What an unforgettable KM boss does


Leadership creates leaders, not followers, taking them by the hand (Credits: Growwear / FlickR)

Leadership creates leaders, not followers, taking them by the hand (Credits: Growwear / FlickR)

I am just coming back from Arusha, Tanzania where I was with a colleague who recently shared an article about what unforgettable bosses do. A very useful article, though quite general…

…so a good opportunity to examine what an unforgettable KM boss does.

Much of the rationale for bosses in general (in the linked article above) still applies, of course, to KM bosses. Yet there are specific traits that KM bosses should also be doing to lead by example. All these have to do with the basics of KM of course: conversation, documentation and learning. Oh, and that little something extra…

Social leadership for KM bosses (Credits: Intersection Consulting / FlickR)

Social leadership for KM bosses (Credits: Intersection Consulting / FlickR)

Conversation: Be ultra-social with a purpose

Unforgettable KM bosses should always be approachable and keep their door open. They should always be the first to share information with relevant people, to be active on social media, to ‘be there’, not to be shown, but to be useful.

Their trademark is to connect people and ideas together to create opportunities for improved action etc. and to make it happen, with creativity, engagement, fun and passion. To be ultra-social, but with a purpose…

Leadership and organising one's information for learning needs (Credits: Anselm23 / FlickR)

Leadership and organising one’s information for learning needs (Credits: Anselm23 / FlickR)

Documentation: Let information flow, simply, and for the people

Unforgettable KM bosses are processing information at all times. Strategic and operational. They let it flow and try to simplify it as much as possible.

In order to do this, they organise information management for their team appropriately and consistently, they create routines for themselves and for others, they encourage everyone to get into personal knowledge management to also (among others) get on top of their own information management routines.

In doing this, they have a keen eye for every detail of that info-structure, but they keep people at the centre of it. Information never supersedes people. Because it’s people that get jobs done, not information…

Learning: Increase the ripples of reflection

Unforgettable KM bosses put all their greatest efforts into learning, because that is what makes them and people around them more effective and also happier. So they do some or all of the following:

  • Review actions on a very regular basis with their staff. From simple after action reviews to larger evaluations;
  • Coach their staff to get the best of them, and to facilitate their own learning – as in the apprentice model;
  • Recognise their own mistakes and draw useful lessons from them – and similarly invite their staff to recognise their own mistakes to distill important lessons from them;
  • Organise regular touch-base chats to get additional feedback loops, without dragging on (one could re-engineer the famous Einstein quote to say: “everything should be shared but not everywhere all the time”)…

And that little something extra…

Transformational Leadership (Credits: GeorgeCouros / FlickR)

Transformational Leadership (Credits: GeorgeCouros / FlickR)

In order to be truly memorable, much like other bosses, KM leaders should be able to inspire collective action. This happens if you do the following:

  • Create an informal atmosphere, which is all the more important since KM feeds off trust;
  • Seek perfection but know when to settle with the 80% (or the quick & dirty) is good enough, again keeping people at the centre of attention;
  • Seek the next challenge, always, and motivate your staff by drawing them onto the collective vision, and bringing KM right into that bigger picture. Stimulate your staff to see that bigger picture and that next challenge at all times;

No doubt, quite an ambitious program, including for me as a newly promoted manager… Well that’s my next challenge then ;)

As for employees, we know what the portrait of the modern knowledge worker looks like already…

Related blog posts:

Killing my darlings: the workshop


Last week I facilitated a really hectic workshop on the fascinating topic of ‘community-based adaptation (to climate change) and resilience in the East and Southern African Drylands‘. A number of us (in the organising team) wondered at a point or another if the workshop was the best venue to create new meaning around this complex topic.

Workshops... are they still any good to express ourselves and create new meaning? (Credits: UNAMID / FlickR)

Workshops… are they still any good to express ourselves and create new meaning? (Credits: UNAMID / FlickR)

Simultaneously – aaah serendipity… – my friend Amanda Harding posted about ‘Reinventing the workshop‘, giving the example of an event (that suspiciously looked like a writeshop, if you ask me though).

Perhaps ‘workshops’ are indeed past their prime?

