Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Framework for Knowledge Transfer

Today I had an interesting exchange in the 'Knowledge Managers' group on LinkedIn. I enjoy reviewing questions posed by the various groups I participate in on LinkedIn but found this one quite interesting. www.linkedin.com
The subject was on the transfer of tacit knowledge and goodness knows I have a few opinions about that.

I posted that frameworks help organize the deeply held knowledge to be transferred from experts, to help make the knowledge applicable and actionable. Again I thought of the complexities of knowledge and the importance of organizing what has been accumulated over years and years of experiences, decisions, missteps and successes. We do struggle to identify what needs to be transferred and what does not. Not only do we need a framework to organize but we need to discern in some objective way, which areas of knowledge should be the focus to apply the framework on. Let's start there.

Unique, relevant and critical are the three terms I use to begin to determine if what someone knows needs to be transferred to the successor or the organization. Why? Because if many people hold the knowledge, is it necessary to transfer? No. It's a commodity.  What if it is unique but not relevant for the future? The expert may know something fascinating about the history or background of the product or company, and that knowledge might appeal to the KM practioner. But does it have an impact, will it matter in the future? Much of the historical knowledge held will matter, it may well provide context behind decisions, structures, processes. But not all of it is relevant and we must discern (with verification) if it is relevant. And then there is the issue of what I call critical. Is this knowledge crucial? One way to consider this is to imagine what might change if the knowledge is lost. Will things slow down, will quality fail, will products be more difficult to produce? Will relationships falter?

Are these criteria for discernment scientific? No. But do they work? My 16 years of experience says yes. I have applied these criteria in many situations and, like the framework, they have yet to fail me. It is less about the criteria being perfect and more that they are practical. Applicable. They are relevant.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Get to the point, what do you want from KM?

Ever experienced this? You have a major issue with a product or process and you need fast answers. You ask the folks near you, and they give you the names of people they think may have some expertise to offer. Two of the three have retired. hmmm...

Ok, so you find the one that's still in the organization and find that she is on vacation. In Bali. No cell phone with her. hmm....

You turn to online search within the company portal. You try search term after search term and you get document after document with titles that seem not to make any sense, and nothing quite on point. Or maybe they are but it will take you hours to weed through to find out for sure.

Now what. You think, "Hey, I know, I'll try Google!". So you look outside your own company to answer a critical issue by using information that you can not verify from sources who may well either be competitors or vendors, reliable or not. What is wrong with this picture?

And yet, when you are asked to participate in knowledge management initiatives, what answer do you give?
"I don't have time." Really. You don't have time? Just how many hours per week or per month do you spend looking for answers to critical questions and not being able to locate what you need?

This is so very common in our organizations today. We have time to spend two hours trying to locate someone who has expertise in the area we are working on, only to find they have moved on or they aren't the ones to answer us, and then an hour or two trying to find the relevant documents only to be frustrated enough to turn to the external searches like Google where we do not utilize the learning of our own organization but turn to information we must then (and hopefully do) validate. Is there not some logic missing in this picture?

What would be logical is to solve the challenge of not being able to use the expertise, experience, information and knowledge your company holds because you can not locate it.

Many companies have some type of knowledge management initiatives they are working on. What is the purpose of the knowledge management initiatives you are asked to participate in? If it is not to meet your business needs, then tell the folks offering them up that they are on the wrong path. Tell them, respectfully, what you really need from KM. And then be prepared to spend the time to make it worthwhile. Do not expect a silver bullet but know that it takes time to identify critical knowledge and experts, and make that available, it takes time to develop the right processes and tools and more than that, it takes time and role modeling to change the behaviors that got the organization into the shape it is now in.  A focus on business value and time to make it work is crucial to making KM effective. Make sure you get what you want from managing knowledge and that you take the time and the responsibility to put your shoulder to the wheel to make it work.

Get what you need from the KM effort by getting to the point. Think of the great work you can do with the hours you would have been spending looking for things you need but can not find. That is where you can get to but not overnight. However, as more people transition from the organization or within it, the problem of finding the expertise will be worse not better without the extra effort. Go for it. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Answer to every problem is community

The quote that is the title of this post is from Meg Wheatley. I heard it today as I listened to a recorded call from the Global Sufficiency Network called "Sufficiency: the Power of Enough".  As I listened to the various presenters I could not help but think how our work, the transfer of knowledge, is impacted by and impacts both the concepts of community and sufficiency or abundance in the organizations in which we serve.

Much of the work that our firm is doing now is around helping companies transfer deeply held knowledge from their long tenured experts or leaders back to the organization. The knowledge they hold is critical and yet so often we hear: who is the next expert to take this person's place. The next expert? I think the radical but honestly much more powerful question should be: who is the community that will take this person's place.

It takes a community mindset to run a business-- it takes partnering, sharing, vulnerability, giving, receiving, assisting, being of service, mindful leadership.--- all pieces of a community mindset. Command and control has not gotten us far enough, or maybe has put us into some dangerous and unsustainable territory. Asking the question 'Who is the community' would require thinking that we have enough time to learn, to teach, to help, to change as well as to produce. How radical is that? Does having time in the organization to teach each other, learn from each other, communicate and collaborate like a community sound like a warm, fuzzy, non-achievable, unpractical or unrealistic goal?

