Knowledge management strategy development: Taking stock


Nothing like having your back to the wall to do some useful research.

Here I am, fishing for ideas on good communication and knowledge management strategies. I addressed how to develop a communication strategy a while back. And though I’ve shared some ideas on how I would go about a KM strategy, I haven’t really synthesised all the stuff I’ve found useful to do so through the years; so here’s some stock-taking exercise for resources dealing with designing and rolling out a knowledge management strategy.

How to develop a KM strategy? (Credits: UNU-ViE_SCIENTIA / FlickR)

How to develop a KM strategy? (Credits: UNU-ViE_SCIENTIA / FlickR)

Caveat: This is not a simple exercise, as most companies want to preciously hoard their information about this business-critical area of work. Case studies do exist a bit everywhere but this post doesn’t attempt at highlighting those in particular.

Caveat 2: Because it is not simple, and I didn’t get enough time to search thoroughly for all that might be out there, this will be a ‘living post': I will enrich it with other resources that I think should feature here. So, feel free to bring up your key readings on this :)

…or indeed videos (haven’t yet checked this Kana 5-video tutorial on KM strategies)…

KM4Dev conversations about KM strategies (Stock-taking on stock-taking)

A KM4Dev conversation (Credits: Westhill Knowledge)

A KM4Dev conversation (Credits: Westhill Knowledge)

As ever, the KM4Dev wiki is a gold mine of relevant information and as you might expect, KM4Devers have explored this topic more than once. So we have four waves of KM strategy conversations here, as well as some useful (quite recent) case studies at the end.

The four conversations cover:

  • How a 10-year vision about KM can be developed in an organisation
  • Where to start with a KM strategy
  • Using frameworks and getting started
  • The stealth approach in KM strategies

What’s useful: the attention to principles of action and the fact that this resource is quite easy to absorb and to implement as it has a good, concrete, summary section. An excellent starting point.

APQC’s resources on knowledge management strategy

APQC KM strategy chart

APQC’s interactive KM strategy framework

APQC have a lot of experience with KM and they are really interested in connecting with other people that work on or around KM (they incidentally interviewed me a couple of times about getting KM and comms accepted and valued and about developing a content management strategy that works across generations of workers (the second part of a two-piece series).

Their interactive KM strategy framework allows you to select a different phase of KM strategy development and zoom in on specific challenges and related posts, other writings or resources… So a good complement to the KM4Dev wiki. However here nothing is said about how you should go about it, but that’s because APQC, like quite a few other people mentioned here, makes a business out of advising you on KM too.

Josef Hofer-Alfeis KM master course (and module on KM strategy)

Josef Hofer-Alfeis

Josef Hofer-Alfeis

This series of 12 Powerpoint presentations might, at times, seem a bit dry to read  but it contains a wealth of advices regarding knowledge and knowledge management. The part 5 focuses on developing a knowledge and then a knowledge management strategy, looking also at how to measure KM successfully and how to launch your KM program.

There is perhaps nothing really brand new in this but the merit of this master course is to be quite comprehensive and to be transparent.

Designing a Successful KM Strategy (N. Milton & S. Barnes)

The recent book by Stephanie Barnes and Knoco’s Nick Milton is allegedly one of the best reads on this topic and is most likely selling fast too. I don’t like to promote pay-for resources so much, that’s why I’m keeping this for the end of this selection.

Designing a successful KM strategy

Designing a successful KM strategy

The reason why this features here – and before I have even read the book myself (though I ordered it) is that Nick Milton has been blogging very regularly the past few years, and very regularly about some very good stuff. So do check his blog.

The points that I like about his approach to KM strategy include among others: Pilots, change management (not just KM), attention to facilitation as part of the skill set of a knowledge manager, guerrilla strategy, attention to principles and key knowledge areas, in addition to the standard stuff you can find in other resources mentioned here.

The tip of the iceberg: tentative first steps in cross-organisational comparison of knowledge management in development organisations

What we think about with KM strategies is sometimes just the tip of what needs to be taken care of (Credits: Infertilegirlinafertileworld)

What we think about with KM strategies is sometimes just the tip of what needs to be taken care of (Credits: Infertilegirlinafertileworld)

Sarah Cummings and I wrote this overview of KM strategies a few years back. Although dated (2009) this comparison draws a few conclusions that are relevant regardless of the KM strategy context:

  • Four pointers to make decisions: the complexity of the organisation (or network etc.), strategic orientation (navel-gazing or outward-focused), learning phase in the strategy development and reference framework;
  • Four elements of a KM strategy: scope, approach, tools/practices, monitoring and evaluation…

The link above leads to the pay-for version of the full text article on the Taylor & Francis website but you can also request it to me here as it has become public access and will soon be moved to the Open Access platform of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal.

What about agile KM then?

