Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Live KM blogging: Required IT tools

Well, this is what the good folks at APQC suggest in a slide titled IT Tools for Communities of Practice. I'm going to list them here, without comment. Comments will come later.

  • Disccusion capabilities (threads, chats, IM, blogs, wikis)

  • Repository for content

  • Document/content manager

  • Expertise locator (roster of members)

  • Subscription capability ("push" content)

  • Effective search engine (across discussion threads and repository)

  • Front page with highlighted content

  • "Productivity" tools that members of the communities of practice find useful

  • Calendar of events/meetings for the community of practice

  • Links to other learning systems or resources with related content.
Needless to say, more to follow.

Live KM blogging: Critical success factors for communities of practice

The good folks at APQC provide us with four critical success factors for communities of practice. This is straight from a ppt:

  • Management :: Must provide time and support to share and reuse knowledge in a community.

  • Social/Cultural :: Sharing and reuse must be seen as "good" and necessary.

  • Technical :: Good technology tools are needed to help people collect and connect.

  • Personal :: Participation must be seen as an opportunity to achieve career goals.
Wow: Reuse must be seen as good and necessary; we're going to have to change some Coastie culture.

Live KM blogging: Information technology has a role...

... but it's not the be all and end all for knowledge management.

Certainly, information technology has a place in knowledge management and, specifically, for communities of practice.

IT should support the business needs of communities of practice.

IT should provide systems for publishing, capturing, and evaluating knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned.

It's not about the tool, but rather the content housed within the tool

Live KM blogging: Beware; there's still no silver bullet

A warning.

Take heed.

Communities of practice are not a silver bullet for every process and every learning problem and every organizational failure and every performance challenge.

Live KM blogging: Living in the organizational white space

Communities of practice are a new organizational form. They live in the white space of the organization; they don't show up on the organizational line diagrams.

They span boundaries.

They serve as a channel for knowledge to flow from one person to another.

They strengthen the social fabric of the larger organization.

They serve as a focal point for the creation and use of knowledge.

They solve the problem of getting knowledge to those who need it.

Live KM blogging: Three types of knowledge

Earlier this week, I defined knowledge as

Information in action. That is to say that knowledge is information which people use to make decisions or add value. Knowledge includes the rules and contexts of the information's use.
There are three types of knowledge (beyond the two-types distinction) we are concerned about:
  • Acquired knowledge comes from outside the organization. We're told acquired knowledge can be purchased or "rented." I'd guess it could be stolen, too. Contract employees are an example, I think, of rented acquired knowledge. The government expects contract employees to come with the required knowledge already stored up and ready to use.

  • Adapted knowledge "results from responding to new processes or technologies in the market place." The Coast Guard's innovation council and process is an example of adapted knowledge at work in the Coast Guard.

  • Fused knowledge is that knowledge which is created when people with different backgrounds and perspectives are brought together. This is the fundamental organizational call for diversity. Diversity, and I'm not just talking race and color and gender, is what allows for fused knowledge.
Organizations must be cognizant of all three types of knowledge, for they're obtained in different ways.

Live KM blogging: Another realization about communities of practice

The communities of practice methodology involves two key components, both of which are necessary for success: high touch and high tech.

There needs to be a face to face component (helps actually build community and strengthen the fabric of the community) and there needs to be a technological component which allows for virtual community, both synchronous and asynchronous.

Live KM blogging: A key to successful communities of practice

I think the key question for the Coast Guard as we look at communities of practice is this: How can we support and nurture communities of practice?

Another key issue is this: How can we unstick the stuck knowledge?

Live KM blogging: Another realization

Communities of Practice. This seems to be a great way to help manage knowledge, to implement a knowledge management component. I've already mentioned we have a number of these in the Coast Guard, be they formal or informal, supported or not supported. I think what makes a KM community of practice difference is that is deliberate in nature and exists for the purpose of transfering knowledge, moving knowledge from one brain to another.