So what will happen if we do not act as a community in business? What will be the impact if we simply continue to work as we are and expect somehow, by some miracle, things will get better on their own?

What is the consequence if organizations continue to ask more from people and provide less resources to accomplish it, and people continue to work harder, to burn out, to not feel they have time to learn much less time or freedom to make a mistake? What will be the impact if people continue to feel the burden of work like a load of stones to carry rather than the excitement of knowing you have the time and resources to do an excellent job, to go above and beyond and to truly contribute to the success and the ability of the organization to thrive, not just for a short term survive?

I do not see clients thriving at the moment. Perhaps, in pockets there may be a sense of real contribution and collaboration but for the most part, I see clients feeling they can not take time to learn. They want a silver bullet -- they literally want a tool for people to share knowledge and never have to be trained on them. They are not asking about how to shift the mindset and change the culture as the necessary backdrop to increase the competencies around collaboration or communication....or learning. Instead they want a stand alone, drop this in type of tool and do not want to talk to the organization, do not want to take the time or see the need to reach out and provide the leadership to say-- we expect you to communicate with each other and share your learning, share your knowledge and here is what that looks like, here is what that means and how it will support our organization's future. They are not building community. Nor are they setting expectations for what they want to achieve by sharing knowledge. They want an instant fix to a much bigger problem.

I believe this is not ill intended but it is the result of the hamster wheel of having to continually do more with less, and the result of an  increase in workload without an increase in competencies. They are worried, frustrated, and feel that they have to run fast, not stop, just get it done. Community looks like a time waster. If they only knew that anything less does not support a sustained organization. Anything less is a short term road to long term failure.

Take time to look at the Global Sufficiency Network. Choose the nuggets that work for you. They offer many ideas about what community looks like, and the actions involved. We need to have the courage to make the changes that will keep us all thriving.

If you'd like more from Meg, you'll find her work here: www.margaretwheatley.com/

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Trust and Impact are Critical to Sustained Success

I had the opportunity this week to work with an amazing client group. This is a group of dedicated folks who take tremendous pride in the work they do, and want to make continual improvements to the products they make. They work hard and they pull together.

There is a deep level of expertise in the group, which each individual calls upon. For the most part, they trust the expertise that lives with key individuals. Leadership also trusts that expertise.

The question being answered was quite simple: Is this the right model to make this organization as efficient and effective as possible? Is there a better way and how do we make that happen? The question should be asked by every organization with long tenured employees.

What might change if the expertise is more broadly shared and all of the individuals knew how they impacted the entire system? What shift would occur if they knew their value to the broader process-- if they understood how what they did would impact the down stream process. How might shared knowledge about their own areas and those around them help them to more quickly recognize and solve problems, knowing that they would be helping those in the downstream processes by addressing issues now? In my opinion, people with great pride in their work and teams would embrace such ability to better understand how they work together. They were ready and we made great strides.

Often, when I approach clients with the idea of sharing the evolution of how their processes or systems came to be and the broader view of the process or system, Leadership believes there is not time to 'dwell' on the past or share stories that are not relevant. I take that as a sign that I have not yet explained the value of knowing why things are as they are, so changes made can be both powerful and mindful. We must be mindful of what went before so we do not simply make a matter worse, or remake a mistake of the past. That mindfulness provides the powerful ability to make very good decisions when systems or process changes are made, when issues are addressed, when innovative ideas are called for.

Having a shared understanding of how things evolved and where you fit in the large scheme of the process or system allows you to be more innovative in problem solving, more engaged in outcomes and have a well placed and increased sense of pride in what you do-- because you understand that you play a critical role in creating the end product and you understand how your decisions will or will not impact the entire system. You can make better, more well informed choices.

We should trust our experts when that trust is well founded. In this organization, the trust is very well founded. And, we should also share that expertise to help others increase their capabilities and competencies, their sense of value and their ability to make a positive impact in continual improvement and problem solving. We need to trust that spending time making people competent, building capabilities, pays off in the end big time. We may great strides to share knowledge in this amazing organization next week. I felt proud working with such a group of people and believe their pride will only increase as they see how they impact their processes and product.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does Knowledge Transfer Enhance Process?

Many of the clients I work with think of themselves as 'process driven'. Of course that term has as many definitions as there are organizations. The concept of 'having a process' can go from thinking that maybe there is an ordered, step wise approach to doing something and perhaps we should think about that to having processes so rigid that improvement and innovation are squeezed out of it like juice from an orange.

Most companies live somewhere in between.

Processes are derived for a purpose, they are created to answer a need. Whether they answer that need well is another story. My questions come from asking: "for the sake of what?" What is the need the processes seek to address? I want to know that before I want to know the process, and that is the knowledge I want to discover, explore and transfer.