And since change is here to stay and we have to facilitate it, one of the things we’ll have to do on a regular basis is to kill our darlings, our pet ideas and approaches, our professional hobby horses.

At least review them critically. To see if they still strike a chord in our changing environment.

 

So one of my darlings is about to be killed right here: THE WORKSHOP

Particularly if the objective of ‘THE workshop’ is to carve out new grounds…

The problem of wishy-woshy workshops… Idealistic without a focus…

Amanda points in her post (co-written with Red Plough‘s Terry Clayton) that the workshop has become a ‘meme’. And indeed a number of things are wrong with workshops: They can be terribly designed and end up like orchestrated death-by-Powerpoint anti-learning operas; they may tend to solve everyone’s problems without any clear focus (see meme here); badly facilitated, they can actually contribute to worsening understanding AND relations between people.

But what I’m thinking about here, together with another mate who attended the same workshop last week is this:

Even if well designed, even if well facilitated, have workshops not become a standard solution that we revert back to, in a standard mode and in our comfort zone?

Where is the triple-loop learning here?

It’s not the first time that I have my doubts about workshops and what they can achieve… And one of my conclusions is that despite the best intentions probably the single most important aspect remains building and strengthening connections and relations: the social weaving. But that doesn’t stop me from looking at possible options.

Isn’t there an alternative?

Should we not follow the example of the World Bank’s John Heath (see 12th minute onwards in this excellent videotaped discussion of how The Bank learns) and focus on making time for learning by not jumping on what it is we want to achieve with events or happenings.

 Should we not follow the recommendation to bring diversity and argument at the centre of our deliberations (recommending again this great BBC article about the fallacy of the wisdom of the crowds on this topic) and rather focus on bringing very small groups of very diverse people together, outside their normal work environment, in a sort-of retreat, to explore promising new avenues and explore old topics with fresh pairs of eyes and complementary brains?

Should we not leave our voice and our pens/computers outside to let our other senses guide us in exploring the edges of our consciousness? Creative drawing, using metaphors, miming, observing (e.g. animals), using our body to solicit other avenues of our resourcefulness… ?

Should we not encourage more walking about, more journeys together to reflect on work, more cooking and eating together to explore new surfaces – indeed perhaps a cookshop might be as ground-breaking as a workshop for that matter?

Should we not refuse to bring people together physically and rather bring together virtually a group of people who practice Personal Knowledge Management to explore each other’s questions and musings and build upon that? Could a duo’s journey be not innovative than an entire room full of people?

Hmmm… lots of options hanging up and I’m not sure any of these would bring us further?

And what if the answer is in the workshop itself?

If un-conferences and workshops are sticking around, can we not think of a set of alternatives – which are already tested anyway:

    • Pure Open Space Technology workshops?
    • Other events without a preconceived agenda where perhaps organisers get participants to think about hard/complex questions they want to explore and filter out the most complex/interesting questions in a crowdsourced manner, to go more deeply in the fields concerned?
    • Happenings with staged ‘conversations and interactions for change’ such as this useful idea below…

The bottom line is also that we should clearly understand and distinguish when we want to have a workshop, a workstop (where we would stop working and explore relationships), a talkshop (where people have the entire liberty to explore anything in conversations), a writeshop where the point is to write some outputs etc.

One of the most important questions (from the BOSSY HERALD) to ponder when thinking about organising an event is whether we want to level knowledge or deepen it, and whether we want some output or some interaction. Totally different dynamics are at play in either case…

And all that said, I am still pondering the following, perhaps you have some answers:

  • Can we genuinely ‘explore new grounds’ with a group beyond 40-50 participants?
  • If so, what have been the ingredients, principles or heuristics that worked in your experience and that you would suggest following?
  • If not, what have been the best alternatives to workshops to bring up a totally different experience, that you think could be reproduced in other settings?
  • What have been your best examples of events or happenings that led people to change, not just to learn new ideas and share much? How did IT work?

