Greg Harmeyer's KM Weblog

Home






Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.
 

 

Tuesday, June 04, 2002
 

If anyone saw my last posting, I'm not sure how the word b-r-a-i-n got replace with the image of a brain, but I definitely thought that was pretty cool!


3:39:06 PM    

Managing My Knowledge

As we conclude the final week of the final quarter of the final year, I've certainly learned quite a bit this year about knowledge management.  I've probably thought more about it than I've ever wanted to.  However, I'm still not sure I have a very good method for managing my own knowledge.  I've learned an immense amount in the past 12 months - far more than I expected to.  However, it will be clearly difficult to draw on my own knowledge base and to actually apply what I've learned.  Models, frameworks, concepts, etc. are all interesting to study but only useful if you can actually apply them. 

I for one am terrible at remembering who did what study, specific terminology, descriptions of models, etc.  I can apply it all in real-time as I am learning it, but it quickly leaves me.  Thus, I'm very conscientious about keeping course summaries that I can refer back to.  My hope is that I will remember that I once learned something about a given topic and that I'll know where to go to get it.  But even that may be a challenge.  If anyone has any good advice for holding on to what we've learned here, I'm listening.  It is amazing the toll that time takes on a memory.  In the end, the most enduring thing I think I will leave with is a refined ability to think, challenge, and critique - and a new found humility that there is still so much that I don't know.  School for me has been analagous to training for a mental marathon.  Training for a marathon, you continually push yourself far beyond your limits and find you can do even more.  Then when the race comes you fully exhaust yourself.  However, you only retain the physical condition if you keep on running.

I think my is in the best condition of my life - now I have the challenge of keeping it from atrophy; it can be a difficult challenge when you work in a task-oriented world, but I will certainly give it a try.


3:37:43 PM    


Tuesday, May 28, 2002
 

KM Value Categories:

  • Cost Avoidance
  • Customer Benefits
  • Mission Support

Two Purposes of Communities:

  • Enabling networks (defined around a discipline, improves individual performance, share best practices)
  • Delivery networks (specific purpose, pooling knoweldge, definite action plan)

 


7:14:45 PM    

Getting away from KM for a moment, in professor Sawhney's Tech Marketing class we have begun talking about the importance of brands in high tech industry.  The argument historically has been that brands aren't important like they are to P&G or Kraft because people purchase more rationally.  However, the recent counterarguments are that brands may be even more important due to the necessary trust that is required to overcome fear, uncertainty and doubt.  This really resonates with me as I enter my next position with a tech company. Strategic positioning,  a unified message and image, advertising and spokespeople that represent that image are all critical to sustained success.  It dawns on me that I can't think of a single brand in the KM industry that has any equity.  It seems like there is an enormous opportunity for someone to emerge as a trusted leader in KM solutions.  Certainly it is not due to lack of trying but I wonder if the focus hasn't been too much on the products and features and not enough on the marketing aspect of it.

 


8:42:34 AM    


Saturday, May 18, 2002
 

I have to admit, I'm beginning to get frustrated with much of the rhetoric on knowledge management and even with the writing/research that has been done.  There seems to be a lot of people spinning their wheels, saying similar things, but trying fundamentally the same approaches.  I had a conversation with a KM software provider this week and while they recognize that KM is 20% technology and 80% people, they still have a tech-centric view of KM while saying that they are focused on the bigger KM cultural/organization issue.  I don't fully get it.

Verna Allee's paper article that we read for class last week left me a bit disappointed.  In my mind, she didn't say anything really new.  The concept that value is not just goods, services and revenues is a rather obvious one (or it should be) and is not a recent phenomenon.  It's unclear to me why she arbitrarily breaks off knowledge and "intangible benefits" as the separate value dimensions.  It seems there are a hundred ways by which we can divide up the value that crosses from one organization to another.  The remainder of the approach also does not look like anything different than a number of academics have already arrived at.

I think part of my issue is that I am biased to KM from the perspective of learning.  Thus I think much of what has been written about how people learn is very interesting to the KM field.  Myles Horton's We Make the Road by Walking is a great book.  Even Robert Gagne's Principles of Instructional Design gives some great insight into what knowledge is and how it is created.  I also very much liked the Nonaka chapter from "The Knowledge-Creating Company".  Finally, I've seen Hubert St. Orge quoted a number of times (although I haven't read anything written by him) and he always has very interesting things to say.

Just some thoughts...