It is when we are at the core of the issue that we make the difference. And, it is when people understand why they are doing what they do, what the impact of their actions are, that they feel both bought in and informed enough to do true process improvement. Humans are not meant to do tasks just because they are written down and signed off by the management. They are meant to be 'sensemaking' creatures who use their experience, their understanding, their intellect to make sense of the world. If you want the best from them, show them how they can contribute, help them understand where they fit in the big scheme of the system they are working on, give them context and a sense of impact and the permission to think. Not to change the system randomly, but to make good suggestions based on full knowledge.

All of those things are knowledge transfer opportunities which enhance the process, the people, the technology and the culture. Continuous improvement lies in that fertile ground.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Yes but can you make it real

I am both enamored and impressed by the number of people interested in Systems Thinking. Using LinkedIn, you can join the various Systems Thinking groups that have become popular lately. Systems Thinking World, a LinkedIn group started by Gene Bellinger of Norfolk, Virginia, USA is one such interesting group. The introductions as people join are in themselves fascinating and the discussions can be engaging. However, I agree with those who post about the need to make it real, to make the work applicable for our clients. Theory is critically important and we must continue to push the envelope, to research, to develop new thought. However my client groups need to learn quickly, to increase both competencies and capabilities and to move forward now. Like it or not, that is the reality they face.


It is true, I believe, for all business disciplines-- we must help our clients grow, help them both survive and thrive in this uncertain time, help them understand how to be agile, to attract and retain the best talent, to work across boundaries in ways they have not had to before. They must bridge generations, genders, cultures, geographic barriers, various ways of doing business and they must do it fast and effectively.

My team has been working hard to create tools and processes that can be taught to the organizations with whom we work, tools and processes they can apply tomorrow-- or today. Yes, I introduce new components like Organizational Trust, Learning Organization ideas and Systems Thinking. The difference with the theoretical folks is that I do that real time so the tools can become usable immediately and adults can learn in the way they do best-- by applying them when needed. I do not say this from ego, I say this from a practical position. We need to pull together to help our clients and ourselves be the best we can be. Let's do it by applying what we know strategically and creating the practical tools, processes and change vehicles to help them step into what they need to do to create a brighter future.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What it takes to do the right thing

There are moments I understand why organizations do not always work to build trust, to develop effective communications, to create transparency, honesty, and ethics as cultural standards. Doing business right is not for the faint of heart.
It takes time to talk about values and ethics and tell the stories necessary to translate those belief systems to others. There is nothing quick about building a culture of trust and of holding each other accountable. Some of the conversations you need to have to clarify expectations, set appropriate boundaries and ensure all parties are heard are frankly not a lot of fun.

It is a lot of work, mindful, hard work, to do business right.

But along the way the richness of the learning and the dialogues, the depth of understanding and the quality of work produced are nothing short of amazing. The outcome of putting your heart, your intelligence, your experience, your values and beliefs into the work is that you can trust that what you do for your clients and customers is solid, your decisions are based on the right influences and that at the end of the day you can review all that has happened with pride and satisfaction. 

If you want a quick fix, a fast solution, a band aid approach to business, doing the right thing is not for you. If you are willing to consider the alternatives, think through the motivations, have the conversations, keep open communication flowing-- not only will profit follow but you will have earned every penny of it in all of the right ways. Your employees will be proud to work with you. Your customers will want to keep you coming back. And you will enjoy the time spent with a spirit of fulfillment and pride. It's hard work and worth every bit of effort spent.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Power Of Expectations

I am constantly reminded about the power of setting expectations. As we work together inside and outside of organizations, and as we get to know each other, we think we understand what is expected of us, and that we are clear with others what we expect of them.

I believe that is actually rarely true. Clarity around expectations is critical but not frequent.

For example, recently I was observing a conversation with a small group of clients who were meeting together to kick off a new project. One of the most talented leaders (let's call her Helen) talked about her expectations of others. She said there were 3 levels of expectations in her mind.

Immediately, her colleague, (let's call him Bob), another well respected leader, agreed. They both smiled and nodded as they acknowledge what they believed were their common thoughts about the 3 levels of expectations they held. Ahhh, alignment.

Or at least the assumption of alignment, which held until Bob began to discuss what he obviously thought they both agreed to: "Yes, three levels: a) not meeting needs b) satisfactorily meeting needs c) super pleasing-- above and beyond meeting needs."

The attitude in the room began to shift.

Helen's relaxed body language changed as she realized that somehow she had not been heard or understood. She became uncomfortable. That led to the group feeling uncomfortable without yet understanding why. Helen stopped the conversation, tipped her head and said "No, I'm not sure you heard me. As we both agreed to, there are three levels of expectations: a) satisfactorily meeting the needs b) above and beyond c) way above and beyond--integrating new pieces even the client would not have thought of. There is no expectations of not meeting needs. And there is an expectation of going above and beyond what people think is above and beyond."

A third colleague, Greg, was standing near by listening in, joined the conversation with, "No really, I think both of your expectations are a bit high." As Greg listed his expectations, the other two began to look aghast. And the sudden realization hit them that they did not share common expectations but held each other to standards no one agreed to. There was no alignment. They had worked together for a long time, and assumed they understood and agreed to expectations held.