Phew! Sounds like this reflection might go on for a while still…

Related blog posts:

 

Feel complexity, think ‘Tradeoffs’ and follow the flow


No more tradeoff by default, but purposefully (Credits: Open Web Vancouver 2009)

No more tradeoff by default, but purposefully (Credits: Open Web Vancouver 2009)

This is THE shift we all need to accomplish, if we believe we work on complex, highly interdependent agendas:

  • No more black and white, it’s all grey area…
  • No more blanket approach, it never worked anyway…
  • No more push vs. pull, it’s all customised to the very purpose required
  • No more information vs. knowledge, it’s all in the mix, one feeding the other
  • No more now vs. the future, we have to balance the two (early wins and long term gains)
  • No more all win throughout, it’s win-win-lose between here, there, now, then…
Tradeoffs to help us filter Failure (Credits: PlanetArt/FlickR)

Tradeoffs to help us filter Failure (Credits: PlanetArt/FlickR)

At the centre of complexity thinking, at the heart of wicked problems, we find tradeoffs. One thing leads to another but at the bottom of it is the fact that every activity we undertake has consequences in another area of the system. And these consequences of inter-dependencies are mostly difficult to spot, because we are not prepared to look in all directions.

 

Some more KM-related examples:

  • Your success here could be our failure there: Developing a good, strong team spirit takes time and can go to the detriment of the rest of the organisation – the eternal ‘silo problem’ that leads to the swing between matrix and unit-focused organisations. Something I experienced personally (and was documented) last few years in a water and land management project in the Nile Basin.
  • I hear the wings of the butterfly bring the tsunami: The many waves of KM fads (for one-stop-shop portals, for ‘lessons learnt’ databases, and for all kinds of other over-rated KM initiatives such as the DIKW pyramid) have generated enthusiasm well
    The minitel - a great idea whose tradeoff was a long blog for France's productivity

    The minitel – a great idea whose tradeoff was a long blog for France’s productivity

    beyond reason. What perhaps turned out to be a big hit in one case opened a whole sad trail of miserably poorly copied attempts that resulted in major failures.

  • Today’s innovation may be tomorrow’s problem: Even the launch of Minitel – a great (and prided) accomplishment of French telecom engineering in the 80’s – led France to suffer a long-lasting lag time to join the Internet bandwagon… Win today, lose tomorrow.
Bring in your diverse crowd and get at it! (Credits: Deviant Art)

Bring in your diverse crowd and get at it! (Credits: Deviant Art)

So what can we do about these tradeoffs?

First and foremost, just accept that they are there. We can’t solve wicked problems but we can apprehend them best we can. And here are some concrete options:

Keep calm, and assemble a diverse team around you. Much like for the community of practice debate, tradeoffs are one of the very reasons why bringing a diverse crowd together is the best way forward, so you cover as many angles of these possible tradeoffs.

Think in terms of trade offs across space, scale and time – who gains and loses what here? There? In our group and at its edges? Today? Tomorrow? Use approaches that take tradeoffs into account (see for instance Liberating StructuresWicked questions

Accordingly, we can also develop our negotiation skills – tradeoffs tomorrow start with trade-on’s today ;)

And then of course we can keep wondering how to deal with tradeoffs best:

  • How open is our working culture to think in terms of tradeoffs in space, scale and time?
  • What are we doing to make sure that the exchange, learning and negotiation space is genuinely open to all the people that can help us understand tradeoffs?
  • How do we prioritize based on these tradeoffs and what are good examples to take decisions that minimize the problems?
  • What learning and sharing approaches, and what information or knowledge tools can we mobilise to understand and address tradeoffs best?

How do you or your teams deal with tradeoffs?

Related blog posts:

Blog holiday (or so it seems ;)


One of these ‘point-in-time’ posts again… I will be on leave for the next three weeks and though I might be blogging, (I) don’t really count on it. This part of the year seems to be an excellent period for me to step back and let all these thoughts that were put in the mix after I asked for your (excellent) feedback simmer slowly!