Now, if I’m true to my own model of KM=CDL, I would end this stock-taking exercise by wondering how a KM strategy addresses a) cultivating conversations, b) documenting these and other experiences and c) stimulating action-focused learning, and this at organisational level but with a strong inclination to connect with individual level and (inter)institutional level. But that is too much at this stage, so more matter for another post.

You can see more resources in my bookmarks on KM strategy and as mentioned above I’ll keep on updating this so watch this space!

Related blog posts:

And of course all other ‘stock-taking’ posts

“Get me trained and I’ll become a superhero!” I mean, come on…


A short post, for an idea that is not really new in my (mind)world: Training is great. But it won’t give you the superpowers you were expecting…

Where do people get this idea from? Even in my close surrounding people believe training is the surest way to become someone else, and I see countless CVs that display a sometimes endless list of training courses like a proud badge of capacity. Like: Training transformed me into a superhero!

Become a superhero with training? Errrrm.... (Credits: MindMappingSoftware)

Become a superhero with training? Errrrm…. (Credits: MindMappingSoftware)

I don’t deny that training:

  • Can bring critical new information and skills;
  • Challenges your thinking about some theories and practices that you may not have been exposed to;
  • (If done well) Puts you in concrete situations where you have to show and encourage new behaviours.
  • … and probably a few more benefits…

But on the downside:

  • How many training courses are actually designed around your context, your issues, your needs and opportunities?
  • How many training courses pay attention to how you will apply the new information and skills in your work tomorrow, next week, next year?
  • As a result, what is the likelihood that you apply new information and skills in your day-to-day work (unless you have the capacity/authority and discipline to enforce this? We already know how difficult it is to change.
  • How likely is it that you change your behaviour as a result of training? Some psychological research argues it takes (a minimum of) 21 days to change a major behaviour. Well, how many 4-week (20 working days) training courses have you gone on?
  • How likely are you to change that behaviour if you don’t have a practice of reflection about your ongoing work and naturally try to accommodate the new skills and information in your natural ecosystem and routines?
Training goes back to way back when and yet it feels to me as likely to be a fit as playing bilboquet (cup and ball) guarantees... (Credits: Noël Tortajada / Rita Productions)

Training goes back to way back when and yet it feels to me as likely to be a fit as playing bilboquet (cup and ball) guarantees… (Credits: Noël Tortajada / Rita Productions)

This is why in KM there is much more emphasis put on coaching, mentoring and communities of practice, on ‘learning on the job’ for continuous learning than on sheer training. And though that idea has been critiqued, if not criticised, I believe much more in the idea of 10000 hours of practice, and better still: 10000 hours of action learning.

So: training? Yes! But make sure it’s adapted to you, prepare yourself to putting the training insights into your context… and just don’t put all your eggs into the training basket…

I’m just sayin’…

And for whatever it’s worth, if you consider training, you might look at how to calculate return on investment. If anything, it just shows how complex it is to have training lead to value and impact.

Related blog posts:

Don’t want to understand KM? Don’t bother, business as usual is the best thing ever :)


Knowledge management (KM) can be a very dry topic to explain, so how about a bit of fun to do the job?

A mate of mine was recently compiling some ideas to present KM to a group of people who don’t know anything about it. She picked my brains and I told her, among other ideas, to use illustrations explaining the challenges that (agile) KM can solve.

Here are some ideas if you want to ignore those challenges…

Information and knowledge are of no help when you have a hammer anyway! (Credits: Mugsy's rap sheet)

Information and knowledge are of no help when you have a hammer anyway! (Credits: Mugsy’s rap sheet)

Don’t mind your information and knowledge, it’s all over-rated

True! What’s all the fuss about the information age and the knowledge era, and being smart and all. Rote learning has proven a long time ago that it was by far the most successful way to respond to current problems, let alone future challenges. Just keep nailing (or hammering?) down your problems all in the same way, as you’ve always done. Why change a winning strategy?

Well, perhaps when it’s no longer winning, and you DO need to take stock of what people think and do around you ;)

Ensure slow, and regular death by powerpoint

Another common one that can easily be avoided by (agile) KM: Make sure your meetings and events are as loaded with information as possible (yes: encourage logorrhea). Who cares about knowledge sharing and co-creating?

Death by Powerpoint, slow and painful, and totally AVOIDABLE (Credits: Media Fake Posters)

Death by Powerpoint, slow and painful, and totally AVOIDABLE (Credits: Media Fake Posters)

Who said involving people was a good idea? What can be better than provide all your great thoughts to others and let them digest your excellent thinking rather than come up with a watered down version of it by themselves – even together?

Keep it solid, keep it straight: it’s all about your experience enlightening others, and frankly you have little to get from interacting with all those morons around you.

