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Monday, August 15, 2005

Measuring the impact of KM is tricky on its own but it becomes an even bigger challenge to measure in an international organization with highly diverse national cultures. Here, Ingo Forstenlechner shows how to take the diversity of national culture into account when making decisions.

"Among the benefits of KM is the global flow of knowledge between offices. But when measuring KM for the purpose of having a basis to help make decisions about global initiatives, it's crucial not to lose sight of local specifics. Therefore, KM performance management needs to come with a 'health warning,' reminding the practitioner to take national culture into account before making decisions based on indicators.

"For instance, if one of your measures in a performance management framework in a law firm is the buy-in to KM of fee earners, and you measure this by the percentage of fee earners submitting know-how to a know-how system, you will most likely find different levels of
buy-in across countries even if you have provided them with exactly the same system and level of support. Sometimes small differences in basic technology can significantly change the picture, or the extent to which authority works in terms of simply telling people to
share knowledge."

Source: Adapted from "The impact of national culture on KM metrics" by Ingo Forstenlechner

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The four lessons of how MCOs survive in a Crises

Unfortunately, most organizations repeat mistakes when faced with crises. But there's one type that seems to be above this - mission critical organizations (MCOs). Here, Kevin Desouza highlights four important characteristics of MCOs and explains how they use KM to
rise above potentially detrimental mistakes.

Lesson 1: Simulate often and imaginatively - MCOs engage their tacit knowledge by conducting routine simulations, which allow people to get acquainted with distant realities and provide them a way to test their reflexes to the new environment. These simulations have three purposes: to keep everyone alert and focused; to help internalize knowledge and generate automated responses; and to test the fragility of the organization by pushing extremes or pressure points.

Lesson 2: Create flexible knowledge architecture with flexibility. MCOs can organize, dismantle, and reorganize their assets quickly with minimal disruption to overall operations. This ability is valuable in terms of managing crises, as resources can be
immediately diverted to areas of concern. There are two factors to create a Flexible Knowledge Architecture: having knowledge redundancies - essential to mobilize knowledge quickly and fill knowledge gaps during a crisis - and a mentality of constant
disruptions to put everyone on their toes.

Lesson 3: Root-cause analysis, not Band-Aid fixtures - MCOs take great care to conduct postmortems after a crisis, which are used to study how and why the overall system failed, what the root causes of the failure were, and how to fix them. Writing postmortems should
be ingrained in the organizational fabric and written upon completion of projects. Organizations should implement incentives to encourage project managers, directors, managers, etc. to review prior engagement reports before embarking on new projects. In this
way, the chance of repeating past failures is avoided.

Lesson 4: Harp on the organizational mission - Unless employees have an intrinsic understanding of the mission, the essence of organization will be lost. Too often, mission statements are Someone's glorified words of what the purpose of the organization should be. So they can be outmoded and distinct from the everyday realities of the organization. Mission statements need to be brought down to reality. Then measure and evaluate employees
against how well they contribute to the organization's mission.

Source: Excerpted from "Vital dimensions of Mission-critical organizations" published in KM Review, 2005.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

KM can empower each employee to leverage the entire organization's collective knowledge to service customers. Here, Arun Hariharan details seven categories of KM enablers.

1. Strategic focus - The biggest enabler is the focus and seriousness of top management and high expectations from KM. Performance appraisals at all levels include KM-specific measures. For example, "president and CEO" awards for KM.

2. Alignment with objectives - KM and its results form a permanent agenda item on the president's business reviews with CEOs of each business unit and the CEOs' reviews within their units. Top-priority business measures should be defined and mapped with at least one of the president's three strategic imperatives. All KMinitiatives, including knowledge repositories, sharing, replication and communities of experts, are structured around each of these top-priority business measures.

3. KM organization and roles - Dedicate KM coordinators centrally and at each business unit. These people act as catalysts in the KM process - change agents who bring in and spread the culture of knowledge sharing. They influence other employees and facilitate the process of sharing and replicating knowledge and measuring results.

4. Standard KM processes - Define standardized, close-looped processes for knowledge sharing, replication and measurement. Knowledge sharing and replication to improve performance on critical business measures won't be a matter of chance or choice, but a mandatory activity like any other business process.

5. Culture and people engagement - For creating an organization wide culture of knowledge sharing and replication, and to institutionalize KM, it's critical that employees engage in KM activities, not just a fraction. Put in place a measurement of"employee engagement in KM." Each month, the percentage of employees in every business unit and critical business process who have been part of at least one knowledge submission, knowledge replication initiative or knowledge-sharing session to the company knowledge base will be measured and reported. This will be included in regular business reviews.

6. Content under scrutiny - Ensure quality of content in two steps. First, all content submitted should be scanned by a KM team member to ensure relevance to the business, quality of documentation and adherence to standard formats. It then goes to the knowledge champion and community of experts who "own" the concerned knowledge repository. They review and approve, edit or reject content as required.

