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Tag Archives: Knowledge Management

Movin’ On Up!

Quantellia Logo

I am pleased, proud, and excited to announce I have joined the team at Quantellia, LLC. Located in Denver, Colorado. My official title is Consulting Analyst and my main duties consist of (oddly enough) analysis . . . and some writing. OK, lots of writing.

Woman working on equations

Making Sense of Complexity

Quantellia is the leader in the emerging discipline of Decision Intelligence and, among other offerings, provides a software platform, World Modeler™, designed to rapidly create interactive simulations for envisioning and understanding highly complex systems interactions and the results of decisions affecting them.

For my friends in the Knowledge Management field, as well as anyone who is involved with complex business, governmental, or other organizational decision making, I invite you to learn more about Quantellia. My professional opinion is (though somewhat slanted) you won’t regret it.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes

Rick's visor

What Geordi La Forge’s visor would look like if it was designed by the British Royal Family.

My youngest daughter, Alyssa (9), says I need to write more blog posts if I expect people to visit and read. Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t know what it is, but sometime you just don’t have a great deal to say. Sure, I frequently post things to Twitter and even more to Facebook, but this is my blog. This is where I give vent to the things that are most important to me . . . or, is it?

I have to admit I’ve always had trouble writing about certain things, not the least of which is my becoming a first-time adoptive father at the age of 55 . . . and doing it again at 59. I want to write about the experience, but I also have long felt the need to protect my daughters’ privacy. It is, after all, their story to tell, and it’s far more about them than it is about me and my wife. I think there may be a happy medium, however, and I’m close to figuring out what it is.

So . . . here are a few goals of mine. I want to continue writing about some of the things that are of interest to me professionally, e.g. Knowledge Management, Social Media (especially as it affects business and civil society), Politics, and Religion/Philosophy. I also want to share some of my personal experiences, especially those I know are a bit out of the ordinary, e.g. International adoption late in life, retirement, becoming a man in the 1960s (including my political activism back then), and maybe some things for which the statute of limitations has thankfully run or for which the trail of evidence is too dry for me to worry about. 🙂

This is a process and involves (I think) my re-doing how this site is set up. I’ll be getting to that soon. Right now I’m busy looking for ways in which to supplement my retirement income. I’ll probably be writing a bit more about that as well. I have always been somewhat of a late bloomer. Now I’m just hoping I live long enough to see my latest “career move” come to fruition. I greatly appreciate those of you who take the time to visit and read. I think, perhaps, another goal of mine will be to see if I can’t elicit a few more comments. I wonder if writing about controversial subjects will accomplish that? We’ll see.

Here’s a thought. Anyone interested in the intricacies . . . and the legal and moral issues . . . of International adoption should read this. It’s one of the issues I plan on writing about as I loosen up on the subject. It was not something we thought about prior to our first adoption, but was definitely part of the thought process when we adopted our younger daughter. Now it just haunts me. One of my goals is to live long enough to see my girls to adulthood. Then I’ll be able to discuss it with them. The reality is we just don’t know for sure what happened before they came into our lives. I’d much rather it haunted me, and not them.


Continuous Improvement

Thumbs up

It’s All Good!

One of the things I noticed when I was working at PWR was the seeming inevitability that people who were most knowledgeable about some skills seemed considerably challenged when it came time to demonstrate the skill in their own work. What I’m referring to is analogous to the cobbler whose children are shoeless or the accountant who never balances her own checkbook.

I found this to be true of many of us who were the most active in what we still refer to as Knowledge Management (KM). We could help others – whether individuals or large product teams – to organize their approach to capturing and sharing knowledge, but we couldn’t keep our own calendars or contact lists up-to-date to save our lives. I was surely guilty of this; still am, though not nearly as profoundly as before.

I credit the concept of continuous improvement for my ability to refine my personal knowledge management and to slowly become more effective and efficient in performing the tasks and commitments I take on. I suppose, in that regard our lives are a bit like physics avoiding pyramids. The basic, foundational skills we learn early in life remain at the bottom of the edifice. However, as we gain experience and further skills, the foundation continues to broaden in order to provide maximum support for those new capabilities we keep piling on top of it.

