Posts filed under ‘Knowledge Management’

KM in change averse organizations

One of my favorite librarian bloggers, Meredith is thinking about KM needs in her organization.

Knowledge management in a growing and change averse organization
Clearly, though, the solution to these problems is not so simple as creating an Intranet or a wiki or whatever. There has to be a real change in culture or people won’t use the tools they are given. That’s really where the managers have to come in. Management style is so crucial to KM. The way you manage people will make them more or less likely to share what they know.

What Meredith is looking for is to simply get all of the information she and the copyright checker need in order to ensure that students have access to materials they need for classes.
Jack has an idea that might be less threatening by requesting the information in a format familiar to the staff and faculty. However, setting any requirement or standard still requires effort and change on their part.

Unfortunately, there are those that simply do not like change of any kind. I used to completely resent these types of people. However, I have come to learn that they can serve as brakes to slow down those of us at the other end of the spectrum. They make me stop and think — what am I trying to accomplish? Is this the only, or even the best approach? What can I keep from what they are used to?

I too have encountered change resistance. I have encountered those who will insist upon doing things in an unbeliably awkward and inefficient manner. In my experience, I have found there is usually a reason (often political, social, psychological or all three).

Meredith also points out that many people view their specialized knowledge as a form of job security. That is an issue that I think trips up every KM and/or collaborative organization and/or learning organization approach. This is a hold over from the 20th century, industrial viewpoints that said that people are cogs and are replacble. Couple this background idea with the request to share information, and you can understand why some people will resist!

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July 7, 2006 at 5:55 am Leave a comment

What Web Users Hate Part 3: Reading

 This final point from Sandra Rossi's article, "What Users Hate About Websites", that I feel is relevant to knowledge sharing systems is one that really drives me crazy!

5. War and Peace length: "A common mistake in Web design is to just [convert] a brochure to the Web. But the Web is its own medium, and communication has to change to reach users. Users are known to read 25 percent slower on the screen than on paper, read fewer words and don't like long pages which require scrolling down," she said.

This is not applicable to OPACS, as it does not fit their function. It is a danger to libraries creating home pages. However, I will credit librarians with seeming to know not to throw long pieces at their users. However, websites by librarians for librarians do sometimes violate this issue.

Many organizations, MPOW for one, are still struggling to transition from print to online writing. Many writers do address the various audiences by using the appropriate terms (parents, teachers, chemists, members, etc.). However, if there are legal issues the lawyers often won't allow them to reword things in the level appropriate for the general public. ARGH! In this case, I know the writers are not at fault and simply try to avoid having to rewrite things to please the lawyers. Thus, lawyers need some writing and usability training.

Many professionals (librarians included) seem to forget, or do not realize, that publications targeted for the general public are written at a sixth grade level for a reason. Bemoaning the state of education and lack of reading does nothing to reach these users. Even users who are highly intelligent appreciate a more friendly voice.

Scrolling for a lengthy piece is not user friendly. Throwing a PDF or other attached document at the user is not user friendly. Why should I have to use my computer resources to open your information? Reading something written in a formal voice is boring and sends the users elsewhere.

June 16, 2006 at 9:56 am 3 comments

Leadership styles and Communities of Practice

 Does leadership style affect Community of Practice effectiveness?
But what of the leadership style applied to the CoP? Can the executive sponsor, or community leader, or other influential champion of a CoP be an autocrat when it comes to managing the community? Must a community leader be collaborative, participative, sensing, and so on, in order for the community to function effectively? Read: the rest.

As Ron notes earlier in his post, Community of Practices (CoP) are meant to create a democratic, egalitarian environment. I recall a discussion on one of my KM lists not so long ago as to what differentiates a project team from a CoP (particulary when describing internal groups). I would postulate that an internal group cannot develop into a CoP under autocratic leadership. I would question any group's ability to develop into a CoP if they are not free to share, make mistakes and learn. Thus, even your less autocratic but still authoritarian cultures will have difficulty developing internal CoPs. Of course senior management attitudes will vary depending upon the group of employees and it is possible that specific groups could develop into a viable CoP. However, note that the management attitude would still need to be more liberal toward this specific group.

