Saturday, July 30, 2016

KM and Integration

Yesterday's meeting of the Knowledge Management Association's DC Chapter was about integration (the joys and frustrations).  Integration can mean many different things.  To me, from a Knowledge Management big picture perspective, it has to do with making sure that KM activities and the overall strategy are a good fit for the organization, are as embedded in the workflow as possible, and well "integrated" with related functions such as HR, training/mentoring/coaching, but also IT, business strategy development/planning, etc... In other words, KM should not be an add-on; it's part of how the organization works.

Integration could also mean that as an employee looking for knowledge and information within the organization, I don't have to go to 20 different databases and disconnected networks that overlap and/or are incomplete.  Most people would welcome a personal dashboard with key job-related resources at their fingertips. We often attempt to create something that resembles such a dashboard.  For example, I use an image of my key performance goals on my desktop to serve as a framework for organizing key resources.  It's my personal dashboard. The more common alternative is an overloaded bookmark manager in the web browser.

I have struggled over the years with integrating my own set of personal knowledge and information management tools.  I take my personal knowledge management very seriously (perhaps obsessively) but I have often felt quite disorganized about it.  I always interpreted my perceived lack of organization as the result of my inability to stick to one tool for note-taking.  I'm sure I've written at least one blog post -- if not multiple posts -- about deciding between paper and electronic notebooks, mapping tools vs. wikis, etc...when in fact the solution was perhaps just to re-frame the question and think about it from an integration standpoint.  Consolidating everything into one or two tools does not necessarily make sense.  The key is to be consistent in the use of each tool and find ways to connect and integrate when necessary.  Below is a little map I came up with.

I have now resolved to maintain three separate TiddlyWikis.  I suppose everything could be combined in one but I prefer to separate them.  Specific pieces can easily be imported and synchronized from one to the other and therefore full integration is not critical.  Here are the distinctions between the three:
  •  Barbara's Notebook:  The headers in this wiki are things like Toastmasters, Gardening, Food, Bike & Hike, etc... The first entry dates from 2008. It has 240+ entries with the tab "garden" and 122 with the tab "fiction".  I also found journal entries from my first days working at NASA in 2008.  Obviously at the time I wasn't following my current scheme of separating personal from work-related items.  It would be quite interesting, since the data is there, to do a visual representation of the tags I used over time.  I know I was very heavily into soundtrack music for a couple of years for example.
  • Fillip Consulting, LLC is a TiddlyWiki I started in the fall of 2015 when I made the decision to go back to consulting.  It's fun to read my journal entries from less than a year ago and realize how far I've already gone.  This is where I will keep consulting related items from an operational standpoint.  I've added some functionalities to handle task management and a simple taxonomy with the tag function.  This will be for the business side of things.  It has major content tabs like "Business Plan", "tasks", "projects", and "customers".
  • Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning is a TiddlyWiki apparently started in 2009 (the timeline tells me so) entirely focused on readings and research related to my area of profesisonal specialization or domain of expertise.   Here the key tabs are "readings", "experts", "KM practices", and a glossary.
It feels reasonably organized at the moment.  Time will tell how long it lasts. :)

I also have a closed/inactive TiddlyWiki that was called "Learning Log", which was a fascinating experiment in writing a didactic novel using a wiki format. 

A big shout-out to the inventor of the TiddlyWiki, Jeremy Ruston, and all the people who have worked on its improvements and variations over the years. 

Don't get me wrong, when I'm sitting in my hammock in the backyard to read a book or to brainstorm, I go for the old-fashioned pen and paper to take notes (and now, reading glasses). 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lessons Learned... again

"Lessons learned" is a perennial topic within knowledge management, one that is typically misunderstood and maligned.  I suspect many who pontificate about lessons learned (either saying they know how to do it very well or saying it's a waste of time) haven't spent a huge amount of time working (hands-on) with lessons learned.  As always, I could be wrong.  I just find it difficult to reconcile either extremes with my own experience.

I'll try to synthesize my views below:

1. Lessons learned activities have the potential for providing a great deal of value to individuals, teams and organizations, yet it's easy to completely miss the boat.

2. We often look for benefits of lessons learned activities in the wrong places.  Those who argue that lessons learned are a waste of time will point out that lessons tend to end in databases that are not used, where they languish and soon become obsolete.  I don't argue with that.  Instead, I think it's a mistake to assume that the primary benefit of lessons learned activity are to be derived from other people consulting a database.

3. The primary beneficiaries of lessons learned activities -- assuming the activity is done as a group -- are the people involved in the activity themselves.  This ensures that a) they take the time to reflect on an experience to articulate lessons; b) they do this as a team to avoid individual biases and narrow points of view.