This could have been a recipe for disaster. Instead it was an opportunity for honest dialogue and communication. As we all began to talk about the assumptions we make that we are not aware of, the colleagues realized there may be many places they assume alignment but only because they do not check their assumptions. When experiences and values differ, even by a few degrees, that creates a set of beliefs and expectations in each of us that we need to illuminate as we deal with others.

Aligning expectations can seem like it takes time, like it is yet one more way of holding hands and singing folks songs. In truth, aligned expectations can save vast amounts of time and money as resources can be quickly targeted toward agreed to goals, employees are working toward the same objectives with clarity and confidence. Trust is built. People understand clearly what is expected of them and are able to work towards those expectations without mayhem.

What a powerful tool, expectations. What we expect of ourselves, what we expect of others, and what we believe they can expect from us. There are few tools more useful or more impactful in business and yet completely overlooked. Targeted, focused effort toward communication and collaboration around expectations pays back over and over again.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ok, I admit, virtual KM is not easy!

When I first started this blog, I thought this would be a way for me to share nearly real time my learning and insights from the KM work I was doing. Never, of course, revealing any client information, names, data but rather talking about the challenges and opportunities that are faced by everyone.

I did not think I'd be experiencing these things within my own organization.

As some of you know, my own group is growing quickly. I have added a few people and may add more in the near future. Everyone is busy and though we have great office space at this point, we also work virtually much of the time.

It is now my responsibility to share with my team, keep them up to date, ensure they have all the knowledge they need, teach and mentor, communicate, collaborate, celebrate their successes...and to do that virtually.

This is not unlike my Fortune 100 clients who are working hard to learn how to be a truly international company. We, as humans, do well to look each other in the eye and talk. We can work virtually well, when we have some of the trust I discussed in yesterday's blog. But that takes time and effort to build.

The crucial components I believe in sharing knowledge virtually is to be persistent, consistent and transparent. You need to continue to communicate, work towards collaboration, get people motivated to do it themselves and not lose patience -- new behaviors around communicating and sharing virtually take time. It will not happen in a week, a month...it will happen when it is repeated, rewarded, recognized-- new behaviors take practice.

I am grateful to get the opportunity to learn these things again, leading such a dynamic team. I'll continue to share those learnings. With patience, consistence and persistence! And a great amount of respect for what we all do to work in the ways our new world requires us to do. These are exciting times!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How Trust and Blame Affects Knowledge Transfer

Trust is one of those concepts, like organizational culture, that most of my clients react to by saying..."Yes, this is critical but too big to tackle". Often that means they ignore the issue, thinking somehow magically it will take care of itself.

The truth is that the longer we wait to identify and address issues in these areas, the more ingrained they become and the harder they are to shift. From a business perspective, not addressing issues like trust can impede speed, decrease the ability to collaborate and enhance organizational silos. Employees who work in a culture of little trust keep knowledge to themselves. Why shouldn't they? If they share, they may not be taken seriously. The knowledge they have to share may be wasted on those who believe they have to know the answers themselves and are therefore not willing to listen or learn, much less be involved in good, rich dialogue.

One of the signs or symptoms of lack of trust is the 'blame game.' Yes, you recognize this, I am sure. And, I am sure you realize what a powerful detriment to innovation and collaboration the blame game is. To be honest, I not only witness the blame game in many client organizations, but have seen it evolve to the 'shame game' as well.

Somewhere along the line some organizational cultures have shifted to where employees forget that they have a business arrangement with their companies, a contract, to provide their working hours, time and skills to increasing success and share price while upholding the values and ethics of the organization. When the culture allows or encourages people to put their own success ahead of the good of the company, employees are not fulfilling their obligations to their employers or to the shareholders. In truth, this is not a win for anyone. This is not the formula for sustained success.

The blame and shame games make it quite difficult, and certainly not safe, for innovative thinkers to come up with new ideas, new ways of addressing persistent and critical business problems. If the price of implementing a well considered new idea might be public criticism or humiliation by fellow employees, why would anyone take the risk and try something new, no matter how important it might be to the sustained success of the company?

I am deeply concerned that behavior such as talking behind people's back. feeling like for you to win someone else must fail, being rewarded for keeping yourself both safe and visible is allowed. how do we move forward, create agility, enhance collaboration and innovation in a culture of such deep distrust.

And how do we share the critical knowledge needed for our organizations to survive and thrive?

To that end I have now intertwined the great work being done around trust into the practices and processes for transferring knowledge. These issues can be addressed but they must first be acknowledge. Integrating work of such talented practitioners as Paula Love and Richard Hews allows me to create even more impactful and practical practices to help my clients sustain success. I am committed to being honest about the trends and patterns I see, and working with great collaborators to develop practices and processes to help clients address those patterns. We are all in this together.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Site That Grabs You By Your Curiosity

The caution was 'be careful, once you enter this site you'll want to spend a lot of time there'-- and it is oh so true.