So, it’s a blog holiday, but you never know what may come out of this…

I leave you with the top 10 most viewed, and in bold the most commented/liked posts of these past six months:

Most popular posts:

  1.  Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  2. What is common knowledge about knowledge? A visual tour…
  3. Tinkering with tools: what’s up with Yammer?
  4. Settling the eternal semantic debate: what is knowledge, what is information… (that one really seems to be an evergreen…)
  5. The death of nice communities of practice? 
  6. Putting learning loops and cycles in practice
  7. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker
  8. Scaling, pacing, staging and patterning… Navigating fractal change through space and time
  9. (You’re not welcome) On the dark side of co-facilitation
  10. What the heck is knowledge anyways: from commodity to capacity and insights

See you in three weeks!

Trévignon Bretagne (Credits: Jon Larrañaga / FlickR)

Trévignon Bretagne (Credits: Jon Larrañaga / FlickR)

Knowledge Management… the fountain of resilience, adaptation, innovation and sustainability (and buzzwords!)


It goes back a long while that I’ve been asking myself what KM is and why it matters. This morning, while running, it struck me: it is just what makes us more resilient, adaptive and innovative, beyond the immediate challenge we are facing. Incidentally, KM is also dangerous with that ability to catch all buzzwords in its trail (resilient is the new adaptive, and innovation is the talk of E-town)…

Miracles of Evolution - Africa - Tihamer Gyarmathy, 1977 (Credits: WikiArt)

Miracles of Evolution – Africa – Tihamer Gyarmathy, 1977 (Credits: WikiArt)

What is KM trying to do? 

Of course KM supposedly helps organisations achieve their mission, be more effective in that endeavour, but KM focuses a lot (my expectation) on ever-learning, looking back to look forward, keeping track and avoiding to reinvent the wheel (though it’s sometimes ok), institutional memory curation, lessons learned, picking peoples’ brains and co-creating… so really KM is about developing a collective intelligence and finding ways to anticipate and prepare for what comes next, away from silver bullets, in the itchy corner of our brain where the next solution (trial) lies.

That is at the heart of being resilient, of adaptive thinking and working, of innovation.

Hmmm. Only given that some key things are in place. I am thinking about all these things right now when thinking about our local KM4Dev Addis Ababa/Ethiopia network, so I can progressively disengage myself from the coordination side to ensure that this network can continue on its own (without a non-Ethiopian to coordinate it). So what helps in strengthening resilience, adaptiveness etc.?

  • Thinking from the start about an exit strategy (and a good induction program) or some strategy to ensure that the initiative is embedded and owned by whoever is directly concerned, independently from the individuals involved in that initiative;
  • Developing capacity consciously, from the start and throughout, by questioning beyond the WHAT? and focusing on the knowledge, attitude and skills required to make the initiative successful;
  • Documenting the process throughout, so that all the generic context (simple or complicated, not complex) of an initiative, can be partly passed on to anyone else;
  • Making sure that there isn’t a single point of failure, that responsibilities are shared over teams so the success and transferability of good work does not depend on one person only (even though individuals matter a lot);
  • Mapping relations and expertise so anyone can find out where to go to find answers to their questions…
  • Organising conversations around these issues of resilience, adaptiveness, sustainability, long-term, roles and responsibilities, risks and how to mitigate them…
Diversity... also good for better outcomes (Credits: Steve Jurvetson / FlickR)

Diversity… also good for better outcomes (Credits: Steve Jurvetson / FlickR)

Now, away from that KM4Dev network and back into the reality of organisations…

The issue – and the problem of a lot of KM initiatives – is that the transition from ‘the team here and now’ to ‘the others out there, now and for the eternity’ often proves a real chasm and gets in the way of making use of all the good work by that team.

Scaling up, out, in space and time, that is the real challenge of resilient, adaptive KM.

