What facilitators and participants define as ‘success’


agilefacil

The more I get to facilitate, the more I get to understand how the definition of success (in a facilitated meeting or process) can differ in the eye of the beholder.

Particularly between facilitator and participants. Here I intentionally leave the case of the workshop leader / event organiser / decision-maker out of the picture as they are the ones with -in principle- the clearest understanding of what is there to be achieved.

Here are a few illustrations of the different success definitions between participants and facilitators:

What the participants seek What the facilitators see and seek
Good time management

No conversation dragging on, we will be able to be at home on time. Not one of these endless death-by-Powerpoint shows that leaves us aghast.

What really matters is checking that the objectives are completed, or are well on their way while preserving and even improving relationships in the group and…

View original post 424 more words

Technology and community: don’t get mistaken about the real deal


Most people who are approaching knowledge management -for the first time- from the standpoint of building a community end up focusing on technology.

Technology just enhances communities. It expands the opportunities that communities bring but it doesn’t create communities, and it can also worsen communities if the technology is not user-friendly or if the community faciltator(s) does not know how to use it properly.

Community and technology (Credits: Nancy White)

A bit of history on community and technology (Credits: Nancy White)

So why this focus on technology?

Because it’s hard to build a system, to have a functional tool, to provide ‘office-approved’ technology. A rutilating toy coming out of the shelves.

The technology feels to most of these people building KM community systems like the 80% of the work. And yet the 20% that remains – community building and development – is what really takes 80% of the time.

Technology creating platforms for communities to flourish (Credits: OCLC.org)

Technology creating platforms for communities to flourish (Credits: OCLC.org)

This is why it is very important to invest in cultivating healthy human systems before anything else…

That’s why soft skills are more important than hard systems; that’s why facilitation matters more than engineering (for these communities); that’s why listening is more important than programming; that’s why patience beats quick development…

Technology is and may always be only a proxy, an enabler, not the actual deal.

Funny, I drafted this 2 weeks ago, and this topic is what Bevery Trayner just wrote about on her blog. Go check it, it’s quality! Funny serendipity at work… technology enabling a community of ideas…

Related blog posts:

Internalising facilitation in everyday life, in Africa and globally – an interview with Ed Rege (PICO Eastern Africa)


Because facilitation is one of the most important skills any knowledge management specialist/team should learn…

agilefacil

Ed Rege (Credits: unknown) Ed Rege (Credits: unknown)

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Ed Rege (of PICO-Eastern Africa), an organizational development expert and a well-known facilitator in Africa and worldwide, and a former trainee of Sam Kaner. Ed also happens to be an ex ILRI-staff and not just any staff but a geneticist who rose to become the  leader of ILRI’s global Biotechnology Program. His story about using facilitation is fascinating and his plans are big. Here below is the interview…

What is your understanding of what facilitation does, or is helpful for:

The biggest challenge facing institutions these days is the inability for people to speak with each other constructively, meaningfully and productively. And yet stakeholder engagements are increasingly seen as a critical tool for working together, strategizing and problem-solving. This is complicated by the fact the globalizing world means increased multicultural stakeholder mixes which raise issues about…

View original post 653 more words

Knowledge management in cartoons – A selection


KM in cartoons, a selection (Credits: Shutterstock)

KM in cartoons, a selection

Because good visuals pin an idea with so much more strength…

And fun helps move sensitive ideas forward…

Hereby a selection of cartoons that may help you and others understand the value of knowledge management, through the challenges KM is facing or the initiatives it proposes to deal with them.

