Friday, June 26, 2009


There are some interesting tweets coming out of E2.0 (yes, i am becoming little active at twitter), more on the subect of communities.

Luis Suarez has been tweeting regularly from there, two of them catching the eye ...

Wish folks would switch from Community manager to Community facilitator; much more engaging & less notion of mandating

Communities need a Sponsor, one or more Leaders, one or more Coordinators, members & content. NO MANAGERS!

Interesting thoughts, these. The thought that communities need to be facilitated, not managed. And this is somewhat of the paradox of communities (though not really paradox, but since it doesnt align with any particular school of thought, it becomes somewhat so) ... something i have written about before ... that communities, while they may be self-forming, they need some kind of impetus from somewhere to keep going.

Take the example of groups at facebook ... or at linkedin ... there are quite a few groups there. But, most of the groups, over a period of time, lose some of the momentum, and become dormant. This, probably, is true of all communities? Even in human conversations, say if you meet someone from college after a long time, the conversation goes well for some time, and then there is a lull ... unless someone picks up the thread and takes it forward.

Now, communities are made of people, so this should be expected of communities, too. Which is why, i agree with Luis that there must be facilitators who can ensure the conversation in the community carries on. Managers would bring in their own form of structure or agenda, which may not be the best way to drive communities. Instead, facilitators need to blend with the community, understand the nature of the conversation, and steer the conversation, if required. Not really required to steer the conversation if its going on as it is. More about picking up the thread, and ensuring there are means to revive the conversation as it begins to wane.

What this means is also that communities need some form of external impetus. Within the organizational context, communities need some inputs from the organization, and are not completely self-forming, self-regulating. There is a role which the organization has to play, and this role could be of facilitating the conversation, letting the outcomes of the conversation evolve. Which is to say that unlike, say, a task-force, a community cannot be about specific targets or specific objectives, but rather, of bearing in mind that the conversation, of itself, would lead to some results. There could be some intervention, however, which could guide a conversation, but this must be seen to be non-intrusive.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Integrating Learning With Work ...

Came across an interesting post by Tom Gram ... strategies for integrating learning and work. This blog touches on an aspect of KM which i think is something which is important, but not much talked about. This is about making knowledge, and learning, an integral part of the day-to-day work of people, something i have written about.

There are two reasons for this ... As we agree, knowledge is an important part of the day-to-day work of people. Even if it is not the so-called knowledge work, i believe that all work is dependant on some form of knowledge, which is important to doing that work well. We also agree that from day-to-day work, people learn a lot. There are new experiences, and there are things which give us the opportunity to learn.

If this be so, then it would be only logical to have a scenario where knowledge sharing, and knowledge creation are an integral part of the day-to-day work of people.

What does this require? As most work is done on some kind of system or another, whether it be e-mail, or IM, whether it be transaction processing or planning, these are the touchpoints at which the appropriate kind of knowledge needs to be made available at the point of use, where people are doing their work. Also, the learnings which arise from the work people do need to be harvested at that point itself.

For one, this needs to be incorporated into the systems which organizations use. Another, this requires building components into the work components of people for knowledge dissemination, and knowledge capture. For example, mechanisms for feedback or ideas which can be leveraged on a larger scope could be built into transaction processing as well as into planning activities.

Any thoughts? Agree or disagree? Please write in with comments.

Friday, June 19, 2009

KM Solving Business Issues

There is an interesting post by Nick Milton about the need for alignment of KM with organizational strategies, but more so, about the utility of KM as a tool for solving real business issues. The ideas Nick points out here are quite interesting. Especially the part where he rightly says that talking to a knowledge manager would get you the response that they are working on SharePoint, or they are rolling out Communities of Practice. And the basic fact that these are not ends by themselves, but rather tools for achieving certain objectives. This, while it sounds logical, seems to be happening in only a few organizations i interact with.

I agree with this idea. KM needs to be incorporated into the toolkit which managers can leverage for solving specific business problems. Problem with KM, however, is that it doesnt lend itself well to point intervention. As such, KM needs to be an ongoing strategic area, while at the same time, KM needs to be develop a set of tools which can be handy to managers for solving specific business problems, within the scope of the overall strategic definition of KM. OK, so this sounds like a lot of jargon, but the point i am trying to make here is that we need to look at KM at two levels (maybe more? please feel free to comment your thoughts on this!), strategic and tactical.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Culture Aspect, And Shape Of Things ...

