KM Australia 2009 Review by Nicky Hayward-Wright
9 September, 2009
[Nicky was the winner of the free pass to KM Australia 2009. She has kindly written up her experiences for the rest of the Forum]
KM Australia : From Diverse Perspectives
5-6 August 2009, Sydney
Conference review by Nicky Hayward-Wright
The areas that knowledge or information practitioners work across are varied, as are their background and skill set. The KM Australia conference aimed to delve into this diversity of practice and thinking.
The opening keynote address by Dave Snowden provided a well structured time line of the profession / industry; where it has come from (functional structure embedded in scientific management) where it is now (systems thinking focusing on process, structure and control, mass tailoring and customisation) and where it could go (mass collaboration which is based on an evolving complex landscape of relationships). An important comment from Dave was the notion that one does not have to discard the past, but recognise the significance of context of a particular system, take parts which are relevant and apply them to the current context. To paraphrase an old saying: don’t reinvent the wheel, rather make it better – or fit for purpose. Dave’s presentation set the tone (for me) for the rest of the conference, that is, to continually challenge oneself to think outside the square, look at various ways of engaging with clients in their environment, be open to the unknown, be adaptable, and work within and outside the system. The analogy used by Stephen Bound (Knowledge Manager, Insolvency and Trustee Services Australia) is worth considering in the context of Dave’s presentation; the KM worker is very much like a gardener, someone who tends a continually growing and evolving organism (organisation) in its own environment.
Stephen’s presentation provided practical suggestions for ‘getting down and dirty’ through a 7 step KM strategic framework which covers background, objectives, principles, strategies, responsibilities and goals; all of which are linked to the organisation’s business goal. Stephen emphasised the importance of planning and acting locally within the short term, in order to gain trust and quick wins, which will provide the foundation for what has been planned for the long term within a global context. This theme, as well of one to reframe jargon into terms that are relevant for a person or situation, was recurrent through several presentations.
KM should also have an element of fun. The next session was an interactive session using Method Cards and Organisational Culture Cards. Method Cards cover KM approaches (e.g. KM awareness, learning culture, CoPs), methods (e.g. knowledge mapping, knowledge cafes, value network analysis), and tools (e.g. blogs, wikis, Intranets). See Method Cards: Guide to Contents. The contents of the Organisational Culture Cards represent 52 atypical patterns of organisational behaviour. The cards are illustrated with an archetype on the front and on the back, with a description of behaviour. The table that I was playing on was fortunate to have Arthur Shelley author of the Organizational Zoo and wandering game judge, provided some insight into organisational behaviour and advice on our team’s creative attempts at a new game. Unfortunately this advice didn’t win us the best new game; that went to the table that created ‘Bullshit’. (Hopefully ‘Bullshit’ and some of the games that were created at the conference might end up on the Method Cards wiki.) On reflection, playing card games is fun, encourages team work and support from others who are ‘playing’, and is a non threatening way to gaining a better understanding of knowledge management tools and find solutions to organisational behavioural issues.
Felicity McNish, Global Knowledge Manager, Woods Bagot drew our focus to the requirements of change and transformation when undertaking KM projects. Felicity’s presentation highlighted the benefits of blending a KM and change management framework which covers analysis, strategy, implementation and continual assessment. Practical advice on change tools for each of the four stages was highlighted. In addition to the change tools that Felicity discussed, the Method Cards and Organisational Culture Cards would be useful reference tools. A key message from Felicity’s presentation is that your KM project will involve change and ‘change is about people’; therefore communicate, network, build relationships, develop organisational culture, and provide opportunities.
A highly enthusiastic presentation on the Board of Studies NSW website was given by Lendon Sharp, Manager Information Service (AKA ‘data guru’). The gem of this presentation was identify patterns of usage of a website (or intranet) and being able to use this data to better plan for ‘the known’ (e.g. high usage for the 22 days before start of HSC exams requires higher bandwidth) and improve decision making capacity.
J. Roberto Evaristo Manager, Knowledge Management Program Office 3M, walked us through his concept of Strategic Knowledge Mapping (SKM) which focuses on knowledge supply and demand; i.e. the right knowledge and the right mix to address business needs. After identify various knowledge components a visual knowledge map is created, which can be scalable from a single site k-map, to a map which includes multiple locations, depth of knowledge, relationships (internal and external), gaps, vulnerabilities and opportunities. The output of Strategic Knowledge Mapping is seen at the operational level, such as targeted staff training or identified staff to undertake a task.
