Knowledge management – a visual guided tour of ‘KM as a mindset’


Last week I was invited to help a group unravel the mysteries of knowledge management. It was a great opportunity to intervene both as facilitator and subject matter specialist.

Triggered by the opportunity to connect with my main area of expertise I quickly realised I was hit by the ‘curse of knowledge’ ie. how could I sum up something as complex as knowledge management and something that I have worked on for the past 15 years or so in one presentation (even though we unpacked various aspects of this through the entire workshop)?

I decided not to look closely at the typical KM approaches and tools – from communities of practice to social media, from facilitated participation formats to information systems – but rather to frame everything around the motto of “Knowledge management is a mindset”. In some ways, I thereby echoed Knoco’s definition of KM as “The way we manage our organisation when we understand the value of knowledge”.

And in order to fully appreciate every slide on this presentation, mind the presentation notes that are in the outline of the presentation on Slideshare and explain every bit of information.

In the process it was really helpful to have to challenge myself going through the references and bookmarks that I have about this topic, and to find out that quite a few of my go-to references are also a bit out of date.

Many more reflections are cropping out on the basis of this workshop – I will try and process a couple on this blog over the next few days and weeks… starting with: what is the minimum you can do when you think there’s really no time for KM…

Meanwhile, while I know this presentation is far from touching upon every important aspect, let me know what you think 😉

Related blog posts:

Advertisements

Do we *need* to disagree? Or rather acknowledge our different perspectives?


The thirst for new ideas is a beautiful thing!

In the process of unearthing new ideas, though, we sometimes lose the plot a bit.

One of the (relatively) recent sources of innovations is to look into failures and celebrating failures through failure fairs and the likes etc. Great idea indeed if you pitch this well – although I seem to recall from the excellent Leaders in learning podcast series some dissonant experiences on fail fairs too, along the lines of ‘you need to set them up well’ etc. or they amount to a contest of platitudes. But granted: there is something interesting about failing.

The point, however, is that: it’s not about the failing, it’s about the learning. Failing as such is not great. But the learning that comes from failing can be extremely powerful.

Ditto with disagreements.

I recently read the latest newsletter of the ever excellent David Gurteen knowledge letter. And one of the links grabbed my attention:

Episode 1, How to Disagree: A Beginner’s Guide to Having Better Arguments – BBC Radio 4 https://buff.ly/2wfGR3a #ConversationalLeadership

I went on to check the link – and listen to all five episodes of this podcast. Over the series, the author really made her point more clearly and convincingly that disagreements (like failures) can be a rich source of insights and ideas.

But when I stumbled upon the link first, and the first episode of the series, I couldn’t help but feel awkward at the thought of disagreements.

409 - Conflict (Credits: GirlieMac)

When disagreement degenerates into conflict (Credits: GirlieMac)

Disagreements are not the end goal.

What is the end goal, for collaboration etc. to work, is for people to disclose their opinion, their true identity, their feelings, their half-baked ideas, and to struggle through the process to also understand each other and progressively emerge with shared meaning (something which, incidentally, the same David Gurteen recently covered in his blook ‘Conversational leadership’).

Disagreement is, at best, an abrasive way of bringing some good ideas to the fore. But in terms of group development it’s far from being a panacea.

  • Don’t most disagreements end up rather sharpening our arguments than our ideas?
  • Does an argument bring the best feelings to the foreground?
  • Is it the most effective technique (so, purely from a technical point of view) to help the entire group find constructive ways to collaborate, in the longer run?
  • Does disagreement help build confidence among group members, and does it contribute to a group ‘gelling’? In and of itself?

I’m not so sure.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that disagreement is a) unavoidable, b) potentially extremely useful, c) potentially really destructive too and d) best facilitated, so that it remains a disagreement only for ever so long as it needs, and it helps move towards a renewed understanding of views and positions again – a prelude to constructive group co-creation and group (collaboration) development.

Disagreement is not the goal. It’s one of the ugly ‘necessary evils’ in a group’s life, every now and then. But it’s not the holy grail, the end destination.

Don’t let your thirst for new, sexy ideas distract you from the longer game.

And don’t you dare disagreeing with me grrrrr ;p

Check the BBC series ‘How to Disagree: A Beginner’s Guide to Having Better Arguments

Sunbeam disagreement (Credits: Jon Hritz)

Sunbeam disagreement (Credits: Jon Hritz)

Related blog posts:

‘Scale up’ your empathy, not your ‘pilot initiative’


I always felt there was a problem with scaling up.