In that spirit, I have just added another page to this site. On it, I’ve taken a screen grab from my LinkedIn profile in order to share some of the recommendations I’ve received over the past few years. They’re from colleagues and friends and, in that regard, they may be taken with a tiny grain of salt. I do believe they’re reasonably honest and accurate. I paid nothing for them 🙂

The page has been added to the Menu on this site, under “Background”, “Personal”. If you’d like to check it out now, the link is here.


The University of Twitterville

I joined Twitter on March 2, 2008; 1678 days ago. I know this because I asked the Internet when I joined. I kind of remembered, but wanted to be sure. I just typed into Google “When did I join Twitter?”. Actually, I didn’t have to finish my sentence. Google finished it for me. I was presented with the following link, http://www.whendidyoujointwitter.com/. I put in my user name and in less than a second I had my answer. A short while later I remembered HootSuite knows when I joined and shares that info quite easily as well. Oh well. It’s good to have choices, eh?

University of Twitterville

The University of Twitterville

At the time I joined I was working for a rather large aerospace company (Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a division of United Technologies), where I had been a member of the Space Shuttle Main Engine team for nearly twenty years. My job at the time, which had changed considerably over the years, was to seek out new technologies for communication and collaboration and determine if we could use them internally to our advantage. I don’t recall when I tweeted for the first time and I just tried a whole bunch of applications which purport to reveal that initial tweet, but none of them can handle the number  I’ve made (18,036 at the moment). My recollection, however, is that it took me nearly six months until I was able to figure out a use case that made sense.

I was never interested in following celebrities and I wasn’t interested in small talk. I was looking for how Twitter could be used for a business to help its people get their work done efficiently and effectively. I think one of the first actual uses I encountered that impressed me was my discovery the team preparing one of the Shuttle Orbiters for its next launch were using it to share status updates in real-time. I had been part of teams that had “stand up” meetings every morning to update each other on the previous day’s activities. These were hugely wasteful exercises made necessary by the limited communication capability at the time. There were many days when only 20% or less of the team needed to be at the meeting, but there was no way to know that until it was over.

With Twitter, I imagined the NASA team being able to follow each other and share their status immediately. The value to this could be, in my estimation, enormous. For instance, if a team member was offsite picking up an item that another member of the team needed to continue working on a particular task, the knowledge that it would be available in four hours could allow them to start a task, knowing that the upstream portion of it was now complete or that a needed component for finishing that task was on its way. There are all kinds of scenarios where not having to wait until the following day saves time. There’s also something to be said merely for the value of one-to-many communication capabilities, which is one of the many value propositions of Twitter.

Unfortunately, I could never get anyone at Rocketdyne to experiment with Twitter as a communications tool, so I had to look for another use case; one that benefitted me but might have broader implications as well. So here’s what I, personally, got out of Twitter and why I think it is so valuable. One of the first people I started following was Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly). He had written what I found to be the seminal paper on the transition in the Internet from a one-way, broadcast medium to a multi-path, participatory medium. It was entitled “What is Web 2.0“, and reading it had been one of the more enlightening reads of my career. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly.

It wasn’t long before I was following quite a few thought leaders. What made all this so incredibly valuable was not merely being able to read their pithy tweets, but also being able to read the papers, columns, and blog posts they provided links to. Thanks to link shortening services like tiny.url and bit.ly, a very long URL could be shortened to less than 25 characters, allowing the author of a tweet to not only share the link, but also to provide a little information on what the subject is. This made it easy to determine if something was going to be of interest to me.

Although I hold a professional degree (Juris Doctorate) and a Masters degree (in Knowledge Management), I am largely an autodidact; a self-learner. I never went to undergraduate school and got into Law School on the strength of my LSAT scores, which I am reasonably certain were high based on my being self-taught and, therefore, fairly well rounded and well educated. I barely made it out of high school, taking an extra semester to finish enough credits to be able to graduate. I’m a lousy student, but a powerful, self-actualized learner.

In my opinion, perhaps in large part because I’m already someone who learns on his own, I found the things I learned – the education I got, if you will – from Twitter was every bit as valuable and useful as what it took for me to get either of those advanced degrees. In some ways I’m pretty certain it was actually better. It was certainly more pleasurable because it was done entirely on my schedule and nothing I studied was superfluous. I can’t say that of any other educational experience I have had in my entire life.