Nearly every day I hear people say they are challenged to get people to be interested in the information/knowledge they want to share or perplexed about how to present what people really want to know.

The answer, they proclaim, is that if it is not immediately usable, people will not be interested in the information

WARNING: This site will debunk at least some of those ideas.

The site I reference here is 'Structurae: An International Database and Gallery of Structures' http://en.structurae.de/index.cfm

In knowledge management we spend a great deal of time talking about immediate relevancy and how important it is to make the information usable at the moment people want it or they will not take the time to look.

Well folks, I am no architect, nor am I a structural engineer and I have no desire to build or remodel a home. Yet I am fascinated to learn about the structural details and construction methods of everything from a refurbished apartment building in Paris to the Pyramids.

Why? Because we are all curious, at least to some extent, about the world around us.

We forget that people are people and that around the globe we DO have some common experiences. One of those is that we are surrounded by structures that peak our curiosity or grab our attention. Those structures we do not experience in person, we see in pictures and this is a place to learn about them in a level of detail that feels as though we are voyeuristically looking in on a personal database, something we are not usually allowed to see.

Is it perfect? No. Do I care that it is not perfect? Not in the least.

Let's do more in our own work to tap each other's creativity and curiosity and let go, just a bit, of the immediacy we are so addicted to. We all need to look up and look out-- look at our world not just at what sits on top of our desk or is articulated in our goals. Let our goal be to explore the world around us. This site is a great place to begin that journey.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pop-Up Knowledge Management

Frequently we talk about the need and the benefit of transferring and reusing experience and knowledge from one function or department of an organization to another function or department. Although the benefits go without saying, cross boundary knowledge sharing is not common.

Although the organization already has the knowledge, culture often does not encourage or enhance the possibilities or looking elsewhere for applicable ideas. Even as I write this, the logic of NOT doing that eludes me and at the same time I realize the difficulties in working across boundaries.

In the same spirit, looking outside of our usual realm for ideas from other industries, ideas presented to solve problems similar but not the same to our own is very useful and can be economically prudent. Like recycling and reusing materials, recycling and reusing our ideas brings us forward more quickly, with less time and effort.

So, today I looked outside of the usual ideas around knowledge management to the concept of Pop-Up Retail.

The idea of Pop-Up retail and Pop-Up stores is not new but it is getting increasing publicity. Why? Because it is a fast and inexpensive way to create a buzz about your product or service, sell items quickly and learn from your new customers.

Trendingwatching has done a number of stories about Pop-Up Retail over the years as well as lately http://trendwatching.com/ and the July issue of Inc had a story about How to Do Pop-Up Stores http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100701/how-to-open-a-pop-up-store.html

Why do I bring that up? Let’s take the concept and reapply it.

Let’s think about Pop-Up Knowledge Management (KM)or Knowledge Transfer (KT). We usually talk about the implementation of KM as a long process requiring perseverance and patience. Ok, so humor me here….What if we tried, as one part of our strategy, to use Pop-Up KM or KT?

If we apply the principles from the INC article, we concentrate on the buzz we could create to get the KM word out to the organization, the inventory we could let go (or the processes we could introduce to the audience), testing new products or vetting new business ideas. I don’t know about you, but I see the fit.

Jazz up the introduction of KM by creating very quick, impactful KM (and re-usable) activities like our ‘Active Learning Sessions’ , after action reviews, quick lessons learned, or even the 3 key questions to ask during meetings:
1. What is the most important thing we learned during the meeting
2. Who else needs to know
3. How will we inform them?

Do not make it difficult but do make it meaningful. Choose the right topic, create fun and easy to use materials and invigorate the audience by creating a buzz. Use internal blogs, meetings, posters, internal social networking,….or something very dramatic like email or phone calls to let them know the Pop-Up KM or KT is coming.

Let people know the process is available for a short time, let them know why, let them know how to use it and let them know what to do with the results. Then, make sure you communicate the results.

No, this will not shift the culture alone. Pop-Up KM is only one part of your KM strategy.

It will, however, create some excitement, some fun and help make KM or KT much more trendy and interesting. Be creative! Enjoy sharing the idea of KM and celebrate the outcomes, not matter how big or small they may be. Keep the momentum going!

And try something from another industry --- do this type of thing occasionally so people get used to the idea, are reminded to try it again, see that they are rewarded in a fun way for using it, make it part of the positive part of the culture

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reflection as a Key to Success

Reflection. What does that mean?

You think of seeing your reflection in a mirror, in a still pond. You look at YOU, carefully, critically and hopefully, honestly. You look to assess what is honestly in front of your eyes. You determine what is working and what needs to be changed. It is a useful exercise, not always easy but very helpful to ensure you continue to look your best, to improve.

That is also true in an organization.

Reflection is key not only in managing knowledge but to sustained organizational success.

Assumptions rule us, they often rule behaviors and actions. We assume many things. We assume we know what our problems are, what is working for us and what is not. We assume we are well aware of our biggest challenges and our strengths.