Challenge: reinventing the wheel

Initiative: helping ideation and covering new grounds (and pissing people off in the process)

Credits: unclear

Dealing with innovation (Credits: A. Bacall)

Challenge: retaining peoples’ experience and knowledge

Credits: MTN / George Dearing

Initiatives: portals and databases

KM portals and databases (Credits: Grantland)

Challenge: recognising information needs

Recognising information needs (Credits: Scott Adams)

Initiative: building taxonomy

An example of taxonomy (Credits: The New Yorker / Green Chameleon)

Challenge: Dealing with information overload

Dealing with email or information overload (Credits: Pryor)

Initiative: knowing what to do with what you know – and setting standards

Knowing what to do with what you know (Credits: A. Bacau)Knowing or doing (Credits: B. Watterson)
Setting data standards (Credits: XKCD)

Challenge: dealing with difficult dynamics in meetings and events

Dealing with difficult dynamics at events (credits: Oslo)Initiative: Trying new ways of dealing with conversations, meetings, events (err, what about facilitation?)

How about trying something new for your meetings? (Credits: T. Goff)

And to keep some healthy distance from the fact that KM is not the ‘be all, end all’, the last couple of cartoons are for Dilbert, preceded by one by Christian Young:

Bad knowledge management (Credits: Christian Young)

KM for morons? (Credits: Scott Adams / United Feature Syndicate)

Hoarding and sharing knowledge (Credits: Scott Adams)

Related blog posts:

What do I DO about learning?


I talk a lot about learning on this blog. Because in my definition of knowledge management, it’s a central part. So the equation is KM = CDL. But the conversation and documentation parts feed that learning. As is also the case in Jaap Pels’s KM framework:

Jaap Pels's KM framework

Jaap Pels’s KM framework

But what do I do exactly, concretely, at my level, both for myself and the initiatives I’m part of, to walk my talk on KM and learning?

Conversations (C)

I’m having many conversations with many people. But let’s focus on the conversations around KM perhaps. I’m having those conversations with colleagues in my team, in my organisation, in the projects I’m part of, in the networks I’m part of (KM4Dev first and foremost), and with a host of people I come across in the meetings and events I facilitate or if I just bump into them. Though because it’s difficult to explain what KM means and what I do about it, I don’t always jump on the topic of KM with them.

I’m also having lots of conversations online with my personal learning network. On this blog, obviously, but also on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Google+, on others’ blogs. Here’s how I do it for now:

  • I rarely use Facebook for KM, unless there’s something that matters to a much wider group of people than the KM community
  • I use Google+ more for the KM-focused conversations, as I use that social network in a rather professional perspective. But I don’t engage on Google+ very much these days
  • I comment on others’ blogs when their topics really strongly resonate with my interests – it’s the ‘engagement’ gift of attention that I use here. And occasionally I refer to posts on my own blog on these comments
  • I use Twitter to post information but occasionally to also react on others’ contents, to share perspectives. The limitations of characters put a boundary to this engagement though
  • On LinkedIn I also react on others’ writing and sometimes I participate to conversations from groups, but again it has to be something that is very close to my heart because I don’t spend much time on LinkedIn otherwise

And I’m having a conversation with myself on this blog, when I think about topics or I play with ideas that I would like to put to blogging later.

Back to learning, some of these conversations are totally open and free-for-all, and others are exploratory, intentional. At a certain stage some of these intentional conversations become more analytical, including the conversation with myself on this blog. And that’s how I prepare for learning, as I also move on to…

Documentation (D)

This is the part where some of the thoughts and insights I’ve had with people have resonated so much that I need to put them in writing (and also because my memory’s not that great and ‘stuff’ disappears from my brain’s hard drive if I don’t capture it in a way or another).

The ways I document these insights?

  • Obviously on this blog, when a thought is sufficiently well-formed in my mind
  • But usually before that I put them in a proto-blog on TumblR, or on a Google doc where I list my ideas for the blog
  • I also capture some insights on Twitter at times, and I probably should do more to connect that with my TumblR and blog
  • I note down most conversations I’m part of, on my Samsung note app or in Word on my computers
  • In my organisation, I also document some of these insights on our Yammer network(s), and on our LinkedIn group or other such platforms
  • There are other blogs I use to document reflections, for instance the Maarifa blog we have at ILRI comms/KM to document all the work we do on comms and KM

In most conversations I end up, I actually keep track of the main insights and ‘to do’s’ as it seems I’m not the only one who tends to forget what was said in the absence of written records, so it’s useful for me and all to take notes.