Make sure everyone around you is endlessly searching information and wasting time

The gazillions of hours wasted searching for stuff (Credits: Kirtok)

The gazillions of hours wasted searching for stuff are killing us! (Credits: Kirtok)

That’s right, one of the benefits of not organising and managing your information is that it forces your colleagues to search (for hours) through the web, looking for what they need. They will get really web-savvy with this, and finding lovely kitten pictures, Buzzfeed’s latest nightmarish creations and perhaps even saucy videos will have no secret for them. Finding business-critical information on the other hand… well, it’s probably not part of their terms of reference really is it? So…

Don't reinvent the wheel (Credits: Sebastien Wiertz / FlickR)

Don’t reinvent the wheel (Credits: S. Wiertz / FlickR)

Reinvent the wheel – in a worse way, and in order to reinventing the wheel

Let’s go one step further: Since searching for information hasn’t reaped any tangible benefit for your business, don’t bother building upon the past, just CREATE IT ALL ANEW, bigger, flashier, fancier, ahem, though perhaps not better.

People who worked on similar challenges before didn’t understand your context, your needs, your problems, so they likely have very little in store to help you…

Just ignore them and fix that damn wheel. Someone still needs to create it, right?

Make sure your colleagues are all drowning in emails

It’s such a hassle having to learn a new tool that pretends it can do away with (part of) your emails, so just wallow in your email soup and relish the deluge that keeps coming in and keeps your heart and tension very healthy. And you may beat the record number of emails in your inbox, or amount of emails received per hour. Just go for it, there wouldn’t be anything sillier than trying to fix this since it’s so fun replying to emails endlessly. It also keeps you away from other work that needs to be done.

Life if sweet without KM.

Try and beat that record (Credits: Gideon / FlickR)

Try and beat that record (Credits: Gideon / FlickR)

Don’t learn, don’t look back, and if you do, think single loop only

Learning? That’s for pupils and students. You don’t need it. You surely have all the best answers to all the problems in the world anyway… And even if you did need to learn, it’s just to improve your very same approach to problems – sharpening that hammer so to speak.

If you have some success, just celebrate. If you had problems, quickly ignore them. At any rate DO NOT try and document what happened. It’s a complete waste of time. Everyone knows that a success can easily be replicated elsewhere, and that a failure doesn’t help anyone, certainly not you.

Don’t bring people together to (come on, that big picture blatantly doesn’t exist!)

That big picture does NOT exist. Just relax and keep your head in the sand (Credits: Kat Banaszek / FlickR)

That big picture does NOT exist. Just relax and keep your head in the sand (Credits: Kat Banaszek / FlickR)

Thinking there might be other solutions for the issues you face, or bigger issues affecting you and your organisation is a gross exaggeration, a conspiracy from outside to prevent you from doing what you do best: business as usual. The solution must be in one deeper ply of your thinking. You’ve always found the right answers to all problems so you can figure out that big one too.

Oh, and don’t forget to run for presidency next time you can ;)

Don’t pay attention to your institutional memory, don’t do exit interviews etc.

Institutional Memory (Credits: Thomas Hawk / FlickR)

Institutional Memory (Credits: Thomas Hawk / FlickR)

One of the common challenges that KM tries to fix is to mitigate the loss of institutional memory through buddying/coaching, on site training, codifying practices at work, implementing a proper induction  program and handover process including a good, grounded exit interview.

But hey, that’s a whole waste of time. Just get on with work, focus on the here and now only and when someone leaves your company you’ll find a solution for the replacement. Anyway chances are they are not really good employees and wouldn’t leave much behind at any rate (after all: they’re working for you, a worthless company that has proved well beyond the point that they don’t take KM seriously because they are not smart).

There is so much more I could mention, all these buzz words and idiotic ideas like innovation, resilience, adaptive management etc. fail fail fail… Just rejoice at the idea that your company may start looking like The Office – so prepare your jelly supplies, and sit back, relax and enjoy the KM-free world. A world free of hassle, at least mañana

Related blog posts:

Use quality face-to-face time for synergy, not for logorrhea


How many meetings (even one on one) are spent to regurgitate something, to present ‘stuff’ of various relevance and quality, to eruct presentation upon presentation as if the audience needed to know everything ever written about the topic at hand…

Logorrhea - and it's only getting worse... (Credits: Scott Adam)

Logorrhea – and it’s only getting worse… (Credits: Scott Adam)

How many events with an avalanche of information, and so little co-creation?

Hey, I’d get it if we were in 1983 and there was no other way to get that information. But in 2015, almost everyone has a phone that can provide all the information we need. Share if you care.

Death by Powerpoint (Credits: Tom Fishburne)

Death by Powerpoint (Credits: Tom Fishburne)

This single-route approach to face-to-face is not only another (often not so) disguised attempt of inducing death by Powerpoint, but it is also: a completely missed opportunity to develop something new, an insult to our intelligence and capacity, a deliberate attempt at stupidly reinventing the wheel again and again and again (remember the reasons why Open Space Technology and World Café were created?), a real barrier to developing trust between people (who will thus not get an opportunity to meet each other) and an utter waste of money –  remember the meeting cost calculator?

