January 31, 2009

Blogroll: Week Ending 1/31

So, as things settle down (whatever the hell that means) with my current KM project I'm trying to do a better job of keeping up with my blogs - this one and the one I started for work.

That means making more time to review KM literature and what other practitioners are doing/writing. These 'Blogroll' posts are meant to show my love and support for the KM blogging community and present my thoughts on the blog posts that catch my eye and get me riled up.

Today's catch includes:
On KM Maturity Models...
I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of KM content to come out of APQC (mostly because a lot of their stuff seems too structured and process-oriented for my tastes and I find that while they may not be replicable or ever designated ‘best practices’, many of the most effective KM solutions I’ve delivered are born “on the fly”) but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep up with the work they are doing in KM. And, I’m certainly capable of giving credit where credit is due.

Dr. Carla O’dell’s SlideShare presentation on 5 Ways KM Supports Innovation is great material to incorporate into one’s KM ‘sales’ pitch and/or service offerings.

On the other hand, APQC's Knowledge Management Maturity Model, is exactly the kind of thing I rail against. Not APQC’s model, specifically, nor maturity model’s in general, but in the application of maturity model’s as a benchmarking tool. In theory, I think that maturity models are great for providing overall guidance to any type of project, essentially establishing informational markers along ‘Route Km' ©. But, using maturity models to benchmark the progression of KM activities and behaviors is dangerous to the success of a KM strategy because it’s easy to get caught up in trying to conform the strategy to the model rather than utilizing the model as a purely supportive tool (one of many) to assist in maintaining the focus of your strategy.

Imagine that a physician has prescribed a course of treatment for an illness that results in side effects not outlined in the literature documenting the treatment. And, even after reviewing the prescribed treatment (as a good Doctor should) decides that instead of exploring and pursuing alternatives to address that patients particular situation and response to the treatment, the Doctor decides to continue aggressively pursuing the treatment outlined in the literature. Obviously, this example makes some huge assumptions and I don’t mean to oversimplify things. I’m simply pointing out that, as a patient (if you’re prone to trusting your Doctor implicitly), the idea that your medical professional would stick to a course of treatment that clearly isn’t working for you simply because that’s what the literature says, even though the literature doesn’t cover all of the crap happening to you, rather than saying, “Hmmm, maybe I should look at some alternatives”, would, no doubt, be extremely discomforting.

If you feel that, then, hopefully, you can feel my pain about maturity models.

Of course, maturity models (and medical treatments) don’t apply themselves and organizations (unlike patients) don’t have the ability to seek out a second opinion or switch Doctors, which is why it’s important to have leaders capable of making the distinction between a strategy (which may need modification, on the fly) and support tool that provides guidance, not instructions.

And, for those of you inclined to roll your eyes and consider this post one of my “duh” moments since you share this wisdom and already “get this”, please realize that there are a lot of folks working in our field who don’t. Sadly, I’ve seen folks base entire strategies around hitting maturity model milestones without ever really addressing their most critical KM needs.

On Community...
You gotta love it when thoughts and ideas ignite a firestorm of dialogue. Mark Pollard's point-in-post comment on the "antithesis of anonymity to community" (nestled in a well written post entitled "7 Things You Can Learn From Hip Hop...If you want to build an online community") led to a debate that has produced some provocative and worthwhile reading. Click through the links to the following posts and join the discussion!!

New KM Role: Search Analyst
I’ve been working with my boss to improve (read: gut and rebuild) the Search functionality of our Kbase so I’m particularly keen on the idea of having a dedicated resource (even on a part-time basis) and Lee Romero’s post defining the role of a Search Analyst was truly timely and appreciated!

Pimpin' Knowledge Management
I’m fond of telling folks that being a successful knowledge manager involves wearing many hats and taking on a variety of roles: strategist, analyst, salesman, marketer, facilitator, psychologist, therapist, statistician, database manager, project manager, hand holder, and con artist among them. For those folks working towards their KM Merit Badge in Sales, Matt Moore of Innotecture (who's steadily making strides towards becoming my new KM crush) has prepared a short white paper on Justifying Your KM Program.