And yet organisations are much better placed than individuals (and perhaps even networks) to make that leap. Because organisations (supposedly) have a coherent narrative to them, that all their employees can relate to, whether they like it or not. And crucially an organisation has some control over its employees. So it can probably enforce the transfer of skills, the curation of information and the sharing of knowledge to other teams and future employees (the latter is notoriously difficult still)…

Is it actually desirable to seen an organisation enforce this? And does it really happen? There are quite a few other questions to sharpen our critical thinking about the promised lands of resilience, innovation and sustainability (and yes indeed Nancy, critical thinking is subtle):

  • Is it better to go for KM below the radar (stealth mode) as I usually advocate, or to go for a slightly more ‘out in the open’ approach that perhaps has better chances of achieving that resilience and innovation at (a larger) scale?
  • Is there actually a point at encouraging organisations to be resilient, adaptive, innovative, if their finality is perhaps to disappear (I’m thinking about international, Northern hemisphere-based organisations working on global development). Isn’t there a risk of perpetuating structures when they may not be needed, or even helpful?
  • Related to the previous point: is it possible, over the long haul, to combine resilience/adaptiveness with sustainability? Isn’t that a contradiction in the terms?
  • Where does KM set the boundary in focusing on the organisation’s mandate or rather on the wider agenda that consider tradeoffs or compromises in space or time (more on that in another post)…, with the risk of going against the organisation?
  • What are the political options of KM to counter with the self-sustaining drivers of organisations (how can KM continue to promote the right ideas despite the organisation’s [hidden?] agenda to invest in its survival cost what cost)?

Perhaps these questions are some of the reasons why scaling up good KM (in space or time) does not easily take place… and why KM keeps focusing on the next buzzword to find another way to get at the same objective?

Related blog posts:

The death of nice communities of practice?


Greeks always argue about facts (Credits: papazimouris / FlickR)

Argument, oiling in respect among friends… but beyond? (Credits: papazimouris / FlickR)

An interesting conversation is happening in KM4Dev – when is it not the case? – in relation with Dave Snowden‘s recent inputs to the conference on ‘Knowledge for Development (#DIEK4D see https://tagboard.com/diek4d) and his reflections on this post (full meeting wiki notes are available here).

Oh and close down those communities of practice which are now so hide bound as to be only of use to the avid naval-gazers.  We need more disagreement, more passion, more argument, more engagement which is not conditional on not upsetting people. (Dave Snowden, reflections on #DIEK4D, 9 July 2014)

Two interesting take-homes from this:

a) Let CoPs die!

b) Nice is the new poison

Interesting and provocative statements of course – just wanted to rebound on these, but I highly encourage you to see all strings from that conversation on the KM4Dev mailing list here (link possibly requiring log-in credentials).

Ad a) Let CoPs die!

Not getting Involved (Credits: Tarik B / FlickR)

Communities of practice, between agreement, argument and indifference? (Credits: Tarik B / FlickR)

Communities of practice (CoPs) won’t die just now. Even though it seems many of them are not doing well.

The problem is rather the proliferation of these CoPs, and the fact that many of these CoPs might have been set up and labelled from the onset as ‘CoPs’ although they were just groups of invited people in a top-down manner. CoPs need their time to develop over time. The case of KM4Dev is testimony to that slow simmering process.

The proliferation of guidelines for how to set up and use CoPs (just see some of my personal bookmarks on CoPs) seems a fair indication that there is a lot of bad practice going on and that CoPs take time to grow to a mature level. So the problem is not so much with all those navel-gazing CoPs but rather all those that are steered by a navel-gazing base of narrow-minded people setting up the CoP without budging away from their original thinking, and probably inviting people that are too much alike.

The paradox is that even if it’s not forever and even if it’s not in a real community of practice, having a space for people to question their practice can be a really helpful thing – it just takes a lot of time to develop into a real community of practice that generates the critical mass required to make way for constructive disagreement… And it leads thus naturally to point b)

Ad b) Nice is the new poison

That argument really is an interesting one, as it seems to denote a trend that happens at some point to a lot of people studying (and ‘doing’) work on collaboration. The Wageningen UR teams who theorised multi-stakeholder processes have also progressively shifted their interest away from the positive aspects of cooperation to the conflicts and negotiation of these conflicts around setting a collective agenda.

I think the issue here is rather about the conditions of establishing a space for learning and decision-making. Learning is very much steered by the conjunction of ideas coming from people with very different walks of life. Allowing that diversity to flourish means that the people in that space need to be open to wildly different ideas, listen to all and make something of that. And the decision-making process in those spaces should cherish that diversity and not kill any deviation from an ‘orthodox practice’.