Reflection is when we challenge those assumptions. We take in the information around us, the signs and signals, even the nuanced or subtle ones and assess them to challenge our assumptions. Reflection is necessary for sustained success.

Let me give you an example. Many of my client organizations are multi-national --even the smaller organizations now do business in a number of countries. The world has gotten smaller, technology simpler and cheaper, it has become easy to do business in many countries.

However, very few companies know how to actually WORK GLOBALLY.

We assume that because we have locations and employees in a number of countries that we know how to work globally without challenging that assumption. We assume we know what it takes to work globally. I would make the assertion that we are not familiar with or perhaps do not truly embrace the competencies, behaviors, beliefs and actions it takes to effectively work on an international basis.

We will do more with this in upcoming blogs, but I challenge each of you to take time to REFLECT on working globally. Check the assumptions. What does it take, what are the challenges to working globally? What competencies do you need and does the organization possess those competencies? Can you identify the assumptions you hold or are they so ingrained as to be difficult to recognize? What information are you getting about those assumptions?

For example-- when you are making a leadership decision, do you seek input from those in your location or do you, on a regular basis and as a habit, seek the input from those in your most remote locations? Do you collaborate as easily and often with India as you do with Boston?

I would wager that some of the assumptions you make about your ability to work globally are off base. Gather some information, get some opinions and some facts and assessments. Check your assumptions. What have you got to lose?

Reflection. It is a valuable skill and it takes courage, honesty and time. Without it we can be following each other off a cliff. Reflection is a key component to enhancing and using knowledge globally.

The Magic (No Kidding!) of 3-D printing

Reading the New York Times yesterday I discovered a magical way of taking the innovation that lives in our minds, tacit innovation, and make it real, workable...useable. The process is called 3-D Printing.


3-D printing is the process of layering materials, such as plastics or metal, one on top of each other like thin layers of cake. Through this process, those inventors who normally have to raise huge amounts of capital to see their creations come to life, can create a prototype of their inventions and test their work. Now, new companies have spouted up to use 3-D printing for everything from designer furniture and hotel fixtures to clothing. This is a great use of innovative technologies, and provides the opportunity to quickly learn how a new design will (or will not) work.

This exciting technology is allowing inventors to reach for the moon, and then build the bridge to get there. Or the space ship. Or a flying space suite. I could not wait to blog about this great technology and to think about the possibilities.

Is it possible we have taken not just a step but a leap toward removing barriers from bringing our ideas and wildest dreams to life? Companies like Freedom of Creation and Contour Crafting are using it to create models of buildings and artistically colored artifical limbs.

What an amazing way to take what we know, what we have learned from each other, stretch that knowledge to the limit and create whatever comes to mind. Innovation just got another leg up.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Work Life in 2020

A few weeks ago Gartner released their report on the key changes of the nature of work for 2020 and CIO Magazine did a story on it August 4th.


As I read the top 3, I was struck by how often we say-- it is not the technology, it is the people and the process. Yes, technology can enhance but will never replace the human aspect of work.
And now, that seems to be new news.

Gartners' Top 3 Key Changes in the Nature of Work for 2020

  1. De-Routinization of work
  2. Swarming
  3. Attention to Pattern

What do they mean by the De-Routinization of Work?
"The core value that people add is not in the processes that can be automated, but in the non-routine processes, uniquely human analytical and interactive contributions that result in words such as discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning." The report goes on to say "Non-routine skills are those we can not automate. For example we can not automate the process of selling life insurance policy to a skeptical buyer, but we can use automation tools to augment the selling process."

Ok, so does that not mean that in 10 years (Really, 10 years??) we will be back to doing what humans do all the time-- we will use our own tacit knowledge and experience to innovate, collaborate, work together, lead and follow, team together and we will do that without the benefit of some type of electronic system? And, this is a new and upcoming trend we must prepare for now?

If that is the case, I have a whole new language for explaining to my clients about my work-- my current work--to guide them to the benefits of identifying and sharing critical tacit knowledge. Now I can tell them that to prepare for the new wave of the future, to be cutting edge, leading edge, they need to start learning to communicate well, to innovate, think originally and critically, share their ideas and their ways of thinking rather than share only their answers. They need to work on team work-- virtual, fast, effecient teamwork. They need to know how to advocate for ideas and how to listen and inquire about others innovations.

In other words, the message continues to be the same. Though I am heartened again to know we are on the right track but when did the need for human innovation and collaboration become such new thought? My deep desire is that it does not take us another 10 years to see the value of sharing our contextual, deeply held knowledge and to innovate using our experience, insight and creativity with the enhancement, not replacement, of technology.

We have the benefit in our society of incredible technology, brilliant advances in all types of systems and machines, that are continuously faster, more powerful, smaller and sexier.
Yet it all comes back to people, to what we do with what we learn and how we do that together in the most effective, effecient, mindful and respectful ways.

