Sep 12

The Magic Taxonomy Consultant

Rant Alert:

Today seems like the umpteenth time this year that I’ve seen a spec for a taxonomy/metadata project that assumes you can just hire a consultant to look at your existing taxonomy/metadata model and critique and refine it, without any provision for analysis of business and user needs. It’s been getting so bad, that we at ISKO Singapore even ran a special workshop on that problem among others.

Then the nice people at Taxonomy Bootcamp wrote me an email suggesting I answer one of three questions to help promote my session there this November. Question 3 was: What’s the secret to getting buy-in and funding for taxonomy projects or to expand their use in the organization?

Here’s my reply:
There is no secret, it should be blindingly obvious, but it is often ignored. Buy-in and funding (and subsequent support and use) flow directly from the taxonomy and metadata work being USEFUL. (1) It needs to be useful to the people who are supposed to be using the taxonomy either directly within a browsing/tagging interface, or indirectly through such tools as search and auto-classification. It needs to help them do their work. (2) It needs to be useful to the host organisation in supporting and furthering its mission and goals.

There is a widespread misconception that taxonomy design is a task for a technical expert who can look at a body of content and design a perfect taxonomy for it, or can critique an existing taxonomy without reference to business and user needs. If you can’t get your feet dirty in the guts of the organisation, you can’t design or refine a taxonomy that will be useful. If you can, then you’ll find you have all the buy-in and adoption you need. If you are scoping a taxonomy project, PLEASE don’t forget to scope in the work required for analysing business and user needs!

//End of rant.

Sep 06

Straits Knowledge Bulletin August 2017

Here’s the link to our August issue of the Straits Knowledge Bulletin. Lots of good stuff on upcoming events, knowledge audits, KM Assessments, and a book review!
Enjoy.

Aug 30

Is a Happy Worker a Productive Worker?

I network with a lot of people as part of scraping together a living, and they tend to mainly come from the HR and IT spaces. These numerous conversations only go towards reinforcing my original theme around the need for rebranding KM…

What is becoming clearer and clearer is that the larger classical developed western organisational world of working (with my sincere apologies to those immediately feeling excluded when they may not be working in this arena – but hopefully you will still learn something from reading on) is going through a massive transformation which they have very little control over (or sometimes proper understanding of): this transformation, triggered by huge advances in technology is having large ripple-effects on how we work, literally and figuratively speaking. This covers everything from our physical working environment (transitioning from permanent office fixtures to more hot-spotting / remote-working) to team members (from fixed functional organisational set-ups to more dynamic and agile mixed project-based specialist teaming) to technologies (multiple applications providing similar solutions which are constantly evolving while personal interactions with devices is rapidly-evolving whereby daily use of augmented reality (AR) and voice activation (VA), amongst other disruptors, is not so far-fetched anymore)… Taking all this change into account and how it impacts on anyone who still needs to deliver on daily work is a difficult – and usually negative conversation.

Gallup tracks this fascinating employee engagement perspective which opens up some frankly scary reading (scary for employers, that is; their findings make ready sense for those who have experienced classical western organisational environments); they suggest around 85% of the global workforce is not engaged in their work! Obviously the reasons amongst these are very widespread – and while some of these cannot be ‘fixed’ per se by the employer, there are certainly ways and means which can help enhance and reduce these at a team and individual level (organisationally, this is a different beast). But it doesn’t have to be this way!

My belief is that we need to (re-)focus on the human intellectual component when it comes to daily work: this means looking at how we as individuals work. The emotional and conscientious connection which a worker makes with his or her work can only really be enabled when that person is properly intellectually engaged (which then enables mental, emotional, sensory and physical engagement) – something which takes a combination of interventions. Funny enough, most of these interventions borrow from the suite of Knowledge Management practices!

I’m talking about looking at how one works by adopting the four key pillars as with KM: we look at people, content, processes (and equipment), and technologies as key influencers – and disruptors. This means then putting on an ‘intellectual’ lens when examining how these four key factors impact on how one carries out his or her work: examining these through this lens will not only immediately understand how the individual is approaching and executing his or her task, but also helps raise awareness at the supervisor / manager level around what facilitates this exercise, what current distractions are apparent, and what can potentially help overcome or avoid these disruptions. Adopting this mindset not only shines light on more effective ways of working (= innovation?), but then opens up the up-/down-/sideways-reporting components which enables greater flow of understanding and communication – effectively allowing for better knowledge-sharing. I will go into more detail around each of these four components and interventions in my next postings – but I have seen this approach work (without having recognised it for what it was at the time). And this was accomplished while not having waving the ‘KM’ hat, but rather in adopting an operational improvement approach with a focus on the worker’s individual needs and challenges! Simplistic? Perhaps. Call me naïve and a throw-back, but at the end of the day, I still do believe in that old mantra: a happy worker is a productive worker… and which worker is not more happy than when intellectually engaged?