For me, putting things in writing is one of the surest ways to remember things and make sure I act upon them, so it’s part of that intentionality that I think is a crucial accelerator of learning.

2014-01-06 Learn how you learn//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Learning (L)

And finally learning is really the combination of these elements. But I do other things to sharpen my learning:

  • I ask for feedback a lot – from my colleagues and friends, from you readers of this blog, because I value that feedback as one of the best ways to go forward and grow
  • I also have a daily after action review to find out what I think I did well and what I could have improved, and at the end of the week I review these for the entire week and reflect a bit more on what I want to or would do with these insights
  • I try new activities every so often (e.g. Yoga, meditation, running) and I try to use them to also improve my own learning, not pushing it but seeing if it helps. And for instance running helps me generate ideas, meditating helps me shift my attention to other important aspects etc.
  • In planning my work I also take a bit of time reflecting on the ways I do my work (single and double loop learning)
  • And as much as possible, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as I would like, I try to reflect on holidays over my life and work. This is when I consider the ways I learn (triple loop learning). Though with two young children that I love, I find it quite difficult to block that quality time.

What are your practices around conversing, documenting and/or learning generally and specifically? What do you think about the above and what is missing you think?

learning//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Related blog posts:

 

The gifts of attention in the garden of knowledge: presence, engagement and investment


This year as ever – no, more than ever! – our attention will be a battleground for all kinds of media and dissemination channels pumping out ‘stuff’ whether legitimate, wanted, useful, applicable, or not.

With an attention span that is currently estimated at a staggering 8.25 seconds, no wonder that our books, papers, articles, communities of practice, discussion groups, websites, blogs, tweets are suffering from growing disinterest from among their members. Maybe we are slowly but surely going towards ever smaller ‘groups’ of highly active members that have decided to invest their time in this or that arena, while the empowered listeners (yeah, us lurkers!) are increasingly superficially part of ever more groups.

In that world, there are three gifts of attention that anyone can give, that really make a difference – and ever more so:Mind Full v. Mindful

The gift of presence

The first obvious and yet very hard-to-reach gift that you can give anyone, any group, any conversation, any initiative, is your attention, your true and unconditional presence, in the best possible meaning of the word.

Being there, listening – deeply and with a true emotional care for who and what you are listening to – paying attention is one of the most precious gifts you can give these days. Our time is divided by ever more activities derived of ever more options. Your presence is not to be taken lightly. Mind this for yourself, as you pay attention to specific conversations, but mind this of others when they are giving you this presence.

The first gift of attention is what makes or breaks nascent spaces, nascent relationships. It’s the water that gets the shoots off of our quirky life moments.

And if you are up for it, you can offer…

Up And Away Engagement (credits: Brian Wolfe)

Up And Away Engagement (credits: Brian Wolfe)

The gift of engagement

Engaging is a difficult word to grasp. Here’s what MacMillan Dictionary has to say about it:

engage with someone/something to make an effort to understand and deal with someone or something

But in the context of giving your attention to information and knowledge initiatives, engaging would be the next step from presence. It is when you start dealing with the person or conversation, over a period of time, talk with, react to, share, reflect, do things together.

In more familiar KM terms, this is what makes the difference between a platform set up for people and a community of practice, or between an online brochure and a vibrant community website, or between a linear/boring/unidirectional meeting or process and one that brings the best interactions and learning out of groups.

The second gift of attention is the light that makes shoots grow up strong and wide, and become bushes, forests and entire worlds.

And if you are ready for it, you can proceed to give…

The gift of (emotional) investment

The ultimate stage is when you are so invested in the person or initiative that you actually put all your passion to it and start championing it from all your heart. When you invest your time to be at the forefront of an issue, when you are the ultimate connector, the introductor, the builder, the visionary, the patron, the adviser, the coach, the parent, the executive, the director, the leader, then you are at the heart of the matter. And it doesn’t have to be an exclusive matter, the more the merrier and the more passion the more energy – but also the more need to channel that energy.

