Posts Tagged ‘knowledge management’

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 6

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on November 11th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

I worked in an organisation that had ‘the three phone call rule’. It went something like this: within three phone calls, you will find someone who can help you with your problem. No one ever carried out a study at that time to ascertain whether or not it held true or was simply apocryphal (in the dubious authenticity sense). But it was a well known part of a very strong culture of informal collaboration.

Working in a central senior role, I knew many people and had knowledge of most major initiatives. And so nearly every day I would receive an unsolicited phone call from someone that would begin ‘I know you won’t know the answer to this question, but you might know the person who will…’

Think about email. Your email network in an organisation is usually limited to people you know or engage with on a regular basis. Of course, if you are game you can send an email to @All_staff, but that usually meets with severe disapproval from the IT and Communications teams.

What you really need is to find people who know. You already know who you know.

I also recall, with a shudder, being expected to update a skills profile within a people management tool. Regularly. I’m not a big fan of that as a solution – it’s always an additional task, there is no context around the skills update to link it to a project or activity (and if I want to go that extra mile it means substantially more work), and quite frankly, if I am searching for assistance then context is important. For that I need dynamic information.

So will moving interaction into social networking tools broaden your contact list? Absolutely.

Social networking tools let you broadcast a request for information in a non-threatening and non-spamming way. You might not get much of a response the first time, but as the community grows the returns will improve.

Wiki knowledge repositories link content and author, so the first step of the three phone call rule could ideally be replaced by an intranet search.

There is a great deal of discussion in many forums about the value of social networking and engagement externally for organisations and government. But there are huge advantages internally, within teams, business divisions or across departments.

And in case you think it’s just a nice to have, consider this article today reporting the NSW Ombudsman, about the failure of the Joint Guarantee of Service for People with Mental Health Problems (JGOS). It stated ‘a NSW Ombudsman’s investigation has found the scheme has not worked because of poor communication between organisations.’

A key reason was confusion over when client information is able to be shared.  And not sharing information has put people at risk. Your risks or objectives might not have such dramatic results, but they are important to your business.

KM Australia 2009 conference summary

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on September 9th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

If you didn’t manage to get to the KM Australia conference, held in Sydney in August, Nicky Hayward-Wright has written a great review, complete with links, of the sessions. You’ll find it on the NSW KM Forum site.

Process re-engineering or process understanding?

Posted in Business Process Consulting on August 21st, 2009 by Stephanie Chung – Be the first to comment

Throw the word ‘process re-engineering’ to an organisation, and you may scare people. It might be because they don’t know what’s involved, or it might actually be because they have had experience, and think you mean large scale change.

I don’t think process re-engineering needs to be that dramatic. Certainly my experience of it is not so dramatic. The end goal is not looking at the processes to necessarily always bring about change. In most cases you are leading people to discover the issues themselves, just through discussing what they do and what the hand off points are. You are aiming for the ‘ahh ha’ moment, not the ‘argh’ moment!

I undertake process re-engineering on the basis of wanting to understand the day to day basis of a business, rather than going straight to the issues and resulting solution. The starting point is recording the deep dive into your business processes. What is ingrained in the business that is never talked about or formally documented? Detail every single step and pass off point, who is involved and what parts are automated and manual. Documenting it opens up the ability to see where elements are double handled and areas that are manual that don’t need to be. More importantly, people often learn things about their role that they had not thought about before or had taken for granted.

In our most recent experience, it took us a few days to walk around all the different departments of a company and ask them what they did, who they interact with, and how they did their job. The output of this was a depth of analysis and insight into the organisation that even upper management acknowledged. It provided a platform for investment decisions and new project initiatives.

I have done this for operational processes, logistics handling, and as a basis for application development projects. In all cases, you interact with the people who are the touch points of the detailed end to end process, focusing on the who, what and how. You also can’t just look at one section or department, because there is much to be found in what happens in hand-offs between departments. The assumptions that are made often don’t enable an understanding of how everyone’s roles link together in the business.

The end goal is a focus on the business structure and processes that may have become blurred. A key benefit is the foundation created for improvement, as well as the active knowledge management from documenting and retaining process knowledge that commonly sits in people’s minds.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 4

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on August 19th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

A manager who worked for me mentioned one week that he needed to come into work on the weekend. We worked for a company that did more than pay lip service to work/life balance, and so I quizzed the manager on the reasons for the extra hours.

‘Swamped with email’ was the response. So I asked the manager to carry out a quick task. I asked him to check how many of the emails in the ‘overload’ were in direct response to an email the manager had sent out.

Not surprisingly, the answer was up around 90%. And not surprisingly, a number of those emails were to members of our own team.