My experience with Twitter, therefore, is analogous to having gone to University; one of my choosing, taught by people I admire and respect, and studied on a schedule completely of my choosing. Tests came in the form of real-life applications both on-the-job at Rocketdyne and in various interactions I had with professional and other organizations and people. I am very grateful to be a proud graduate of the University of Twitterville.

Has Twitter affected you in any appreciable, useful way and, if so, what was it?


Defining Knowledge Management

KM Wordle

KM Wordle (courtesy of Information Architected)

As long as I can remember, I have always looked for smarter and better ways to do things. Some people have described this propensity as lazy, but I don’t think working smart is really laziness. I like to think of it as a form of conservation. Of my energy! Additionally, working smart means you can be more productive; accomplish more in the same amount of time. No one should have to defend spending energy on making things easier and more efficient and effective.

I say this because this proclivity ultimately led me to the concept of Knowledge Management (KM) in the mid-90s and changed the trajectory of my career (late as it may have been) rather dramatically. Actually, KM had been around for as long as humans had the need to ensure hard-won lessons were passed down from generation to generation. However, as I was beginning to encounter it back then, it was being transformed by the proliferation of the personal computer and the expansion of the Internet and the capabilities it provided. These developments fairly exploded with the advent of Web 2.0 capabilities; the interactive web, and this ultimately led me to what has been called Enterprise 2.0 (now being referred to as Social Business).

Beginning around 1996 I began working with a small group of KM people at Boeing Propulsion and Power, a division of The Boeing Company, to apply these concepts to our various rocket engine programs. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed as the KM Lead for the Space Shuttle Main Engine Team, the largest of our then current contracts. From the very beginning it proved difficult to succinctly explain what Knowledge Management was. Although human beings have been sharing what they learn since time immemorial (it’s part of what makes us so unique), it proved exceedingly difficult to “define” KM. That is to say, it didn’t easily allow one to create a 30-second elevator speech.

I have therefore decided to offer a collection of definitions and explanations, culled from the best minds available on the subject, as discovered by me – through my research, experience, and education. I’m going to publish it as an ongoing project with the intention of adding to it, either by my own hand or through the input of those who find their way here. As it turns out, this is a somewhat convoluted process since so many have tried to define KM for over a decade. In doing just a little research I’ve come across lots of attempts to do the same thing I’m doing here, with varying degrees of success. Even my old friend, Luis Suarez, has an important collection. Unfortunately, one the main collections he refers to is no longer in existence (at least his link is broken). ‘Tis a bother.

Truth to tell, few of these are offered as definitive (which is kind of ironic, don’t you think?) by practitioners. I believe that’s because the practice is at once pervasive and deeply contextual. It’s just plain hard to pin down to a single or even a single set of practices or behaviors, or processes, etc.

I also want to include the sage words of Frank Miller, taken from a paper – I = 0 (Information has no intrinsic meaning) – he published in October of 2002. You really should read the paper if you want to understand his premise, which I think is really valuable if you want to get a grasp of what knowledge sharing (as opposed to knowledge management) is about:

This is a vexed issue. KM is, sadly, deeply embedded in most modern literature connected with the productivity of intangible assets. Yet this paper tries to make clear that when subjected to critical analysis, KM is an untenable notion. Knowledge (i.e., what people know) simply cannot be captured or managed, and hence the term Knowledge Management is inappropriate. Worse still, the language of KM suggests that knowledge is a commodity capable also of being processed, delivered, transmitted etc when it is not. Whilst knowledge sharing is an acceptable concept, the notion of knowledge management is, at best, dubious!

Please feel free to offer your own definitions, take issue with anything I’ve posted, or point me to others who you think deserve to be part of the conversation and I’ll do my best to edit it in to the body here. Thanks.

Definitions

Knowledge Management  is a field that takes concepts of Library Science & Pedagogy and, utilizing the latest trends in Information Technology, seeks to facilitate the capture, transfer, and useful application of the collective knowledge of an organization or group. – Rick Ladd

The purpose of knowledge management is to provide support for improved decision making and innovation throughout the organization. This is achieved through the effective management of human intuition and experience augmented by the provision of information, processes and technology together with training and mentoring programmes.

