Friday, December 29, 2006

Blog? This ain't no blog!

Incredible--over two months since I last posted to this. Were it not for a few kind souls who added some comments, this blog would be as dead as morse code (it's true; I understand even the Boy Scouts have given up on offering a morse code merit badge these days). So what is this thing good for?

That's what I intend to research to find out. My personal research agenda from now on will be about the "next generation" of professionals. That is, what are the "young" professionals of today--those of you who know what Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake, and texting are all about--doing about knowledge sharing? How do they do it? Why do they do it? What makes them do it? My hypothesis is that their rationale for knowledge sharing (read: KM) is or will be, radically different than that of previous generations of professionals.

Why do I think that? Well, let's look at the easy part of this hypothesis: the technology enablement that didn't exist before recently. Let's start with the phone. Sure, the phone's been around for quite a while, but now it's personal. While I'm not quite old enough to remember when you had to ring up a live operator to connect a call (I did see how that works in the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" though), I am old enough to remember that we had a "party line" (for you younger ones, it's not anything like what the name implies) and a phone number that went something like CHerry 1-1234.

So what's the big deal? We've always had an ability to connect to others through the phone--even in far away places. The big deal is accessibility. I liken this to stored knowledge in a public library. Now I grew up with public libraries, and I still love them but, they're not always convenient. Today's young professionals probably wouldn't step into a library unless they had to get out of the rain. Now that's not a criticism--it's just a feeling that today's professionals have grown up with knowledge accessibility through the internet--not through scouring dusty bookshelves.

Like libraries v. internet, so is the phone of the past and today's mobile phone service. As recently as a decade ago, cell phone service was a new thing. My first cell phone was permanently mounted to the floor of my car, with a little pigtail looking antenna glued to the back window (that's how you determined in the old days who was up with technology). I paid $30 a month for 20 minutes of service--and I thought that was a good deal! With cell technology however, came the beginnings of accessibility.

It also meant that a proliferation of accessibility was beginning to emerge. I took an inventory once. For me, my son, and my daughter, we once had 8 different phone numbers at which we could be reached if necessary: cell, home, work, fax, school, etc. Accessibility was possible then, but not convenient. Interestingly enough (to me at least), having more ways to reach people isn't nearly as good as reaching them in one consistent way--all the time. That's what I'm talking about regarding today's young professionals. They need only their mobile numbers. Many don't even have a "land line" at home (I wonder when that term will become nothing more than a trivia question).

So now, young professionals can reach anyone anywhere, anytime, 24/7. And because they've grown up with that paradigm, they might just do that (is there any etiquette about not calling after a certain hour of the evening anymore?). This, dare I say--convergence--of accessibility is what is different from the past. I haven't even mentioned texting, or presence indication yet--that's for a later post.

For me then, the bottom line of this accessibility is, how will organizations create, share, qualify, and retain their institutional knowledge in the future given the habits and preferences of the newer generations of professionals? They're here, and they're coming to replace us dinosaurs of previous generations. How will we work with them today given our own habits and preferences? And what will that mean to our organizations in total?

If I can get my head back into this blogging thing soon (right now it hurts from all this thinking), I'll ruminate on blogs, wikis, VoIP, presence indication, texting, IM, social networking sites, and other technologies that make it both easier to access knowledge as well as provide a dizzying number of sources of knowledge.

Happy New Year to you!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Looking ahead? We don't need no stinkin' looking ahead! (yes we do)

Getting back to the old blogosphere hasn’t been easy, as I’ve been on the road for the past 3 weeks and trying to come up with pithy things to write about just hasn’t been on my list of priorities. Even this week when I thought I’d be home the entire week—I find myself going nearly cross country twice, from home to Calgary, and then Calgary to Virginia Beach, before going home again. So unfortunately, while this still isn’t pithy, it is timely as I just conducted a webinar with my colleague and knowledge management SME Darcy Lemons.