I'm glad to hear that I am cutting edge. It should not take a Gartner Report to tell us that we must be innovative, to be continually learning and that we need to do it together.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Beauty of Brilliance: IP from the UK

Inventions, the truly useful, clever and elegant types most especially, are inspiring to look at and even more so when you are able to learn about the background of the concept. The BBC has put forward a wonderful narrated slideshow providing background into some of the most innovative marketed ideas from Great Britain in the past 10 years.


The slide show is interesting on many fronts. First, it is a visually compelling view of some well known British innovation--you'll recognize Dyson's new fan concept or Yoomi, the self warming baby bottle or the Gocyle. In addition the presentation provides the context of how the inventions came to be. The inventors themselves provide a bit of advice as well.

This is good knowledge sharing-- visually stimulating, intersting, contextual. I recommend watching it for enjoyment, for a bit of learning about IP and as another way to transfer knowledge in our organizations.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Data Visualization -- a Must Read

If you have not seen the David McCandless video 'Data is Beautiful' on the YouTube TED Talks series....it is a must view.

Not only will you see the power of Data Visualization as a way to quickly make sense of and see trends and patterns in data, but you will learn a great deal about the global economy. Yes, the video is 21 minutes long-- and it will be 21 of the most incredible minutes spent in a long time. I would chance to say it will shift your thinking, especially on the benefit of visualizing data.


As Knowledge Managers it is our responsiblity to make good use of data, to anticipate and prepare for challenges and to also identify those issues which we might fear but probably not the issues we should be fearing.

David talks about the quote "Data is the New Oil" but his response is that "Data is the New Soil" because it is such fertile ground.

Data visualization is a tool to clarify problems and identify solutions. It is also a powerful tool for us to understand the viewpoints of others, reflect on our own viewpoints and to deeply examine each.

I highly recommend you watch this video. Think about what data means in your role, your company and your life. The theme of how to look at the patterns and trends, and how to use this to help organizations be smarter, faster and more agile will emerge again and again in this blog.
We must do it carefully, mindfully, but we must do it.

Nicely done David.

Monday, August 30, 2010

We Can Connect, But Can We Learn?

As I am doing a bit of research for a client, I am struck by how much and how little has changed in the world of Knowledge Management. I started doing this work in 1994 and realize that I was lucky--I began developing and using the concepts of knowledge management because I had a business problem to solve! So, right from the get-go my work was about solving problems.

In contrast, KM was often thought of in those days as the next great consulting opportunity and therefore was sometimes a solution LOOKING for a problem. That is a very bad way to do business.

We quickly realized, while problem solving with KM, that one of the big benefits was building bridges across all types of boundaries. Organizations were growing as fast as the economy and in the mid-90's the economy was rocking and rolling. We connected people to people and people to data/information and thought life was grand.

The marching of time provides another view and increases our abilities and the complexities of work, life and the world.
Building bridges helps-- but in these times of less resources, little time, no money...people often don't have an understanding of how to use the connections and sometimes not even the permission to do so, based on time, level or goal orientation.

I do not mean to say every organization now has the ability to connect to what is needed across boundaries and that workers have easy accessibility to the knowledge they need for their jobs. No, those problems still exist.

What I am saying is that there is also an increasingly large challenge for workers to know what to do once they find the information or knowledge they need. Do they have the time to act on it, the right to make changes, the ability to bring it forward. Does management allow them to USE the information (learn from it, apply it, discuss it, share it) once they HAVE connected to it?

Do workers at all levels have time to learn?

To make sense of the data we so painstakingly created, identified and connected people to, we have to have the time to reflect, to ponder, to try, TO LEARN....and the critical thinking skills to know what criteria to use, what influences and thought processes, to make good decisions with the knowledge we can access.

Life is complex. Let me boil down what I see. We have the technology and processes to help people find the data, information, knowledge and expertise they need inside and outside the organization--IF the company takes the time, money and resources to implement them.

We also need the time to reflect on and learn so decisions made are well considered, forward thinking and sustainable. And, we need to have enough contextual information and experience to understand how to make sense of the information and knowledge provided to think logically through a decision, considering all of the factors, influences and understand the potential outcomes.

We need to connect, reflect, learn and think critically.

To make the endeavor worthwhile, we also need to share what we have learned. Can you imagine the power in that? It is not just about getting people to the information. They have to know what to do with it. The organization must give them the skills, the competencies and the time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Do You Have Time for Google Realtime

Seems everyday tools, gadgets or widgets are popping up to help us with our intense online information overload...often just to keep us aware of the information we are overloaded with.

I wondered if it would be the same with Google Realtime. I was curious to learn if continual updates of online info on my topics of interest would be useful to me or simply remind me of all of the information I did not have time to wade through.


I choose as my topic Knowledge Transfer. To those of you who might raise an eyebrow and say...hmm, how about painting or cheesemaking for a change, I do have other interests. I wanted to find out if my work could be enhanced by online listings. So, I chose my topic and set a daily alert for myself.

So far, the jury on the question of information overload is out, but the tool is quite fun and probably useful, especially for anyone who spends a lot of time searching or surfing.

