A knowledge management primer (5): VWXYZ


This final section of the agile KM alphabet primer covers VWXYZ (Credits: DreamsTime)

This final section of the agile KM alphabet primer covers VWXYZ (Credits: DreamsTime)

This is a new series of posts, an alphabet primer of agile knowledge management (KM), to touch upon some of the key concepts, approaches, methods, tools, insights in the world of KM. And because there could have been different alternatives for each letter I’m also introducing the words I had to let go of here.

This is the final part, covering the V of vision all the way to the Z of Zombies.


V for Vision

Any agile KM initiative ought to start with a vision, even if having a plan does not provide a silver bullet and even if a vision doesn’t mean you are close to realising it. But it is an aspiration that gives you an idea of where you want to be (and by default where you are now) so it gives both some non-compromising view of what you’re up against, but also some aspiration and inspiration for where your journey should take you.

V could also have been…

Value – Whether the value of communities of practice, of a new portal, of a training or coaching program, of a series of meetings etc. the value of any KM initiative and of knowledge work has to be assessed, monitored and demonstrated.

W for wisdom

Knowledge without wisdom... (Credits: Michael Fisher / FlickR)

Knowledge without wisdom… (Credits: Michael Fisher / FlickR)

And I don’t mean it in the way the DIKW pyramid works (not), but rather the way continual learning sharpens senses and quickens the road to gathering wisdom (through effectiveness, focus, humility and empathy). Wisdom is about asking the right questions at the right moment, it’s about paying attention to the right people – it permeates all good agile KM initiatives or at least it is openly invited to nestle in such initiatives.

W could also have been…

WIIFM – The famous ‘What’s in it for me’ factor that shows where the benefit is. Without it, kiss your agile KM goodbye because the behaviour change involved with most agile KM initiatives is too high a hurdle for the people concerned if they don’t gain anything and/or don’t see what their personal gains can be. Articulate that WIIFM from the start, and prominently, without making empty promises. It’s part of the personal factor in KM.

Win-win – With the difficult promise of selling KM to anyone, the perspective of ‘multiple fits’ and of minimising tradeoffs (even though they are mostly unavoidable in the complex contexts where agile KM is set) is compelling. So win-win is crucial. And that means for instance web platforms that work for both users, managers and IT managers; or communities of practice that serve creative and productive purposes, or events that please patrons but also benefit all participants etc.

Cross Pollinator (Credits: Jonny Goldstein / FlickR)

Cross Pollinator (Credits: Jonny Goldstein / FlickR)

Web (stuff) – The inevitable expansion of connectivity means the web has become the space of choice for agile KM, even though face-to-face contact is not about to disappear and has much going for it. Still, the web is the reason why knowledge management came of age in terms of connecting learning etc. And the future of the web is proactive, and contextual.

X for X-pollination

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Let me cheat here and use X as a cross 😉 Cross-pollination is just a convoluted way of looking at knowledge sharing across (institutional or other) boundaries. It’s the way institutional memory is built across project silos.
X could also have been…

X reasons not to learn – As mentioned in this blog post: X reasons not to learn, not to share, not to progress.

Y for Why?

Another cheat here – we’re in the difficult section of the alphabet he he he – but the point here is to keep on questioning, asking yourself why, educating your questions etc. Why is one of the most powerful questions one can ask. And at this it is one of the most important weapons in the agile KM arsenal.

Y could also have been… well… what, really?

Meeting zombies... (Credits: ReadyTalk)

Meeting zombies… (Credits: ReadyTalk)

Z for Zombies

I’m not talking about the dead-alive of the films, series and games, but about the people who attend poorly designed and ill-facilitated events. This is a good reminder that good, strong agile KM is about avoiding to turn more people into zombies in your conversations, meetings, events… Focus on learning, engagement, excitement and all that the letters of this agile KM alphabet primer have to offer…

Meeting zombies (Credits: CreateLearning)

Meeting zombies (Credits: CreateLearning)

Z could also have been…

Zen, zooming, zones etc. – But at this stage, I think I have explored enough alternative letters in this agile KM alphabet primer, which is coming to an end.

Let me know what you thought of this agile KM alphabet primer, in all honesty and with constructive feedback 🙂

A look at my top 10 posts so far in 2016, before a break


Looking back at top posts before holiday (Credits: Will Cooke/FlickR)

Looking back at top posts before holiday (Credits: Will Cooke/FlickR)

And on this solstice day we are hitting summer.

And I’ll be on the road to holidays in a couple of earth rotations. As usual a good time to look back at the best performing posts on this blog so far in 2016 – acknowledging that I’ve taken an easy year, blogging-wise.
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I hope to come back from hopefully sunny and rejuvenating holidays with fresh ideas and passion to share here.