And this week it dawned on me much more clearly what the problem was.

For a while, I thought that while the activities of a given initiative could not easily be scaled up, perhaps the conditions in which they were taking place could be scaled up.

But this week I just went through an amazing and mind-boggling training course on Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration offered by Community At Work.

And what this has taught me is a gazillion of things. But among others, more to the point for this post:

  • Even for a pilot project, the process literacy of people involved in multi-stakeholder collaboratives is usually quite limited
  • This means their ability to think at all kinds of levels (from the ‘here and now’ all the way to the ‘big picture’) in relational terms may be quite limited
  • And it also means their ability to understand group dynamics, how long it takes to create a safe space and what it takes to build and earn trust may be limited
  • Which means their ability to plan realistically for such multi-stakeholder collaboration is also very limited – among others because they may not be able to visualise the intensity of collaboration required throughout the process (and certainly on some crucial moments)
  • And that translates into vastly unrealistic plans that want to achieve big picture goals over ridiculously short periods of time with minimal resources that are mapped on a (calendarised) timeline that fails to represent the true time investment that all of this represents
  • And at the same time these people may – at least at the onset – not be very receptive to revising these vastly unrealistic expectations towards a much more realistic (and also costly) approach that would actually mean something and ensure that whatever investment reaps some real returns
  • And not only that, but also because of typical interpersonal dynamics of conflict and mis-communication, lack of listening skills and of a learning attitude, it becomes starkly daunting to dream of a multi-stakeholder collaboration taking off nation-wide after three of four large meetings in a given area?

How can this fallacy of scaling up, over and out not be doomed even after a very successful pilot initiative?

Before I move to a more optimistic piece of this post, let me also add a distinction here: Our world is still largely dependent on world views inherited from the XXth century – the century of large scale engineering (think massive war machines, the revolution of transport, space conquest, all the way to IT engineering of the network of networks, the Internet, and much much more)…

The Cynefin Framework (Credits: Cognitive Edge)

The Cynefin Framework (Credits: Cognitive Edge)

So is our view of social initiatives too often still: we can engineer social change. Firstly I think we simply CANNOT. But in any case you also don’t go about scaling up a social initiative the way you might scale up a large engineering initiative (ie: expand production line, replicate and roll out at larger scale).

Scaling up an engineering initiative is a very complicated matter. But it can be done, with the right amount of expertise and resources (money).

But there are simply too many factors at play in the complex realm of social initiatives to readily scale them up without a serious investment in time, trust, capacity and a host of other things.

The Cynefin Framework reminds us that we in the complex realm we have to deal with emergent approaches, responding to what we sense. And that is thus one other inherent limitation to the unrealistic expectations of social initiative ‘upscalers’.

Now: despair not!!

What this week’s course also taught me, is not to despair, is not to give up. The world is indeed full of examples of successful complex social initiatives (from Gandhi’s Salt March movement to Black Lives Matter, from the advent of social security to the creation of the United Nations Organisation… there is a plethora of inspiring initiatives to follow).

Our trainers even invited us to not only not despair, but to take our destiny in our hands, without waiting for benevolent billionaires, superminds or charismatic leaders and enlightened nations to show us the way.

Donald Trump mural (Credits: Matt Brown / FlickR)

Donald Trump mural (Credits: Matt Brown / FlickR)

The social of social change starts with our immediate vicinity, with our family, with our friends, with our neighbours, with our communities, with our networks. Our everyday activism is the only thing that gives us better chances to rebuild the social fabric that is destroyed by the ugly cynicism, egoism and malintentioned stupidity of the big and small Donald Trumps of this world.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, We are the 99% (5 of 27) (Credits: Glenn Halog / FlickR)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, We are the 99% (5 of 27) (Credits: Glenn Halog / FlickR)

So let’s rethink how we want to ‘scale up’ social change. Let’s go slowly, let’s do it thoroughly, let’s knit our networks locally, and let’s bring the fire of our intentions globally. If there is only one meaning to keep from the current doomed equation of

Pilot  >> Scaling up

…it is that intention to pilot our lives, to take control, or co-ntrol, together. And to scale up our empathy, and then our process literacy, capacity, drive and effectiveness in joining hands and working collectively on fixing some of that misery in the world.