The topic was all about knowledge retention and how to get that knowledge to the right people even after the knowledge providers have “left the building.” Although there are many considerations, such as transfers, layoffs, voluntary quits, temporary leaves, and so forth, the loss of knowledge by an organization due to retirements is the one that I most closely associate with. I guess realizing that my professional career goes way back to the disco era of 1974 makes that a stark and startling reality for me. No organization I’ve ever worked for in the past had or has (to my knowledge) any type of robust, knowledge retention strategy.

About the only thing left of the outgoing person’s legacy is the now up-for-grabs cubicle and the hoarded napkins, paper clips, markers and pens, and spare change collected over many years left in the departed’s desk drawers. So Darcy and I talked about the bleak statistics compiled that predict how we won’t be able to replace the outgoing knowledge (people leaving) with sufficient numbers of incoming knowledge (people being hired) even on just a body count basis. That is, we can’t expect to be able to replace people one-for-one, and the idea of being able to directly replace their knowledge and experience (developed over the years) is laughable.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Keeping the knowledge you've got---from leaving....

You know you’re getting old when....

Although I’ve only been here at APQC for a few years, my professional life has spanned over 30. While that’s pretty hard for me to imagine, unfortunately the truth is that it is the truth. Starting during the height of the disco era is almost as embarrassing as admitting that I liked disco. Three decades and six employers later, I’ve been lucky enough to pick up quite a few tips and experience from every place I’ve been.

So when I was asked to do a webinar on the difficulties organizations have keeping their intellectual capital due to attrition—layoffs, voluntary quits, and especially retirements—I had to admit that why I was asked was because I was part of that demographic. I think I’ve got a few more good years left in me, but even if that’s the case, how does APQC plan to take advantage of the collected knowledge I’ve gained, both now and particularly when I’m ready to head out the door for the last time?

How does any company anticipate those needs? Or do they even recognize the problem before it’s too late? Do all companies plan for a retiree’s replacement only after they’re gone? And even if they know the time is near and post for a new hire, what about the loss of knowledge that leaves with the outgoing employee? You can’t simply replace that knowledge with a new body—or even two, or three. The point is, replacing the people isn’t the same as replacing their tacit knowledge and technical experience.

The problem is worse yet when a company initiates a reduction in force. There, the planning horizon is probably a lot shorter, and the ability to capture and retain the knowledge of those being laid off is limited at best. Having been laid off twice in my own career, I know that those organizations simply wanted me out as soon as possible so as not to create a disruption among those who remained. What they also didn’t get was any benefit of my knowledge—learned at their expense. My next employers were the beneficiaries of that.

Come to think of it, I was also a voluntary quit twice as well. In those cases, the companies I left were lucky to get two weeks worth of knowledge—or at least what knowledge I was willing to leave behind. Here again, on balance, I left with much more than I came in with.

So how does any organization plan for the loss of its knowledge? Some knowledge will always be lost to be sure, but how do smart organizations keep as much of it as possible? What’s their strategy? APQC will be looking at this problem over the next few months in a collaborative learning study titled, "Knowledge Retention & Transfer." They wanted me to start thinking about it now I suppose because they wanted me to be a part of the solution—and not the problem.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Whither Knowledge Management?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in the design and implementation of knowledge management systems for nearly ten years now and it’s been great to see the maturation of thought, systems, and techniques devoted to KM. With that maturation though, comes an obligation to reflect upon what KM has actually provided its supporters. While I can’t say what others have encountered, I can say from my own experience both as an “insider” as well as a consultant that well designed knowledge sharing systems provide value above and beyond other management tools. That is, if you have a process improvement strategy already—say, six sigma, lean, or some other methodology—knowledge management can improve upon it.

While we didn’t know it at the time, years ago General Motors could have benefited greatly from good knowledge management. I spent 19 years there, most as an industrial engineer, so process improvement was definitely in my job responsibility. From machine design, to plant layout, to time studies, and so on, all the traditional improvement techniques were in my toolkit. What wasn’t however, was a systematic way to learn and to share my experience among all the other industrial engineers in the corporation. In fact, with nearly 200 manufacturing plants worldwide at the time, even networking with only one industrial engineer from each location would have been helpful.