This is the stuff that builds the universe, the spark that turns head bulbs on and up towards the next challenge, the next (seemingly) silly frontier. That’s the stuff true leaders are made of and it is the most precious gift of attention that you give and one that you should choose to give carefully as it really can take energy off of you.

The third gift of attention is the love that gives the shoots their unique beauty and switches secret levers and buttons in us, to trigger us to do something, something beautiful, transcendental, radically different.

So where are you going to distribute your gifts of attention in 2016?

Related blog posts:

2016 in perspective, 2015 in review


Hello all,

Happy New Year
I wish you all a very happy, healthy, successful, wonderful 2016!

Last year has seen a relative decline in my blogging production. I have been less consistent, I haven’t been as inspired as the previous years. It could be the fact that the I have written about various aspects of the KM field and am finding it more difficult to come up with different types of topics. It could be that I have been even busier than the previous years. It could be that I’m getting tired of blogging. It could be all of that and more.

At any rate in 2016 I anticipate I will be again slightly less systematic in my blogging practice and I will cut myself some slack to find new sources of inspiration.

Meanwhile, for all of you who have been following and supporting this blog throughout the years, I would like to thank you very warmly for this, and hope you continue to blog and follow other blogs this year, as it’s what drives this world to create more connections, develop better thinking, stimulate inspiration, inspire cooperation and what perhaps justifies our existence on earth to connect, love and move forward together, in whatever ways.

Finally, hereby find the top 10 posts of 2015, as well as the ‘year in review’ on Agile KM for me and you provided by WordPress.

Keep on engaging, learning, sharing, reflecting, giving, and hopefully we’ll have even more exciting conversations in 2016!

Happy new year!

Top 10 posts in 2015 (in bold the posts written in 2015)

  1. Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  2. Share Fair Addis: Fishbowl and fishbowl battle
  3. Knowledge management strategy development: Taking stock
  4. Putting learning loops and cycles in practice
  5. Tinkering with tools: Asessing Asana
  6. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker
  7. Who is in for triple loop learning?
  8. Opportunity costs of documentation and how to make it work…
  9. Of ‘healthy human systems’ beyond ‘the field’ and facilitating conversations that change the world: an interview with Sam Kaner and Nelli Noakes
  10. Enabling change: a manager’s choice (and a leader’s decision)

Review of 2015 by WordPress

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

blogging holiday and TOP 10 posts


I’m going on leave for 2 weeks and will be back in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 6 November.

Until then no activity to expect on this blog, as I’m enjoying total disconnection while on holiday, and total dedication to all the other pleasures in life, starting with family fun!

Meanwhile, for the past 9 months of this year, these are the top posts on this blog, as you may like to revisit them… In bold are the posts dated from this year.

  1. Managing or facilitating change, not just a question of words
  2. Knowledge management strategy development: Taking stock
  3. Tinkering with tools: Asessing Asana
  4. Share Fair Addis: Fishbowl and fishbowl battle
  5. Of ‘healthy human systems’ beyond ‘the field’ and facilitating conversations that change the world: an interview with Sam Kaner and Nelli Noakes
  6. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker
  7. Who is in for triple loop learning?
  8. Enabling change: a manager’s choice (and a leader’s decision)
  9. Opportunity costs of documentation and how to make it work…
  10. Putting learning loops and cycles in practice

PS. and if you were wondering where I will go on holiday, this picture could give you some idea…

Roc

See you in 2-3 weeks!

Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners… Mind your attitude for the knowledge ecosystem!


No revolutionary KM thought today, just some mundane observation, with deep implications for knowledge work and its broader knowledge ecosystem though…

We react differently in front of challenges: we can be silent or vocal about them, and we can do something about them, or we don’t. For agile knowledge management, attitude is certainly one of the key factors that makes or breaks initiatives and feeds the knowledge tree and ecosystem (see graph below and related post) or not.