What are we waiting for?

What is KM? Really…


I pondered this a couple of days ago: when I have to explain to someone that I don’t know what I do (at least for the knowledge management part of my work), despite previous attempts I still struggle.

Chisel, chisel, keep on chiseling (at that KM definition then!) (photo credit: Shawn Clover / FlickR)

Chisel, chisel, keep on chiseling (at that KM definition then!) (photo credit: Shawn Clover / FlickR)

Off the cuff this is what came up to me, when thinking about describing my KM work.

Essentially, what any group or organisation needs to do is to achieve its goals to the best of its abilities right now, and to be prepared to achieve the goals of tomorrow to the best of its abilities too.

What helps you get there? It’s knowledge (know what, why, who, when, where), know-how (the skills to get there) and the learning that came with it and that will continue to sharpen these knowledge fields. It’s experience, expertise and a gift for permanent reflection (and -serendipity- hereby some thoughts to institutionalise reflection in your everyday organisation life).

What KM tries to do is to manage (or more to the point facilitate) all the processes, systems and people’s interactions in a way that they contribute to this, that they facilitate this.

So my role is to work with these people (using these processes and systems) to help them maximise their experience, expertise and reflection.

And it happens through many activities: journaling (blogging), sharing knowledge, cultivating their reflection alone and in groups, gathering around smart conversations,  clarifying their communication to remove all noise that gets in the way of clear, concerted, agreed, sustainable solutions, and making these reflections and their digital traces available to others, so as to connect all the nodes of our collective brain, eventually.

I’m wondering how this connects with David Griffith’s recent questioning about ‘what makes you a knowledge manager‘ as he comes back to some of these basics too.

It’s not quite there yet, I know, but every chiseling step gets me closer to the statue I’m trying to mold.

Which angle you think I should chisel at some more right now?

Related posts:

A daily dose of process literacy


Here it is – the first post back on the (other) blog, after quite an absence…

agilefacil

In my quest towards developing people’s process literacy, I had an opportunity to make another small stride a couple of weeks ago. During an event where I was MC, I used a tiny bit of the air time I was granted to share one process tip per day.

Focus means discovery, always in the hope we will explore the world around us, forward focus, celebrate urban culture, Canary Wharf, London, England, UK, Enjoy!:)From focus to discovery…

Here are the ones I shared, and some others that I had planned to use (but didn’t get round to):

“What the heck did you mean”? Write coloured cards, flipcharts and other public writings with capital letters and full sentences. That will be a business skill useful for your future conferencing, and it will help the recording of the works.

The public stage fear not, young jedi”. If you fear public speaking, get to know the room/stage where you will have to perform. And get to know the audience by meeting as many people as…

View original post 569 more words

Picking up an old thread – a confession


This is how I feel on this blog:

Walking alone on the odd and old blogging trail (photo credit: ElBidule / FlickR)

Walking alone on the odd and old blogging trail (photo credit: ElBidule / FlickR)

It’s been nearly a year that I blogged here.

It feels really strange to be here again.

You may not care at all about what follows.

You might just settle for the fact that I’ll try and resume my blogging practice.

Or perhaps you don’t care about that either, though then arguably you’re just wasting your time cruising the web, otherwise you wouldn’t be here ha ha ha.

In fact, I have started blogging already – on AgileFacil, my other blog. And I’ll reblog that post in a few.

In any case many things happened in the past 10 months or so.

I changed jobs (and set up ProcessChange my own consultancy, as well as joined KIT Royal Tropical Institute).

I just had it with the most challenging year of my life – one when one of my sons started developing a very complex case of epilepsy that has been nibbling at our life ever since.

I got tired of this blogging routine – and just couldn’t combine it with the above-mentioned home condition.

No physical energy, no mental space, no moral room for blogging.

2018 has finally chased away that nightmare of a year that last year was to us.

New progress, new home, new job, new arrangements, new ideas, new energy.

Born again with blogging…

 

There will be some differences with my past blogging practice:

No regularity. I just can’t afford that just yet.

More reflections on the broader environment that is mine and links to others’ reflections and resources.

More focus on AgileFacil as process literacy is more centrally becoming my quest and many opportunities converge to taking my facilitation work to another level.

More of myself in these posts – and hopefully more of yourselves too.

I hope this new road is worth the trip.

In any case, it’s not a bad thing to try it out.

Here’s to new beginnings!