So even though I may have gotten better at my craft, any improvements I helped to create were just point solutions—one improvement in one place, at one time—perhaps never to be repeated anywhere else again. Without knowledge management and the sharing of experience, we were all re-inventing good processes over and over again—just in different locations. Now this isn’t to say that we didn’t learn, because we certainly did. We just didn’t do it in a systematic way as knowledge management could provide. What we did do was to re-use old machine designs as a start and improve upon them; referenced similar processes that we tweaked; and, asked around if we thought we could count on the experience of other, more senior engineers.

There is an epilogue to this however, as today General Motors has a knowledge management program. It’s good to know that the company I started my professional career with has learned enough to build in systems that may help it get to the next century. I’d like to know what others have experienced though. What about this business of measuring KM? How do you know it’s got something to give that other methods don’t?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

In an earlier post, Stan Garfield answered the call for a "Top 10" KM do's and don'ts. Number 2 on his list is: Balance people, process, and technology, with a project leader for each category. It seems to me that Stan's thoughts here line up with my experience---to a point. That is, a comprehensive KM strategy that includes a balance between the elements is essential. All too often organizations implement an IT solution that they think will lead the way to a culture of knowledge sharing only to be disappointed in the lack of results. Paying attention to the processes required---creatintg and publishing knowledge, assuring its quality and maintaining content relevancy, and continually innovating from the shared knowledge base---can't simply be left to chance. Similarly, the change management piece---the people element---is something that must be fully strategized and deliberately implemented.

What I think are missing from Stan's list though, are content and measurement. In order to share, people have to have something worth sharing. What will bring people back to a repository but content that is meaningful to them? Like a little maintained website, lack of content will surely mean a quick death to any knowledge sharing effort. KM can, and should be measured as well. Just as any other improvement initiative, KM should be held accountable to its results. Measuring KM however, doesn't mean just measuring its activity level. Measurements that mean something to the business that are impacted by KM activity are the things that matter.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Some salient comments by Christian Young...

Traveling--especially without my laptop--makes this blogging business even more challenging than it already is for me. I must admit, extemporaneous writing doesn't come easy for me (although speaking does!), so my blog looks a little sparse compared to most. Nevertheless, I think the real value of any blog is the interaction it can provide, and Christian Young recently provided such input.

He listed 5 (six really) great points about some of the conditions and thinking necessary if KM is going to "stick" in an organization. Could these ideas form the beginning of that "top 10" that I'm looking for? For those of you steeped in KM, perhaps the Christian's thoughts seem like, "been there, done that." However, if they don't, then it must speak to the idea that not everyone is aware of the benefits of KM yet--much less understand and embrace them.

I suspect that it's more of the latter, as I still often come across organizations where KM is as foreign a concept as is string theory. Even for organizations that do understand KM as an improvement technique, application of it isn't a slam dunk. Just this morning for example, I had a call with someone who easily understands KM--yet his organization doesn't--and consequently, executive support for it is non-existent.

Thanks for your feedback Christian. Any other commenters out there?

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Top 10?

One thing I've noticed about being in this field we call KM is the diversity of experiences of practitioners, researchers, and those just plain interested in the topic. From a previous post, a suggestion was made that maybe we could come up with a "Top 10," or even "Bottom 10" of KM ideas, techniques, tactics, or gotchas. That seems to me to be a pretty good idea. While I haven't thought through all the permutations of such lists, I guess I'd like to throw out one thought that I believe is universal, yet is also a thought that is universally gone unheeded.

The thought is, "If you build it, they won't necessarily come." That's in reference to the idea that if an organization builds a comprehensive intranet, with spiders, with external links, with yellow pages, and so on, that it won't necessarily result in knowledge sharing. I think that this thought has proven immutable, yet organizations still routinely go the route of building an intranet first and then wonder why nothing happens.