Synergy (Credits: MacroMarcie)

Synergy (Credits: MacroMarcie)

How about quality face-to-face time to avoid the logorrhea of information? People coming together should remain the kindling of magic that happens so easily in personal life. It should be about everyone bringing their experience, ideas, emotions, capacities, know-how, know-who… it’s about a communion of souls and conjugation of roles – synergy made out of energies.

So: How about sharing information beforehand, online, because it’s possible but also because it prepares the participants to the purpose of this face-to-face moment. Interactive moments of discovery, exploration, alignment, co-creation, prototyping (see Carl Jackson’s ideas about this), assessment and commitment?

THAT is the mix for real magic.

A few essentials can help further here:

  • The guts to require that people coming together prepare themselves to let go and to co-create on the spot, without invading each other’s space with their pompous excellence;
  • The discipline of preparing ourselves for meetings, however large or small scale – ideally we should always have a clear learning objective for all face-to-face encounters we’re planning – and have read whatever information is necessary to kickstart the conversation;
  • The habit of managing our information (as part of PKM) and of choosing the face-to-face moments we have with others because we can fully invest ourselves;
  • And so, ok, perhaps just the minimum of information to level the playing field here – but just enough to get the substance to make magic happen. No less, and certainly no more.

Open Innovation and Co-Creation

We can no longer afford to use meetings to just ‘share information’. In this year and age that is the equivalent of encouraging online visitors to read scanned faxes posted on a website and to come once a month to a physical office to bring their (printed) comments about it.

Anno 2015, synergistic learning is well beyond faxes, prints and single-comms streets. It’s social, it’s alive, it’s enthralling. So whatever your next face-to-face moment is, be there, be together and as Delroy Wilson would say, ‘Get ready’.

Related posts:

Tinkering with tools: Asessing Asana


Asana - making genuine collaboration possible or generalising team confusion?

Asana – making genuine collaboration possible or generalising team confusion?

It’s been ages since the last ‘Tinkering with tools‘ post, so after posts about Yammer, LinkedIn and Prezi, it’s time to turn to one of the (expected) collaboration rising stars: Asana.

Asana is a team-centric virtual collaboration tool which allows collective task management, setting up structured team meetings and more. It certainly could be considered as one of the solutions against collective apathy in the workplace. It certainly weighs as a good alternative to SharePoint (SP) given the criticism SP has met, especially when used as a KM tool or as a community collaboration platform.

In any case, PC Mag rated Asana one of the best productivity apps on the market.

Here’s what Asana has to say about itself now (video). This other video below was the original introduction piece by the Asana team (from three years ago)

Now, I’ve been using Asana for the past seven months in a small team (five people) connected to a larger group of colleagues. You will be able to read more about this on our knowledge management ‘Maarifa’ blog soon. This post is actually a great way to synthesise our thinking back about our ILRI experience with Asana. But here I want to offer a more detached and generic ‘tinkering with tools’ perspective on Asana.

What does it look like and how does it work?

Asana comes as a desktop browser or a smartphone/tablet app; it is compatible with iOS and Android only for the time being. Once you have created a user account you can set up or join organizations, teams within those organizations and ‘projects’. Under projects you can add tasks, sub-activities into each of these tasks; then you can assign people, due dates, add comments to each other’s tasks etc. The task overview is all transparent and keeps all tasks in one place – well, sort of, read on…

The structure of the app is:

  • On the left hand pane you find a full list of workspaces. It gives an overview of all organizations, teams and projects, as well as access to your inbox, access to the dashboard (monitoring progress) and other admin options etc.
  • The central pane focus on your next tasks and, if you select a specific project, on all the tasks in that project (not just yours then).
  • The right hand pane focuses in detail on the project or task you want to investigate. When you select a project to focus on, it gives you information about the status, tasks accomplished/remaining. When you select a specific task, it provides details about that task: who is in charge, due date, as well as comments made. This is where conversations take place and allow someone to find out what happened – if your team makes use of that functionality.

You can also organize meetings using Asana (following this video tutorial) and since the last quarter of 2014 you can use the new ‘dashboard’ to keep track of progress with the tasks, with weekly status update reminders. It also gives an option to visualise what has been delivered, what remains etc. offering thus very good collective management features.

The strategic value proposition behind this app is that Asana can replace (parts of) email traffic to work togetherTeamwork without email. Something that many of us dream of – which I’ve also offered useful alternatives for.