A key component of KM communities of practice is that it is, above all else, fairly high touch. That is to say that it is not, in and of itself, a technology based thing.

Years back I created a group in Hampton Roads to help nurture and sustain meeting facilitators and meeting managers. This was, looking back, clearly a community of practice. We gathered guarterly to discuss tools, successes, failures, opportunities. To share. We used a bang list on the GAL. We attempted to have a poor-man's document repository.

Time to reinvigorate, as the need is still there. Now, I have a few more tools, and can use proven practices from elsewhere.

Live KM blogging: APQC to unleash new knowlege management blog

Tomorrow morning, APQC is going to unveil a new knowledge management blog, KM Edge. the good news is that the site is online today (in beta), and a quick stumble about the site shows that this is going to be an excellent resource.

Coasties, you ought to know that Coast Guard forks over nearly ten grand a year to be a member organization of the APQC. This is one that's well worth the coin. For one thing, there's direct benefit for you. While the blog is in the open, APQC has a slew of stuff -- including benchmarking information and hard core white papers -- available for download (for free) for employees of member organizations. You merely need to visit the APQC website and click the free registration button in the upper right corner. You'll need to register with your email address to get the benefits of membership. Worth your time.

Live KM blogging: Challenges and solutions for the marine safety program

There's been plenty of acknowledgement over the last many months that the Coast Guard's marine safety program is facing some severe challenges. Earlier this week, Thomas Jackson posted a provokative post at his Coast Guard Report: Did Coast Guard make Marine Safety any Safer with ALCOAST 194?

It's very easy to see the link between knowledge management and our current woes in marine safety. ALCOAST 194 merely hightlights the situation the Coast Guard finds itself in: we've lost our marine safety knowledge.

The ALCOAST notes,

Reads to me like this is, in part, a knowledge management situation. Knowledge management can help the marine safety program, although it is still likely to take several years to get the Coast Guard to where it needs to be.

Are the Coast Guard's knowledge management folks involved in this CG-545 initiative? Where is the Coast Guard's Chief Knowledge Officer in all of this? Do we still even have a CKO?

Clearly, the service is doing something, as it must. Bringing more bodies aboard is only part of the answer. People without knowledge is not going to help the service meet the marine safety mandates. And, no matter if we have a great training program with a full PQS, that's only going to deal with the explicit knowledge, not the tacit. Tacit knowledge is what's been walking out the door after fermenting and growing for years... and that's what has brought us, in part, to where we are today.

This appears to this novice to be a textbook example of an opportunity for knowledge management to work with other disciplines to deliver organizational value and results for America.

Live KM blogging: A realization

This blog, Coast Guard Performance Excellence, is actually a tool in support of a community of practice.

Live KM blogging: The four rights

Knowledge management: a systematic approach to help information and knowledge flow

  • to the right people
  • at the right time
  • in the right format
  • at the right cost
so they can act more efficiently and effectively to create value.

Knowledge is information in action.

Live KM blogging: When people speak...

How do we get people to contribute to communities of practice? You know, how do we encourage people to blog and share stuff, even stuff that might not be at 100%.

One barrier to getting people to contribute is that often they believe that what they write is cast in stone. "If I post a blog post, and I'm wrong, I'm screwed," they think. A conference attendee noted that at her government organization, when a person speaks, it "becomes the defacto truth."

Too bad. A fear like that would kill all sharing, all musing. It's directly related to a comment I made in a post over at AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG, the post about flag officers feeling they can no longer think aloud.

Share. Comment. Move that knowledge.

And, if you're wrong, just admit it and move on. If the situation has changed, just come back and let people know.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Live KM blogging: Driving for proven practices

One of the things have noticed in the Coast Guard is we have a severe "not invented here" complex. We hate to use things not developed by ourselves.

This is, I believe, one of the things that has slowed down the deployment of the Performance Excellence Criteria. We reward our military senior leaders for inventing things, for implementing things, for developing things. Sustaining good things doesn't get rewarded. Copying someone else's good work doesn't get rewarded.

Coasties, for some reason, don't believe in proven practices, at least in implementing someone else's proven practice.

Knowledge management, however, is all about proven practices. Well, okay, it's not all about it, but proven practices is important in implementing a successful knowledge management system.

One question posed today is important for us to consider: How will you recognize great sharing and re-use behavior?

I'm particularly intrigued by how we recognize and encourage the re-use of proven practices.

Onoe idea I heard today: An organization recognizes people who contribute proven practices by giving them a plaque. A green plaque. Recognition; good. If you re-use a proven practice, you get recognized also. With a white plaque. And, when senior leaders walk about, they rave about the white plaques.

White plaques have more value, as it shows a transmission of a proven practice.

The knowledge isn't stuck.

Live KM blogging: Being responsive to change

How can we create a culture which is responsive to change?

This is a key goal of the Commandant's. Knowledge management ought to help with this, and the methodology of communities of practice is a huge part of this as it mixes the hard site (or content) with the soft side (people).

Live KM blogging: How KM can help with "modernization"

One of the things Admiral Allen has talked about in his modernization stump talk is the need not for us to manage change, but to become a change centric organization... that is to say, we need to become an organization which embraces change and can do so no matter the currents.

As the poplularists would tell us, change is here to stay. We live in a whitewater world.

Cliches, true, but alos true.

One of the business cases for knowledge management is that it makes the organization smarter. Knowlege management makes it so that tacit knowledge become explicit; knowledge management makes it so you can see the world that was envisioned in the 7th District years ago: What if everyone knew everything? That was their university Knowledge management helps an organization move through change.

Live KM blogging: Sometimes you can have too much visibility

Here's something I've never experienced at all. Sometimes, you can have too much visibility.

One of the tools which is often used in knowledge management is blogs and wikis. And, sometimes, if you press out ahead in using these sorts of tools, it can generate huge numbers of questions and concerns from senior leaders and stakeholders.... questions which, according to the good folks here, can't yet be answered.

Pilot programs need to balance visibility... too much visibility, and the walls come tumbling down... too little, and the pilot fails for lack of exposure.

The question here: What's the right amount of visibility?

Live blogging KM: Computer problems

Having severe computer problems... live blogging to be periodic, at best. I'll be keeping the posts the old fashioned way, and post when I have resolved the issues.

Live KM blogging: Do we have any "communities of practice" in the Coast Guard?

Well, if you're a Coastie and you're reading this, you likely belong to a community of practice.

I think we have communities of practice within the Coast Guard. Some are formal, such as the performance consultants out of CG-1 and the organizational performance consultants from CG-09. Each of these communities of practice use CG Central; each gets together each year to share knowledge.

The Gold Badge network.

There are some informal communities of practice. The MK Shop is an example of an informal (and unofficial) community of practice.

Rating study groups at units.

Cutter commanding officers.

The list goes on.

What we seem to be lacking is good ways to actually share knowledge, to get that tacit knowledge out of the heads of the people who have it and into the heads of those who don't.

Live KM blogging: Community. Practice.

Community: a group of people who have common interests.

Practice: frequent or customary action; the exercise of a profession.

Communities are about connection. Communities are about people.

Communities of practice are groups of people who come together to share and to learn from one anotyher face-to-face adn virtually.

Live KM blogging: A 2 by 2 matrix

I love the two by two matrix. Had I more time, I'd actually draw this one here; but I don't have the capacity, so... You'll have to just imagine this one.

One axis is knowledge transfer; at the low end is explicit knowledge; at the high end is tacit.

The other axis is human interaction which runs from low to high.

Urgh; this isn't going to make sense.

How's this: there's a number of approaches for manging knowledge, and they each have a range of the human touch and a range of what sort of knowledge can be transferred.

Self Service is primarily technology focused. I'd put CG Central here: deals with explicit knowledge and is low in terms of human interaction. The APQC puts portals, repositories, CRM systems, email, discussion boards, expertise locator systems, taxonomy & classification systems, and search engines.

A little higher on the human interaction axis, and a little further up the explicit/tacit scale, is process-based knowledge management: knowledge management which is built-in to business processes. Examples of these types of approaches include after action reviews, lessons learned, and project milestone reviews. You'll note these are "systematic tools which gather process specific knowledge and reapply that knowledge to relevant situations.

Continuing up the human interaction axis toward higher touch, and moving more toward transferring tacit knowledge is what the good folks at APQC call network-based knowledge management. The primary approach which falls under this approach is communities of practice. It also includes team meetings and virtual collaboration. This is groups that share and learn. These groups are held together by common interests. These sorts of groups solve business problems.

The highest human touch also allows for transfer of the highest level of tacit knowledge. APQC calls this facilitated best practice transfer.

I'm not so sure what this last one looks like.

The focus for today and tomorrow is communities of practice.

Live KM blogging: What enables organizational management of knowledge

There lots of approaches to knowledge management, but successful approaches are enabled by four components:

People. I know, that's pretty broad. This component includes leadership, knowledge management roles, subject matter experts, and governance.

Processes. These include approaches, change management, measurements & metrics.

Content. Includes managing the content. Taxonomies. Validating the content.

Technology. This is a biggee, and includes virtual collaboration tools, methods of locating experts, search, and tags.

Organizations want to move knowledge, from one person to another. One of the problems is that "knowledge is sticky." That is to say, knowledge generally doesn't want to move, and without a systemztic process and a supportive organizational environment.

Live blogging KM: Two types of knowledge

There are two types of knowledge within organization (and, no, this isn't one of those "there are two types of people in the world" set-ups): explicit and tacit.

According to the good folks here at APQC, explicit knowledge is all the stuff that's written down. You know: standard operating proceedures, job aids, instructions, written policies, handbooks. The claim is that the explicit knowledge is only about 20% of the knowledge within an organization.

The other 80% is tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is all the stuff that is in people's heads. It only comes to the surface when needed, or "in response to a situation or action."

While explicit knowledge is easy to replicate, tacit knowledge is hard to transfer from person to person, and it gives the organization which has that tacit knowledge locked up in a person's brain a competitive advantage.

Explicit knowledge contributes to efficiency, while tacit knowledge leads to competency. Tacit knowledge is hard to articulate and even harder to steal.

To be successful, organizations must somehow capture that tacit knowledge. They must suck it out of the brains it's in and transplant it to the brains of other workers.

That is the key to knowledge management.

Live blogging KM: Just what is knowledge management

Over at AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG, I recently posted about Vice Admiral Peterman's comments about blogging. When the admiral talked about learning things going on in the Coast Guard from main stream media and new media outlets, he was, in part, talking about knowledge management.

Let me provide a few definitions.

  • Data is facts and figures, generally presented out of context.

  • Information is data that is presented in context so that people might actually make use of it. A former colleague of mine used to teach that analysis turned data into information.

  • Knowledge is information in action. That is to say that knowledge is information which people use to make decisions or add value. Knowledge includes the rules and contexts of the information's use.

  • Knowledge management is the systematic approach to help information and knowledge get to the right people at the right time so they can act more effectively and efficiently. It's about finding, understanding, sharing, and using knowledge to create value for the organization.
Over the next couple of days, we'll be looking indepth at how we can create an organization which learns, an organization which manages knowledge appropriately.

Live blogging from Chicago: From the APQC Knowledge Management Conference and Training

Greetings from Chicago, where winter has decided to hang on for another couple of desperate days. I'm blogging live (albeit somewhat delayed) from the site of the 13th Annual Knowledge Management Conference and Training sponsored by APQC.

APQC is a non-profit organization which "helps organizations adapt to rapidly changing environments, build new and better ways to work, and succeed in a competitive marketplace." The focus of this conference is about knowledge management, and I'll be live blogging over the next couple of days.