8:56:04 AM    

In class we discussed this idea of whether or not computers can have knowledge or do they just have information.  The example was a calculator adding 2 + 2:  is that knowledge of addition?  I'm still not sure what I think here.  My general reaction is that this is the processing of information but I'm not sure how that differs from knowledge.  Does the ability to follow a procedure or execute an algoritm require knowledge?  What about IBM's Big Blue Chess computer?  Does that have knowledge of the game of chess? 

I personally like the idea that knowledge requires human interaction - it requires cognition, context, experience, etc.  However, I'm not certain that this is true.  Nonetheless, I think it is this type of knowledge that is more interesting and has more value within organizations.  That is dynamic knowledge vs. static knowledge


8:45:15 AM    


Tuesday, May 14, 2002
 

 

KM: You Are the Weakest Link

In response to my post from a week ago, Greg Harmeyer responds:

While an interesting hypothesis, I'm not sure I buy the idea that people don't collaborate because it reveals the weakest links.  By that logic, the strongest links would collaborate and a sort of Prisoner's Dilemma would cause all to collaborate as much as possible:  even though I'd rather not collaborate and hold my knowledge to myself, that makes me appear to be a weak link and thus I'll share my knowledge to the extent possible.  The strongest links have the most to share and therefeore are very willing to share it because of the impression it leaves.  In fact, I would suggest it's this kind of rationale that has acted as the basis of incentives in environments where KM is successful. [via Greg Harmeyer's weblog]

I'm not sure Greg and I are really on the opposite sides of this argument. On the one hand, I was talking about reasons why many opt out of traditional collaborative environments. I said that they avoid participating for fear of their lack of contributions becoming obvious. Greg is suggesting that the strongest links have the most to share. No argument here.

But we've got an interesting dilemma: the people who have the most to contribute have the least to gain, and the people with the least to contribute have the most to gain. The weak links (insofar as they're contributing very little to the organizational knowledge base) will benefit disproportionately.

The question is ultimately whether the visibility and recognition that comes with contribution are enough to encourage future participation. I'm not sure that it is, unless there's some way to measure and/or quantify this visibility. Look at Amazon.com's reviewer system - one of the keys to Amazon's business model was its creation of a community of book buyers. Adding the ability to review books and share those reviews with others was a critical component of that community. Yet it was only after visitors could rank the usefulness of reviews that reviews increased dramatically. Why? My guess - that the value of reviews was now quantifiable - and contributors were now rewarded with measurable recognition.

Maybe the difference between recognition and measurable recognition is a semantic one. But I like the broad notion of aligning compensation and rewards with with the overall business objectives. If you want me to contribute to a KM system, make it worth my while. Show me that increased recognition has some tangible benefit. (Note that this doesn't necessarily mean that I get paid more, but certainly most will take that route.) This has a number of very positive effects: it demonstrates executive-level commitment (if management isn't willing to put its money where its mouth is, why should the grunts?), it erases any question of what the goals are, and it gives individuals a tangible reason for working towards the larger organizational goals (without sacrificing any individual objectives).

If you can't somehow align a reward system with the success of the KM system, I'm willing to bet that the KM initiative will fall far short of its goal. I think measurability is the key. In this sense, the RCS ranking system (whose sites are most popular) and Blogdex (how many sites link to you, how many sites you link to) start to show what kind of metrics could be added to a Radio k-log environment. Visits indicate overall popularity, but that needs to be tempered with how many sites in your environment are actually linking to you. So the formula for determining a site's overall "rank" would look something like:

(visits) * (links in / links out)

RCS measures the first, Blogdex measures the second. Even as I write this, I think there's holes. But I'll leave those for another day. It's at least a useful exercise to think about...

****************************************************************

Rick - I'm in total agreement with what you've said, particularly in that those with the most to offer have the least to gain.  For this reason, I think it's important to get those who stand the most to gain to (a) recognize what knowledge they need (b) know what the sources of knowledge are and (c) have the tools to pull knowledge through the system.  In real time, I think experts are willing to contribute knowledge, particularly if they recognize that it has real use - they are often flattered and enjoy the opportunity to be helpful.  However, they are very unlikely to "submit" knowledge for the sake of doing it.  Just my thoughts.

Greg


9:14:05 PM    

Walt highlights another intersection between KM and learning.  KM in this context has to do with managing the knowledge required for your organization to be successful at particular things.  To do that:

  1. Identify the key focal points within an initiative
  2. What are the key competencies that differentiate you from your competitors
  3. What knowledge is needed to support those competencies?

Once you've done that you need to develop the learning events that can generate the right knowledge within the appropriate individuals.