The free version works for teams of up to 30 users and the pricing options are fairly affordable. There are various additional apps and extensions (find it here) to expand the use of Asana in various ways.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Asana provides a really nice overview of tasks – making it indeed quite easy to find out in a glance what is on the agenda of a team and how much has been in each project and for each task.
  • As it promises, Asana can really cut down your email traffic, which clears time for more quality time on other bits of work. Although in our case we actually used Yammer mostly to communicate, not Asana.
  • The progress tracking (dashboard) functionality really adds to that experience and turns Asana into a monitoring tool without the fuss of installing all the whistles and bells of a heavyweight management tool.
  • Technically it is possible to run meetings using Asana, dragging and dropping the tasks onto the agenda of the meeting, making it easier to keep all team information in one place – however read some of the cons re: this feature below… 
  • It keeps all your to-do’s in one place if you want it to play that role. And adding tasks or to-do’s is indeed ‘simple comme bonjour‘ and it’s just as easy to assign tasks to people…
  • The calendar integration with Outlook and Google Calendar makes the planning / overview of tasks even easier. 
  • Although the app is quite complex, it does not take too much time to understand how to use it, at least for a knowledge management specialist ;)
  • It certainly has worked for me to keep track of the main ‘to-do’s and to find out what the rest of my team is supposedly up to.

Cons:

  • Compared with e.g. Yammer, or Twitter, which both felt very natural for me to master, I found the interface of Asana a bit ‘messier’ and less compelling, skewing my first impression and making the navigation slightly confusing at very first.
  • That design also seems to not really guide new users very well. I have used it in a team of communication and knowledge management specialists – ie. people whose job it also is to try and test new tools like these, rather enthusiastic and versatile at piloting and adopting such tools – so it may be a slightly more difficult process for people who are not used to online tools.
  • Although Asana allows file sharing and uploading, it is not really built for it and is thus not a great file management system, although on the plus side it seems it can easily be integrated with Dropbox or Google Drive (as you can see from the list of compatible apps). I haven’t tried that option, however.
  • The search engine and navigation logic make finding content a bit of a trial and error process. For instance once tasks have been completed, it becomes uneasy to retrieve them. Tagging helps with this, but not everyone is used to tagging and some taxonomy/folksonomy needs to be established to make this work.
  • The team meeting feature did really not work well for me. I tried to follow the video tutorial but somehow Asana didn’t behave accordingly – perhaps because the interface changed since the video. But it’s probably worth another try.
  • There is no ‘live chat’ feature, although the stream of comments acts like one but always within the context of a given task, not as a general conversation space.
  • Asana does not work well in environments with limited bandwidth (such as my Ethiopian base) and the fact that there is no offline option does not play in favour of using this tool in many developing country. Although, frankly, using virtual conferencing tools is even more of an issue here.
On the quest to the holy grail of synergy in collaboration (Credits: venessamiemis / FlickR)

On the quest to the holy grail of synergy in collaboration (Credits: venessamiemis / FlickR)

 

The verdict

I have only quite limited experience with other team/project management tools (e.g. BaseCamp and some Gantt chart tools). Bearing that in mind, I think Asana is certainly worth a shot and has quite a lot going for it. It is easy enough that it does not require an incredibly steep learning curve, although you will need to train users to make the most of all its interesting features that take the Asana experience to the next level. But mind the bandwidth requirements and perhaps most importantly the behaviour of your colleagues/team before you consider using it: if they’re curious, playful, you stand a good chance, otherwise it may be difficult to get it adopted. And finally, as ever with tools: make sure you pilot it, reflect upon your pilot and decide whether to scale it up or not accordingly. So far in my team there seem to be fewer enthusiastic folks than skeptical ones…

As many of the tools around, Asana keeps changing, coming up with more developments, extensions, changes of navigating and using logic etc. This is positive as it means the company is trying to stay on top of its game, but of course it always means that your team also needs to keep abreast of Asana’s adjustments.

Perhaps most importantly, however, because Asana is team-centric it requires some collective agreement to work with it. Individuals in the team have to adapt their behaviour, stick to the discipline of managing their tasks and time, which may be perfectly normal and expected in North America, but not necessarily in other parts of the world…

So the question is perhaps not even so much about the tools we use to collaborate (we know that the tool obsession is childish), but more about the practices that come with the tools, and we have much to do on the collaboration and engagement front still… And finally, if tried in a true online environment (for meetings), I still wonder if Asana will help alleviate the evils of ‘acute meetingitis virtuales‘?

That said, assess Asana for yourself and let me know what you think… ;)

More resources about Asana

  • A recent (November 2014) PC Mag review provides detailed overviews of the most recent features, pricing options etc.
  • This tutorial from Ananda Web Services is a bit dated (December 2012) but it is about the most complete one available online
  • Of course Asana itself has lots of tutorials and information about using its product – you can start with videos here. They have also released this interesting (long) video about the vision behind Asana when it was publicly launched in 2011.
  • And finally here is what DotToTech has to say about Asana in January 2013. I put it here because it’s quite a nice introduction to the logic of Asana and how it worked in the case of one team.

What are your experiences with Asana?

