Originally posted 18-Jan-24

Stan Garfield

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Kaye Vivian is professional genealogist, but previously she was a knowledge management thought leader. Her personal website featuring content on knowledge management, communities, and gaming is no longer accessible online. I retrieved it through The Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive and have included some of her many posts in this article.

Background

Education

The University of Texas at Dallas

  • MA, Interdisciplinary Studies
  • BA, cum laude, Interdisciplinary Studies

Experience

  • MNESIS, LLC — Business Development Consultant, 2008–2011
  • Accenture — Senior Manager — Knowledge Management & Learning, 2007–2008
  • The Hartford — Director of Strategic Intelligence (KM and CI), 2001–2005
  • GE Financial Assurance — Director of Internet Communications, 1998–2001
  • It’s All Communication — Principal Consultant, 1993–1998
  • Deloitte & Touche — Senior Proposal and Presentation Strategist, 1990–1993
  • PwC — National Director, Proposals and Presentations, 1986–1990

Profiles

Content

Book

Winning Proposals: A Step-By-Step Guide to the Proposal Process

Posts by Others

Blog: Dove Lane

Grassroots Knowledge Management

Presentation at KMWorld 2005

Session A104: Grass-Roots KM: Learnings. For nearly 3 years a small, dedicated team has attempted to focus a Fortune 100 financial services company on the need for KM and the value KM offers. Our strategy, the team, our presentations and the benefits promised were widely acclaimed. We applied the concepts of KM’s top thought leaders — yet failed to get funded. Can a grass-roots KM approach succeed? This session revisits KM’s success factors and value proposition and challenges the common wisdom of starting small.

Post

For some people, knowledge management means capturing and storing information. For some people it means finding an expert who knows the answers to your questions when you need them answered. For some it is cultural change and for some it is technology. All these are partially right. The lack of an accepted boundary around what KM is makes it difficult for many business leaders to understand — and to understand the value it can bring.

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, KM is happening in your organization. One department is operating a portal, one group is testing message boards, one is piloting a collaboration tool, one is building a new repository, one is working on a taxonomy for a shared drive, one is trying to get just-in-time information to call center representatives. According to research by Michelle Delio, only 8% of knowledge initiatives are driven from the top. A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the KMWorld conference in San Jose called Grassroots KM: Learnings from the Front Line. For the 92% of people who are participating in or leading a grassroots or bottom-up KM initiative, here are some pointers I covered in that presentation:

Where do you start?

  • First! Develop a strategic vision. Write it down. It drives everything.
  • Have a champion.
  • Start where you can win.
  • Define the business needs explicitly before deciding upon the technology.
  • Don’t let the IT group or technology drive the train.
  • Make a detailed communication plan.
  • Don’t start with customers, learn on your own employees.
  • Use before and after metrics.
  • Realize that KM has no “completion” date.

Some personal learnings:

  • Scale down your grand ambitions and get specific. Don’t try to boil the ocean.
  • Tie your proposals to business issues; help to ease pain points in critical processes.
  • Find the like-minded people in your organization and create an ad-hoc KM team. Create a Knowledge Panel or support group of believers and make them your advocates.
  • Identify possible champions; court them openly. Active executive leadership involvement is critical!
  • Determine your biggest barriers and create plans to get around them.
  • Formalize the KM team/project as an organizational initiative (even if you don’t have a formal budget).
  • Cultural change is the biggest nut to crack. Everyone is too busy to change what they do right now unless they are forced to.
  • People want to share when they think it’s valued.
  • KM is not a technology, but technology can cause it to fail.
  • It’s happening, even if it’s not called KM. Gather all the tests, prototypes, pilots and one-off projects under your umbrella. (Hint: you’ll be able to show big organizational savings just from eliminating redundancies!)

The truth about hoarding

You may hear or read in publications that people hoard knowledge. If you find that to be true in your organization, dig a little deeper. People actually like to share their knowledge, to feel like they are having a positive impact, to help others, to contribute to an effort that is bigger than themselves. If they are overworked, get no recognition for their contributions, and/or other people take credit for their work, they are not likely to share. People will almost always share one-on-one. If you ask them a question, they will give you as complete an answer as they know to give. The secret is they need to feel that their knowledge and the time it takes to share that knowledge is valued. Figure out how to recognize and value contributions, and you will not have a hording problem.

The need for communities

The real knowledge work of an organization happens in the networks of people who share a common interest. Community is about people and how they work, not technology. Communities have to be a major element of your knowledge strategy and can be especially valuable to a grassroots KM initiative. If your organization sees KM as another database (knowledge base) or wants to work on documents and content, it’s important to change the discussion and get people and how they interact into the mix. Knowledge is embedded in people, information is stored. It’s perfectly legitimate for an organization to want to have an information or data storage strategy, but that’s not KM. Communities feel ownership of the information that is important to them, and they will keep it up to date, create a network of experts related to their information, and create valuable organizational intellectual assets. Identify some existing networks that would benefit from better information sharing, and bring them on board first. Even a simple technology can be a good starting point and show good results.