There is a nice post by Ana Neves about the interaction between culture and KM. This post explores the requirement of the right kind of culture as a pre-requisite for a successful KM program, and it rightly goes on to the idea that while the right kind of culture is a nice to have thing, its not necessarily a must-have thing. This is an important conclusion, because given this, an organization can still look at KM at a tool to not just enable free flow of ideas, but also, look at KM as enabling the free flow of knowled in the organization, and as a result of this, create a more sharing culture. Though this, to my mind, is much more difficult to achieve that building a successful KM initiative on top of culture that is conducive. As Luis rghtly points out, it can be done, but it would probably take much more time.

Having said that, as you know, E 2.0 is here. No, i am not going there, but with blogs, twitter, and other tools, its almost like being there (minus the beer, of course!). Lets take a look at the agenda, though, and its quite interesting. Theres cloud, of course (one would expect it to be, which makes me think maybe i should sit up, and at least try to understand what clouds mean), but apart from clouds, the words i am seeing more of are Open Enterprise, Enterprise 2.0, Social ... This is interesting. And a clear indicator of the way KM is going. There is more and more emphasis on the conversation ... the social, the people aspect of KM. Which is something which should have been there in the first place, over the last decade, when people werent just part of the discussion. This is a nice sign, because this implies that KM is evolving, and the move towards the 2.0 world is something which everyone is taking note of. Having said that, organizations would need to ensure that the KM 1.0 parts of documentation, best practices, content-based KM is not pushed to the sidelines, because that too has a role to play.

But thats not the point i am trying to make here. The point is more than in the 2.0 world, culture plays an even more important role. Because the 2.0 concepts have people at the centre of the entire paradigm, the question of culture, and the relationship between KM and Culture becomes even more important to discuss. Plenty has been written about E 2.0, but even if we dont go to that (something i feel will take much more than we seem to think ... simply because E 2.0 is about disaggregation of control), the very paradigm of the social enterprise, or web 2.0, or social computing, or whichever way you look at it, requires a change in the way things are done, a cultural shift. And here, again, i think that the right kind of culture is a very important pre-requisite, but not a necessary one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some Defining Points ...

Recently, Luis Suarez blogged about about an interview he had given about some of the questions which are on the minds of a large number of knowledge managers, and not just knowledge managers, at that. What i liked about the interview was that some of the basic questions which a lot of people have on their minds were asked, and answered, and not too much jargon, at that.

There were, however, a few things which stood out, which i thought required to be blogged about.

First, the idea that organizational knowledge is a combination of structured and unstructured knowledge. Now, this seems to be a reasonably well-established idea, but maybe not as much as one would think it would be. Quite a few of the people i interact with give me the idea that in more organizations than one would think, structured information still is what knowledge is considered to be. And therefore, the focus becomes the document management systems, with not much highlight on the unstructured part of knowledge.

Another thing that Luis talks about, which i think is an important of the emerging aspect of social, as represented by social computing, social networks, etc., is that of letting go of control. This is easy to discuss, but that much more difficult to implement, though, and is probably something which would be more of a gradual process, taking far more time than one might think, as organizations get to understand the implications of this, and develop the confidence that letting go control is not about a free-for-all. Rather, i would say that its about letting go control in specific ways, rather than replace hierarchy altogether.

Another aspect Luis talks about is the knowledge is power aspect. This is something which i like to discuss whenever making a presentation about Knowledge Management. Thing is, we have grown up with this paradigm, and it is only recently (if you have a few gray hair, you would think of this as being recent) that this paradigm is being dismantled by the evolution of technology. Probably today we are seeing a statte of transition with respect to this, but this is happening.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Barriers To Adoption

Today Jocelyn Ruiz Perez from evalueserve sent a very nice paper about Barriers and Facilitators in Use of KM Systems ... Quite an interesting paper. While on the whole, the paper discusses the findings of the authors about human and organizational issues which are usually not addressed in the way KM is approached in a lot of organizations (i wouldnt say all, but quite a few, probably), there are a few things which stand out.

Especially the part where the authors discuss the things which need to be addressed if organizations are to leverage Knowledge Management successfully:

  • Inadequacies of technology
  • Systems not being user-friendly
  • High current workload
  • Failure to institutionalize
Interestingly, these are all challenges which are not very difficult to overcome. At least, some of them.

About the inadequacies of technology, we all know about them. Having said that, though, most of these inadequacies, over a period of time, are being taken care of, and technology is evolving with platforms which can meet the requirements of both users and organizations, which usually come from user-friendliness, and integration.

Another aspect of this, however, is to make KM relevant. Most organizations i talk with, have a on-size-fits-all approach towards KM platforms. This means that the platform usually tends to be a static one, with all users, irrespective of what their requirements are, and what they are likely to be looking for, coming across a single user-experience with the platform, which leads to a lot of irrelevant information being presented to users. Of course, this is easily addressed by RSS and other similar technologies which are pull based, rather than being push based.