Aug 01

ISKO Singapore Events and Resources

ISKO Singapore continues to run its monthly series of events around topics in knowledge organisation and knowledge management – some nice events coming up:

UPCOMING EVENTS

August 8th-9th ISKO Singapore is supporting the Asia Pacific KM Summit which will take place in Yogyakarta and has some great speakers, including David Gurteen, Nick Milton, and our own Gopinathan R. ISKO members are eligible for a 10% discount on the conference fees.
http://kmsummit.org/p/agenda

August 25th ISKO Singapore will be conducting a half day workshop on how to avoid poor implementation in taxonomy and search projects. The facilitators will be Patrick Lambe, KK Lim and Maish Nichani. Free to ISKO members, $20 contribution for non-members. More details at
http://www.iskosg.org/Taxonomy_And_Search_Disasters.html

September 21st ISKO Singapore is delighted to be hosting Larry Prusak and former NASA CKO Ed Hoffman for a talk on the past and future of knowledge management. Free to members and $20 contribution for non-members.
http://www.iskosg.org/Past_Future_KM.html

October 23-25th ISKO Singapore is collaborating with ISKO India to organise an “Innovations in Knowledge Organisation” Day as part of the KOIM Conference in Chennai (IKO Chennai).
http://www.ikoconference.org/programme-2017.html

November 23rd ISKO Singapore is organising a one-day Masterclass in implementing the new ISO KM Standard, conducted by Paul Corney, a member of the British Standards Institute, and who helped to develop the standard. This Masterclass is $280 for ISKO members, and $350 for non-members. Registration includes a copy of Paul’s new book: “Navigating the Minefield: A Practical KMCompanion”.
http://www.iskosg.org/corney_masterclass_iso30401.html

November 24th ISKO Singapore will hold its 2017 AGM and Exco election. Paul Corney will give a talk on “Working with Consultants: How to Ensure Two-Way Capability and Knowledge Transfer”. Free to members, $20 contribution for non-members.
http://www.iskosg.org/agm_2017_paul_corney.html

RESOURCES FROM PAST EVENTS

The archive of materials from past ISKO Singapore events is now quite rich and freely available – with slides, briefing papers and videos of presentations. Here’s a taste of the topics from the past 18 months:

July 21 2017, Singapore
What Does it Take to Transfer Expertise? – Gary Klein

June 30 2017, Singapore
Knowledge Management in Frameworks and Standards – KK Lim, Praba Nair, Ron Young

May 26 2017, Singapore
Governance for knowledge management and knowledge organisation – Panel with Kan Siew Ning, Eileen Tan, Paolina Martin, Joseph Busch, Matt Moore, Marita Keenan

‚ÄčApril 21 2017, Singapore
Predicting Crowds on Public Transport – Marianne Winslett and Zhenjie Zhang

February 24 2017, Singapore
Behind the Black Box of Search: Risk, Findability and Discovery – Patrick Lambe and Maish Nichani

January 20 2017, Singapore
Building the NASA taxonomy – Joseph Busch

October 7 2016, Singapore
Site Visit to SMU – talk on “Building a Successful Institutional Repository” – Yeo Pin Pin

September 2 2016, Singapore
Telling Stories with Data – Maish Nichani

August 19 2016, Singapore
Site Visit to SPH Information Resource Centre – Idris Rashid

July 20 2016, Singapore
Agnes Molnar and Maish Nichani – IKO Workshop – Getting Started in Search
Tom Reamy – IKO Workshop – Getting Started in Text Analytics

May 25 2016, Singapore
Douglas Oard: Search Among Secrets

May 13 2016, Singapore
Cor Beetsma, Praba Nair and Gopinathan R: Getting and Sustaining Buy In for KM/KO Projects

April 15 2016, Singapore
Neo Kim Hai: The Singapore Power KM Experience

March 11 2016, Singapore
Matt Moore, Chris Khoo and Leong Mun Kew: Reporting on the Knowledge Organisation Competencies Survey