Meanwhile, here is the top 10 of 2016 on ‘Agile KM for me… and you?’ so far (and as usual, in bold are the posts from 2016):

  1. Knowledge management in cartoons – A selection
  2. A knowledge management primer (1): KM as simple as ABC
  3. Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  4. Putting learning loops and cycles in practice
  5. Share Fair Addis: Fishbowl and fishbowl battle
  6. Settling the eternal semantic debate: what is knowledge, what is information…
  7. Learning cycle basics and more: Taking stock
  8. Good bye acute meetingitis! Plan your day-to-day meetings as a true KMer…
  9. Sailing along ‘pattern currents’ in the sea of change
  10. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker

10 advices to dramatically improve your un-facilitated meetings…


Latest post… on my other blog on ‘agile facilitation’. I should have written this a lot earlier, it would have helped many people I know. Better late than never though…

agilefacil

Shooting towards ten commandments (Credits: ideacreamanuela / FlickR) Shooting towards ten commandments of unfacilitated meetings? (Credits: ideacreamanuela / FlickR)

In my experience as meeting-goer (and I have to admit I attend meetings way less than I facilitate them), it seems a number of standard mistakes happen by default. These mistakes really cripple any attempt to turn the meetings into useful gatherings and meshings of ideas, people and energies.

These mistakes tend to appear particularly in meetings where there is no facilitator involved. Yet it’s clear that not every meeting can be facilitated (for lack of time, money, thought about it etc.).

So here are 10 advices that can help anyone running an un-facilitated meeting to hit the mark more surely – and for clarity by meeting I mean gatherings of 2 hours or more:

  1. Work with a team, from the design phase. Even if you don’t involve a facilitator, you will need to make sure you have people that help you…

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Penny-wise and pound-foolish (KM and otherwise)


“Games are won by players who focus on the playing field –- not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard.”
Warren Buffett

There is a very real danger that the sponsors of an initiative (in knowledge management or otherwise) do not want to invest too much of their money into some venues, because they are afraid of losing precious resources. Sounds sensible…

Don't! (Credits: ICG team)

Don’t! (Credits: ICG team)

Except that that approach bears the big risk of chasing small economies while achieving nothing, and the investment spared then costs (a lot) more further down the line when it becomes obvious proper money should have been spent on it. Some examples?

  • A company has identified that their website does not reflect adequately its image and that it’s missing some opportunities to do more with the web. A grand new web design is put together, but no plan has been put (lack of money!) into revamping the content generation process… (Very) Costly mistake further down the line!
  • A new project team organises a meeting that will help them decide – with the participants’ inputs – what the strategic direction of their project should be. But no investment has been made into properly designing it. Waste of time (and money) and possibly – err probably – a painful experience for participants
  • A project team working on a theme is best placed to lead what could become a community of practice on that field. There is a real need for that domain but the team is haggling over how much it should invest in properly getting the community of practice facilitated and attended to… too bad: it might mean the end of that nascent network (minding that communities of practice do die too).

The point is not to go ‘all in’ with every initiative that you set up – sometimes having little resource makes you more resourceful anyhow. But once you have identified, in your KM strategy, where are the key leverage points, don’t hesitate and really go for it, and turn these leverage points into successful enablers for useful investments (and pound wise solutions).

Master Sun (Tzu) would say no less about approaching these key battles with full resolution…

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” (Sun Tzu)

 

So, save your pennies for the futile, but don’t haggle about investing your pounds where it matters. And KM can be that extra mile that brings you back a many-fold return on investment.

Related blog posts:

A knowledge management primer (4): PQRSTU


This is a new series of posts, an alphabet primer of agile knowledge management (KM), to touch upon some of the key concepts, approaches, methods, tools, insights in the world of KM. And because there could have been different alternatives for each letter I’m also introducing the words I had to let go of here.

PQRSTU are on the menu of this KM alphabet primer portion (credits: Jericho Design)

PQRSTU are on the menu of this KM alphabet primer portion (credits: Jericho Design)

This is the fourth part of this alphabet primer, with some heavyweight words between P and U.


P for People

In order to have any success, KM has to be about, for, and by the people. It’s the people that think, that feel, that identify, that explore, that analyse, that summarise, that rally, that use, that reflect, that unite, that live with anything that KM produces. Focus on the people, YOUR people and at least you don’t miss the most fundamental first step. Who are they? How will they think and feel and react about issue abc, system pqr, approach xyz? Let them help you!

P could also have been…

P is also a heavyweight letter, covering many rejected candidates:

Processes – In the KM heyday, people, processes and systems were the litany of KM heads. While this has waned to some extent, processes remain an important lens to see how the information (the content) is used and absorbed by the people, and how to organise workflows that work. And process literacy is essential to KM success.

Portals (expired) – For a long time many KM people were building portals just because it sounded like the right thing to do, until there was already too many platforms out there and it became cumbersome. Nowadays agile KM no longer looks at portals as the go-to solution, but rather looks at meta portals for helping the questioning process, such as with Quora or Wikipedia.

Patterns – An essential aspect of learning, and of complexity, patterns are necessary for knowledge management in that they offer ‘invisible feedback loops’ that can be used to inform how KM is doing and how all the people and elements around them are gelling or not.