This can mean allowing disagreement to revisit the foundations of work as we know it. That is deeply disruptive. And itchy. Not pleasant to most people, and thus the reason why disagreement is somehow snuffed in the bud in some spaces. Now, while I see how sterile conversations can be if everyone agrees to everything, I’ve always been an advocate of the ‘Yes and‘ principle of improvisation theatre, which is not about disagreeing but building upon each other in a creative way.

Every conversation has its dynamics, they need not be all about agreeing, neither about disagreeing… It is all about the space that you entertain and the negotiated outcomes that a group seeks at a given time. And it’s all dynamic, so agreeing to keeping an eye on the diversity of views and possible disagreements is an essential part of the process. Some of the key questions are thus perhaps:

  • To what extent are you paying attention to diversity, curiosity over establishment and creative disruption in your collective learning space?
  • What tells you that a space has become stale? What are the early signs that something needs to be done or that space needs to disappear – or that it needs to go through a massive disruption process?
  • Who are you actually to say that this or that space is not helpful and should disappear, if it allows others to find their own space for personal development? What is your mandate and your stake in that decision?

    The Purpose of Argument (Credits: Imnotquitejack / FlickR)

    The Purpose of Argument (Credits: Imnotquitejack / FlickR)

Oh, an are you gonna say something about your silence these past few weeks? On another note, I’m coming to terms with some of the feedback – that I invited and – that I received a while back: This blog is indeed probably not the #1 most innovative of all blogs around. Yet it is my blog and that blog reflects who I am. I may not be Harold Jarche, but I think I do have some innovative ideas…Yet whether that’s true or not, I can’t really pretend to be someone else, so I reckon it will keep on reacting on the signals that I find interesting, because this is my mode of processing a lot of that information, and actually innovation happens at the edge, in transforming and combining bits of information such as these… that does not prevent me from taking into account a lot of the other comments I received. But I prefer to keep blogging with my limitations rather than be stopped by the blank page syndrome because I should be someone else…

Related blog posts:

The key to success in the networked age? Just look around and be humbled


Curiosity killed the cat (Credits - Stuff by Cher)

Curiosity killed the cat (Credits – Stuff by Cher)

(Another older post that I just finalise here before I get on with new stuff based on your feedback)

When I was a child, one of the sayings that finger-wagging adults liked to throw at me and fellow little people was that ‘la curiosité est un vilain défaut’ – Curiosity killed the cat.

How much we have moved on from that age when staying where we are was the desired end state. A neverending never changing state. Now the only thing that never changes is change itself, though even that is not true because the pace of change is increasing – and so is our need to connect to others, with curiosity, and a little something else, of great importance.

Humility

As modern knowledge workers, we have to connect the dots, we have to find others, build trust with them, and do ‘stuff’ together. If ‘In complex initiatives, expert predictions of outcomes are barely better than flipping a coin‘, we must harness collective intelligence. And that will not happen with alpha male chest-beating behaviour but with humility, the other godmother of learning (remember the happy families of engagement?) next to curiosity.

Being humble doesn’t mean we don’t know where we’re headed and think everyone else does stuff better than us or better stuff than us; it just means that we recognise we are trying to do something (or some things) without full certainty, and are open enough to hear what others do in relation, and occasionally pick up useful elements from their approach.

The path to wisdom is paved with effectiveness, focus, humility and empathy and just so we learn by being intently open to any signal that may improve our own understanding and thought-processing, set of practices and attitude. Any opportunity is good to power up another segment of the collective brain grid, the common energy grid of intent, purpose and calling (something I’ve written about before).

We can keep our criticism about, we should question our education and educate our questions but this is no longer the time to be cocky, know-it-all and ‘go it alone’. We need specialists in this complex world, but only combined with other talents.

Humility, being ‘in over our head’ is what keeps us sharp and connected. It’s a non-negotiable in the networked, agile, constant learning age, unless you’re the best in the world at what you do. And even then, arguably…

Want some spicy questions, Nadia?

  • How come leadership still seems overwhelmingly attracted to alpha-male, know-it-all styles?
  • Is humility enough to be a good modern knowledge worker? What other traits of personality allow us to be agile, ever-learning, increasingly effective?
  • If humility was considered to be assessed (or even measured) in an organisation – for broad effectiveness – how would we do so to qualify it?