A key barrier for KM in an organisation can be not aligning your KM project with your organisations business strategy. Justin Harness, Associate Director Business Services, Macquarie Group, discussed building bridges between, and alliances with information management and business management to produce strategically aligned business outcomes. Justin reminded us of the opportunities that KM can be involved in, such as supporting culture and values through virtual spaces and cross team collaboration, business optimisation through improved reporting via an intranet, and innovation, in particular at the bespoke and packaged level (Richard Susskind 2005). (See webcast with Richard Susskind http://mediazone.brighttalk.com/comm/INCLegalWeek/eaf5452c3c-12813-2676-13047)
Shawn Voss’s (Information Manager, FKP Property Group) presentation focused on a problem that many of us can relate to: finding ‘the single source of truth’ across multiple platforms (email, electronic documents, hardcopy, people). The case study on the implementation of Objective 7.2 Enterprise Content Management System incorporating Wintalk and Outreach was sympathetically presented by Richard Shepard from Objective in Shawn’s absence. Similar to Felicity McNish, Shawn’s presentation highlighted the requirement for a project change framework; however Shawn’s framework was bases on the 3 Cs: Collaboration (with key business owners), Communication (manage user expectations, be honest, use plan language, have a communication plan) and Competence (identify key staff and subject matter experts, provide training).
Day One finished with a World Knowledge Café where participants debated, discussed and pondered the question of “How can KM be used to assist organisations and individuals to survive in our current economic climate?” Dr Helen Page who facilitated this session, has a video about World Knowledge Cafés on her website.
Day Two opened with a presentation on KM at NASA by Manson Yew, Project Manager for NASA’s Engineering Network which is part of the NASA Knowledge Management Team. Key NASA KM initiatives, which are based on the NASA KM Road Map include: engaging the public, which has been achieved (though continually evolving) through the NASA public portal; developing a learning organisation through the establishment of an internal learning portal to share lessons learnt; facilitation of communities of collaboration; and pushing of relevant information across the distributed portals / sites, e.g. lessons learnt; creation and maintenance of expertise locator and individual social / expert network maps; employee and partner spaces for collaboration and access to secure information (Inside NASA); and Emergency Operation Support which provides critical information before, during and after a crisis, such as a hurricane.
The energy and excitement shown by Manson in delivering his presentation instils one with a sense of an organisation who is practicing their organisational values: ‘collaborate, communication, innovate, motivate’. I’m sure that the journey for the KM Team does have challenges, however the above ‘products’ show an organisation leveraging knowledge, engaging with its clients and continually pushing the boundaries of technology. The later being shown through the trialling of ‘Semantic Seek’ which uses semantic query to dynamically integrate distributed content and context; ‘Explorer Island’ which is a Second-Life environment for collaboration, simulation modelling, training, and public outreach (e.g. being a virtual astronaut, viewing a launch); creating a YouTube media channel on the Public Portal; and the use social tools such as FaceBook and Twitter. Finally, Manson reminds us that KM is not only about capturing knowledge, but also about connecting people by sharing, transferring and generating knowledge and importantly, building trust so that people will engage.
The culture shift to social media and Enterprise 2.0 was further discussed by Cuney Uysal, Product Manager, Web Solutions Group, Open Text. A key focus of this presentation was on ‘people first, content second’ and a bottom up approach to user engagement.
Web 2.0 / social media tools such as wikis and blogs; tagging and rating; communities; action-based employee profiles; dashboards and customised employee profiles; ideas management modules; video and podcasting; and social search powered by recommendations allows for user engagement, which as Cuney states, will ‘lower the centre of gravity for decision making’. Two keys to getting to this point of user interaction are accessibility and adoption. When designing and implementing knowledge and information tools, it is necessary to provide easy access or connectivity points. Some statistics that Cuney quotes (source IDC) provide an insight into access barriers to a tool such as the intranet: content is not relevant to job (35.1%), don’t have enough time (32.2%), too many passwords (20.2%) and would rather use Google (62%). As for adoption of Enterprise 2.0, cultivating support (identify and nurture your gardeners and champions), and developing corporate culture and communication channels are key.
Staying on the Enterprise 2.0 theme, Leanne Fry walks us through the implementation of Web / Enterprise 2.0 tools at AMP to address knowledge management issues. Leanne’s presentation challenges management to shift their thinking from analysing a problem and putting up barriers (e.g. blocking use of FaceBook) to supporting behaviours that make tools work (e.g. self moderation of internal off-topic blogs). Another mindset shift for management is to embrace within the work environment, the patterns of connectivity that people have established and use outside of work, for example, replacing email with Twitter or Yammer. Importantly for Enterprise 2.0 to be successful, management need to foster a culture which encourages participation, contribution, sharing, connecting and being an individual; however, Enterprise 2.0 can also be the catalyst for a cultural change. Leanne’s presentation Enterprise 2.0 – Breathing new life into KM is available from the e8 Consulting website. Also of interest is a follow up article on the topic of KM guiding principles, which Leanne covered in her presentation.
