Geert Willems

Geert Willems

zaterdag 22 maart 2014

Countering politics and shortsightedness with communication and trust

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I really hate politics and shortsightedness.

Most of the time, as a consultant, the games played are very easy, transparant and do not have an influence in my work.

But sometimes I have to deal with it.

Typically when a person does not know my background, is a control freak with micro-management style, does not know the added value of knowledge management yet, and does not think wider then the minimal short-term output to be delivered.

If this happens it's for me the sign that need to spend more time to communication and need to build trust - in 80% of the times I can prevent this situation. Who said KM was about technology?

Building trust, communicate... a lot! Up-front!
Balanced with low hanging fruit.

I already talked a lot on culture, and on cultural analysis up-front - which in this case I did not do.
The project will be fine - even not delayed.

When implementing KM, the best way is not always from A to B.
You need to go via C sometimes, against your will, but for the sake of the greated good: keep smiling and waving ;-)

The value of guided failing in knowledge management

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Creative and passionate people, having a good set of brains do not tend to following other ideas and people without questions.

"yes but"
"my experience says"
"there is a shorter way"
"I used to do this in another way"
"I'd like to do it another way"
"Can't the software really do that?"
"What if"

These remarks are very useful. These are personal remarks. And as a part of change - human change - it's a good idea to have these questions answered.

Last week I went to a company, delivering 2 days of consultancy to check if a certain tool could support their knowledge sharing.

There were a few ways to do this exercise:

One way to prepare this meeting was:
investigating the information model that they already had,
investigating the features of the tool,
downloading it, installing it, testing it.
That way I could propose a solution. Knowing it won't be perfect with the preparation I had.

But I looked to solve the concrete problem which triggered them to hire me, discovered how to solve it but saw that plenty more were coming, and lot's of them I couldn't predict.

So I looked at the information model upfront, at the tool capabilities and I knew that these smart people, who wanting to set-up the environment themselves, so I decided to follow the strategy of guided failing, the day after...


So I went with a rather blank mind and a very simple strategy: let's sit together, pick a part to implement, and start implementing. The low hanging fruit was to defuse the problem had, and use the momentum to start implementing.

We worked in team for about five hours. I guided them through failures and successes, every idea they were enthusiastic about we implemented, or hit the bounderies of the tool.

And the result after those five hours were phenomenal:
- The most complex part of the information architecture was implemented in the tool
- The people who are using the tool:
    - did the implementation themselves
    - know why the way things is implemented
    - know the bounderies of the tools
    - know why the implementation is done the way it is
    - know all the failed ways of implementations and why

Instead of 2 days, we spent five hours.
And my customer was really happy, and more important, the knowledge of implementing their architecture really was internalised!

Compared with: presenting "this is your solution", this approach really proved his value!

And what's more - for me as a consultant - it was really fun to do!

zaterdag 1 maart 2014

The counterproductivity of knowledge management - and some answers

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I'm currently writing a trilogy on KM. First part is summarizing the last 20 years of KM in about 150 pages - this book is in print. The second one I'm writing now is on how to handle KM - yes, there are already books on this - but you'll see it's different. The last book will be example implementations.

From time to time subjects pop-up in my mind that won't belong in one of these books.

One of these items is that KM really can be counter productive.

When it is handled the wrong way.

But what are typicalities for a counter productive knowledge mangement implementation.

- Wrong choice of technology enabler. A tool with a fool is still a fool. Lot's to be said here. Choose the right one. It's not that hard when you know the guidelines.
- Wrong choice of project management. Archaic forms of knowledge management which are not agile enough to be succesfull in complex environments.
- Not enough focus on the people pillar. A KM initiative must be carried by the staff throughout the organisation. Knowing how people are sharing knowledge is key here.
- To much engineered processes and measurements. In engineering environments engineers love to engineer... too much sometimes.
- Over simplification: it by handling the whole of complex systems that you can sometimes come to solutions that are better and even simplier compared with handling a system which was simplified first.

Geert Willems