I’m all ears…

Related blog posts:

Facilitation and collective action back on the menu… big time!


(Disclaimer for Nadia, Russell and others who commented on this post [and see feedback/results here by the way]: This post was drafted before and thus does not yet reflect some of the changes that I hope to bring into this blog based on your collective feedback…)

Lots of different happenings in the world of event/process facilitation as far as I’m concerned – lots of useful links and ideas that might inspire you too…

Graphic Facilitation with Nancy White (Credits: Gauri Salokhe / FlickR)

Graphic Facilitation with Nancy White (Credits: Gauri Salokhe / FlickR)

I’ve finally gotten into reading ‘The surprising power of liberating structures‘, and what a platinum mine of useful reflections, methods, tips, designs etc. a real gem for all collective action process (and event) facilitators… It’s perhaps the best recent thing I can think about that might help me revive the post collection ‘The Chemistry of Magical Facilitation

I’ve been following some LinkedIn groups (particularly the ‘Professional facilitators network‘ – mind that this link requires login) on facilitation with excellent insights. This is some incentive for me to actually blog more about facilitation… and perhaps even start a blog on facilitation as it’s a slightly different topic than strictly agile KM and learning (even though the two are interlinked for their focus on learning and collective action).

Another interesting idea came my way this week, prompted by my colleague Peter Ballantyne: the walkshops – an idea that the UK’s Institute for Development Studies has piloted and reflected upon. This is something to try out, and I think I just might in what could possibly become the third workshop focused on CGIAR communication and management for CGIAR research programs (or kmc4CRP ;)). Actually last week for an ILRI Comms meeting we had a walking session and it was a hit.

Perhaps most importantly, me and a group of fellow KM4Devers are thinking about focusing on facilitation, for the issue 11.1 (May 2015) of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal. We are still debating the exact focus, as we’re rather struggling with too many ideas than too few. Our initial thoughts are available here. I personally hope we will cover blended facilitation (online/offline), moving away from events to fold into longer engagement and learning processes, modern uses of technology (using phones, clothes and other smart devices) to get groups to evolve, the distribution of facilitation and developing an empowering leadership culture as well as how capacity development comes into the picture. At last, I don’t despair finding time to come up with my own facilitation approaches – notably mimicking patterns found in nature and among animals. Wild, eh?

At last, I’ve had some conversation with Nancy White about doing an online (recorded) conversation for already quite a while, to feature on our blogs, and I think this ‘facilitation’ topic could very well be the topic we might want to zoom in on, but that is something Nancy and I need to co-create so certainly not certainty there ;)

Amidst all of this, I actually have a lot of events to facilitate in the coming months so time to kick myself out of comfort zone and to try daring new ideas and approaches. Wish me luck in changing myself, it’s never a given ;) !

Related blog posts:

See all posts under the category ‘Facilitation’

Sharing and feedback done, now learning and change to go…


And so the results of the feedback survey on this blog are in (though you can still vote here). A big THANK YOU to you all for chipping in! View the results via the link from the survey box below.

So: 19 votes pleading for more KM and more communication, and perhaps less on M&E. Two very valuable comments. One attached to the post ‘Fire your frank feedback and forecast what follows on Agile KM for me & you‘ and the other one below:

Ewen, nice strategy of engaging with your readers; I would suggest asking for domain/subject suggestions that might be of interest. The reason I skip your blog, at times, is because:- it is either too jargon filled and too much jargon suggests a closed language world and leads to inclusion and exclusion dynamics;- your blog is too much a reworking of other stuff and there is no personal or original thinking in there- as i am increasingly moving away from international development and working on regional and local issues, once again i am struck by this divide we have managed to make the international development and domestic/local focus; this is fascinating, it shows that there are different worlds (of thinking and working) around. I do not know if this is bridgeable, it is an area of longstanding concern.Good luck and keep on blogging and thinking out loud …. see john Stepper http://johnstepper.com/2014/05/24/the-best-peer-support-group-for-your-career/

Where does this leave me? With a number of excellent pointers which I will try and apply, though of course I also follow my own intuition and will not keep stuck with one way of doing things, or blogging in this context.