A brave person was Dale Chatwin, Director ABS Knowledge Management Initiative, ABS, who presented a case study on the implementation of an ABS collaborative workspace initiative, Professional Practice Initiative (PPI), which had minimal impact. The main reasons Dale cited for the negative outcome are: the initiative being mandated from above rather than establishing what the need was from the end users; KRAs / KPIs did not encourage right behaviour, rather they focused on rules and tools; agreed processes were not followed, which resulted in for example, proliferation of repositories rather than increased collaboration; and end users had difficulty with usability of, and accessibility to PPI. On a positive note, showcasing through an online conference how the PPI was useful had a positive impact on usage rates. Dale demonstrated the resilience needed by those involved in implementation of KM initiatives.
Communication was the focus of the next presentation by Frank Connolly, Victorian Public Service Improvement Network Coordinator, Victoria Police. Frank reminded us that even if you have all the right tools, you still need good conversations, the quality of which determines the success of the community / activity. We also explored the use of different types of thinking (parallel and lateral) “which allows people to use their collective intelligence to approach an issue from multiple perspectives and allows the collective analysis of information, benefits, risks, & underlying potential of a concept or idea”. This framework also identifies the behaviours (e.g. non judgemental, right intention), environment (e.g. safe) and tools (e.g. storytelling, metaphors) which allow for progressive conversations that transform ideas and concepts into value added solutions. Two key points from this presentation are: harness the knowledge of the people who do the work and stand structures (organisational) on their head to better understand where true power of engagement lies.
A truly diverse perspective of KM was presented by Dr Olympia Salas, founder and director of Prospecita, who discussed how knowledge management and innovation in the Latin American and Caribbean region has helped large organisations to improve productivity. While the cases studies of science and technology parks, and multinational corporations were interesting, I found more compelling the projects which viewed ‘knowledge sharing as a cultural issue’. For Olympia who is passionate about her region and the people, the power and value of KM is in improving poverty and the well-being of the people by working at the coalface to empower the people with knowledge to bring about a sustainable change in their community. Olympia also touched on the theme of knowledge transfer by describing an e-learning project which used storytelling, videoconferencing and info-culture / cyber cafes to engage with the community and transfer knowledge. For ongoing and systemic change to occur in the community, government and multinational / multilateral organisations need to be more ethically and socially responsible; provide capital for infrastructure (human and IT) to support knowledge sharing initiatives in the community; learn from other sectors and regions; and transfer into the community knowledge gained in internal centres of excellence (university, business and technology parks).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the conga line that Olympia got going – perhaps symbolic of how something which starts small can gain moment and enthusiasm; all you need is a catalyst and the will of a few to engage and encourage others!
A short break where people could taste the wines of Pepper Tree, was followed by a one on one debate with Dave Snowden and Ross Dawnson on “How to build organisations that succeed in a world of infinite information”. While I didn’t have any wine, this session was divergent and my notes are vague – something about paradigm shift from levels of mediation (to ??); crystal ball gazing into the future where biotechnologies can play a role assisted thinking (I found this interesting a I work for Alzheimer’s Australia) and moral compass (I presume to apply to the use of technologies).
Brining the conference back to the present was the final presentation; an interactive session on thinking, problem solving and decision making using the d6 methodology, which was presented and facilitated by Cory Banks, Knowledge Manager of Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia Pacific and his trusty helpers in yellow hard hats and bright orange safety vests, including Sarah Crealy, PB Knowledge Coordinator. Creating enthusiasm at the end of a two day conference isn’t easy, however Cory and the team managed to engage and assist participants through their first experience of d6, a PB in house tool, which is a blend of different methodologies such as Eight Disciplines (8D) problem solving, divergent and convergent thinking and Cynefin. d6 incorporates the use of tools which have been chosen according to the level of complexity of a problem to decide > discover > define > develop > deduce > deliver. See Cory Banks on Slideshare.
Apart from presentations, case studies and interactive sessions, the conference provided networking opportunities in particular at the World Knowledge Café on day one and throughout the conference at the KM Arena which was an informal area for people with the same interests to meet and chat. To help people network, a network map of delegates’ interests was generated by Optimice and displayed in the KM Arena, with alerts of who was in the KM Arena being flashed on screens in the main dining area. I found the network map a useful tool to get to meet other delegates and also identify acquaintances that you could catch up with.
My take away quote to reflect upon is from Mason Yew:
“Even if you provide the right information, to the right place at the right time, how do we [knowledge workers] make sure people access information and have power to action information?”
My fun action point: next run of business cards will have title of ‘Knowledge Gardner’
Finally, thanks to NSW KM Forum and KM Australia for sponsoring my attendance at this conference – I gained new knowledge on a diverse range of topics and engaged in diverse conversations with people from diverse backgrounds.