices don't get developed, let alone embedded, without a system of creation, review and update - which means performance is inconsistent and the quality varied;
  • Knowledge doesn't stick around when people leave without a system of retention and transfer - which means those left behind have to start from scratch, all over again.
Without a deliberate KM approach, far too many organisations resemble the unkempt garden, the dirty car or the sofa with crayon scrawled all over it:  mistakes are repeated, over and over again; business continues to be lost from failed bids; time is wasted tracking down the guy that did this thing before.

So, KM is not 'natural' and will not happen by itself.  It requires a deliberate decision from senior management to investigate, design, test and implement a KM approach.

We don't have inviting gardens by accident; we don't have clean cars by accident and we don't have tidy houses by accident (nor, for that matter, presentable children) - so why on earth would we expect our knowledge to be managed by accident?

If you'd like a conversation about deliberately choosing to manage your organisation's knowledge, contact me direct or via the Knoco website.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The last 10 problems that clients have asked us to solve....

At Knoco, we get queries of all sorts, with clients seeking our help in providing knowledge management (KM) solutions to a wide range of problems. 

I thought readers of this blog might be interested in a quick run-down of what these problems are, and how we have helped (or might yet do so).

So, in reverse order, they are:
  • A global consultancy, introducing a technology platform to a Chinese client, want us to provide the KM roles, processes and governance to maximise the benefits available;
  • A global law firm seeks our help in getting teams from different geographical and functional areas to talk to one another; we'll be running a short workshop for them, which will include the Bird Island game;
  • A Chinese manufacturing firm has numerous problems of quality, cost over-runs and also its staff take a long time to become competent and generate value; we're currently helping them to develop a KM business case, to justify the investment needed for the project that will help address these issues;
  • A UK-based defence consultancy is looking to introduce KM but is concerned about employee engagement; we'll be running a workshop (again, with Bird Island) to show the value of KM and help them begin their journey;
  • A Middle Eastern utilities organisation has introduced KM but its take-up is patchy, with isolated examples of good practice; they've asked us to conduct a KM assessment and draft an implementation plan;
  • A global jewellery firm wants to introduce KM but doesn't know how or where to start; we've been asked to design and implement a KM pilot project for them;
  • Another global consultancy has many employees spread far and wide, all of whom seek the advice and support of one or two 'grey beard' experts, which continually diverts these high-value staff members from 'big picture' issues; they've asked us to design and plan a KM pilot project for them;
  • A UK regulator has isolated experts, pockets of good practice and virtually no learning from experience; we've designed a KM framework for them, edited their KM strategy and are about to start KM training;
  • A UK consultancy to the healthcare sector has a low 'bid win rate' and fails either to identify or learn lessons from its bids; we've been asked to look at ways of using KM elements to help it win more business, and learn from each new engagement;
  • A global consultancy to the oil/gas sector is introducing KM; we've conducted a KM assessment, designed a framework and trained their 'KM champions'; we've now been asked to provide ongoing support over the next 12 month.
If any of these sound familiar, or you have a different problem, and think we might be able to help, please contact me direct, or via the Knoco website.