February 12 2016, Singapore
Mary Abraham: Unlock your Social Capital

January 15 2016, Singapore
Maish Nichani: Planning for Enterprise Search

November 27 2015, Singapore
Patrick Lambe: Planning a Knowledge Portal

Jul 31

Developing a KM Maturity Assessment that Supports Action Planning

I have always been very cautious about KM Maturity Assessments. They carry a lot of assumptions about how KM should be implemented, that may not always be true for everybody. They often have features that get in the way of action planning that really matches the need of the organisation concerned. They can just be paper exercises to support a check-box mentality rather than supporting a real capability development. Then late last year, we were challenged by a client to look at whether we could design something that would overcome these challenges. This white paper describes the thinking and design process we went through, and contains the content of the post-pilot KM maturity assessment that we ended up with, which we are releasing under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. Enjoy!

Developing_a_KM_Maturity_Assessment_v2.pdf

Jul 11

Interview by Ana Neves on Knowledge Audits, Evaluation and Organisation Culture

I was honoured to be interviewed by Ana Neves of Social Now – see the interview on LinkedIn here.

Jul 06

Re-branding KM

KM per se is not a sexy term - when speaking to others, particularly those I’m keen on building relationships with, flaunting the term ‘KM’ does not often jump-start inspiring and enthralling conversations - more the opposite! I believe that in repositioning what KM brings to an organisation under a new mantra or title can kick-start much more exciting and relevant conversations. My term for rebranding KM concepts? Intellectual effectiveness at work…

Read more...

May 03

Practitioner Guidelines for Knowledge Audits

These guidelines were compiled by the participants in the Kuala Lumpur Knowledge Management Roundtable, May 3 2017, hosted by Securities Commission Malaysia.

1. BEFORE THE KNOWLEDGE AUDIT

a)Framing:

Examine the organisation’s structure, and the distinct functions of each department. Get hold of the department business process workflows.

Have preliminary conversations with management to sound them out informally on the idea, identify the pain points and business issues they are concerned about. Make informal observations of the current culture, business processes, and knowledge types being used in the business. Make sure you understand the culture of the organisation, the business environment and ecosystem, as well as current organisational change initiatives under way.

Consider the best model of audit, and audit methods to use for that culture and situation.

Identify key potential influencers, supporters, partners, naysayers. Speak with potential allies first (e.g. HODs of friendly departments) and socialize them on the knowledge audit concept, seeking their feedback on how it could be made most useful to them.

Be clear on the objective of the audit, i.e. what we want to achieve, the potential ROI of the audit, the main issues to address, how it connects to and supports business objectives, who are our stakeholders, who are our sponsors, who are our target audiences and respondents.

Consider what label you are going to use for the knowledge audit, appropriate to the organisational culture – (e.g. KM assessment, KM evaluation, knowledge audit, KM audit, knowledge mapping, KM needs analysis, KM planning exercise, etc.).

Make sure you have sufficient resources to conduct the audit, scale the audit to your resources. If it is a discovery audit, be sure you have sufficient resources to pursue additional lines of enquiry if new issues come up during the audit.

Determine the audit type, and the appropriate audit methods considering your objectives, your capabilities and resources and your organisation culture.

Get formal support and buy-in for the audit scoping from senior management – be clear about the level of resources, participation and time required, from them, and from their people. Be clear about the need and benefits of a knowledge audit, the intended goals, desired outcomes, and guiding principles, and be clear about the importance of their role in implementing the recommendations when the audit is complete. Connect the audit to your understanding of the business strategy to show how KM assists the business strategy. Share examples of how similar organisations have used knowledge audits to produce business benefits. Ask them for a clear mandate and for their assistance in nominating the right participants in the audit. If it is a discovery audit, let them know that the activities may change based on issues discovered as the audit progresses.

b)Planning:

Define what outcomes you want from each step in the knowledge audit process, and identify risks to the outcomes, and mitigation strategies for those risks. Identify constraints that could impact the project plan – e.g. other organisational initiatives, annual cycles of events, holiday periods etc.

If you are using an external consultant, identify potential candidates, and scope their work and role in the project. Define the requirements and deliverables. Make sure you have the resources and budget required.

Identify the roles and resources required from your own team, and ensure they have the time and capacity to perform their roles.

Identify the right respondents for your knowledge audit (based on audit type, and audit goals) – e.g. subject matter experts, department representatives, representatives of different types of staff (functions, levels, years of service).