The following guiding principles will be applied 

  • All projects will be clearly linked to operational and strategic goals
  • As far as possible the approach adopted will be to stimulate local activity rather than impose central solutions
  • Co-ordination and distribution of learning will focus on allowing adaptation of good practice to the local context
  • Management of the KM function will be based on a small centralized core, with a wider distributed network David Snowden

Knowledge Management is the discipline to enable individuals, teams, organizations and communities, more collectively and systematically capture, store, share and apply their knowledge, to achieve their objectives. – knowledge-management-online.com

Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as processes or practices.Wikipedia

Knowledge management refers to strategies and structures for maximizing the return on intellectual and information resources. KM depends on both cultural and technological processes of creation, collection, sharing, recombination and reuse. The goal is to create new value by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of individual and collaborative knowledge work while increasing innovation and sharpening decision-making. – Steve Barth


You’re Privileged to be Playing the Game

Levels of Difficult

You Can’t Choose This Difficulty Level!

I think I received my first comeuppance regarding white privilege around 1973. I was not quite 26 years old and had been a very active member in the anti-Vietnam War movement in Los Angeles. I had attended, organized, publicized, and provided security for a number of demonstrations and events.

Now I was preparing to spend a couple of months in Cuba as a guest of the Cuban government. I was a member of the Sixth Contingent (Sexto Contingente) of La Brigada Venceremos. I was excited. However, nobody was allowed to travel without first undergoing some rigorous training in how to not be an ugly American.

We Americans (even the term American is somewhat arrogant, as the U.S. is only one country in an entire hemisphere referred to as America), especially us straight males, have got it way better than we like to think. Unfortunately, due to the concept of American Exceptionalism, we really do like to think our shit doesn’t stink and we are in a class by ourselves.

Well, actually, we are in a class by ourselves – but it’s really not something to be all that proud of, in my less than humble opinion. But I digress.

Part of my ongoing training (which lasted several months) was learning about white privilege, i.e. the numerous and subtle ways in which being white gives those who sport the color (or lack thereof) a leg up on everyone else. The training was excellent. I was not made to feel guilty; merely shown how it works, the evidence of which was impossible for me to deny.

As a Knowledge Management professional, one of the things that’s important to me is the avoidance of re-inventing the wheel. That means, among other things, using the work of others to build on, where appropriate. I think this is an appropriate place to do that with a blog written by John Scalzi who, frankly, I don’t know much about. Nevertheless, this blog he wrote is absolutely brilliant and draws an analogy I think useful in understanding the concept I’m talking about. I want to share it with my small group of readers.

Here’s the link to his post – http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

I also want to share a video that’s a nice supplement to it. Enjoy!


Intertwingled in Plain Sight

Intertwingled

All Things Are Ultimately Intertwingled

I’m going to continue on a theme from my 4th of July entry, where I kind of resurrected an old post of mine from Content Management Connection. This time, however, it’s not a post of mine but that of a friend, Greg Lloyd – President and co-founder of Traction Software, Inc.

There are two terms I remember from when I first read Greg’s post – originally published on July 5, 2010 – which have helped me understand what I expect from the application of knowledge management and social business (formerly Enterprise 2.0 © ) design concepts and tools. These two terms also help me describe several of the most important attributes and indications of a well functioning, successful organization or group. They are “intertwingled” and “observable work”.

As a knowledge management professional (hemidemisemiretired) my long-standing and overarching goal has been to help people (and their organizations) improve on their ability to make sense of the huge amount of data that flows from their work. Doing so requires consideration of both macro-environmental factors and micro-environmental factors. For me, intertwingle describes the macro environment and observable work is what helps the micro environment to thrive. Let me very briefly explain why I believe this. Then I’ll send you off to Greg’s wonderful post where he explains it far better than I am capable of doing.

I frequently use the term “systems thinking” to describe what I see as an ongoing process of understanding that recognizes the interconnection, as well as the interdependency, of . . . well . . . everything. Useful systems thinking also requires the ability to see boundary conditions in pursuit of knowledge, but keeps the systemic nature of all things in mind when considering how they work. The word ‘intertwingle” seems to succinctly embody what I just spent a paragraph attempting to explain; probably not very well. 😦

“Observable work”, on the other hand, evokes a vision of people communicating with each other and the data and information essential to the smooth functioning of the work they do. It promises not necessarily the disappearance of silos, but does suggest making those silos – and the varying and very real relationships they have with each other – more transparent and discernible.