Coming to the concept of high user workload, this is the classic conundrum which a lot of KM practitioners would have faced, and continue to face ... Wheres the time?! With users being hard-pressed for time, where is the time for going through the resources which KM presents to you, and also where is the time for contributing to the repository of knowledge which KM can make available to others? This makes it a chicken-and-egg situation. And this is where the whole idea of making KM engagement a part of work, rather than being an additional activity. Whether it be contributing to, or learning from, the resources which are available on the KM platform. This, to an extent, would also address the failure to institutionalize ... though only to an extent.

Any thoughts, please feel free to comment.

Collaboration ...

I had posted yesterday about the main aspects of change that a web 2.0 consultant, to my mind, should focus on. In a comment on this, Aparna had pointed me to an interesting article about Collaborating for Results. The point made here is worth looking at ... That managers believe that they can do no wrong with any form of collaboration, and that there is such a thing as over-collaboration. One aspect of this probably is that while there is the obvious noise which comes from too much of collaboration (ok, i am using the term loosely), having said that, there is also the fact that too much is probably better than too little.

Another aspect which is discussed here is that:

Identify the barriers to collaboration; and third, tailor the management interventions to those barriers after diagnosing what they are in the first place.

This is an important point. What i had written earlier was that there are certain inflexion points where maximum value can be generated by adoption of web 2.0 tools, and these points of the organization should probably be leveraged in any implementation. For example, a team which is geographically dispersed, with diverse skill sets and large knowledge base may benefit more from web 2.0 tools than a team which has all the people sitting in a single room, with more or less similar skill sets. Though such examples of diverse teams are difficult to come by in an organization, but this does illustrate the point.

However, the aspect which this point brings up is that in an organization there are going to be barriers to collaboration. These could arise from the nature of work, the compensation structure, the culture, or so many other aspects. Having said that, the important aspect is to determine these, and to work towards reducing these barriers, so as to build smoother collaboration channels, and this, probably is one of the important aspects for any Web 2.0 consultant.

Thank you Aparna.

Any thoughts, please feel free to comment.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Web 2.0 Consultant ...

My friend Lakshman Pillai had asked a very interesting question over at the K-Community - India forum ... about what comes to mind when you hear someone say they are a web 2.0 consultant.

Now, there are quite a few folks out there who are Web 2.0 consultants, and this question gets to bring out the expectations from the other side ... the client, as to what they think when they are talking about engaging a Web 2.0 consultant.

Now, i am not sure what they think, but this got me thinking what i would think about when with a web 2.0 consultant. The work can be divided into two parts, definitely:

  • Technical
  • Non-Technical (for want of a better word)
And this is indicative, actually ... if you cant come up with a better word than non-technical to describe the process/business aspect of web 2.0, that means that it is the technology which is the key, at least the way we look at it.

Having said that, there is another aspect which i would look at, in a web 2.0 consultant. And this is to determine the inflexion points in the organization which would help web 2.0 adoption.

Let me explain ... we know that web 2.0 is about adoption, if its about anything. And adoption, which theoretically, is about as large a number of people as possible engaging with each other using web 2.0 tools. But having said that, there is also the aspect that not everyone would use these tools for the same purpose, and derive value from them in the same way, and to the same level. What this implies is that there must be certain parts of the organization which would bably derive more value from web 2.0 tools than other, basically because the tools address their requirements more easily than they do for others. And seeing that we know, its important to build up quick wins, identifying these, and building the way to these, and from these onwards, to other parts of the organization would be an important part of the work that a consultant would need to do.

Any thoughts?

Definition ...

When making a presentation about the basic concepts of Knowledge Management, there are a few things i prefer to discuss before moving to the idea of Knowledge Management. One of these, is to try and make a distinction between the idea of Data, of Information, and Knowledge. I try to get the audience to come up with what they think each of these are, and what they think are the differences between these.

The other day, i was making a presentation to an audience, and this question came up. As usual, the distinction between Data and Information is quite well understood, but the distinction between Information and Knowledge is not so well. So, while there were a few thoughts which came about, there was one which was worth writing about:

Information is what we receive, and Knowledge is what we make of it.

This description, probably, sums up quite well the distinction between Information and Knowledge. It puts Knowledge at a point of internalization, where the information received is converted into Knowledge, by assimilating it into the mental models that the receiver has developed.

This also brings up a point that most KM initiatives are essentially Information related, while KM as a discipline needs to be more about Knowledge Facilitation, rather than Management.

Any thoughts on this, please feel free to comment.