What we found was that email wasn’t helping us make decisions and solve problems on some issues. It was just extending the interaction, or delaying it. A bit like playing tennis. When the ball is on the other side of the court it is someone else’s turn!

So much interaction on email is kept between two people. It’s not visible, and it can sometimes be easy to add to the problem, not resolve it. Not much beats face to face interaction, or a phone conversation of course. But there are tools which, because of their openness, transparency and immediacy, make the process of discussing, agreeing and actioning more efficient.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 3

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on August 19th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Email is linear. Point to point. So it’s direct. That’s good. In business, that’s useful.

Think about usual email interactions. One person to one person. Or, if the conversation is within a team or project, one to many.

But if the results of that conversation need to be communicated more widely, it can become many individual ‘ones’ back to many. And it can spool off into many more ‘one to ones’. And at that stage readers are often wondering whether they are still needed in the conversation.

At that point, the original point of the email might be so far back in the thread that you can’t recall it, or completely lost if you have come to the conversation late.

If it is a long running or complex issue, bringing a latecomer up to speed with the ebb and flow of the conversation can be almost impossible.

So email has a role within organisations. No argument, but its ubiquitous nature means it is often the default tool. And there are better tools available for a lot of the interaction organisations need.

In many organisations there will be real value in taking specific conversations or interactions, which currently run through or are fuelled by email, into Enterprise 2.0 tools. Yammer (an inhouse Twitter) or other instant messaging tools can connect all people on a project or in a team much more quickly and fluidly than email. Quick exchanges can complement the work people are doing without a massive personal overhead.

Blogs can be an alternative to newsletters and email updates. They are more transparent, open to all, and because they capture the thread of the conversation in one place are very inclusive for new members or stakeholders.

And if there is a problem to be solved, wikis encourage group contribution and visibility more effectively than email will. They capture the collaborative output and knowledge for subsequent use.

Organisations should consider leveraging any skill and capability that employees bring in using social tools – the willingness to connect and share, the transparency. While there will always be people wedded to email, there might be people you can actively encourage not to become wedded to email!

KM guiding principles

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on August 11th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

At the conference presentation last week, a slide that resonated with a number of people I spoke with was one on guiding principles for knowledge management.

I’m a big believer in guiding principles (you can define them many ways: rules, beliefs, philosophy, basis of reasoning or action). I like the way they force you to articulate, and agree on, what you are striving for. They are a great way to start an initiative, and as you always need input and sign off from a number of stakeholders, they get the project rolling. And I’ve found that if you are working with teams who have been around the block a few times, they are an essential tool to re-focus energies and direction.

Depending on your project, they might actually be a critical step that you bypass at your peril. I’ve used them in business and IT strategy development, corporate communication and investor relations, and IT development projects. On a major IT sourcing strategy project, we used them to turn lessons learned from the original outsourcing deal into guidelines for the next.

This Harvard Business Review article, Transforming  Corner-Office Strategy into Frontline Action, remains one of the most interesting things I’ve read on strategic principles and how they can guide and transform business.

So in developing guiding principles for knowledge management, I have my business hat firmly in place. If someone was trying to sell a new round of knowledge management initiatives to me, what would I want to hear?

Here are five guiding principles for KM that might provide some food for thought:

  1. Make knowledge tasks and activities part of the way people work.
  2. Embed knowledge management in your key business processes.
  3. Target business processes that deliver real benefits to teams: save time, cut costs, prevent errors, simplify activities.
  4. Market your achievements and benefits to existing and new customers as if it were a product you were selling on the open market.
  5. Don’t make people switch between too many toolsets. Leverage your intranet, and turn it into an internet scale knowledge system.

Enterprise 2.0 for knowledge management?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate, Practice Areas on August 10th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – 2 Comments

I presented at the ARK Group’s KM Australia conference in Sydney last week. The title of my presentation was ‘Enterprise 2.0 – Breathing new life into KM’. A bold claim? Probably, but the whole point is to initiate some debate.

I firmly believe all the tools, connectivity and behaviours associated with what we call Web 2.0, or Enterprise 2.0 within an organization, have the power to turn many of our knowledge or information management efforts on their head. For the better. Over the next few posts I’ll elaborate on some of the thinking behind the presentation.

So my presentation followed the journey I took with Annalie Killian and the excellent folks at AMP, where we implemented a collaboration platform, which included wikis, blogs and the like, to address knowledge management challenges.

Without playing the generation card too heavily, the very real risk for many organizations today is the opportunity they might be losing. We have new generations walking in the corporate door with all the skill and will to connect. They do it every day – it is part of their lives. And yet we often hand over little more than an email account and access to a share drive. Some organizations don’t allow access to Facebook and other social networking sites. In short, we switch them off.