See the whole collection of ‘Tinkering with tools‘ posts...

Happy 2015! The year of the creative, intelligent, gentle, thoughtful and honest goat


Hello everyone!

Happy 2015!

Happy year of the goat!

Happy new year of the goat (Credits: Abejorro34 / FlickR)

Happy new year of the goat (Credits: Abejorro34 / FlickR)

 

Though technically we’re not there yet, the Chinese zodiac hails the goat as an animal gifted with all the titled attributes above.

So for me this means I’ll try to impersonate as many of these qualities as I can on this blog in in my life. It will be another intense year at work I’m sure, and lots to cover on knowledge management, leadership, social learning, facilitation, coaching, collective intelligence, engagement and collaboration, tools approaches and practices, intelligence and emotions.

I don’t have a starting post to offer – though my next post is lined up and will unravel the ins and outs of collaboration killer app ‘Asana’ – but I want to leave you with a short list of some of the resources I’ve saved on my Del.icio.us bookmark collection of late (or will soon), may these resources stimulate your creativity, intelligence, thougtfulness, honesty etc.

In no particular order except when I came across these resources…

And finally, since happiness is still a important feature of every year:

Happiness large

 

May this year of the goat bring you this and much more :)

Merry Christmas and may peace and sparks be with you, children and learners of the world


2014 has been heralded by UNICEF as a ‘devastating year for children’ given their involvement in global conflicts, at an unprecedented scale.

So, as we approach Christmas, I dedicate this to all the children of the world, hoping they find some peace of body, mind and soul for the end of this dramatic year, and for the one coming.

I also hope that they find the spark that unleashes their amazingly creative and constructive energy, that they get taken by the beauty of the world around them, and that, as the incredible learners that they are, they keep the hunger for discovery and spark of life kindled for ever…

Merry Christmas to all children of the world !!!

Like children, we adults are also learners, only we get complacent at thinking we know enough at times, and our memory is finite and already full of stuff so keeping track of stuff we learn is perhaps a bit harder. But this is not the place and time for a post on adult learning.

I want to thank all of you who kept the spark of curiosity, interest, generosity from your inner child to also engage with this blog and probably many conversations, spaces, people around. I keep this blog up also for you and thank you for the time you’re taking a peek or having a chat here :)

Here is the end-of-year overview of most popular posts (your posts), doubled with my personal selection of posts from this year.

Most popular 2014 posts (in bold, posts actually written this year):

  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…
  5. The death of nice communities of practice?
  6. Portrait of the modern knowledge worker
  7. Putting learning loops and cycles in practice
  8. Scaling, pacing, staging and patterning… Navigating fractal change through space and time
  9. Complexity in multi-stakeholder processes – how to manage, facilitate or navigate around it?
  10. What the heck is knowledge anyway: from commodity to capacity and insights

Other posts from 2014 that you might have overlooked:

  1. I share because I care! (very short and simple reasons to share knowledge and information)
  2. KM… the extra mile that saves (y)our time (Yes KM asks a little more of you, but for your own time’s sake, later, or someone else’s)
  3. With KM, life, it’s all in the attitude, so ‘JUST DO IT’ (Nike does it) (Stop nagging and change things around you)
  4. Do you suffer from acute ‘meetingitis virtuales’? Here’s some antidote (how to cope with uninterrupted virtual meetings)
  5. How social can you be? (questioning the definition of our ‘über-social’ model)
  6. Complexity in aid: An interview (by Ben Ramalingam) with Jaap Pels (featuring someone else’s interview here – obviously with their consent he he)
  7. Killing my darlings: the workshop (seriously, it’s time to revisit the use of workshops for sharing and learning, and advancing new grounds!)
  8. Use PACMAN to beat information overload and fix filter failures! My heuristic and tips/tricks to manage information and stay on top
  9. Development is CAPACITY (to move all together through learning loops) Global development is all about strengthening social learning and caring
  10. KM and politics… an agile ‘House of Cards’? (some lessons from the series ‘House of Cards’ about politics in/and KM)

And with this I want to also wish you a…
Merry Christmas!

Flap your wings for the ‘butterfly revolution’ of learning and change


A simple idea: change yourself and you might see entire systems transform.

Change (Peter Downsbrough, 2011)

Aren’t we all butterflies fluttering our wings somewhere and causing tsunamis on the other side of the world? We are connected, and global change starts with individual change. Or perhaps it doesn’t, but what is certain is that without individual change we won’t see systemic change…

So why do we keep chasing the unicorns of this world in such simplistic ways? We want to achieve scaling up, sustainability, social learning, systemic change…but we don’t ask ourselves the right questions. All these unicorns won’t materialise if organisations are not willing and capable of operating together, and organisations won’t manage that if their own staff – individually – are not capable of learning by themselves, of being intentional about the change they want to see happen, of sharing with and caring for others, of connecting deeply. Exactly like the unit 0 of civilisation is the family, the unit 0 of learning and change is ourselves as individuals.