Whether this is a top 10 or bottom 10 idea doesn't matter to me, but I'd like to hear from others on this or similar words of wisdom that seem to have stood the test of (KM) time.

Friday, June 30, 2006

What's the next big thing in KM?

Just ruminating a bit before the 4th of July holiday….

I’ve been lucky enough to do this “thing” called knowledge management for nearly a decade now and it still surprises me how many opportunities exist to help organizations just to get started improving their business through knowledge sharing methods. So there’s no real dearth of “starter” stuff or KM 101-type things that we can all think about or do, but what of the more advanced organizations? What can we offer them? What have they done or can do to take their KM programs to the next level? That is, what’s the next big thing in KM?

I’ll be taking some time away from the office next week, and maybe the break will give me a chance to refresh my thoughts on this. In the meantime though, I hope that when I do get back, I’ll find lots of ideas here from others to help me get a conversation going.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Does leadership style affect Community of Practice effectiveness?

Does leadership style impact the effectiveness of communities of practice (CoP)? That is, communities of practice by definition are loosely based “organizations” defined by their members’ identification and affiliation to the community’s goals. The nature of their interaction are intended to be peer-to-peer, minimizing the effects (and sometimes the requirements) of hierarchical knowledge transfer as might be seen in more traditional organizational forms. So the newest member is assumed to have as much to contribute to the success of the community as the most senior; the staff member contributing and participating as effectively as the chief executive. This democratization of the community is what gives a CoP its knowledge sharing power.

But what of the leadership style applied to the CoP? Can the executive sponsor, or community leader, or other influential champion of a CoP be an autocrat when it comes to managing the community? Must a community leader be collaborative, participative, sensing, and so on, in order for the community to function effectively? As a specific example, let’s say that Organization A has traditionally been a “command and control” type of culture, and Organization B has been widely acknowledged as being collaborative, innovative, and less sensitive to hierarchy. Now let’s say that both organizations decide to formalize the communities of practice naturally inherent in all organizations. They each develop strategies, commit resources, assign roles and responsibilities, and require measurement of results. Will their previous leadership styles automatically lead to more effective (or less effective) CoPs, or will the communities by their nature negate the effects of leadership style? What have you seen?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Knowledge and Innovation

In a recent study, APQC found that innovation is important to all organizations in all sectors, whether for-profit, government, or nonprofit. In an economy powered by knowledge workers, the better use of knowledge can lead to faster, less risky, and more vibrant innovation. In technical organizations such as many of those studied by APQC, knowledge is often the raw material as well as the product of their work.

Do you think these organizations -- known for their innovation -- create, manage, or leverage their knowledge more effectively or differently than other organizations? Is the way they manage knowledge part of the reason these organizations are so innovative? APQC's research has found the answer to be a resounding, "Yes", but I'd like to hear your opinion on the intersection of knowledge (knowledge management) and innovation.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Records Management is a Must These Days

We have seen such a surge in requests for best-practices in records management in response to corporate law suits and Governmental regulation (SOX), we've commissioned a consortium benchmarking project on the topic (

It seems there are many organizations out there trying to figure out how to get their hands around managing all of the information within their organization to ensure they can adequately respond to law suits and requests from the Government. How much is enough to have "responded"? How much is too much? How do you balance the request with the cost or impact to the organization? How do you minimize the cost of "eDiscovery"?

Let me know your thoughts. If you feel your organization may be best practice, we'd love to screen you for this project, as well.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Differences in KM Around the Globe

Organizations based in the US, most of whom operate globally, are focusing their KM efforts primarily in two arenas: collaboration and content management. Collaboration serves as the vehicle for sharing tacit knowledge and rapid problem solving. Collaboration is focused on enabling work teams scattered around the globe. What is new is the emerging prominence and formality of CoPs, responsible for finding and sharing best practices, create new knowledge, fostering innovation, and enhancing the organization’s image in the eyes of customers as a knowledge-based enterprise.