There’s much, much more that flows from these two concepts but, since I have no intention of rewriting that which has already been published, I urge you to read Greg’s post. If you have the time and the inclination, you may want to follow some of the numerous links he provides that serve to further define and illustrate these two concepts. Think of it as a quest to find the social business/knowledge management version of the Higgs Boson particle or, at least, the Gluon.  Here’s the link.


Knowledge Management Ain’t Actually Going Anywhere

I completely forgot I had posted this over a year and a half ago. I never actually posted it here, but did post about it and provided a link to it at Content Management Connection. Despite the passage of time since I did post it, I don’t really think much has changed, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

PS – Click here to see an up-to-date graph and some regional data as well from Google Trends.


Google Trends Graph

Knowledge Management vs. Social Media Searches via Google

As a result of two tweets I just read; one from @SameerPatel and the other from @ralphmercer, I wanted to get a thought down before it recedes forever into the darkest corners of my brain, where I know I will feel the remnants of its presence, but will also never be able to fully recall it.

Based on something Sameer said I went to Google Trends and searched on the terms “Knowledge Management” and “Social Media”. In the past almost two years, with the exception of a large drop at the end of 2009, and a slight dip at what looks like the end of June in 2010, Social Media searches have been steadily increasing. During that same time period, searches for Knowledge Management – which are now less than a fifth of the searches for Social Media have remained arguably steady, with perhaps a bit of a continuous waning.

I suppose some would suggest this portends the eventual death of KM, but I really don’t think that true . . . or even possible. KM has always been based on the belief that we humans are unique in our ability to pass knowledge on to others, as well as to collectively create new knowledge and retain it for future use.

As I had suggested to Ralph, and what he was kind enough to point out in his tweet, is the reality that it’s “very expensive to reacquire knowledge”. This isn’t something anybody wants to do, anymore than they want to produce re-work or scrap. Yet people seem to be mulling over the viability of KM for the future.

I think the reality is two-fold. First, the need for sharing and re-using knowledge or information continues as strong as it’s ever been. What it’s called is of little consequence and, if KM has gotten a bad rep, then let’s move on and call it something else.

Second, I believe a lot of what we mean when we refer to social media is actually the next iteration of KM, insofar as it enhances collaboration, sharing, finding out what others are doing, etc., as well as captures and makes available collective knowledge and wisdom.

So, what do you think? Has KM run its course, or is it just taking on a new “identity” in the form of social media and (something I don’t think I mentioned above) Enterprise 2.0?


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


More of That Lifelong Learning!

The Queen Mary from my hotel window

The Queen Mary Outside My Hotel

I just finished my presentation, the last in a group of three on the subject of social media for the American Oil Chemists’ Society’s meeting in Long Beach, CA. This was a huge event, with about 1500 people and lots of organizations in attendance.

The room was set up for nearly 300 people, but no more than 30 – 40 were in attendance at any one time. I have since learned (and am not in any way surprised to find) that the scientists in the organization are somewhat reticent to adopt social media. Actually, I’m very familiar with the problem and even discussed it in my presentation.

One thing I think I’ve gotten out of this, as a result of going through the process of creating my schpiel and also from my conversations with my co-presenters, who both have businesses they’ve been running for about as long as I was at Rocketdyne, is a clearer understanding of what I may have to offer and can build a viable business around.

Both of them told me nobody’s providing much in the way of education and services designed for the use of social media inside an organization. Both of their presentations were about the value of social media, but they were focused almost entirely on how to use it to either market your organization or to connect with like-minded people in order to build your connections or your personal brand.

After I finished, we sat down for a panel discussion. Frankly, I wasn’t feeling all that good about my efforts, but I do seem to be my own worst critic. However, one of the members of the Society, who has been attending meetings since 1976, got up and said he thought ours was the best session he had ever attended. That felt pretty darn good to hear!

One more bright spot. I was asked to write an article on my subject for their industry publication and expect to hear more about it in the next several days. We’ll see how that goes. I’m glad I put this presentation together and now I’m going to refine it and see if I can find other places who would like me to give it. I’m told there’s a market out there. Now I have to find it.


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