 


8:14:41 PM    


Sunday, May 05, 2002
 

Following our class discussion last week on learning and KM, I came across the following in an article I was reading.  The quote is from Hubert Saint-Onge, Sr VP of Strategic Capabilities for Clarica Life Insurance:

The connection between learning and knowledge management is generally not well understood because the two fields have been kept separate from an organization structure point of view. Yet learning can best be served by a comprehensive knowledge strategy that includes learning modules as well as other sources of knowledge, including knowledge databases, documents, and policies. The knowledge interface we recently created allows individuals to run a search that calls upon all learning materials, as well as these other sources of knowledge. Contrasting KM and OL may not be all that helpful. In fact, a knowledge-driven organization and a learning organization will ultimately end up looking very much alike. Is After Action Review a learning method or a KM approach?

This very much reflects the core of my thoughts on the intersection between learning  and KM.   Any comments or thoughts?


9:19:04 PM    


Wednesday, May 01, 2002
 

Does anyone know how to change your settings such that only X days of articles appear on your home page?  I tried changing this in preferences and it didn't work.

 


2:17:30 PM    

I came across this weblog on Knowledge Management http://carbon-unit.blogspot.com/  It has some very good articles on KM, IP, and other related topics - check it out.
2:15:07 PM    


Monday, April 29, 2002
 

Federal Government Worst at KM "by far".

Federal Computer World reports on a Gartner presentation to a bunch of federal KM "specialists." From the article:

Much of the problems seems to be that government workers don't understand what knowledge management is. "Knowledge management is a business process that has to be approached with discipline," [Gartner's French] Caldwell said. "It is not a technology. You can't buy it in a box."

Effective knowledge management requires extensive information sharing and collaboration. But government agencies and their employees are better known for guarding their knowledge and defending their turf than for sharing and cooperating.

... "Building a collaborative government is the issue." [Federal Computer Week, via llrx.com]

I guess it's good to know the professional services firms aren't alone. But why should this be? It's not hard to recognize an individual's contribution, nor is it hard to align compensation with the desired behavior.

Here's my guess: collaboration reveals the weak links. The moment you participate in a truly collaborative endeavor, your contributions are obvious. People aren't afraid of not getting credit for their contributions - they're afraid of the lack of contributions becoming obvious.

[tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog] emphasis added

Certainly an interesting hypothesis to consider. It also raises the question of how hard it can be to assess contribution in the realm of knowledge work

[McGee's Musings]

While an interesting hypothesis, I'm not sure I buy the idea that people don't collaborate because it reveals the weakest links.  By that logic, the strongest links would collaborate and a sort of Prisoner's Dilemma would cause all to collaborate as much as possible:  even though I'd rather not collaborate and hold my knowledge to myself, that makes me appear to be a weak link and thus I'll share my knowledge to the extent possible.  The strongest links have the most to share and therefeore are very willing to share it because of the impression it leaves.  In fact, I would suggest it's this kind of rationale that has acted as the basis of incentives in environments where KM is successful.


8:58:28 PM    

Time as a KM issue:

If you're like me, you love to learn and love to absorb knowledge from other sources.  But where do you find the time?  I'm negotiating job offers right now and could use some lessons in negotations but I don't have the time to sit down and read another book or take another course - even though it may be an NPV positive investment. 

I think this is an issue within organizations as well.  Even though we may be more effective by using KM systems or seeking out knowledge, we often compete with impending deadlines and the risk of searching for knowledge for hours without being sure of the rewards it will payoff is more than we're willing to take on.  In a sense, even though the average return is positive, being risk-averse people we have a disutility for risk and thus do not invest the time to seek the necessary knowledge.  How do we overcome this natural human behaviour?


10:22:12 AM    


Thursday, April 25, 2002
 

The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker.
Peter F. Drucker

[Knowledge and Learning Solutions]

Which probably needs to start with some hard thinking about what constitutes productivity in knowledge work. Output/input isn't going to help very much now is it?

[McGee's Musings]

A very good point.  I think about decision making.  I know, you said in your 25+ years of business you've probably only made 200 decisions, but I think you're talking on a grander scale - I think about decisions at a more basic level.  I decide how to right a proposal, how much time a task takes and what skills are required, how to counsel an individual, how much work to put into researching an issue, what is "good enough" (with regards to anything), how to debug a software problem, what the implicit demand curve, etc. etc. etc.  I think even ideas are decisions in the sense that you filter through all sorts of combinations of information and decide which have merit.

In fact, I'll suggest you could think of knowledge workers as "decision engines" where knowledge is the fuel.  At the end of the day, we are paid for the judgment we exercise in our respective areas of knowledge work with the intention that good judgment leads to better business results.  In this sense, productivity is about the quality of our judgment and "knowledge management" is about helping people to leverage all of the knowledge assets around them in order ot improve "productivity". 

