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 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'

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.