Come up with a detailed project plan and timeline, with major deliverables, completion criteria, all the way from initial communications and preparation to the implementation of audit recommendations.

c)Preparing:

Identify the major focus areas to explore for surveys, interviews, focus groups. Design the data collection instruments and the workshops, as relevant.

Invite the right level of staff – preferably 2-5 years of experience doing the job. Make sure their managers are informed of the invitations, or that the invitations are routed via their managers. If you can, get the main (senior) project sponsor to send out the invitations.

Develop a communications package for all the knowledge audit respondents on their required involvement, any preparation, assurances of confidentiality (if relevant), what will be done with their inputs, etc.

Communicate to all stakeholders and participants what the audit’s purpose is, what their involvement will be, and what the desired outcomes are. Provide briefing documents for each stakeholder/participant type and each major activity they are involved in – e.g. senior leadership, heads of department, subject matter experts, etc.

Run briefing and awareness sessions for stakeholders and participants, on the plan.

Prepare the logistics, materials and tools for the audit data collection activities. Consider the venues, and method of collecting data – e.g. recording, transcription, mapping tools, post-its and flip charts. For workshops think about well-lighted rooms, with plenty of wall-space, refreshments, and away from work emails and distractions. For interviews, think about the value of having interviews at the workplace where work artefacts can be pointed out or observed.

Learn as much as you can about the participants’ job roles, major functions and work processes in advance of the audit commencement.

2. DURING THE KNOWLEDGE AUDIT

Be open to using a variety of methods for collective sensemaking and data gathering: e.g. World Café, anecdote circles.

Make sure the people who turn up are properly qualified to give you the data you need – if less experienced or more junior people turn up, go back to their bosses and your original mandate to ask for the right people.

Be prepared to keep communicating the purpose, activities and desired outcomes, and to remind participants at every stage in the activity. They will not remember the big picture from one point in the project to the next. Provide handholding and coaching where required on things like mapping activities. For workshops, think of having a main facilitator to drive the whole workshop, and co-facilitators to coach and guide individuals or groups within the workshop activities. Have an experienced facilitator who knows how to deal with cases where participants give push-back and do not want to cooperate. Consider whether you might need an external facilitator/ consultant. Anticipate potential push-back (your initial sensing in the Framing phase will help) and prepare your responses.

Document the issues raised by participants during the exercise. Maintain and open mind, and document issues they raise even if you disagree with them or think them unimportant. Use, video, audio, photos, note-taking, maps, mind-maps, transcriptions, etc. Be prepared to go back to them for clarifications on any feedback that is unclear. If creating knowledge asset maps, make sure the business activity and knowledge asset descriptions are documented clearly and as completely as possible. Make sure you validate their contributions back with them once it has been documented. Anticipate potential confusions or errors – e.g. assuming that business activities in a knowledge map are the same as process flows.

Try to provide for something of value in the audit activities that they can take back with them and use immediately – e.g. facilitating them towards an awareness of things they can address immediately before waiting for the audit close. This creates buy-in and will support the change management effort later when the post-audit implementation plan is ready. Try to include some elements of fun in workshop activities, as well as food and a pleasant environment.

Be clear about what will be documented, how confidentiality will be handled, and make sure you maintain their trust by demonstrating your knowledge of their roles and work areas, and by sticking to the guiding principles and assurances given at the start. Be prepared to deal with sensitivities and doubts about how their input will be used, and what it is for, e.g. if participants do not like to acknowledge risks or gaps, explain the purpose, and adjust the terminology as necessary.

Maintain a balance between being knowledgeable about their work (to identify pain points, focus areas and prepare probing questions, and to establish trust and common ground) and being naïve about their work so that you can ask naïve questions. Naïve questions often provide rich insights.

Provide regular updates on the progress of the exercise.

Be prepared to adjust your audit plan, to add or change audit activities and/or audit methods, to investigate new issues, based on the findings and observations during the audit.

3. AFTER THE KNOWLEDGE AUDIT

Analyse the data and prepare the audit report with observations and recommendations. Summarise the key messages and validate if necessary with key respondents. Substantiate findings with verbatim examples and participant inputs in their own words, anonymised if necessary. In your report, focus on the original audit objectives. However, make sure you document and maintain any findings or data discovered in the audit that may be of relevance in the future. Be prepared to produce supplementary reports in the future based on this data to address specific issues that may arise. Review the report with your own internal team first to make sure their insights into the audit process and findings are considered. Be clear about what you want to use the report to achieve.