Thoughts?

PS - I captured this quote in preparation for our pitch to the GMA on why a Knowledge Management club is important at Kellogg.  We are seeking official approval on Monday night.


7:47:42 PM    


Tuesday, April 23, 2002
 

My current list of KM tools:

  • Document mgt software
  • Threaded discussions
  • e-mail
  • expert locators
  • instant messaging
  • chat rooms / collaboration software
  • cell phones
  • PDAs
  • pagers
  • intranets
  • extranets
  • weblogs
  • decision support systems
  • CRM systems
  • AI systems
  • expert systems
  • printers
  • paper
  • notebooks
  • pen and pencil
  • dictaphones
  • tape recorders
  • VCRs
  • cafeteria tables
  • beer mugs
  • golf clubs

Others??

 


10:32:48 PM    

Found the following definitions on a web site.  Thought they were interesting...

  • Information relates to description, definition, or perspective (what, who, when, where).
  • Knowledge comprises strategy, practice, method, or approach (how).
  • Wisdom embodies principle, insight, moral, or archetype (why). [Knowledge and Learning Solutions]

    Greg - do you have a link to the website for these definitions? It might be interesting to be able to put them in context or to dig deeper into some of the definitions. For example, what do you think they meant by 'archetype?'

    [Jim McGee: McGee's Musings - TEC924]
  • Jim - Here is the link.  I liked this site and the article http://www.outsights.com/systems/kmgmt/kmgmt.htm#bel97b.

    I particularly like the ideas shown in the chart, that:

    • Data are points in space and time without reference to space or time
    • Information understands relations about data
    • Knowledge understands patterns of information
    • Wisdom understands principles of knowledge

    In other words, each builds on understanding and context of the prior one. 

    Anyway, with regards to "archetype" I think they are referring to an enlightened "best practice" about life, an abstraction that may come from the combination of multiple experiences and ultimately results in a principle that appies to many situations.  But, quite honestly, I'm not sure what they mean. 


    9:10:23 PM    

    The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker.
    Peter F. Drucker


    11:54:43 AM    

    Found the following definitions on a web site.  Thought they were interesting...

  • Information relates to description, definition, or perspective (what, who, when, where).
  • Knowledge comprises strategy, practice, method, or approach (how).
  • Wisdom embodies principle, insight, moral, or archetype (why).

  • 11:38:00 AM    


    Sunday, April 21, 2002
     

    The Knowledge Management Panel on Wednesday evening was filled with insightful discussion and dialogue.  A few interesting comments included the following:

    • KM can't be successful without sponsorship from Sr. Management - This seems to favor the "top down" perspective vs. the bottom-up and thus it seems debatable but panelist Kent Barnett was fairly adamant about this point.
    • To advance the field of KM, some consistency in terminology needs to be developed.  There still seems to be quite a bit of confusion around what is KM?  what is Knowledge? what is wisdom?  how are these things different from data and information and documents?  Panelist Kevin Moore described the difference between data, information, knowledge and wisdom as as contextual.  Each level requires substantively more context than the last. 
    • There are two broad types of KM: managing information/documents (also thought of as explicit knowledge) and managing connections between people (the best way to manage tacit knowledge).  The former may use things like web sites, document repositories, and even web logs.  The latter will use e-mail, cell phones, instant messaging and "expert lookups".  Both types can be valuable under different scenarios.
    • Panelist Kent Barnett pointed out that we have been struggling with KM for decades, we simply did not call it that.  However, it was generally agreed upon that until the recent 5 - 10 years we did not have the tools to really make the headway on the issue that we can now.
    • Panelist Chuck Fred put forth the belief that we still have a long way to go before corporations see the implicit value in KM and before executives see it as mission critical in the way they do some other functions such as marketing.  Few firms view marketing as "an initiative" nor do they generally try to measure the ROI - they simply understand it's necessary for the firm to succeed.  However, he was very encouraged that leading MBA schools are now recognizing the importance of the issue.

    There were many other insights but these were some of the ones that stuck with me.

     

     


    10:58:24 PM    



    Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2002 Greg Harmeyer.
    Last update: 6/4/02; 3:39:12 PM.
    This theme is based on the SoundWaves (blue) Manila theme.
    June 2002
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
                1
    2 3 4 5 6 7 8
    9 10 11 12 13 14 15
    16 17 18 19 20 21 22
    23 24 25 26 27 28 29
    30            
    May   Jul