4. Aggregating the lessons into some form of database has value even if not a single person comes to consult the database, as long as someone is responsible for doing analysis on the repository of lessons to identify trends, critical knowledge, issues to be addressed at the institutional level, etc...

5. Lessons learned activities are a source of valuable insights for other types of knowledge management activities, such as knowledge sharing workshops, where the issues emerging in lessons learned activities can be discussed in the context of panels of practitioners who can share their experience in much more engaging way than a database of lessons learned will ever be able to achieve.

  • Reframe the way you talk about lessons learned activities and their benefits.
  • Don't ditch the database idea.  Make sure the person responsible for the database isn't just uploading lessons.  You need an analyst, not a database administrator.
  • Continuously work to improve the way lessons learned are captured and to educate employees about what constitutes a valuable lesson.
  • Broaden your view of what a database of lessons learned might look like.  Hint:  It could be a collection of 100+ concept maps hyperlinked into a rich web of knowledge.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Future of Knowledge Management

In a recent LinkedIn post, Chris Collison addressed "the future of knowledge management - births, deaths or marriages?," in which noted the following, among other things:
Some things are 'evergreen'. People will always need to talk, learn, reflect, network, collaborate and interact.
I couldn't agree more but I would go even further.  I suspect reminding people of "the need to talk, learn, reflect, network, collaborate and interact" will only become more important as technology continues to change how we interact, communicate and learn. 

I see my role in the next 15-20 years as precisely that, focusing on helping individuals, teams and organization accelerate learning (ironically by pausing to reflect) while dealing with rapid changes. Sounds like a good challenge to me!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Knowledge Management for Project-Based Organizations

Here's a list of resources I had created in an internal wiki.  I'll recreate it somewhere and update.
The focus was Knowledge Management at the project level.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

MOOC Evaluator: Can I get paid to learn?

I must have mentioned in the past that I am a learning junkie.  MOOCs have found a way into my life and they're here to stay.  If MOOCs die I will find something else.

I have now established what is almost a routine of signing up for and completing a couple of MOOCs in parallel at all times.  I've learned not to try to do more than two at a time and while I've given up on a few, I've completed most and I'm generally satisfied with what I've learned.  I'll admit that I did give up on Calculus and in retrospect my reasoning for signing up for that in the first place wasn't very solid.

More recently, I've completed my first French MOOC:  L’√©cotourisme: Imaginons-le ensemble. Why  did I sign up for that?  It was a combination of 1) wanting to take a MOOC in French to awaken French neurons that have been asleep for too long; 2) a long standing interest in the topic of ecotourism because I come from several generations of family involved in tourism, I fancy myself an amateur environmentalist and ecotourism is an approach meant to support sustainable economic and social development, which is very much in my academic and professional background.

I'm explaining this because articulating the reasons for signing up for a particular MOOC has a lot to do with whether I'll stick with it, cruise through it or sip it slowly to get maximum enjoyment.  The French ecotourisme MOOC was a more personal choice than most other MOOCs have completed and I completed it in spite of its weaknesses.

This brings me to my insight of the week, which might be a crazy idea or just not a very good idea but as someone once said, you've got to have a lot of ideas for one or two to be any good.

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. 
~Linus Pauling

I have now accumulated a great deal of experience as a MOOC learner.  I've taken courses in different subjects, on different platforms, and I know a great deal about adult learning outside of that MOOC specific experience as well.  Would someone pay me to evaluate MOOCs?  I'm not talking about rating them, I'm talking about providing the MOOC developers with very tangible, specific feedback.  I doubt they're getting that from the average MOOC learners.

Think about it, getting paid to satisfy your addiction to learning... wouldn't that be sweet?

I've just signed up for Foundations of Business Strategy offered on Coursera by the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.  That choice was very "strategic".  For the purpose of maintaining my Project Manager certification, I need to accumulate a certain number of education/learning points around technical, leadership and strategic management skills.  This course will definitely satisfy the strategic management skills area where I have a gap.  In short, there is a good strategic rationale for taking this course.  Perhaps more importantly, there is a very good motivational rationale.  It fits very neatly into everything I've been doing to prepare for full-fledged launch of Fillip Consulting, LLC.   I was working on the business plan yesterday.  Lots of fun... and a little scary.

I've also signed up for my second French MOOC:  Comprendre l’√©conomie collaborative.  I really enjoyed thinking in French again, mapping in French  (map 1, map 2) and forcing myself to interact in French with fellow learners.  The course on the collaborative economy doesn't start until September but Business Strategy should keep me busy until then AND help me refine my strategy and business plan.