One of the concepts that has taken me recently is ‘process literacy': the capacity of people to go beyond ‘what has to be done‘ to also understand the fine processes that happen behind those objectives – what process documentation, systematization and capitalisation are trying to do. Being ‘process literate’ means that you constantly pay attention to the channels that are most appropriate to understand the issue you are contemplating. It means you can talk content (dive deep) and connect it with relevant fields and ideas (go wide).

It is through that process literacy lens that a lot of the questions we are grappling with will actually reveal some useful angles. Someone I just met is trying to unpack ‘knowledge management in value chains‘ and it turns out there is very little at the junction of these two fields, but she is adamant that it is in documenting the process of (not) doing KM in value chains that we will find ways to improve knowledge creation, sharing and use in those value chains. Spot on!

So, while social learning remains great, we need to nurture and cultivate that process literacy within ourselves. Social learning, by the way, is also understood by some as individual learning connected – via social media – to others (see the presentation below in its attempt to manage information through that type of social learning).

But the lesson is the same: learning, sharing, change, better livelihoods lives, they all start with each and everyone of us. So get ready to shed your caterpillar skin for the learning and change revolution to happen: we need all butterlies around to flap their wings.

Related posts:

KM… the extra mile that saves (y)our time


What is it that makes knowledge management worthwhile? A lot of things I’m tempted to say as a knowledge manager, but there’s one important benefit that you cannot ignore: it saves time. And so it saves money.

KM... the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

KM… the Time Jumper? (Credits: Hartwig HKD / FlickR)

Whether applied at an individual level (personal knowledge mastery), within an organization or in a network, KM is the extra mile that saves your time.

It saves time because it goes beyond the immediate needs of one person in one situation at one time in one place, to extract generic lessons that people can use, in other places or at other times.

In doing so, KM helps people identify relevant experiences, information, knowledge that they need to solve problems and it even helps them connect with the people that can help them fully understand or address the puzzle they’re facing.

But KM does require a little extra mile.

Spontaneously, a good KMer encountering a problem will not just try and fix it. S/he will record it, bring it to the attention of others concerned with it, and also document the way that problem was solved, or the gap in policies and processes that was revealed in the process. It would be much easier to just fix the problem and get on with it.

And that extra ‘KM’ mile may not always come in handy:

  • Looking back at what past information, experience or expertise you can find at hand to understand an issue is not something most of us like doing;
  • Sharing, alerting others about some specific information takes time;
  • Documenting the process needs tedious consistency;
  • Involving others in the work you do (because you ) adds a lot of complexity to ‘fixing an issue';
  • Updating guidelines, good, bad or best practices requires discipline;
  • And you don’t even have a guarantee that others will find your information, understand it well enough, or use it…

So, at least initially, KM takes some time off you… but hey, if that extra mile helps others facing similar issues (or yourself the next time you are in that situation), what the heck, it’s worth it! If you believe in KM, you share because you care. Pay it forward!

Just make sure you use the most appropriate places to share, document, update that critical information. If you use the right arenas, then you’re sure to help others save time, in space or… time…

In addition, at some point you just develop the habit of routinely going that extra mile and hardly feel the time it takes anymore. You are entering the ‘effortless helping’ phase that blesses all good KMers.

So, even if KM takes that little extra mile, as it saves your time, keep your smile (and just do it)…

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Interview with Krishan Bheenick (CTA) – KM, systems thinking and the backlash of knowledge sharing


Following the global consultation of CIARD (Coherence in Information about Agricultural Research for Development) in May 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Krishan Bheenick, Senior programme coordinator knowledge management at CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) on his take about KM and where it’s headed.

Here is the transcript of that interview.

Krishan Bheenick, Senior programme coordinator knowledge management at CTA (Credits - FARA)

Krishan Bheenick, Senior programme coordinator knowledge management at CTA (Credits – FARA)

What is your personal story with KM?

I am not an expert in KM. My background is in agricultural science and in simulation / modeling. I used to teach at the University of Mauritius. These experiences helped me, forced me to have a holistic approach. I left the world of academia and wanted to get closer to policy-makers to have more influence.

I landed in the field of conceptualizing information systems – following the systems approach which I’m now transposing to information science – at national level. I developed a proposal for a national information system in Mauritius, vetted by FAO’s Investment Centre, but which was never financed. After that I ended up working at SADC (the Southern African Development Community) where I was asked to facilitate capacity strengthening in information management at regional level. What is required at national and at regional level brings up this systems approach: What works at regional level can be adapted at national level. Technology itself is just a way to implement information flows across the scale.

That’s the baggage I came with at CTA. The focus of CTA is to build capacity in information, communication and knowledge management (ICKM). I feel comfortable with that but my position mentions ‘knowledge management’ while I have a lot of questions about KM. I don’t mind this challenge because it forces me to go beyond what I’ve worked with the last years and to differentiate what is KM as opposed to what we used to do in information and communication management.

How is KM conceptualized and implemented in CTA?

KM at CTA is about how ICKM is interrelated. We started using ‘ICKM’ in the SADC region when thinking about developing regional info systems. During one of our regional workshops, we compared what is a communication strategy, an information management (IM) strategy and a knowledge management strategy. We realized that they’re all interrelated and intertwined and there are different entry points to ICKM.

I try and help people define that entry point to the process – even if they don’t know much about it – and to ensure they have some components to help improve the implementation of the communication strategy, strengthen information systems through an information management strategy and ultimately aim at developing a KM strategy focusing on these two elements.

At the same time, it’s important to get policy-makers to realize that even though they don’t call some procedures, processes, policies as KM they are practicing it. One of the motivating factors (and selling points to drive the process) is to get them to realize that they’re already putting KM into practice. That is currently more or less the CTA perspective.

In terms of interventions, our approach at CTA has been to tackle interventions in ICKM at whatever level the request is coming from e.g. groups of policy-makers who would like to have a web space for discussion, developing a simple website including some collaborative networking functions and forums (e.g. as simple as Dgroups). Whatever the request, we respond to it as it’s been put to us, in order to get engagement in the process. Then we follow up with sensitization to the whole spectrum of ICKM.

Some organisations would like to recognize the need to develop a strategy (whether on communication, information or knowledge management). CTA can help. We are running some pilots in ICM strategy development.

My colleague in KM at CTA, Chris Addison, has been working with farmer organisations who wanted platforms for collaboration. We’ve been working with communication officers to help communicate among sub-regional farmer organisations under the umbrella of one regional block.

Chris and I are addressing the needs for KM applying two different approaches, one from a mechanistic perspective back up and the other from the strategic perspective all the way down to technical. In the end we hope to come up with a framework that links strategic with technical aspects of KM. That’s the process we’re interested in and also discovering what KM is all about.

I don’t know enough about KM to say I’m an expert. I’m a learner, I understand some principles and I apply these principles in my job to respond to requests.

Where are your current interests and next steps with KM at CTA?

There’s a lot of talk about knowledge sharing (KS) and when people talk about KM a lot of illustrations come from KS. But is KS by itself sufficient to represent KM? I feel that the community is talking less and less about IM because we’ve started getting interested by the process. Has KS replaced IM?

Are we, while focusing on KS, distracting ourselves away from KM perspectives – where KM is left to a very intra-organisational approach? The very active promotion of KS approaches makes people think that it’s the same as KM.

It’s time to remind ourselves how KM is applied at a larger perspective than organizational e.g. community-wide. It’s my wish to explore that with colleagues in the KM field.

It’s my wish to explore that with colleagues in the KM field.

Where do you think the field of KM is headed and how do you look at it?

My wish would be to see that KM takes a step back for a better overview, revisits what’s been done in the field of KS where a lot of people are equating KS with KM. We should not lose the red thread. It’s important to show how KS is effective for KM but it’s not necessarily addressing management aspects. We’re not able to capture the essence of how KS is operating in KM.

What is the feedback that you get from KS: is that the whole of KM or KS in duplex? How is the duplex KS ending up becoming KM?

The principle of KM about documentation, reflection and sharing reflection and building upon previous reflection is to me a good KM practice. We can’t all keep sharing our thoughts and  we need sometimes to stop, take stock, learn and acknowledge what we’ve learnt and put those out as resources, which is where I appreciate what the KM4Dev community does with the KM4Dev wiki (although if I looked closely at that I might offer a critique of it).

Now that we have a KM scan ready to be applied. We’ll test it at small scale and if it works at that scale we’d like to share it with more people so that we get an instrument that is robust enough to take our snapshots of KM in the organization.

What networks, publications, resources would you recommend discovering to know more about what matters (to you) in KM?

Ark KM published a very expensive book last year ‘KM in organisations’. The Table of Contents was available and when I read that I realized that our thoughts about the state of KM in Agricultural & Rural Development, during a consultation last year, were very well reflected in that book. I would love to see whether CTA could approach publishing houses to come up with a book on KM in development that we could launch as part of their own series, maybe with the KM4Dev community or the agricultural and rural development community. If they see this as corporate social responsibility we’d be fine with it.

There was also an IDRC / SAGE publication (in India) about ‘transforming knowledge’ (2011). It’s a good reader in terms of how all the components fit together, from the perspective of how results of research are being translated out there. I would’ve liked to see something similar but looking at KM more broadly.

Finally, ‘Here comes everybody: the power of organising without organisations’ (by Clay Shirky): I like his analysis and with this you wonder how KM fits in the innovation systems. Personally I’ve followed systems thinking since I have been exposed to it and I’m applying it in my life.

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