As I learned myself (only a few years ago, really), when you are selling a product, any product, you are basically selling yourself – your experience, your passion, your ability to make their investment pay off (just check out the BBC show Dragon's Den). And, don’t get it twisted, when you’re seeking out executive and/or financial support for a business initiative, the same rules apply! In his paper, Matt outlines the three things you’ll need to make your KM pitch work. This information, coupled with the wonderful ideas proffered in his July/August ’08 KM Review article, Closing The Deal With The Help Of Knowledge (with Keith De La Rue of Acknowledge Consulting), serves as a solid “bootcamp” on selling your KM strategy for practitioners.

Everyone say 'thanks Matt'. “Thanks Matt!”

Click here to access the wiki version of the Justifying Your KM Program paper and here to access the PDF version.

Click here to access the PDF version of the Closing The Deal With The Help Of Knowledge article.

And just for good measure, a link to one of my personal favorite reads on the subject of sales and networking, Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Black Book of Connections. Jeff has written a Little Red Book of Selling, but I think the Little Black Book is the better starting point since it focuses on networking and building relationships (which is an essential part of the KM role, in my opinion). As Jeff writes, "The questions that you ask, the ideas that you bring to the table, and your communication skills, combined with your passion, belief, and attitude, are the fundamentals of what it takes to connect."

January 28, 2009

California Dreamin': KM Networking in San Diego

I'm not sure how well read my blog is, period (let alone San Diego), but I'm heading out to the West Coast again for SPAWAR's quarterly KM Offsite (the second week of February) and we'll be spending Tuesday sitting in on the KM Track of the Department of the Navy (DoN) 2009 IM/IT Conference Conference at the San Diego Convention Center.

I'd love to network with any KM Professionals based in the San Diego area, whether you'll be attending or not, so drop me a line here at my blog or via email at cyoung@modulant.com.


January 27, 2009

KM Divas

OR, "For Knowledge Managers Who Have Considered Suicide When The Drama Is Too Much"

Shockingly, I'm taking time away from the insanity that is SPAWAR (and, of course, I LOVE it, lol) to post something before the month is up. Once again, it's not my promised KM3.0 post, but I hope you'll forgive my slackness, it's definitely not intentional. As it is, I'm only awake and writing tonight because I stayed up to watch Serena fight her way back from almost being bumped out by Svetlana "Bumpy" Kuznetsova in the second set. Way to go ReRe!!!

As I raced down I-26 on my way home around 8:30p tonight, venting to Lucy (my new car) about my day, I was reflecting on some particularly bad knowledge management behaviors exhibited by some KM folks I know and it struck me how very true the maxim "your attitude determines your altitude" is with regards to KM.

If there's one thing I learned from my graduate program at the University of Southern Maine (and I learned a lot!) it's the importance of leading by example; practicing what you preach, as it were.

I believe I re-counted, in an older post, my attempt in the 2nd year of my graduate studies to evaluate KM practices and behaviors at Boston-area consulting firms offering KM consulting services for my Program Evaluation class. All, except one, of my requests were completely ignored. The single exception being Booz Allen, who's then CKO, Dr. Chuck Lucier, kindly responded that BAH only worked with post-doc researchers and folks from B-School's. Although, I was peeved (and my response to Dr. Lucier slightly bitter) I just assumed these organizations didn't want a flashlight shined upon their internal KM efforts in case the deets cast them in an unfavorable light and generated questions about their ability to sell a service they hadn't fully realized themselves.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

Anyway, I say all of that because I do think that it's important, especially with KM, to model the practices and behaviors we are promoting. After all, if you won't swallow the little red pill, then why should your clients, customers, or organization?

The problem of KM Divas, however, goes deeper than being a bad role model. As a knowledge manager, your personal attitude about sharing knowledge and information influences the development and implementation of your KM strategy. Having met KM professionals who've demonstrated that Nazi's and Communists can get jobs as knowledge managers too, you can imagine what KM might look like under that sort of direction (and that's not to say Nazi's and Communists are "bad"...they just don't have reputations for being very "open-minded").