Mostly, I use it to quickly view what's being said, to spark new thought, to build on what I am working on or thinking about. It's still about context and connection for me most of the time, but if I want quickly take a pulse on what's up out there...this tool is worth the small amount of effort required.

The short video on Google Realtime's homepage is worth the time to quickly understand what is available.

Is Social Media No Longer a Conversation?

Mitch Joel, in his blog "Six Pixels of Separation" talks about the end of conversation in social media. Before some of us Baby Boomers have even caught on to the power or potential or possiblities around social media, the communication has already changed. In Joel's view, and I tend to agree, there is no longer actual conversation in social media, but simply feedback.


As I read the blog I could not help but relate it to what happens in an organization when the culture is less than trusting. In a less than trusting culture, few people feel comfortable standing in a place of not knowing or in a place of curiosity. They don't ask big, wide open questions....they ask safe, less risk taking questions. They are less vulnerable, they are less apt to let on that they are beginners. Couple this with intense workloads and reduced resources and you have little time for honest, open, big, wide, juicy, exploratory conversation.

I wonder if that is true now on the web and in social media as well? Because everything we say or respond to or dialogue around can be found and reported and re-read, re-tweeted, re-published, have we lost trust and the ability to engage in authentic dialogue?

Did we ever have big, wide, open, honest, exploratory conversation online?

If not, we should have...the web and social media allowed us to reach out and connect to minds and views and experiences we could not have reached in this lifetime. What a great time to really, deeply, mine and explore and learn.

Perhaps Mitch is right. Perhaps blogs are now simply a place to publish with a bit of feedback, but only one way feedback, and tweeting is simply too constrained for real conversation. Which leads me to wonder if we have missed a rare and beautiful opportunity to delve into some of the deeper questions with those you would have never had the opportunity to meet through other means, to ponder the mysteries of life, to dialoge around why things are the way things are and how we might shift them for the better. I wonder what you think, what your questions are and what the dialogue, the conversation would be around it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just the Facts, Nothing But the Facts

As mentioned, I've been working to transfer my knowledge about knowledge transfer to new colleagues. To do this, I'm using my own processes.

My first question to myself? What about what I know is unique, relevant and critical. Those are the three magic terms that help me separate the knowledge which MUST be transferred from all of the other areas of knowledge (Abba lyrics perhaps?) which we hold and do not need to transfer. Some readers may argue that Songs like SOS must be kept alive. True, but not by me. That knowledge is not unique to me-- it's held by many others who can retrieve it much faster (and more accurately) then I. It is also not critical (my business is much more likely to survive and thrive if I do not sing to my clients) nor relevant.

My experiences and stories however are.

This is not meant to be about ego, but about sharing what I am learning, or I should say what I am re-learning.

Often when we are transferring knowledge to others, we believe the most important areas to focus on are the factual aspects or the technical information. Yes, the facts are critical but without context, without an understanding of how the knowledge was applied, the situation it was used in, the influencers and intended outcomes, there is less relevance.

More so, the knowledge will not be retained and will be tough to reuse.

Stories put things into perspective and context. Stories are how we transfer behaviors and beliefs. Stories allow us to provide the whole picture. And, stories are what we remember.

I have a lot of stories. As I transfer knowledge about knowledge transfer, I am able to say why I did what I did, what else I considered, what I intended as the outcome, what the actual outcome was and what I learned from that. I can talk about things that worked beautifully and things that did not, and what I would now do differently. Like the experts with whom I often work, I am finding the telling of stories rewarding as I remember the details, the people, the work.

Stories give us a sense of our own growth and learning, just as they provide context for the listener.

Next time you are transferring knowledge and you want to go to the facts, keep in mind that providing the richness and color of the surrounding stories will make those facts come to life for the learner.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My own knowledge transfer during transition

The term 'walking the talk' has taken on a whole new, and powerful, meaning for me. For the past 16 years, I've helped companies in transition identify and transfer business critical knowledge.

Now, it's my turn.

I have brought a number of new people into the fold here at KLHagen, including two new associates (well not exactly 'new' but more about that later), two talented consultants and a fantastic business manager. What does that mean for the business?

It means increased capacity, expanded competencies and capabilities and enhanced service offerings. KLHagen is moving forward.

What it means for me personally is that I must walk the talk. It means I am in the process of identifying and transferring my tacit knowledge about tacit knowledge transfer. 16 years worth of processes, ideas, learning, experiences, insights, hints, tips, thought processes, alternatives, watch outs, success criteria, rationale...I think you get the picture.

And, it's very good for me.

I chose experienced people with strong backgrounds and their own unique, critical and relevant competencies and areas of expertise. I know they are open-minded learners who stand in curiosity while applying all of the years of experience they bring on board to make excellent decisions for our clients. All that being said, I still had to consider how to share the deep experience and expertise these years have brought me.

I will give you an overview of that process in upcoming blogs and provide my own insights as I walk my talk. And, I will introduce you to my new colleagues.

Life ensures we keep learning lessons and getting better at what we do...as long as we are present and authentically show up for the learning. I'm blessed to have such great people to work along side and with on this journey.