Bulletin boards are a great example of a tool that can be used by a project group or a CoP.  Many bulletin boards (and blog comment tools) have a setting for moderation. I have experienced debate over how much moderation might affect dialog and how much moderation is effective in several forums. The style of moderation would reflect the style of group leadership. If members are strictly constrained in their posting to simply commenting upon the linked object or project and not about concepts and ideas —  the discussion benefits only that particular project and not the greater good of the participants and/or team and/or organization.

One bulletin board failure I experienced failed because management insisted upon heavily censoring topical discussion posts. These message boards were set up to provide a space for employees to ask questions about specific topics. These were not related to organizational projects. So, without this linkage this was not a project team communication forum. Anyone could (as far as the technology set up) post a question or answer. Only specifc Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) could post a summary and close and archive the thread. Thus, from a technological stand point we provided a fairly egalitarian environment in hopes of developing CoPs.

However, leadership style affected our outcome dramatically.  Rather than seize a teaching opportunity, they removed any posts they saw as incomplete or incorrect. The really sad thing about this is that it demonstrates how clueless organizational senior management can be about the informal lines of communication and status. The same person who posted the censored post will simply return to verbally telling their peers the incorrect or incomplete information.  So knowledge sharing among peers is still occuring just not in a way that will benefit other groups and future queries and can not inform employee education.

I found Ron's post via Jack Vinsen's blog

June 6, 2006 at 11:19 am 1 comment

Can trust transfer from blogger to corporation?

I stumbled into a <new for me> word press blog that seems to talk about KM types of issues via Scobleizer today!

Orcology has a post about how allowing employees to blog can benefit a company as the positive reputation of the blogger can overflow into the  company.

The original post became a conversation with Scobleizer and Shel Israel. T his is how the inter-connected world of the 'Net works! I began my thoughts in Orcology comments section and am continuing here:

I think the idea of trust (and image) transference from blog sources to companies could take the place of the old style transference used in advertising. Advertising often uses celebrity and professional endorsements to ellicit viewer's trust. I think that the US public has finally started to become jaded to this approach.

It would be interesting to see if the positive feelings associated with a blogger can effectively be transferred. Unfortunately, it will be more difficult to measure — since a blogger like Scobleizer is not affiliated with any one campaign but with the brand as a whole. Businesses dislike (with some good reason) allocating resources to activities with unmeasurable results.

The primary thing that is preventing this kind of posotove reputation transfer is the companies, their advertising consultants, and marketing & PR departments. They do not seem to understand that the net is a conversation. I have noticed on some marketing and PR blogs and other sources that they are trying to encourage more businesses to offer articles and other value to via a blog. It's not bad advice — but they still focuses upon any readers as potential consumers.  Until they see readers as people with ideas and needs — their efforts will be seen as insincere. And — frankly — having a one way conversation that does not honestly listen is insincere!

Smart companies trust their employees not to do something stupid that will violate basic terms of most employment contracts, such as do not directly compete with your employer, do not badmouth, misrepresent or embarrass your employer in public, do not reveal tradesecrets. These are things that an employer does have a right to demand of their employees and they apply to any form of communication. This is why I never understood the need for seperate blogging policies. Outside of a whistleblower situation — employee efforts are supposed to support, not sabotage, their employer. An employer that trusts that their employees are capable of writing within these parameters go a long way in creating an atmosphere of trust.  Where one is encouraged to trust and share within the firewalls  — it is likely one will be able to do the same outside of the firewalls.

However, trust continues to be a large issue in many organizations. I don't see hope of this improving until old power structures are overturned. Lack of trust is one of the major reasons that KM initiatives can fail. Employees who are afraid are not going to willingly share. If they are required to share, they will toe the party line. An organization that is a strict hierarchical top-down organization is going to continue to have these problems. KM depends upon open two way communications — well thought out but honest feedback is important. I'm not sure that such things are possible. If an organization is controlling its message tightly — readers know it! We can all spot "PR" or "Market speak." 