10-year blog anniversary! One heraldic yearly post at at time


Would you believe it?

10 years of blogging and the tree keeps growing! (Credits: Marceline Smith / FlickR)

10 years of blogging and the tree keeps growing! (Credits: Marceline Smith / FlickR)

10 years (and a day) ago I drafted my very first post. It’s been a long and fascinating journey for me. And even though for personal reasons this year I’ve really let down my blogging, I intend to keep on blogging on Agile KM and AgileFacil(itation).
Here’s my selection of one top blog post for me from every year of blogging, and why these posts are emblematic of those years when I blogged them.

That’s for the look back. Looking forward, with another big year of change there’s likely some change coming up, including in my social media and blogging practice, so let’s see what it will be.

For now, enjoy these posts and let me know about your own reflections on your blogging journey too, if you’ve been on one 🙂

See you on this space and beyond soon!

 

The role – and attitude – of a facilitator in designing events


My latest post on Agile Facil, coming back to the root of the word ‘facilitator’.

agilefacil

I had to take a stand and clarify this.

I’ve recently witnessed some event design processes that went really badly, where the ‘client’ and the ‘facilitator’ ended up at complete odds with each other. With as result a seemingly permanently damaged relationship, and the serious risk of derailing even the event they were planning together.

This incident offers me a good opportunity to restate what the role of a facilitator is at process design stage. And not only the role, but also the overall attitude. But first here’s for roles and responsibilities:

Process design is a complex map (Credits: The Value Web) Process design is a complex map (Credits: The Value Web)

Listening (and asking questions)

First and foremost, you don’t jump on process design, you listen. Carefully. You read if you’re being given background literature. You make sure you have enough context to understand the context in which you’ll be operating. You prepare your questions to clarify that context…

View original post 921 more words

What a great KM champion leader does


Reminiscence…

…as I recently re-visited my former (physical) home and office in Ethiopia for the first time since I moved back to the Netherlands. Among the things that flashed back in my memory is how my former boss (the person who inspired this post) played his role as KM champion and leader, and how that helped or not in the wider organisation.

Now I’m not here to illustrate the qualities and shortcomings of my former boss – though I’m certainly hoping to organise an interview with him some time to cover at least some of his legacy – but instead to reflect on the great characteristics of a great KM champion.

I already blogged earlier about what a truly unforgettable KM boss does. But without being truly unforgettable there is a number of characteristics that any KM boss should possess – and these are:

Understand what KM is

Outcome Mapping progress markers (Credits: Simon Hearn)

Outcome Mapping progress markers (Credits: Simon Hearn)

That is obviously the first step – an ‘expect to see’ Outcome Mapping progress marker if anything. Any KM boss, whether focusing on KM only or on KM combined with comms should have a broad and deep understanding of what KM is – at the very least a working definition that goes beyond information management.

Engage, inform and influence (management and others)

Based on a sound understanding of what KM is, a KM leader and champion should be able to:

  • Inform others about what KM is and how it supports the overall objectives (of the organisation, project, initiative etc.)
  • Engage with an organisation’s management/leadership generally to understand their needs and identify ways to leverage the potential of KM
  • Influence management, partners etc. to create opportunities for KM to leverage its potential benefits

Develop and share vision (and foresight)

A KM leader should be able to articulate the vision of how KM will be deployed and how it is responding to the latest upcoming trends, whether about software options, ways of collaboration and learning or otherwise. This is particularly important in the sense that KM is about using knowledge assets to become more and more adaptive and proactive so KM work should be at all times future-oriented, based on the latest knowledge (and information) available.

That vision is contributing to the next trait.

Inspire

A KM champion really should be walking their talk, of all people. They should be able to inspire others to become like them, or follow their lead. That inspiration is thus also based on the vision and foresight developed (as mentioned above).

Demonstrate

But the job is not done by just telling people what to do but by showing it others so they can see the benefits for themselves. And demonstrating is not even enough: they should get others to ‘do KM’ and do it well, so that in turn they become great KM champions too.

Empower

So the obvious next step is for a KM leader to empower others. And here it’s easier said then done, and it requires more than ‘just do what I say’. It’s about developing and nurturing a fragile ecosystem that requires a healthy dose of courage and initiative, and liberty to let others make mistakes and learn from them, and get stronger and stronger.