As for content management, organizations are trying to manage the knowledge and information they already have. Businesses are awash in valuable explicit information, and want to try to organize it, usually to support a work flow or product line, or to avoid litigation and risk, and make it easily available to employees. In some cases they are also making it available to customers and suppliers.

APQC is seeing equal emphasis on tacit knowledge exchange—communities—and on content management.

APQC does see a continuing shift in funding models. More and more, the business units, rather than a corporate group, are appointing KM managers and funding collaboration. They turn to the central IT organization as the key supplier for the tools to make it happen. For content management, the same picture is emerging.

The challenges have not changed: ensuring an ROI for KM efforts, giving people time to do it (or creating roles that are explicitly accountable), and dealing with other cultural barriers to having people spend time in knowledge sharing or content management activities.

What about organizations with their historical and cultural roots in EMEA and AP countries? Is the focus primarily on collaboration? Innovation? Content management? Are the challenges the same?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Knowledge Leaving the Organization

It seems that many employees are on the move again. We still have the huge gap being created by retirement, but it seems with the market picking up, many employees are starting to change jobs as the "grass gets greener".

We conducted a study on this topic a couple years back. It was called "Retaining Valuable Knowledge...". We are looking at repeating the project as many more organizations are dealing with new challenges in this space. We would love to hear your feedback. Please post your comments around the challenges your organization is facing as employees retire, leave, transition it new roles, etc.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Human Capital, Talent Management, Organizational Capability

How many different ways can we categorize programs and processes that impact the people component of our organizations? In the last few days alone, I've read articles on new Human Capital Metrics, the revised "War for Talent," aging workforce woes, succession management, and leadership development. Over the last 8 years as the economy has boomed, bottomed, and is now booming again, you see human resources and operations people scrambling to alternatively prove their worth and then deliver the people their hungry management needs to fill their positions. Are the different names designating a new magic "ingredient" or are we just re-labeling to provide new spin, white papers, and attention at conferences? Either way, there is some fundamental blocking and tackling that needs to take place.

Inside organizations, most management is continually striving to find the best people to deliver the highest value to customers (internal/external) via the most efficient processes. We all know that requires a lot of moving parts to mesh with synchronicity - when it does, things are beautiful. However, if management doesn't understand what customers want, don't have the people that can deliver it if they do, and can't keep their processes humming, all hell break loose in the form of unhappy customers, disgruntled employees, and waste-ridden processes. After working on several benchmarking studies looking at developing leadership at all levels, talent management, and succession planning, it's obvious that a significant component of business success stems from putting the right people in the right jobs, with the right development plans to eke every ounce of performance out of them. Likewise, after studying process improvement methodologies like 6Sigma and lean, it is apparent that understanding process capability, outcomes, and improvement areas is vital to success. Further, tapping into the knowledge base of the people who engage in those processes for best practices, templates, shortcuts, etc., helps to keep all of the parts moving together. Finally, providing training/learning opportunities via web, classroom, on the job coaching, and mentoring helps individuals maximize their potential and drive better people/process performance. Isn't it time we stopped thinking about disparate improvement programs and instead focused on a Performance Program that focuses on improving the performance of the processes and people that engage in the processes for our value chain?

Wow, what a rant...but these are thoughts I'm mulling over with colleagues. We're focused on investigating how to take this concept further and bring together the best thinking from leadership development, human capital management, training and learning, organizational development, process improvement, and KM into a performance program that drives real, tangible value in an integrated fashion. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Planning Our KM Conference - What to Cover?

We're planning our 11th annual KM Conference for May 4-5 in Vegas this year and met as a team yesterday to discuss. Our internal KM community of practice puts on the conference - picking speakers, setting format, etc. - similar to many other organizations. We're trying something new (for us) this year that I've seen at several other much larger conferences - networking groups. We're asking attendees to answer 4-5 questions so that we can "match" them with individuals that have similar interests. We'll then send that information out so they can make meaningful connections prior to, during, and after the conference. Have others tried this? My main concern is manually matching 300-400 people's profiles. We haven't found a cheap or easy tool that makes this possible and buying Social Network Analysis tools seems a bit overboard.