The knowledge tree & ecosystem (credits; CIAT/CTA?)

The knowledge tree & ecosystem (Credits: CTA)

If we were to imagine a four quadrant graph where the x axis would be about being active or passive about the challenges faced and the y axis would plot complaining about challenges (being vocal about them) vs. keeping silent (and focusing on what needs to be done), one ends up with four possible quadrants:

  • Wailers, who are neither active nor particularly silent about what is going wrong;
  • Whiners, who are not silent but are doing something;
  • Waiters, who are not complaining but are also not doing much;
  • Winners, who are not complaining but are actually doing something.
Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners

Wailers, whiners, waiters and winners

Wailing is of course the worst situation, but is probably a temporary situation or predicament, not a constant… At least I hope so. It could also be a stage that is necessary before bouncing back. But there’s no immediate benefit here!

Whining is just complaining about what is going on. And sometimes it really feels good to complain (just see my series of rants on this blog for instance, ha!). But the problem of whining is that, as I’m learning through my meditation work with Headspace, we tend to add thoughts to the feelings we have and just make the whole situation worse. And whining creates waves of negativity that can have a deep impact. The same whiners are typically the people that want you to change. And yes, you can also be a passive whiner, but then in my typology you’d just be a wailer – and not the musical type, Jah!

Waiting can be a good strategy sometimes, sitting it all out, letting things simmer to see some crucial signs emerge, and at least it’s not a situation where frustration is vocalized, but it also means little action emerges. Again, good for a time, but mostly to meditate (which about being actively conscious) but limited after a while. And if nothing happens, it means it’s probably time for action.

Winning is the combination of attitude and action and is what a knowledge ecosystem requires to change more deeply or rapidly. It’s that attitude that inspires change. Bouncing back, rebounding up all the time, taking adversity as an opportunity to change and improve – even though it’s difficult – and neither boasting about it nor complaining about the problems. Easier said than done, for sure, but worth remembering.

Think about it when you’re struggling in your next agile KM move. It takes just a bit of silence, a lot of action and some role modelling. And yes, meditation helps:)

Related posts:

KM on a (creative) shoestring


What can you do when you don’t have budget?
Not much you might think? Think again!

Lack of resources boosts creativity, much like ‘near-miss’ experiences (so well described in Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath) produce confident life champions that fight through adversity.

So, if your KM budget is small, or non-existent, what can you do?
Not much you might think? Think again!

Following Nick Milton and Stephanie Barnes’s book about ‘Designing a successful KM strategy‘ you can devise simple measures to go through every step of the process they recommend.

Here is what I would suggest as one palette of shoestring KM options:

  • Talk to management and other people in the initiative of which your KM work is part, to understand the bigger challenges they are facing, and share your insights with them and try and convince them of the value of agile KM;
  • See what the people in your initiative are doing. Map, very simply, their good and improvable practices as individuals and as teams or collectives – and present back your findings;
  • Hold conversations to share information, insights, knowledge, contacts, questions, to create trust [LINK] and to connect with the wider picture;
  • Set up simple off-the-shelf systems – follow the example of ILRI in using existing, off-the-shelf platforms that do not require heavy programming;
  • Hold reflection meetings and set up learning mechanisms and approaches to periodically reflect on what is working or not in your approach.
Becoming a data scientist on a shoestring (Credits: Timo Elliott)

Becoming a data scientist on a shoestring (Credits: Timo Elliott)

And if these prove useful, you might want to advocate for more budget in the future, and go for the Cadillac process that Milton & Barnes are talking about. But maybe you don’t even want to fall into comfort?

Whatever the range of approaches, think about how to develop communication, documentation and learning. At any rate these simple steps above could already go a very long way. And this is just the fruit of a very quick reflection. I’m sure you can devise just as many steps without much budget.

What shoestring KM mechanisms have you implemented? What would you recommend?

Related blog posts: