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Tag Archives: KM

Restarting A Knowledge Management Program

Tseng College at CSUN Logo

My Alma Mater

I received my Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the Tseng College of Extended Learning at California State University Northridge (CSUN) in 2009. Shortly afterward, the University decided to cancel the program. Recently, I received a request to participate in a survey being used to determine if it was time to reinstate it.

 
As a result, I not only took the survey, but also shared some of my thoughts about the program and its importance. Today I am meeting with the person at CSUN who is leading the effort to make the determination of whether it’s worthwhile to start up again. I also expressed my interest in teaching a class or two.
 
I’m still quite convinced (at least my interpretation of) Knowledge Management is an important part of how organizations can make the most of what they know and how they use it to further their efforts. It may need to be re-branded, as KM seems to be a term too loaded with baggage, especially the concept of “managing” knowledge. Frankly, I’m not sure, but I’d like to be part of the conversation.
 
I’m not expecting much, but it would be nice if they brought the program back and, even better, if I can play a role in making it truly meaningful and relevant. Far too many think of it as something like library science on steroids . . . and I think that characterization misses the point. I’m of the opinion connecting people day-to-day is far more important than developing a repository of lessons learned and better practices. Not that they aren’t necessary; I just believe facilitating continuous conversation aimed toward more useful collaboration and greater innovation (especially wrt internal processes) holds more promise for most organizations.
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Making Sense of All That Data

Deep Data

Transforming Big Data Information into Deep Data Insights

Yesterday I posted a question to several of the groups I belong to on LinkedIn. It was related to several of the things I’m interested and involved in: Systems Thinking, Knowledge Management, and Decision Modeling. It was somewhat informed, as well, by an article appearing in the Huffington Post, where Otto Scharmer, a Senior Lecturer at MIT and founder of the Presencing Institute, talks about the need to make sense of the huge and growing amounts of data we have available to us. He argues the importance of turning from “Big” data, where we mainly look outward in our attempt to understand what it is telling us about markets and our external influence, to “Deep” data, where we begin looking inward to understand what it’s telling us about ourselves and our organizations and how we get things done.

The question I asked was designed to seek out capabilities and functionality that people would like to have, but that is currently unavailable. My interests include working with others to understand and provide for those needs, if possible. I thought I would present the question here as well, where it will remain a part of my online presence and, hopefully, might elicit some useful responses. Here it is:

With the growing proliferation and importance of data — a development at least one author and MIT Lecturer has suggested is moving us from the information technology era to the data technology era — what tools would you like to see become available for handling, understanding, and sharing the new types of information and knowledge this development will bring?

In other words, what would you need that you don’t have today? What types of technology do you think would offer you, your colleagues, and your organizations a greater ability to make use of data to bring about a transformation from primarily siloed, outward looking data to collaborative, inward looking data as well?

I would love to hear of any ideas you might have regarding the kinds of tools or apps you could use to better deal with data by turning it into useful information and knowledge . . . perhaps even a smidgen of understanding and wisdom.


Tweaking Facebook

Facebook Like Icon

Use the Like, Luke.

I am — at least, I was — a Knowledge Management professional. It’s what I did for over a decade at Rocketdyne, starting when it was a business unit of The Boeing Company, up through my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a division of United Technologies. Pratt & Whitney paid for me to earn a Masters Degree in KM online from CSUN’s Tseng College. It’s such an exclusive degree they don’t offer it anymore. 🙂

I mention this because it affects how I share information, especially here on my blog. One of the tenets we tried to drill into people’s heads, and follow ourselves, was to avoid reinventing the wheel. That is, make it a habit to reuse information and knowledge that’s already been won at some cost to one or more individuals and the organization in which it was produced. This means, among other things, I am not interested in rewriting what others have written, while adding my own twist to it. This doesn’t apply when how I perceive an issue is substantially different than others, but it does when I’m sharing things I mostly agree with.

Yesterday and today brought me two great, and related, examples of things that need sharing and for which there’s little for me to do than announce them. The first I will actually place second, below, as it’s the subject of the second, which is a post by Dennis Howlett, which he published today in diginomica. What Dennis discusses is a Google Hangout Robert Scoble conducted, wherein he described what he has learned in thousands of hours of tweaking Facebook’s algorithms — primarily through his educated use of lists, likes, shares, etc.

Both Dennis and Robert are still far more embedded in the business world than I am and, rather than attempt an explanation through my eyes, I want to leave it to both of them to help you out. If you are using Facebook for your business or profession, or even if you just want to have a much better experience when using Facebook personally, I suggest reading the post and watching the video, which I am also including here. As Dennis points out, Robert is very generous with sharing his knowledge, something this KM pro really admires. You really should take advantage of it.


Getting to Observable Work

Observable Work

We Can Work Smarter & More Effectively When We Can See What Our Colleagues Are Doing.

One of the concepts I think best conveys what many are trying to do with social media inside organizations, mostly large ones, is that of “working out loud” or “observable work”. The idea is that one’s efforts and day-to-day activities are conducted in such a way as anyone who wants to can find and see visible artifacts of that work.

There are numerous benefits to doing this. One way in which it is highly beneficial is it obviates the need for regular activity reporting. Where I used to work, a great deal of time was spent at the end of each month as employees gathered information and wrote up their reports on the activity they could recall or that they had been organized enough to make notes about.

Once they had done so, these reports went from the workers to first-level managers, who read, edited, consolidated, and passed the information up. This continued through the organizational hierarchy until it finally reached the President, where it had been re-written, re-organized, and (sometimes) thoroughly filtered to ensure bad news wasn’t included or was glossed over or minimized. Not the best way to do business, IMO. It was very stressful and quite time consuming.

A good friend and long-time blogger in the field of knowledge management and social media – Luis Suarez of IBM – recently summarized the most important issues he got from last month’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. Especially useful to enabling observable work, I think, is Alan Lepofsky‘s concept of social task management, which Luis discusses in an excellent post on CMS Wire. There’s lots of good info Luis offers there as well as some links to other stuff, including one to an excellent Slideshare presentation on Social Fatigue. Check it out yourself:

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/social-task-management-when-social-business-got-down-to-work-016309.php


Occupy Communities

The title for this post comes from a session my friend, Trisha Liu, has proposed for this June’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, MA. I came across it the other day quite serendipitously while checking a few Twitter streams on my iPad as I waited for my car to be washed. The title caught me eye immediately as anyone who knows me will understand, especially when read in its entirety, viz “Occupy Communities: Social Media Training for the 99%”. If you have a moment please visit the page and, if you agree it’s a great idea, leave a comment saying so.

Despite the call to my base political instincts, upon reading Trisha’s idea there were several reasons her proposal resonated with me. Foremost, Trisha is addressing the fear of adoption of social tools for business (i.e. inside the organization, behind the firewall, and dedicated to facilitating the business processes that carry the enterprise forward in its mission). I spent many years at a staid old aerospace company beating my head against a wall of resistance fueled by this fear. She refers to it as “SoMe-itis” and breaks it down into the following components:

  • Shock: “Help!! My company wants me to ‘be social’!”
  • Split personality: “Do I have to be a nerd/extrovert/Millennial to ‘be social’?”
  • Dry mouth: “How do I choose what to ‘say’ in social media?”
  • Anxiety: “What if I say something dumb?”
  • Low self esteem: “Will people care about what I have to say?”
Baby Boomers Eligible for Retirement

This "Crisis" is NOT Going Away

Additionally, although I am interested in, and have dealt with, all of these issues people face in the course of introducing a social tool into the workplace, there is one of them I’m currently more interested in than others; that’s the second one she lists. Even more specifically, one of my main interests centers on the question “Do I have to be a Millennial to ‘be social’?” I even tweeted Trisha and asked her if I could use her proposal as a basis for a portion of my business model:

https://twitter.com/#!/rickladd/status/164839087180742656

A friend told me recently he’s been hearing more and more concern from large organizations about the upcoming wave of retirements from my generation – Baby Boomers. He is not alone. A decade ago, when I first started doing Knowledge Management work for Rocketdyne, one of the most important issues we wanted to address was the looming wave of Boomers who would be reaching retirement age and the threat that posed for the collective knowledge of our organization. As a company that designed, manufactured, tested, and flew the world’s most sophisticated rocket engines (including the Atlas, Delta, and Space Shuttle Main Engines), each of which had long histories and service lives (as systems, not as individual units), continuity of our knowledge was of paramount importance. Those of us who were actively pursuing KM were very concerned we would fall below a critical level of skill and jeopardize the safety of the Astronauts who flew the Space Shuttle.

Unfortunately, although lots of lip service was paid to the “looming” problem – as well as a lot of time and money likely heading off (in retrospect) in the wrong direction, turning that massive ship around was virtually impossible. Now that the program is over and there was nothing already in the pipeline to replace it, my alma mater is bleeding talent on a regular basis. I suspect there are lots of organizations facing this “crisis” as well. I’d love to be able to help them out . . . and here’s my business model (at least a portion of it; I’ve other things in the works as well).

With the growing number of Baby Boomers set to retire – or even partially retire (like I have) – and not reaching a crescendo for another decade, the issue we once dealt with as a Knowledge Management problem I now believe is one of acceptance of social media inside the firewall, i.e. the development and use of communities, facilitated by tools and leaders trained in their use as a knowledge transfer process. We spent many years finding and categorizing hard-copy and digital media. We’ve spent countless hours and dollars on exit interviews and video recording of retiring employees. All the time we kept saying tacit knowledge (the knowledge people carry around in their heads) was something like 80% of the actionable and useful knowledge possessed by an organization.

I have argued for some time that social media IS the new knowledge management. Although it’s now a bit old, I have a presentation on SlideShare I originally prepared for my cohort at CSUN‘s Tseng College, shortly after I finished a Masters program in KM. Sadly, though not surprisingly, the program no longer exists. I believe this is partly because they failed to recognize the power of social media to do what KM really needed to do. As practiced, in my experience KM was far more like Library Science. What is happening now is a sea change, a phase shift that employs technology capable of connecting people in real-time, while also providing a level of archival, indexing, and search capability that allows for historical knowledge discovery as well.

However, I’ve also experienced a high level of resistance to accepting what I consider to be inevitable. I can only speak for the aerospace industry, but I struggled to implement social business capabilities for nearly a decade and, as far as I can tell, my former organization is still fairly resistant to the possibilities it provides. This is the issue I believe others are encountering as well, and it is what Trisha’s presentation is all about. A more specific interest of mine is in gaining acceptance from the group of people who will be retiring within the next decade or so. I believe it’s important to engage older, soon-to-be retiring employees in the use of social business tools, not to “pick” their brains, but to provide a forum for interaction with their younger employees, within the tool (embedded within the processes they are currently employing, if possible), so their knowledge can be slowly transferred to those who will follow in their footsteps.

As a Baby Boomer who is entirely comfortable with the use of these kinds of tools and the behaviors that must exist in order for them to be effective, I believe I have a unique perspective to offer organizations who wish to engage their “more mature” employees. Many of them think they are incapable of understanding them or that you have to be young to employ them. Worse still, many have been influenced by the media’s depiction of tools like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube such that they are currently incapable of seeing the value in micro-blogging, status posting, and video sharing to an organization’s ability to improve how they get things done. I – and, I’m sure, many others like me – can reach these employees far more easily than their younger colleagues, if only because we have the same generational backgrounds and have (or have dealt with) similar fears and anxiety.

This is why I believe Trisha’s presentation is important. It may not address the more sophisticated aspects many in the Enterprise 2.0 (or Social Business, whatever we wish to call it) world are concerned with as they mature and evolve their theory and practice, but it does directly address what I believe is a core issue with the effective use of these tools in our various organizations. Without acceptance, I am convinced the tools and practices that facilitate the sharing and use of “The Corporate Memory” will remain on the periphery of the enterprise and likely chew up more time and money than they’re worth and, in doing so, become more of an anchor than a sail. My goal here is not to delve too deeply into the many nuances of this issue – e.g. Tacit vs. Explicit knowledge, cultural change, the role of Executive leadership, etc. I will save that for further posts. However, I do think acceptance is a huge millstone hanging from the neck of many an organization. Am I too pessimistic? What do you think?

Graph Courtesy of InContext


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