7. Technology enablement - Deploy technology as a powerful enabler for KM. An effective KM portal is a common virtual platform for all employees to share knowledge and replication.

Source: Excerpted from "Implementing seven KM enablers at Bharti" by Arun Hariharan

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Why Teams and COPs are different kinds of groups.

Teams weave the organization together in one direction, while communities weave it together in the other (see grid below). A community of practice is a group that shares knowledge, learns together and creates common practices. COPs share information, insight, experience and tools about an area of common interest.

This could be a professional discipline (such as reservoir engineering or biology), a skill (like machine repair), a topic (such as technology), an industry or a segment of a production process. Consulting companies usually organize COPs around both disciplines, such as organizational change, and industries like banking, petroleum or insurance. Community members frequently help each other to solve problems and develop new approaches or tools for their field. This makes it easier for community members to show their weak spots and learn together in the "public space" of the community.As they share ideas and experiences, people develop a set of common practices.

Sometimes they formalize these in guidelines and standards, but often they simply remain "what everybody knows" about good practice. Since COPs focus on topics that people often feel passionately interested in, they can become important sources of individual identity. Teams and COPs are different kinds of groups. Teams are tightly integrated units driven by deliverables, defined by managed tasks and bound together by members' collective commitment to results. COPs are loosely knit groups driven by the value they provide to members – defined by the opportunities to learn and share what they discover and bound by the sense of collective identity that the members form.

Unlike teams, COPs rarely have a specific result to deliver to the organization. Instead, they are typically driven by the value they provide to individual members. Individuals share information and insights and discover ideas which will save them money, time, energy and effort. The value that individuals derive from the community is typically what keeps community members involved. While a team delivers value in the result it produces, a community discovers value in many day-to-day exchanges of knowledge and information.

The heart of a team is a set of interdependent tasks that lead to an objective. The heart of a community of practice, on the other hand, is the knowledge members share and develop. Since community members apply their knowledge on teams outside the community, it is not possible to predict exactly what knowledge will be important to the community.

COPs therefore follow opportunities for sharing knowledge as they arise, and as a result the "hot topics" in a community shift over time. As topics shift new people join the community, adding their perspective and shaping its direction. While teams often have clear boundaries and membership, COPs have many partial, part-time, and marginal members. Like a double-knit fabric, they can stretch as topics and needs evolve.

This article was taken from Knowledge Management Review.

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Do Incentive Schemes Promote Knowledge-Sharing?

By Paul Wright Robert Buckman, former chairman and CEO of Bulab Holdings, Inc., a specialty chemicals company in Memphis, Tenn.

Talks about the movement toward knowledge-sharing as a journey of cultural change. Like most such journeys, it has its pioneers and its laggards. "As the train begins to move down the track," says Buckman, "you need to let everyone know where it's going and help them get on board.

Those that board early and do well, you reward." Buckman thus frames in a nutshell a key issue in the knowledge revolution: what kinds of reward systems stimulate knowledge-sharing? Bandy that question around and, while you're likely to find a range of answers, you'll also get fair agreement that the subject looms large on corporate radar screens.

Reward systems, of course, can cover many bases, from the economic to the symbolic. Among companies pondering the problem, purely economic incentives rank well down on the list of solutions, but probably not for long. And when the time comes, we're likely to see some novel alternatives. William E. Halal, professor of management at George Washington University and author of The Infinite Resource (Jossey-Bass, 1998) looks to the Internet for inspiration.

Pointing out that the Internet proves the feasibility of using information as a saleable commodity, Halal proposes creating internal markets for knowledge within organizations. He envisions that authors of information posted on a corporate intranet would charge micropayments each time a particular posting is accessed for use. Conceding that such an approach might seem artificial, Halal notes that many support services increasingly offer themselves for sale within organizations (and further suggests that his approach could at a stroke address both the problem of information overload and the quest for appropriate forms of personnel evaluation).

This approach may not sit comfortably with everyone, but no one disagrees that it's deep-seated attitudes towards knowledge that are up for challenge. Knowledge, long regarded as power, has naturally been viewed as ripe for hoarding. In a competitively individualistic environment, sharing it has looked abnormal. Now that organizations are discovering that sharing knowledge makes sound business sense, changing that behavior suddenly looks profoundly connected to their bottom-line fortunes.

Jessica Lipnack, president of the Networking Institute in West Newton, Mass. and most recently co-author with Jeffrey Stamps of Virtual Teams (Wiley, 1997), maintains that the trick to encouraging knowledge-sharing lies in designing reward and recognition systems that stimulate sharing of all kinds: goals, tasks, vision, and, of course, knowledge.

