Category Archives: Knowledge management

The real treasure

On holidays, we visited the village and the castle of Brançion, in France.


The audio guide mentions there is no hidden room with the gold and silver treasure. No, the real treasure was the archive. Sounds like the first knowledge management problem : ‘If only we knew what we know."

This is fourteenth century knowledge management.

Pic by PhillipC.


Birds twittering foto

I started using Twitter a couple of weeks ago, with the primary intention to synchronise my status messages on all the networks I’m a member of.

After two weeks, I realized people use Twitter to communicate (= ask questions and give answers).

And some are really good : Just look at a recent question about knowledge management maturity models.

Stan Garfield answered with a link to this presentation. V.P. Kochikar describes 5 levels of knowledge management maturity.

What I really like is the baseline of each level … :

Level 1 : “Knowledge, we’ve got plenty of – what we need is to work hard!”

Level 2 : “We need to leverage all our knowledge, but we’re too busy to do that”

Level 3 : “At least we’ve made a beginning in managing our knowledge”

Level 4 : “We’ve reached where we are by managing our knowledge well, and we intend to keep it that way”

Level 5 : “We’re sharing knowledge across the organization, and are proud of it”

Sounds familiar ??

Picture : David James Campbell

Stealing versus using knowledge

In the October 2006 edition of Knowledge Management Review, there is an interesting article from Chris Collison. 
Currently working as a KM consultant at Knowledgeable Ltd
, he used to work on the KM program of BP (British Petroleum) and Centrica.
In the article (about barriers to effective KM), Chris describes how an informal recognition program was introduced to encourage people to look beyond the boundaries of their own unit for good practices they can adapt and adopt.
The program was called ‘Steal with Pride’.  If anyone could demonstrate that they had stolen an idea from another business unit, applied it and created value, they got a colourfull cuddly parrot on their desk for one month and a 250 $ gift.
The strong message this program gives, is that the value of knowledge is in the use (reuse) of it.  It encourages people not to invent the wheel again, but to use a wheel which was not invented here.
This reminds me of a story by Steven Warmoes : we are conditioned by traditional eduction with it’s personal examinations to use only our own knowledge.  Copying an answer from another student can be severely punished.  In real live however, copying is allowed.
We have a tendency to reward the innovative character of a new idea, but we should reward the value when the idea is realized.
The value of knowledge is in the use of it.

Getting started with Knowledge Management

How do you get started with Knowledge Management ? 
I hear this question from time to time and it made me think on how we started with knowledge management.  When our first intranet was born, I managed to have a section for the R&D department (where I worked at the time).  It consisted of static webpages, for communication purposes only, and I made regular news items.  However, I consider the real start of Knowledge Management when I was asked to create a list of all our development projects.  At that time the R&D activities were spread over several locations, and simply have an overview of all ongoing projects was already a challenge.  Since a list has only value when it is accessible and updated, a web based system was created, which evolved in a project portfolio management system in the end.  Having a list of project code names was a good start, but then gradually the needs evolved :
  • can we have seamless access to the project key documents
  • can we let the project managers upload the key documents
  • can we create project work spaces where all project documentation can be stored and shared

Concurrently, the Quality Assurance department was looking for other ways to distribute our production procedures and specifications.  They found a way to stop the regular shipments of printed binders to all production sites and started posting on a shared file server.

When the two married together, this was the foundation for our current system, forming an integration of collaboration and document management.  Originating in a ‘lab’ environment (R&D and QA), most other technical departments were not very enthousiast to use it too, also the IT support was not great.  We were tolerated but that was about all. 

Currently, we have a new global platform and more and more people see the benefits and are using the system as a day to day working tool.  My role has changed also, from preaching the benefits, to helping people desing their business processes to make an optimal use of the systems we have now.



Knowledge Management for federal governments.

Our Community of Practice (SuperCop) of knowledge management practioners was introduced to the knowledge management program of the belgian federal government. 
They have in place all the success factors we know from the KM textbooks :
 – management support for the program
 – strategy and vision for knowledge management
 – KM champions in each department
From their KM toolbox covering e-Communities, guides for selfevaluation for a department, structured action plans and more, I was very by the senior-junior process.  They face a structural problem that over 10.000 people in the government adminstration are about to retire.  To ensure an efficient knowledge transfert from the retiring people to the folks that will take over the job, a structured methodology has been created.  When some one, about to retire, is identified as having a specific knowledge which needs to be transferred, a structured process is started to contact this senior person with a junior person who is to take over the job. A formal charter is made up between the two.  Some of the tools used are explicitation of knowledge, question asking, modelling, … And the final accountability is with the head of the department.  He is involved from the beginning and gives his offical ‘go’.
So if you were thinking that government administrations are boring and old fashioned, I can assure, the belgian federal government is setting up some good landmarks in the knowledge management domain.