I would like to see this conference be as "customized" as possible as well - we have the standard program with breaks built in, etc., but we're also trying to do "Birds of a Feather" cocktail reception and lunch breaks to allow members to find their center. What other ways have conferences allowed people to create a "Starbucks" experience where they get the base ingredient and then add/enhance as they go?

I'm saddened by the fact that I won't be in attendance this year - my first miss since 1998. Fortunately, it's for a good reason, however - my wife is due with identical twin girls on May 4! While I'm sure many of the attendees in Vegas will be getting by with as little sleep as me, I won't be doing it over beers and poker chips - instead with midnight feedings and double diaper changes! Should be a fun adventure...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CoPs - building to formality

I just had a great chat with a couple of blokes from an international mining company (they're Aussies, a place near and dear to my heart) who are building their community effort as we speak. For several years as the mining industry consolidated and rode economic slow downs with cost cutting measures, these gentleman have fostered an "informal infrastructure" for their communities (they call them forums). Now that the industry is experiencing a huge upturn (fueled by demand for iron and coal in China, among other things), the company is struggling to meet capacity because of talent shortages and repercussions from previous downsizings. So, they are primed to evolve their informal infrastructure into something more structured and focused. We talked for nearly 2 hours about how to position communities, where to have the community center of excellence "sit" in the organization, and how to focus their efforts for maximum gain. Sounded like they were primed for success as the company has invested in an operational excellence group that reports to the CEO - a wonderful place to establish core community processes and tools.

The struggle, of course, is how to reconcile new, more formal CoP processes with the current methods of working that many like and enjoy. We talked about doing an assessment of key stakeholders and specific communities to discover the best of the current program as well as gaps that need to be filled. Additionally, they have an opportunity to link communities to the talent management issues (finding expertise, linking it together, identifying and embedding best practices, and improving personal networks) and growth needs (bring best practices to bear anywhere, anytime with greater efficiency if people are connected and content is appropriately collected). I think they need to focus on creating a few formal communities where it makes sense according to these two drivers and continue to support those informal groups that wish to keep operating.

One interesting question they had that I would like to get an answer to as well - are there any studies/metrics on how participation in CoPs affects retention of individuals inside an organization? APQCs study on CoPs last year asked study participants to survey their CoP members on their perceptions of value of the community. We had about 800 respondents, mainly from the best practice organizations we studied, so the results are very positive. I wrote an article that will come out in the March KM W0rld issue on the results of this - some of the info is below. However, we didn't get a clean look at how participation affects retention - anyone have anything out there?
  • 93% said their CoP has a clear, compelling business value proposition for participation,
  • 84% said their CoP has a senior sponsor,
  • 88% said business/line management supports the time spent on CoP activities,
  • 88% said business/line management recognizes the value of CoP output, and
  • 70% said their CoP has a communication strategy to promote outputs and results of CoP to outside stakeholders

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Consumer Electronics and KM - Where Are They

I have been working with my colleagues and IBM to launch an industry benchmarking council for the consumer electronics industry vertical. The intent is to focus on collecting metrics around 10-15 KPIs related to the service after sales process and then have the group continue to meet, share best practices, etc. around other pressing topics. As I was preparing, I read some amazing stats in "Irresistable! Markets, Models, and Meta-Value in Consumer Electronics" (by George Bailey and Hagen Wenzek) about the industry - it's expected to hit $130+B in revenue this year but their product margins are razor thin (in the 0.4% to 3% range). My favorite passage in the book said something like - global electronics companies have changed the landscape of the world by making communication ubiquitous and instantaneous, but now they have to change their business models to fit the landscape they created.