We cannot entirely blame the marketing, advertising and PR professionals. Often, they are operating within constraints set by executives who may refuse to understand that transparency can benefit the organization. I believe that some do get it — and I read some blogs by such advertising and marketing creatives who are generating conversations. On the other hand I receive articles from those who think they understand how this marvelous new and inexpensive medium can be used — in generating more of the same old inside to outside messaging. In other words they don't "get it." It is just an extension of the concocted petition signings, bussed in protestors and other astro turfing antics. Until they become part of the conversation — I don't think that companies will be trusted. Even with an employee blogger, such as Scobleizer, there must be consistancy.

June 5, 2006 at 12:21 pm 1 comment

DOPA: or more evidence that they don’t get the Net

Bloggers have been discussing this for over a week, so I'm a bit behind. This law in effect would do more than any spokespersons from congress have stated publically. Whether thay don't realize the far reaching impact — a possibility – or they actually want to control and damage the internet to this extent is something I can't guess.
From the law itself:

Search Results – THOMAS (Library of Congress)

`(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that–`(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are–

`(aa) obscene;

`(bb) child pornography; or

`(cc) harmful to minors; and

`(II) prohibits access to a commercial social networking website or chat room through which minors–

`(aa) may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material;

`(bb) may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults; or

`(cc) may easily access other material that is harmful to minors; and'.

There are problems galore with this legislation, worse than there were/are with CIPA. The stated intention, to protect children from sexual predators, is a noble one. It is a cause that no one can object to. However, it is overly broad. Others in the blogosphere are speaking to this with much more authority and knowledge than I. The legislation would make it illegal for kids to view 4 letter words (text on a screen is an image), even if posted by the kids themselves and anatomy diagrams.

Ultimately, this is another example of legislators attempting to legislate technical solutions to social problems. This approach does not work. Predators have simply updated their means of access. I'm not a parent, so I cannot credibly tell parents what they need to do. I can, however state that inducing fear rather than defensive smart behavior isn't helping anyone. Take away one avenue for criminal behavior — the criminals will find another avenue. They always have and always will. Legislation needs to focus upon citizen behavior.

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May 20, 2006 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

WWW Expert Finder

Dave Pollard is writing
about creating a world wide web expert finder:

I've been waiting for Google, which has already provided a definitive 'know-what' information finder and 'know-where' place finder, to follow up with the definitive 'know-who' people-finder. My initial thought was that only Google and one or two other giants could get enough profile with this to get everyone to participate and accept it as the standard, and hence achieve the critical mass to succeed where so many Social Networking tools that have tried to do this have failed.

I received this reference from Stephanie Lemieux courtesy of the Taxonomy TOC.
This is an interesting reference and I read Dave Pollard on a semi-regular basis so I'm familiar with his tendency to think big!
Dave does note that this is only a start:

Here's my first cut at some of those principles and guidelines. We need the people who know the Internet best, both as a technical and social phenomenon, to add to this list — we won't get it 'right' the first time,

So in the spirit of that conversation, here is a rather long reaction to his post. (more…)

May 20, 2006 at 4:38 pm 1 comment

Knowledge Mangement in Libraries

Michael, of Library Crunch, writes a post called Managing Our Expertise

I'm so excited to see knowledge management mentioned in the library context! One would think, though, that libraries would be a natural environment for KM. After all, libraries are about storing and exchanging information. However, the vital missing ingrediant, as Michael notes is a lack of knowledge transfer. It is difficult to capture ideas and experiences beyond the required statistical and usage reports. However, organizations in general have found that we need qualitative information as much as we need quantitative information.

I am convinced to the marrow of my bones that these fields that have become my passion can and need to learn from one another! Anyway, just a quick look at this note tonight.

May 7, 2006 at 1:14 am 1 comment

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