This thinking suggests the benefit of demonstrating at the highest levels how sharing knowledge affects a company's overall performance. Dan Cochran, manager of progress services at Chicago-based Amoco Corp., reports that knowledge-sharing counts as a major criterion in determining the winner of the annually conferred Chairman's Award. Judged by indicators that not only consider what learnings get shared and how, but carefully measure results, this aspect of the award, says Cochran, serves to show the growing ripple effect that knowledge-sharing has on the company's performance. He adds that each business unit stages a similar event to make the same point throughout Amoco.

Recognition by means of rewards, in fact, is a commonly used carrot to motivate this behavior. Robert Buckman tells of recently convening a meeting of 150 employees (out of some 1200) in Scottsdale, Ariz. The group represented those, he said, who had done the best job of knowledge-sharing the previous year. While the trip to Scottsdale was a welcome reward for those selected to go, it also brought the group together with Buckman's planning team to consider ways to improve the company's performance-a clear signal about the critical role of knowledge-sharing in the corporation. Providing those who attended with new laptops, he adds, emphasized that message.

Prof. Halal is not alone in looking to the Internet for ideas. William Woods, principal scientist at Sun Microsystems Laboratories (Chelmsford, Mass.) notes that "It's an observed phenomenon that if you have a corporate intranet with Web technology allowing people to create their own home pages, this encourages knowledge-sharing." In high tech environments like Sun, making available the capacity to set up their own Web sites as a way for them to advertise their ideas and accomplishments comes as a distinct benefit. Indeed, the power of recognition should not go unnoticed.

Companies are now developing internal directories promoting the skill sets of employees willing to share their expertise in return for recognition as prime organizational knowledge assets. Arthur Andersen LLP has adapted this principle in its internal version of KnowledgeSpace (SM) (a subscriber-accessed Web site complete with links to the service lines and industry areas in which Andersen specializes).

Thomas Hoglund, general manager for KnowledgeSpace (SM), describes the internal version as an opportunity for anyone in the firm to contribute client engagement experiences and advertise various personal skills; the network also offers a space for designated experts in the firm to elucidate firmwide technologies in an effort to embed knowledge-sharing practices. Some thinkers foresee as the ultimate incentive for knowledge-sharing creating ownership stakes via, say, stock options, at lower and lower levels in today's organizations, as a way to demonstrate the interdependent networks that cross-organizational sharing brings about. But whatever the reward systems likely to appear, it's a good bet that innovation will be their hallmark.

This article was taken from Knowledge Management Review.

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Ten ways to embed knowledge management

By Rowan Wilson

KM needs to be embedded in everyday business processes for it to really deliver. Here are some guidelines.

Build a KM strategy.
This is your plan based on what knowledge and systems will give your organization competitive advantage. KM expert Chuck Seeley identifies six key components: governance, culture, content management, technology, application and measurement.

Define and communicate knowledge performance.
Knowledge performance can be defined as valuing and using the knowledge of the organization on the job. Do employees know how they create value and make money for the company? What knowledge do they need to do this?

Identify key knowledge positions.
In some positions, the way employees deal with knowledge can mean the difference between company success and failure. These jobs will need knowledge performance targets to match.
Develop knowledge-sharing proficiencies. People across the organization need to know what it means to share and use knowledge. A dedicated team will need a special skill set to act as knowledge "brokers."

Reward knowledge-sharing behaviors.
Rewarding can be planned, explicit, and purposeful. If knowledge performance objectives are not part of a manager's job, the company will have little success in spreading the word.
Don't get obsessed with tacit knowledge. You can't capture everything, and plug people's heads into a mainframe (yet). Focus on the connections (whether people, process, or technological) which allow knowledge to be shared.

Encourage networking and respect communities.
Face-to-face or team meetings have a natural dynamic which transfers tacit knowledge. While KM needs to be incentivized and strongly embedded, be careful not to stifle Communities of Practice (COPs), which are often spontaneous hubs for knowledge transfer and a fertile seedbed for new ideas.

Capture best-practice.
From customer service to technical problems, most scenarios have already occurred. A little knowledge will go a long way.

Map knowledge.
"Content management" is often overlooked as part of a KM strategy. Mapping pulls together all sources of knowledge and creates a "virtual roadmap" so people can easily find the information they need, and helps lock KM into a course aimed at meeting business objectives.

Make it policy.
Consider formal agreements on knowledge performance for key positions. Make performance expectations clear to every new employee during any orientation program, and enshrine the organization's commitment to KM in its literature and handbooks.

This article was taken from Knowledge Management Review.

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My Library

This website I made to share my knowledge in library and information world. Being a practitioner in knowledge center area, I realize that knowledge sharing is the most important works for betterment in learning environment.

The collections
I collect, re-write, write articles specifically in library, information, knowledge management and learning subjects. Whole articles arranged in pdf format, mostly in my mother tongue language: Bahasa Indonesia, but often in English. I wish I could make them in order and structured, but sometimes things come up without preparation, so then I owe readers apologies. May you have advises and critiques, don’t be hesitate to knock my door and let me notice. Let have fun sharing!

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