Determine the most important actions to be taken as a result of the audit, focusing on the most important risks, gaps and opportunities, seek senior management endorsement, and develop a detailed implementation plan, with a means of tracking and measuring progress and impact against the plan. Define tangible benefits that you can identify as positive outcomes from the audit. If possible, embed the action plan into the organisation’s annual strategic plan and workplans.

Determine the best ways to present and communicate the knowledge audit findings promptly (a) to the participants (b) to the sponsor and stakeholders© to the people responsible for follow up actions and (d) to the organisation at large. Prepare a communications package for each audience and purpose. Consider a range of formats to communicate key points: written report, presentation slides, infographics, video summaries, promotional collateral such as calendars, mousepads, etc.

If you have created knowledge maps, make sure you revisit them, refresh them and repurpose them continuously e.g. to track risks, opportunities and gaps addressed, identify and track new activities, as input to taxonomy, as inputs to departments on department level KM activities, etc. Don’t be afraid to keep going back to your data and redeploying it for new purposes. Let people see that it can be a constant reference tool.

Do change management. Be prepared to provide continuous support and networking on the follow up activities. Provide tools and automation as necessary, with reasonable maintenance and support costs.

For the inputs in this post, our thanks to participants from:

•CyberSecurity Malaysia
•INCEIF
•JKR
•MTDC
•PETRONAS
•Securities Commission Malaysia
•Straits Knowledge

and Ghazali Mohamed Fadzil.

Do please feel free to comment if you would like to add or modify any guidelines.

Apr 04

Knowledge Audits in Practice - Report on Global Survey

Let me thank the 150 respondents from all over who generously responded to my survey on knowledge audit perceptions and experiences. Some very useful insights from the responses, which I summarise below. The detailed report can be found in the attached pdf. Many of you expressed willingness to be contacted – I will be working on the interview plan over the coming weeks.Thanks again for all your help!

Main Insights:
1. There is a wide array of understandings of what a knowledge audit is (both in the research literature and in practice).

2. People experienced in knowledge audits focus less on audits for compliance, quality or benchmarking – more general perceptions of knowledge audits amplify the importance of those types.

3. Knowledge audits are composite activities, combining several audit types, most usually an Inventory of knowledge stocks and flows, combined with an internal or external review of KM practices.

4. People experienced in knowledge audits tend to narrow the range of audit types used in combination, compared with general perceptions.

5. If an Inventory Audit is not conducted, the most common types used are internal or external reviews of KM practices, and audits of the quality of KM.

6. Knowledge audits most commonly focus on knowledge stocks and flows, KM processes, strategic knowledge needs and KM capabilities.

7. Knowledge audits are most commonly used to understand organisational knowledge needs, as input to a KM strategy, and to improve operational-level KM.

8. Knowledge audits use a very wide array of methods, with interviews, workshops and surveys being most favoured. The most effective methods are considered to be interviews for their depth and richness, and workshops for building knowledge maps and building consensus.

9. The biggest challenges in conducting knowledge audits relate to getting reliable, comprehensive and accurate data covering non-obvious knowledge sources as well as the obvious ones. This is partially connected to how the audit is scoped, the engagement methods deployed, and how communications are managed, particularly in getting consistent understandings of the goals. The second major cluster of challenges relates to the time required for an audit, getting management buy-in, and getting participation from the right people.

10. The most cited benefit from a knowledge audit is its ability to build consensus and provide underpinning evidence for KM planning, and for a KM strategy and roadmap. A second major benefit (particularly relating to Inventory Audits) is its value in locating important knowledge and ensuring effective knowledge access and use.

Download the detailed report here

If you are in Europe in May, don’t forget to check out the Social Now Conference in Lisbon, May 10-12 – it will be packed with KM thinkers and practitioners, with some excellent masterclasses and a very practical, case-based approach. I’ll be leading a Masterclass on Knowledge Audits at that event.

For more resources on knowledge audits, click here

Mar 14

Survey on Knowledge Audits

I’m currently working on a book about knowledge audits and knowledge mapping. I’d like to get a better sense of the variety of understandings of knowledge audits that exists out in the professional community. Here’s a short survey that should take between 10 and 20 minutes of your time – do take it, and recommend it to others. Responses are anonymous, but if you leave your email address, I will share the survey results when completed. Thank you! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XKNL276

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