And when knowledge management often struggles with switching people on, it seems like a wasted opportunity.

A real strength of enterprise 2.0 tools is how they connect people. They link people to other people and to information and knowledge assets, in a less formal, but no less effective way than more structured knowledge tools. Why wouldn’t you leverage behaviours that are likely to bring business benefit?

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 2

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on July 30th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

So what does your organisation do with corporate email archives when a person leaves?

In the past two days we’ve had online conversations with two people, both of whom have mentioned efforts they’ve taken to set boundaries around the time spent on email.

We think these kinds of initiatives recognise how pervasive a tool email is. We actually use it to get work done. ask magazine So as we discussed in our last post, email boxes become quite a repository of information, knowledge and practical know-how.

You might argue that when a person leaves an organisation, much organisational learning goes with them. But there is probably a lot left behind in, you guessed it, emails.

We haven’t heard of too many organisations that do much more than hang onto the archive for a while (depending on their information retention policy) and then finally offload it. But we suspect there is a lot of useful information that is lost when that happens.

So what’s the answer? Trawl through email boxes to sift out the useful information? No one has the time or the resources to do that. Implement a compliance program to manage and review what is contained in email? That can be tackled as part of a document management program but it’s a big job.

I watched with interest a couple of years back as Luis Suaraz over at (a knowledge management blog) undertook to reduce his daily use of email by using social networking tools. He summarised how he did that recently on

He may work in a different role to many of those in your organisation, but the principles apply no matter what your industry.

10 reasons to tackle corporate email – reason 1

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on July 28th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – 2 Comments

‘I’m drowning in email!’ you often hear, and ‘we know email is a real issue for us’. And yet email is such a ubiquitous tool that trying to encourage alternative ways of communicating is sometimes like holding back the ocean. In an organisation trying to manage information and knowledge, there are strong reasons to increase the information management activities happening outside corporate email.

The daily interaction of email between employees reveals a rich and varied use. Questions, answers, advice, process, procedure, updates, discussions. Much of that information is knowledge – about what is happening, about how to do an activity, about how to approach an issue. And on the less formal side it is often used just to connect people.

So while formal knowledge management activities often struggle with the behaviours needed to make it happen, informal knowledge sharing and communication is happening. And it’s being captured. It’s just hidden.

If employees are usually quite willing to impart knowledge, opinions and advice in email, why? The tool is easy to use, useful in many ways because of its simplicity, highly visible on the desktop, and it helps people carry out an activity. The ‘what’s in it for me’ factor is high.

But it stands to reason that most email archives slowly become a rich knowledge base of process, procedure and know-how. Rarely is that information available to more people than the author and those they connect with. Over time, even the owner of an email box packed with useful information will find it increasingly difficult to access the high-value information and reuse it.

There are a number of social tools that provide agile and practical alternatives to email. They hit the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor and score points for ease of use. Stay tuned for more details of what they are and how your organisation might use them.

Why would employees want web 2.0 tools?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on June 26th, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

Adopting the Microsoft ‘eat your own dogfood’ motto, I presented to our Frame partners on Web 2.0 yesterday. The focus of the presentation was whether business really needs to take notice of Web 2.0 – or Enterprise 2.0 – tools. Raftimucebe . Does the hype and activity on the internet translate to corporate environments?

One of the key questions that came after the session was ‘is this just one more thing we need to do?’

I’ve been in line management roles, working long hours and wondering how I’m going to get it all done. So pronouncements from 60,000 feet about a new way of working never excited me. And if they lacked real detail, more often than not they were simply irritating.

Understanding this quite common perspective was fundamental to delivering a knowledge management solution to a client. We communicated an important guiding principle: knowledge management activities had to be part of the way we worked. Not additional. Not an afterthought. Embedded. Replacing some other way of working, to real advantage for the individual.

Of course this means that your customer base is highly segmented. No one size fits all solution. And that’s where many of the web 2.0 tools assist – they are hugely flexible in how they can be used.

So a customer service team might agree to move most of their updates, previously emailed out to team members – onto a blog.

A team leader might blog answers to any questions they are asked. There are several benefits to this: they are stopping the email trail (which would probably only grow and pull in more people), they are capturing valuable knowledge about an issue – their response – and putting it somewhere searchable, they are providing the answer to a wider audience than just the person who asked the question.

Our answer to our audience then was no, adopting web 2.0 tools was not one more thing they needed to do. The tools open up new ways of working, but care and effort needs to be expended on designing those new ways.