Coach

So the last function of a great KM champion and leader is to be the coach of everyone else on their own KM practice. And to be the reflector that KM is supposedly bringing in. Adjusting here and there, nudging now and then, protecting as and when, challenging when things have to be.

 

That’s what a great KM champion leader does. And that’s how you realise when you don’t have one what the implications are.

Cultivate your own leadership and that of others, and help the whole KM ecosystem grow. One seed of advice at a time, one drop of challenge after another. Just like any other knowledge gardener, only with a lot more responsibility… But that’s what it takes to save the world (lol).

The Knowledge champion (Credits: Neil Olonoff)

The Knowledge champion (Credits: Neil Olonoff)

Related posts:

Linking knowledge management with monitoring and evaluation


A short while ago, I gave a small brown bag seminar on the connections between knowledge management (KM) on the one hand and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) on the other hand, for a group of people from the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), both located in Wageningen in the green heart of the Netherlands (the country where I now live).

It was somewhat intimidating to give this seminar in front of a really savvy audience, particularly for the M&E part, since I haven’t directly worked much on M&E since I joined ILRI in late 2011.

The seminar I prepared was on Prezi – see hereby:

KM-M&E seminar
https://prezi.com/view/Jww1idvEC608G7wyA8bn/ or https://prezi.com/p/wgggdcmwxz-v/

(Just as an aside: It was done using ‘Prezi Next’ which is related to the classic Prezi everyone knows but has new features. A new learning curve to adapt to the latest design options and it’s clear that since their heyday a few years ago Prezi have gone some way to reduce the motion sickness effect that was the biggest drawback of their otherwise great application. Unfortunately, at this stage, it’s not possible to embed a PreziNext into WordPress, though this might be fixed some time in the near future).

In any case, what was interesting, as with every piece of information that is being presented, is how people reacted to it, and what they reacted on.

The key points we discussed in the interaction revolved around:

How KM is perceived as dead or not

The notion that ‘KM is dead’ was perhaps difficult to digest for some of the KM heads around the table, though in the conversation it became clear that as much as the field is disappearing, the lessons and principles and approaches of KM live on. And in certain areas, sectors and organisations KM is still very much vivid as a field in and of its own.

We agreed that the importance was to shape collective norms about what is KM (or whatever a group calls it) and that a label (such as KM) should only be adopted if it helps clarify matters for a given group. But the conversation about what it is called is useful too.

Archetypes of KM and M&E heads

Another interesting aspect we touched upon was the stereotypes of people working in KM and in M&E. I made a very rough caricature to introduce some of the KM archetypes and the M&E archetype (of the cold-blooded scientist) which luckily has changed over the years. Particularly the M&E community is really transforming, with booming activity as I can judge on the aliveness of the Pelican Initiative. And so it’s only encouraging to expect that there will be more and more alignment between KM and M&E in the future as many individuals that I know are trespassing the borders of either field and are working across the disciplines.

How KM adds value, what makes it special or different? Why bother?

This was one of the challenges posed by the director of one of the host institutes I was presenting to. “Why should we do KM if it’s so similar to M&E, and what are the trends and the approaches we need to embrace from that field”. That’s where we came back to the bottom line of KM=CDL and the fact that KM is a useful lens looking at knowledge and learning, ensuring we leverage knowledge at all stages. It was interesting also to hear that some people assumed KM to be systematically about learning (but what about the ‘KM portals‘?). But the conversation showed that the connection between KM and M&E is not automatically grasped – and perhaps that my presentation didn’t hit home base 😉

 

KM and M&E is not all about the M&E of KM (Credits: MSH/Pathfinder)

KM and M&E is not all about the M&E of KM (Credits: MSH/Pathfinder)

What is the real connection between KM and M&E?

Indeed the big question is: what really is the difference or the overlap between KM and M&E. And it has to be learning, though we recognized, as a group, that not all KM and not all M&E are learning-focused, but both hold that promise and can make it happen. How to bring them together and how to make them benefit from each other is the question. Perhaps this is really worth blogging more about, just as it might be useful to blog about iterative and upscaling cycles of CDL that take KM from a very individual to a societal level with social learning – one of the thoughts that played around my head during this rich learning day…

 

…which leads me to the bottomline of all of this though is that I can sense how much intellectual effusion there is around Wageningen and the development society of the Netherlands at large and I sense that this might fuel another burst of blogging for me. Which can only be good for the short and longer run for me (and hopefully for you then ;)…

Related blog posts: