Saturday, October 10, 2009


What can we learn from someone's bookshelf? After all, we do make judgments based on people's appearance, speech, education levels, etc... How about trying to understand someone based on the types of books they read? I once came across a successful professional whose desk was covered by piles of books that appeared to have been strategically stacked. The intent was clearly to impress visitors.

Nowadays of course, we would need access to a person's digital bookshelf to get a sense of his or her full collection.

I was looking at the collection I keep on LibraryThing, a collection which is not complete, yet sufficiently representative of my interests. I looked at it from two perspectives: 1) the tag cloud (I'll admit to cleaning up the tags a little before creating the cloud); 2) the book covers for the "Knowledge Management" collection, since "knowledge Management" turns out to be the biggest category.

This tag cloud could tell you a lot of different things about me but some of the tags would require some explaining. For example,"human trafficking" stands out but in my mind, it was a relatively short term interest linked to a specific research and writing project. It does not reflect current interests.

I prefer the book cover visual to the tag cloud. From my perspective as the reader of these books, each book cover is a memory trigger for the book's contents and a great way to connect ideas and perspectives taken by various authors.

If you wanted to know more, you might be able to visit my LibraryThing account and dig out some information about how I rated these books and read any reviews (if I provided any).

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

KM & PKM - Missing Link

I'm a fan of PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) and I'm puzzled by the lack of interest within the community of Knowledge Management practitioners in integrating PKM in broader KM strategies. There's a feeling that PKM is too much about the individual and not enough about the team or the organization. That's plain wrong. PKM is about continuously improving one's performance by systematically and purposefully applying KM practices at the individual level in order to be a more effective team member and a more effective member of the broader organization.

It's about being a lifelong learner -- How do I keep learning new things, both by doing and by purposefully seeking out new knowledge? How do I know what I should be focusing on? How can I know what knowledge I'll need five years from today? Do I have a long-term learning plan or should I just pick up new knowledge here and there? This may get closer to existing career management activities. What's my individual learning Plan? Teams can have learning plans too. Organizations certainly have strategies and plans around core competencies and training.

It's about managing information flows -- How do I access and filter information that reaches me? Some of this may be about personal productivity but it's not just about personal productivity. It's also about ensuring that I have access to all the information I need. I seek out the information I need. I'm not just waiting for it to come to me. What's your communication plan? Are you a passive recipient of information or an active producer / author? How do you see your role as an individual within your team or project in terms of information flows? Do you ever find yoursef wondering what information to push forward to others in the team, not wanting to flood emails with less than germane information?

It's also about communication skills -- How do I communicate what I know? how do I share what I know? With whom do I share what I know? I have often felt that I knew much more than what I was able to convey to others. Is there something I could do to bridge that gap?

I'd venture that without PKM, there isn't any KM. If we agree that organization do some KM, have always done some kind of KM -- even if not systematically or effectively why can't we also agree that people have always done PKM, just not systematically or effectively. Without PKM, enlisting employees to be actively engaged in KM activities is like pulling teeths.

KM needs to happen at the individual level (PKM), at the team level, and at higher levels. The types of knowledge that are most relevant at each knowledge is going to be different and the types of processes needed at each level are going to be different. Most KM strategies focus on higher level needs of the organization, most of which are not immediately relevant to the individual or the team.

Start with PKM and you'll be much better able to handle the "what's-in-it-for-me?" questions when you try to talk about team / project KM and broader organizational KM. Connecting PKM to KM initiatives is the missing link in terms of motivation.

I'm wondering if the key to a successful PKM approach isn't to be embedded in existing Human Resources programs. I'd also work it through any ongoing social media intervention.

PKM Resources on Diigo.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

KM Strategy Development: Smorgasbord vs. Acupuncture

Here are a few slightly random thoughts about a KM smorgasbord, centers of gravity, complex systems, acupuncture and "friendlies." It all started with a little personal brainstorming around KM strategic planning.

You can develop a KM strategy that is very broad based and tries to cover everything KM. Be very inclusive in your processes, listen to everyone, try to please everyone. What you'll probably end up with is a big smorgasbord of KM activities that make it look like you can't possibly have missed anything and everyone should be happy. Why are buffets not as satisfying as they might appear to be? First, you can't possibly try everything on the buffet. Second, if you ask people what was on the buffet afterward, you'll get as many different answers as there were diners. You will not have a coherent understanding of what KM is within the organization. You will not have a common view of benefits either? Perhaps it doesn't matter if everyone finds what they want on the buffet. You may find people to be satisfied with their meal but it's not clear they'll come back for more. In addition, when budget cuts come, you don't have a clue what to cut down on. Do you cut across the board and provide half the previous quantities or do you pick and choose which dishes to remove? Perhaps I am too pessimistic in thinking about budget cuts rather than a budget increase. The same question would emerge with a budget increase. Do you just provide more of the same, more of specific activities or new dishes on the table? You have no clue because you're just trying to do everything at once to please everyone.

You can develop a KM strategy that is focused on making the leadership happy and responds to the needs of the leadership or whatever the leadership thinks the needs of the organization are. You'll get leadership buy-in, perhaps even a good amount of resources to go ahead and implement. What you won't get is any kind of systematic, broad-based impact. You'll get resistance from front-line workers because it's likely you've managed to increase the burden on them without providing any kind of benefits to them.

So, the key is to develop a KM strategy that addresses the needs of front-line workers, leverages whatever opportunities already exist within the organizational environment, and present a convincing strategy to the leadership -- something that brings benefits to front-line workers AND in the process, addresses the needs of the organization and satisfies the leadership's perceived needs. Easier said than done, right!

This is where Centers of Gravity come in. You need to look beyond the concept of "leadership". Centers of Gravity are sources of power. For a KM initiative to be truly successful, you need to leverage Centers of Gravity, get them on board. Who has power within the organization? It's not just a question of individual personalities and positions within the organizational hierarchy. Where are the core nodes of the organization's? If you had a Smorgasbord of KM activities available and you could closely monitor the buffet table to see 1) what's getting the most traction; 2) what impact the activities have on organizational goals, which of the dishes on the menu would become the staples? Of course, we don't have the luxury of trying out the Smorgasbord approach first just to identify what's most useful. In addition, documenting impacts of KM activities on organizational goals is much easier said than done. Still... we need to make educated guesses about what would be most effective.

Think of the human body as a complex system. What are the core elements that make things work? The heart, the brain, the nervous system, muscles? Now think of an organization as a complex system. What are the elements of the systems that make things happen? What are the key functions? Forget about the organizational chart.

In a complex system (the human body or any organization), it may be difficult to pinpoint one or two centers of gravity. As soon as one element breaks down, others are affected. You can't seem to treat one without affecting the other. Now think of acupuncture as a way of reaching out to specific systems of the body and very precisely targeting them. Where are the pressure points within the organization?

When I think of being "strategic", I think of being in a situation where resources are limited and some decisions have to be made about how to proceed. There are alternatives to ponder and "trades" to be made. Do you spread all your resources across a smorgasbord of KM activities? Do you go all out with a broad-based outreach campaign to make sure everyone in the organization knows the types of KM services that are available? Or... do you deal primarily with "friendlies," those who are already sold on the KM idea and who are already on board, hoping there will be some trickle effect and organic spread of KM ideas? Or... do you deal with the "friendlies" AND go after Centers of Gravity.

This falls into the "half-baked" category of blog posts. They're fun to read six months later, once my thinking has evolved into something a little more polished.

KM Strategy - Diigo List

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