Have a communication plan

Once you have a pilot or project underway, remind people of how it was before KM. Contrast for employees the difference between now and the way they used to work. Don’t take for granted that everyone understands what you are trying to build or accomplish OR what you have accomplished so far. A good internal communication plan is critical! Just like the advertising approach says, tell ’em what you are going to tell ’em, tell ’em, and tell ’em what you told ’em. Be sure that all your key audiences are kept up-to-date for all phases of your initiative, and that you give them a way to value the success you achieve. Give participants information about goals and reports on their success.

It’s obviously easier to bring KM into an organization if you can be part of a top-down program, but if your only way is to do it from the ground up, it’s still possible to succeed. The critical factor is to choose your battles and be armed to fight them!

KM, Knowledge Transfer and Outsourcing — Discussion thread from ActKM community, May 2006

One KM trend I have been seeing relates to outsourcing and the need for “knowledge transfer” in both directions. A company that is outsourcing work needs to provide a database of information for the offshore company to use, and the offshore company needs to update it or create a new database that can be passed back to the outsourcing company in the event they later choose to bring the processes back under their own roof, so to speak. While this overall process might rightly be considered “information management”, the processes that go into collecting and capturing what is put into the database(s) on both sides of the ocean are KM processes — communities, technology, processes, capturing stories/anecdotes, taxonomy, search/find, expertise location, strategy, rewards and recognition, content management, ROI, etc.

One company I know spent months interviewing several large Indian outsourcers, and in the end, what appealed to them most was the technique of “shadowing” workers to capture the daily steps and procedures of the workers (in this case, COBOL mainframe programmers, most of whom were near retirement). They proposed to send a team of Indian workers in to follow a predetermined slate of programmers through their days over about three weeks. As the worker did his/her job, the Indian outsourcer would make notes and ask questions, and basically write up a procedures guide for each person’s role. All these writeups were to be put into the outsourcer’s proprietary database system and referenced when questions came up.

What appealed to the employer about shadowing employees was:

  1. Many of the programmers had been doing the same job on the same system for more than 20 years, and had lost initiative to improve what they did every day
  2. All of the programmers complained they were too busy to document their work (there was an element of job protection there, too…if it wasn’t written down, no one else could do it)
  3. These important systems would finally be documented. Too often repairs, quick fixes and shortcuts made were permanent, and the only person who knew why it had been done that way and what it affected was “Bob, who retired last November”.
  4. They thought it liberated them from the tyranny of key employees who made a career path of retiring as soon as possible and returning at about double their salary as a consultant to do the same job (though this point was only mentioned unofficially in small meetings).

In the end, the cost was so prohibitive that the employer decided not to spend the money for shadowing, and to start by having the workers write down how they do their jobs and who they call for what. I don’t have to tell you how effective and complete that was. As Dave said, why would workers tell everything they know so they can be replaced? There were also some concerns about who would own the “knowledge” gained from the shadowing process if it were only available from the vendor’s system.

Truths of Knowledge Management

For the last few months, I’ve had an opportunity to step back and reflect on KM after having been heavily involved in trying to get a grassroots initiative off the ground in my former company for more than three years. Here are a few of the things I believe to be true.

  • KM is a business discipline powered by exchanges of information between people. It is a business process that creates value and enables learning transfers.
  • KM is a business process enabled by technology. It is not a technology.
  • Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is the personal experience, associations and information that exist in each person’s head. Knowledge is a fluid mix of personal experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provide a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information.
  • Knowledge is the product of human activity. When it is documented, it becomes information. Information becomes knowledge again when other people learn it themselves. KM is the process of capturing and making available information for reuse and learning.
  • KM is a duality. The “social side” includes collaboration, conversation, community, meetings, discussions, lectures, classes, and live help. The “static side” includes repositories of documents, images, video, sound files, directories, web pages, records and help files. Both aspects are necessary and important.
  • People are wealth and capability generators who can profoundly affect market appeal, reputation and performance. Value and reward subject matter experts.
  • These environmental factors are needed for KM to succeed: Strong and committed leadership (without it, don’t start), Well-defined strategy integrated with business objectives, Measurable goals, Rewards and recognition for participants, Mindset/culture of knowledge sharing, and Right technologies.
  • Capturing knowledge and making the information available to replacement workers can greatly reduce the negative impact caused by loss of key employees, enable new workers to become effective more quickly, and help to build the intellectual capital assets of the business.
  • A knowledge strategy has two aspects: Cost control/avoidance and revenue/value generation. Different areas of a business will benefit from one aspect or the other, and both are equally important.
  • Knowledge management requires a long-term commitment from the organization to change processes and culture, as well as the tools to facilitate data capture.

Thoughts on Communities in KM

While it’s hard to imagine an organization that would not be better off with communities of interest, an amazing number still don’t have them. One reason is because of legal concerns, especially in the financial services and consulting businesses. They worry that a member or visitor will get bad advice from the community and act on it — then hold the organization responsible for any losses that result. Another reason is that business managers may not have much personal experience in a community, and are uncertain how to be effective at managing one, so they ignore them. Another reason is that communities are self-governing and discuss topics freely. Most organizations still believe in top-down, carefully crafted messages from executives. Executives fear loss of control over information (which, as we all are taught, is power).

In the 25 or so years that I have participated in and managed online communities, I’ve learned a few things that I believe to be true. Here are my Principles of Community:

  • Communities are voluntary associations of individuals who share interest in a common topic. A business community can be formed around a professional discipline, a skill or a topic. Other communities can be formed around any topic or interest.
  • A community can be a small, active core with a narrow focus or a larger group with diverse voices, opinions, learnings and experiences.
  • Communities have value when they are focused around data, not organizational structures.
  • Workers participate in two dimensions –vertical business heirarchies and horizontal roles that cross the business. Role-based communities provide an important context for work improvements, value creation, learning and efficiencies across the enterprise.
  • Communities require moderation. Moderators should be members from within the community, and moderators must be coached and supported.
  • Unless managers give workers time and encouragement to participate, communities will fail.
  • Key thought leaders must be involved in the community for it to succeed.
  • Communities play an important role in content creation and management.
  • Communities are the asset generators of a knowledge management system. Knowledge is shared between people, and capturing that exchange has value.
  • Members of communities develop trust and a strong camaraderie that results in candid questions/answers and effective problem solving. Community dynamics are important motivators for subject matter experts and can help in SME retention.

Management guru Tom Peters said, “It’s a cross functional world — removing/trashing/obliterating any and all barriers to cross-functional communication is nothing short of our single highest priority. However sophisticated the technology, however grand the vision of integrated solutions and great customer experiences, the business is doomed without real human communication.” Communities fill that need, and all organizations have informal communities or networks, even if they are not supported by technology. Communities develop intellectual capital that can add to the market value of organizations. Giving communities the tools to function more effectively and create information archives is a priority for any knowledge management strategy and any smart business.

Part 5 of Profiles in Knowledge

November 15th, 2005

The Role of Cultural Change in KM

Studies by independent researchers have shown that culture change within organizations requires 3 to 5 years of constant and consistent effort. To avoid costly mistakes in implementing a KM initiative, it is recommended that organizations develop a strategy that addresses which behaviors need to be changed within the organization to support knowledge and information strategies developed.

Changing Behaviors. Ultimately, changing workers’ behaviors is the most challenging aspect of knowledge management, and will take the most effort and time if the KM initiative is going to succeed. A strategy with a long-term view will need to be developed to address the key levers that can be used to shift existing behaviors to those more desired by management.

Most departments need to address the impact of the existing culture when implementing changes to business processes. Culture change is an extremely difficult task to undertake, and is not always successful.

Addressing culture, especially as it relates to knowledge management initiatives, involves a number of key events:

  • Having a committed and engaged sponsor from the executive leadership of the area.
  • Consistent, clear and constant communications from all leaders and managers on what is expected.
  • Direct ties between KM activities and business drivers/goals.
  • Buy-in and active support from the budget owner.
  • Providing carrot-and-stick incentives for participants.
  • Articulating the “what’s in it for me” to employees.

Communication Plan. Communication Plans are essential to any culture change initiative. A good Communications Plan identifies:

  • Behaviors desired by the business
  • Messages needed to support those behaviors
  • Who needs to communicate these messages
  • Audience
  • Best method of communicating (email, voicemail, meetings, etc.)

Frequency of communication

Leadership Support. All members of the leadership team need to embrace the direction taken by the business. Because of this, an initiative should be implemented to:

  • Ensure all leadership members are on the same page, can articulate the KM vision and goals, and communicate consistently with the same messages being delivered by other leaders.
  • Assist leaders to actively execute on the communications plan.
  • Provide visibility and support of the KM initiative(s).
  • Reward and recognize use of standards and processes (e.g., Framework, Six Sigma), and embrace best practices.

November 15th, 2005

KM Definitions

People often confuse knowledge and information, and it’s important to distinguish between the two.

Knowledge is the personal experience, processes and information that exist in each person’s head. Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. Attempts to “capture” knowledge result in information (items or artifacts) that can be stored or transferred to another person. Such information becomes knowledge again when the other person reads or learns it themselves. Knowledge is always changing.

Data are discrete, objective facts, usually stored in structured records in some sort of technology system (e.g., a database, a spreadsheet, a document).

Information is data with value, personal experience, context or explanation added. It is the product of human activity. Knowledge that is documented or captured becomes information. Information can be stored electronically.

Information Management is the harnessing of an organization’s information resources and information capabilities in order to create value for itself and/or for its clients or customers. Information overload is facilitated by capturing everything and not discriminating what is most useful to the organization.

Knowledge Management is a business process that creates organizational capacity. KM can lead to measurable outcomes and results related to organizational goals, learning, and value creation for customers and employee communities.

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Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/