Fortunately, unlike Whitney Houston's reality show and Diana Ross bouncing Lil Kim's pastied fake boob on live TV, most KM Divas stop well short of crimes against humanity. Rather, they demonstrate their diva-ness in their fondness for knowledge hoarding (sad and tacky), grand, self-proclamations of expertness (can you be a KM guru if you've never done any practical KM? I'm just axin'!), and preference for competition over collaboration (if you have a subject matter expert on your team, doesn't it make sense to use them over an outside contractor who will give you the credit for a price?).

What's worse, is when KM professionals don't realize they are a KM Diva. Unfortunately, these behaviors also limit any chance of success for good KM practices and behaviors to take root and become an organizational norm. At the end of the day, joking and office politicking aside, this is the major issue this type of behavior presents. If KM is going to sell the value, values and ROI of open, collaborative environments, it must be championed by folks who embody and espouse these qualities. (Or, who are willing to try - that alone will bring awareness of where similar-minded folks in an organization are coming from and lead to building bridges with people who could easily be your greatest cynics.)

For folks out there who are stuck working under a KM Diva: I feel you! If you have any strategies for surviving in that environment share them with me and I'll post them here. Who knows, if my dream of being an Herb Farmer when I retire doesn't pan out, maybe I can start up a Knowledge Management Diva Rehabilitation Program. I can already envision Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" being a KM Diva anthem, "...they tried to make me go to rehab and I said, 'know', 'know', 'know'..."

Ahhhh,that was cathartic.

January 7, 2009

Quick & Dirty: "Real" Applications of KM

Happy New Year!!!

I had planned on having my KM3.0 rant be the first post of 2009, but I've been busy trying to finish up my Q1 Goals at work and the time I thought I'd have free during the holidays ended up being used to party like a rockstar for four days straight (although Mary's in East Atlanta didn't have that song available for Maryoke last Saturday).

Anywho, one of the things I love about my current job is the opportunity to break new ground in how people understand KM. Most folks in my organization either have no idea of what KM is or a very narrow idea so branding is super critical. And, a key component of any branding strategy is the ability to define service offerings which is what I've been working on today for my boss.

Once you get beyond content management, which most people think of as the sole function of KM, you really get into the various ways in which all of that information can be leveraged. This, in my humble opinion, is what puts the 'knowledge' in knowledge management.

While there are many different activities that can potentially fall under the domain of KM, this list is really only relevant to the activities my organization's KM team is involved in (or looking to expand into). Still, this might be a good starting point for folks seeking to demonstrate the value of KM beyond content management (which, I've still included).

1. Content Management…
…refers to the set of processes that support the lifecycle of information, from acquisition, organization and dissemination to expiration.

2. Business Intelligence…
…refers to the process of aggregating and analyzing metrics and data about a particular business unit or function to identify and provide recommendations on potential opportunities.

3. Competitive Intelligence
…refers to the regular, frequent, proactive, and systematic collection, analysis, and management of data, information, and knowledge concerning the business environment in which an organization operates.

4. Key Intelligence Topics (KITs)…refers to topics of great importance which provide purpose and direction for Competitive Intelligence reporting. Three basic KIT categories are:
  • Strategic Decisions and Actions (including the development of strategic plans and strategies);
  • Early-Warning Topics (e.g., competitor initiatives, new technology developments, and government actions); and,
  • Descriptions of Key Players (including competitors, suppliers, regulators, and potential partners).
5. Succession Planning/Knowledge Transfer…refers to the process of planning for the smooth continuation and success of an organization by:
  1. Developing, sharing and transferring critical knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) from out-going to in-coming staff through a combination of training, coaching, and mentoring; and
  2. Identifying the ever-evolving KSAs needed to maintain competitive advantage and strategizing the development and/or acquisition of suitable human resources.
6. Knowledge Discovery
…refers to the systematic analysis of user provided data to reveal previously unidentified patterns, trends, and relationships about customers, products, services, and other activities that can lead to new and profitable business opportunities.

Additionally, KM can provide assistance in the development of:
  • Communities of Practice
  • Organizational Literature (including White Papers, Action Reports, and Case Studies
  • Human Resources Policy and Planning (HRM & HRD), and
  • Technology Infrastructure Planning
The one thing that I didn't include in this list was the education and learning (provided by the KM function) around each of these areas. Keep in mind that with branding, marketing and education are yin and yang; every service offered by your KM function will involve educating your target audience.