And I could have also written about: platforms (covered in this primer through systems, portals etc.), pacing, purpose, personal, presence, participation…

Q for Question(ing)

Question everything! (credits: Henry Bloomfield / Skype)

Question everything! (credits: Henry Bloomfield / Skype)

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Q has to be about questions and the act of questioning to find out what is the next quest, what is the new insight, what is the emerging feeling, what is the anticipated vision. Questions are at the heart of learning and (ever) adapting. Methods like ‘nine whys‘ are at the heart of agile knowledge management. So practice your questioning!

Q could also have been…

Quality – In some environments where KM is not so well-known, and where social media are questioned, as in my home country France, the quality approach is another term for parts of what KM tries to do, around information management and ensuring the right service at the right time for the right person. With quality comes also the idea of quality standards and monitoring processes, other elements that guarantee a certain degree of service that can be expected.

R for Rituals

Central to learning are rituals. And although in the industrial age rituals were perhaps partly eclipsed, they are gaining ground again in the network age, as a rediscovered attribute of ‘tribes‘ and of community gatherings. In KM, rituals entail both the ritual of a quality approach e.g. reviewing what’s out there and building upon the latest available information, but it also entails group rituals that mark important moments in the knowledge life of a grouping e.g. in(tro)duction of new staff, exit interviews, after-action-reviews, yearly learning retreats etc.

Here’s more about tribes from Seth Godin:

R could also have been…

Results, reviews and ratings – Results, reviews, ratings are all part of a healthy approach to any (set of) system(s) that are used, to better understand what is going on and what needs to be kept, tweaked or removed. In other words, use metrics to define your baseline, and then assess your end result through reviews, ratings and other tests that provide you with that data. And think about the functions you need for the results you wish to obtain.

Reinventing the wheel – I illustrated in a post about KM in cartoons this common challenge that KM aspires to tackle once and for all. Even though a small dose of reinventing the wheel is unavoidable and perhaps even desirable to tickle peoples’ curiosity and empowerment.

Role modeling – In any behaviour change approach, there are models that inspire others. These are the champions that lead the way, the positive deviants that discover smarter ways, the herders that pull everyone in a direction etc. Find out what are some of the role models you need for your initiative and see who can role model for you. These people can be your most precious assets.

And still R could also be… relationships (covered by people, and trust), reflecting etc.

S for Social

In the first era of knowledge management (partly disputed by these 7 ages of KM), all that mattered were information systems. But fast forward to 2016 and no one doing KM can pretend to do a good job when they’re not looking at the social dimension of knowledge management. And engagement and learning through the social interfaces is key.

3 eras of KM (credits: Nancy Dixon)

3 eras of KM (credits: Nancy Dixon)

S could also have been…

Systems – as in ‘information systems’. Yes systems are as central to KM as the social side of things. But I just happen to believe in the people using the system more than in the systems themselves. And not least because too many people got attracted to the idea of ‘be-all-do-all’ global information systems.

Sharing – Nothing new under the sun: information – and knowledge – are meant to be shared for any agile KM approach to thrivingly flow. HOW you get there is a different issue, but sharing is one of the archetypical expected behaviours of successful knowledge management (and knowledge sharing one of the three pillars of KM in my definition).

And S could still have been stealth (KM), scaling etc.

T for Trust

Knowledge management is not flavour of the day, and the reason behind this is that it takes time: to understand the situation, to imagine fit approaches, to build systems and crucially to build trust among the people that are part of an agile KM ecosystem. But trust is one of the cornerstones of sustainable knowledge management (and a great many other things)…Trust is the truth.

T could also have been…

Thinking – Because knowledge management is very much in the realm of logical reasoning (even though there is much place for feelings too) and because analysing, reflecting etc. are all avatars of thinking.

Tools – Another name for systems, but in knowledge management circles there is also a whole wave of people enthusiastic about tools, exploring them, playing around with them, understanding their value… before they may get turned into systems. That playfulness with tools is essential – without falling in the tool trap on the other hand.

Tradeoffs – As with any complex domain, knowledge management is about choosing certain things – or rather slightly favouring them – over others: information vs. knowledge, pilot vs. large scale, stealth vs. big bang, centralised vs. decentralised. So tradeoff thinking is a useful card to have in your agile KM deck.

Whatever you think, think the opposite (credits: Paul Arden)

Whatever you think, think the opposite (credits: Paul Arden)

U for Unlearning

Learning, unlearning, two sides of the same coin. In agile KM we have to let go of certain ideas, behaviours, aspirations, ways of doing things. And so unlearning is just as important as learning new things. Make room for what comes next.

U could also have been…

Unconferences – Wikipedia describes these so: “An unconference, also called an Open Space conference, is a participant-driven meeting. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as fees, sponsored presentations, and top-down organization.” And rightly there’s a place for these different types of gatherings in agile KM, because the gist of it is to let ideas flow, trust build, creative energy to get unleashed. It’s also about unlearning, and taking calculated risks… and that’s what agile KM is all about.

What would be your letter choices for this section of the agile KM alphabet primer?