This got me to thinking - in 8 years of studying and working with organizations from Fortune 500, govt, and associations, I've never read about or worked with a consumer electronics organization on KM. Sure, HP, Microsoft, and Dell get written up, but I'm thinking about the Sony's, Pioneers, Ericssons, etc. My guess is that most are very engineering driven, innovation oriented companies, so where's the KM? I would imagine that the industry is facing many of the same pressures that Big Pharma is today with outsourcing, globalization, specialization, and compressed cycle times. Sounds like a perfect environment for communities of practice, best practice transfer, and expertise location to me. I'll be interested to find out more as we get organizations inside the walls here in the next few months.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Leadership Crisis and KM - Huh?

As we're preparing for another best practice study on Leadership Development Strategy, one of my colleagues, Darcy Lemons, shared a research brief just released the by Hay Group and Chief Executive magazine on "The Best Companies for Leaders." The following quote, as usual, caught my eye:
  • In fact, there is an impending leadership crisis facing large and small businesses across all sectors: According to a recent report on National Public Radio, 50 percent of the management workforce can retire in just five years. As 46 million members of Generation X step into 76 million baby boomers’ shoes, today’s leaders are justifiably concerned about how to identify and prepare their successors. Considering these demographics, the issue is quantitative as well as qualitative: The question for companies isn’t simply "Do we have good leaders?" It’s also "Do we have enough leaders?"
KM'ers have long been concerned about retaining valuable knowledge in the form of technical skill and expertise - sales skills, specific technical domains, knowledge of "the way things work," etc. We haven't spent as much time talking about how knowledge management approaches can impact/improve leadership. As one of the generation that has to attempt to fill the shoes of the Greatest Generation, I'm looking for any edge I can find. Experience suggests that communities of practice can provide a wonderful link to both leadership development and talent management programs inside organizations.
Community leadership provides a unique opportunity to learn leadership skills that seem more and more important every day - leading disparate types of people across time zones, virtually, and outside of your direct report sphere. Effective community leaders at Schlumberger, for instance, have repeatedly taken advantage of the talent management aspects of the position - they are recruited into the role, put their participation into their performance goals, are rated by peers and leaders on their ability to achieve results collaboratively. Ultimately they are rewarded/moved into new roles. As of 2003, all of the initial wave of community leaders (the InTouch variety), had rotated into a role of their choosing upon completion of their term (no mean feat at an intellectually elite organization like Schlumberger). Further, you can use community participation to drive better development programs for future leaders - communities (and their participants) typically sit at the juxtaposition of daily business and thought leadership. What better way to identify the kinds of knowledge and the kinds of people that leaders will need to understand in order to lead their part of the organization into the future?
An intriguing topic - one I hope we learn more about in our study and personally over the next few months.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Day 2 of the Virgin Blogger - Thoughts on the future direction of KM

Over the last few weeks, I've had the chance to think a lot about where organizations are taking KM. I participated in a study APQC just completed called "Leveraging Knowledge Across the Value Chain" that caused me to examine some of the ways we've been thinking about KM. My number one takeaway - sophisticated organizations don't have stand-alone knowledge management anymore. Instead, they've begun to integrate...with their organizational learning initiatives (talent management, leadership development, training and development), their process improvement programs (6Sigma, lean, Baldrige), and their supply chain management areas. We coined the phrase "Performance Program" to describe this - focusing knowledge management, process improvement, and learning tools to improve process performance and the performance of the people who engage in those processes. I don't know if that's a good phrase or not, but it seemed to capture the mood.

I found it particularly intriguing that the KM practitioners of old who have survived and thrived are concentrating on helping the process performance of the entire value chain - internally of course, but also with suppliers, customers, regulatory agencies, academic partners, and other vendors. KM may not be the right answer for every situation (we all know this intuitively) - so these people have pulled together an "awesome set of tools" (one of my favorite quotes from Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High") to focus on driving business performance. We actually revised APQCs Stages of Implementation KM roadmap based on these findings - we'll discuss and hope for feedback on our KM community call on February 28 at 10am central. I'll be interested to hear other's thoughts.