Email for collaboration

I gave a training session yesterday on using our collaboration platform.  For project teams we usually create a dedicated work space with areas for document storage, virtual meeting rooms and forums for discussion/communication.  Traditionally, email is used as the tool for collaboration.  Teams send emails with attachments and every team member keeps a personal archive in his email archive folders (of course with a back up on the corporate server).  No need to say that the number of projects that have once started and since then stopped without any trace left, is considerable.
Most people see the advantages of central document storage and centralised project communication when I talk to them, but after the training session, they all return to day-to-day business … e-mail.
Apparently I am not the only one who is confronted with this, I found this recent blogpost on the same subject. By the way the blog of Jack Vinson is on my RSS list.
People say they hate email, but they live in it and feel at home I guess.
My next year strategy : "If you cannot beat them, join them."
For next year I budgetted an upgrade for our discussion forums (will call them communication forums or something by then).  This upgrade will allow to mail to a forum.  The project team will then no longer mail to the team, but mail to the project work space, where the communication (with attachments) is archived, while for the users, the interface will continue to be their email.
Hope it works …
PS I use attached picture to demonstrate how we currently work in projects (unfortunately pictures do not work well on this weblog)

Metrics for knowledge management

In the recent AOK series, a discussion was about measuring the impact of knowledge management, and how important metrics are to justify KM efforts.
Tom Barfield resumes as follows :
‘Unfortunately, what I gather from all this is that no one has developed
really solid key performance indicators (KPI’s) in the area of
connecting people with each other (or other aspects of knowledge
Today, Debra Amidon points to the 2006 Global CEO Study – "Expanding
the Innovation Horizon". :
‘Not only does it make the case for business model and operational
innovation (in addition to the traditional product/service innovation),
it documents the case for collaboration with an economic analysis of
performers and underperformers.’
This Global CEO Study is a bundle of STORIES, from CEOs for CEOs. 
Numbers are OK, but we are convinced only by what is behind the numbers, that is why stories are so important.  My previous blog entry was also about a story, which was better than any measurement one can find.
If you are not familiar with AOK, it stand for ‘Association of Knowledgework’.  Jerry Ash organizes monthly ‘Star Series’, where a KM star initiates a topic and coaches the discussion around it.
Interesting and worth the small contribution required.

Good teachers and better teachers …

Joitske Hulsebosch made an interesting post about how she is learning her daughter bicycling.
When comparing the progress both of her daughters are making, she remarks :’the teacher cannot take full credit for a rapid learning process’.  I am currently in a teaching period, and this remark reminds of not to be too vain when students pick up wath you teach them. 

Transferring knowledge

Last week I was on a whole week training session in North America (London, Ontario).  I was giving the training – or what did you expect 😉 …
The objective was to train one or more expert users in using our document and collaboration systems, in a kind of train the trainer situation.  I train a key group in each continent and then they spread the word in our plants.  Some observations :
 – the amount of available training material is huge : manuals, quick user guides, frequently asked questions, small topic movies, …  I present all this to the expert users, and in the end they asked me to put together a Powerpoint presentation … and this ended up being very powerfull
 – I did several online web meeting sessions upfront, but the whole week physical presence makes a huge difference.  Physical presence generates a much stronger commitment than telephone calls.  Also, it allows to sense the mood of the audience … who is picking up what, who is falling asleep (also important). 
 – I have a lot of stories about the use of our systems and share all these in an easy format other people to use, but somehow they do not easily pick up a story which they have not lived themselves.  I never did a real storytelling masterclass, have been reading some of Steve Dennings material, but I still struggle to make these kind of ‘universal stories’.

What is the value of documents without people ?

Steven Warmoes posted an excellent entry on his weblog about the value of documents related to the people who created the document.  The theme is : ‘Do you believe what you read ?’
The essence is that although documents (explicit knowledge) certainly do have value, what we do with this knowledge (believe, copy, rework, use, …) depends on our relationship with the author.  Is he (she, the community of practice, the government, the group of friends, the department, …) trust worthy, is the source a relevant source.
A good practice principle to keep in mind when developping and installing document management systems : the author of the document is as important as the content of the document.
15 – 20 years ago, I was send to these seminars where I specialised centres tried to turn me into a manager.  One of the recurring themes there was that the efficiency of my decisions was equal to the quality of my decisions, multiplied with their acceptance.
Never used it until now, but it helps to bring clarity here.  The usefullness of a document for me is related to the quality of the content and also to my acceptance of it, based on the document context.  This includes the author and his or her fame and trust worthiness, when and where it happened …  But also my own situation, what and when is happening to me now.
So it looks like value does not add up : the value of a pile of documents is not the sum of the value of the documents, but simply the value of the pile …