  • Use more visuals;
  • Write shorter posts;
  • Use spicy questions;
  • Avoid jargon;
  • More personal thinking;

And you might have your own ideas still about what other things I need to change…

In the meantime, before I process this feedback into the posts, here’s what’s boiling on this blog’s pan for the next weeks and months (that I can foresee now):

  • More reflections about event/process facilitation in relation with a number of important events and happenings;
  • Some counter-reactions to ‘Working out loud’ and getting it work collectively;
  • The sequel to Anatomy of learning: how we (individuals) make sense of information which will feature my very own thinking indeed (but it may take some time);
  • Smart consultant practices for modern organisations;
  • … and your topics of choice? Will you let me know…

Oh, and I reckon improving this blog is not just about visuals, but also about audio cues. So before I get seriously into this, here’s one for Richard Martin who confessed he loved references to Radiohead…

Let me get this blog to see improvements trickle down the pyramid, Richard!

Related blog posts:

Fire your frank feedback and forecast what follows on Agile KM…


Feedback (Credits: gforsythe / FlickR)

Sometimes I wonder if what I’m writing on this blog is of any value to anyone.

It certainly is to me, as I’ve come to realise quite a few times in the past. But at this stage I am much more interested in engaging with the readers of this blog, and the people that engage with the posts. And then I also fear my ideas might be stagnating. A former colleague of mine (not complexity & KM guru Jaap Pels) said that everyone has only three of four stories to tell and that’s it.

Have I reached that point of exhausting my stories to tell?

Have I hit a wall?

Perhaps YOU know that better than me.

Of course there are positive comments on this blog and also about this blog. That’s really great and I already expressed my gratitude in the past, especially when that feedback comes from your heart, such as a fellow KM4Dev member recently commented (on the conversation about why the World Bank’s PDFs don’t get read):

I reflected on how I find “gold” in the form of well-hidden online reports and discussion papers and there are a few ways
1. Through wonderful groups like KM4Dev – yes, we are part of the solution!
2. Through personal contacts in the organisations or other networks
3. Through conferences, workshops, meetings etc
4. Through references in other pubs.
5. Blogs – Ewen, I regularly pick up gems from your blog among others! Thanks!

Some posts get amazing ratings (the happy families of engagement – What the heck is knowledge anyways or Portrait of the modern knowledge worker).

Some get quite a few likes (The art of blogging: Taking stock - Social web metrics: between the cracks of evidence and confidence or What are we waiting for to walk our talk (on KM and comms)?)

And some of these posts remain popular through the test of time: Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words – Tinkering with tools: what’s up with Yammer? or the eternal Learning cycle basics and more: Taking stock

People visiting this blog kindly never seem to make really difficult comments (or perhaps I’m not reading between their lines well enough)… though some post ratings are bad/critical, and I know for myself that some (most) of my posts are not breaking ground and probably deserve better crafting, more ideas… But how do I get to that feedback that improves this blog to make it more engaging for all?

So, if I’m being true to my word, or to my motto ‘fun, focus and feedback‘, I’ve got to check with you lot if this blog is on track; and actually what it might be on track to, or what it should be. As much as I’ve dreamt of the feast of fools of feedback, now is the time to make this a reality for the blog.

Could you please tell me what you like on this blog, but more particularly what you don’t like so much, where you think I’m missing the mark, where you see interesting opportunities? 

I would just love your feedback. A simple comment will do :) It could be about the topics I cover (or don’t cover), the type of posts I share, the look and feel, the conversation I have with you, anything that comes to mind!

And in addition, or perhaps to help the above, you might help me find some ideas for next posts and topics (please reply to the poll above).

I owe you, so I promise to act upon the comments I receive, and I’d be really glad to make this blog a more exciting place about agile KM and learning (for social change)…

Now the floor is yours, this is Agile KM for me… and you?

Effective Feedback - Some rules for effective feedback? (Credits: teachandlearn / FlickR)

Some rules for effective feedback? (Credits: teachandlearn / FlickR)