On another note, as we bask in the beautiful spring-time weather in Houston (yes, we can have good weather February, no less!), I've had a few days without intense project work to catch up on articles on organizational learning, marketing in associations, and developing leaders virtually. It reminded me of how important it is to occasionally stop, step back, and fill up your head with new thinking - it's certainly helped me regain some perspective that I lost in the last 6 months of working on tons of projects and traveling all the time. I've found that content feeds like BNETs leadership, human resources, and supply chain newsletters have helped me find relevant information without having to remember to search. Here is a link:

I'd love other people's suggestions for sources of relevant business information outside of the traditional Fortune, Business 2.0 etc.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blog Transition and Musings on CoPs and Content

Our previous blogger extraordinaire, Farida Hasanali, has bequethed me her blog...she's moved on to an exciting new role at Expediant Solutions. I'll do my best to continue to provide something of interest and look forward to your comments and input.

Today's thoughts - last week I worked with a large client that is rolling out a community of practice for its global Black Belts. They're attempting to create regional chapters of the community of practice (a "federated" model) because their geographical spread and lack of funding for face-to-face meetings precludes having everyone get together. Since they didn't have a history of sharing or knowledge capture, they are putting together monthly conference calls by region (and with the regional chapter heads as a group) to push interesting project findings, identify common source problems, and establish relationships. They'll be using a typical repository/discussion tool to facilitate ongoing dialogue between meetings. We spent a lot of time trying to craft the right messages to drive participation - communication is so difficult with time-zones and different native languages. They had a successful launch - but I wonder if anyone has created successful ongoing communication plans for such groups? In an article in in the 12/05 issue "Association Now" magazine I came across these 5 tips for framing messages from Rebecca Leet:
1. What action do you want to affect?
2. Whom must we motivate to achieve that action?
3. What desire of theirs is met by taking the action we want?
4. Where does our desire overlap with theirs?
5. What do we say so that they hear their desire will be met by
taking our action?

Each of the region CoP facilitators is working on putting together 2 tracks for driving participation - identifying 2-3 goals that the regional BBs can work on across sites to drive better performance and mining the group for "hot topics" that they can discuss anytime, anywhere to solve problems. I like their a disciplined project environment like 6Sigma, more structure seems to work better than the more organic communities we see in other places.

On another topic - we're seeing more and more interest in how organizations are using content and document management tools to impact the way they comply with regulatory issues (like SOX and HIPAA, etc.) as well as respond to lawsuit subpoenas. With the ever expanding capability to "hide" the damaging memo or piece of content on thumb drives, CD, hard drives, email, IM, etc, it looks like more and more organizations are struggling to manage their processes for discovery and compliance. KM processes and technology have an immense impact on, APQC will launch a best practice study on the topic in June of this year to see what we can discover - should be an interesting topic.

More later...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Farida's New Adventure

Hello all,
Hope you are doing well. I wanted to send you all a note about my latest escapade. It's probably one of the most dangerous ones I have undertaken lately. No, its not boating in Bali, nor bungee jumping in the Amazon, I am leaving APQC (home) to venture out into the big bad world to try my hand at strategic planning and IT related consulting.

As some of you know, APQC has been home for me for the past thirteen years and having this blog for the past two has been amazing. Since I started this blog with APQC's name on it I feel compelled to leave it here as I move on to newer and scarier things.

Of course I will be starting my new blog shortly and you will find me on the blogosphere soon. My new e-mail is fhasanali @

Meanwhile don't give up on this blog. Its being taken over by Wesley Vestal, APQC's lead KM guru. Wes has been consulting in KM for the past 8 years and has some great experiences and insights to share with you all. He has implemented KM, scorecards, measures, leadership strategies, etc. etc. You name it he has done it. Although I am very sad to leave this blog for now I am also very excited that Wes is taking it over.

Again, when I get my new link, I will post it on this blog for you.

You all now have my new e-mail, please fix the spacing and send me a note.
to all of you
take care