Friday, November 29, 2002

-One school says necessity is the mother of invention, so great progress comes from adversity and pressure. Look at how war progresses technology.
-The other school says that real innovation comes from having space - no pressure, freedom to let your mind wander, in other words Slack.

Which is right? I think they're not actually the same sorts of invention. One is creative problem-solving within given constraints (ie. best with what we have), the other seems more apt for step change (i.e. best thing possible). It may also be that the wartime thing's a red-herring, because war also leads to massive investment, management decisiveness and a clearer set of priorities. at Henley KM Forum yesterday it was also suggested that managers should focus on creating space and let the pressure come from inside the innovators. I suspect managers need to be more nuanced than that depending on the personalities of their people.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Is KM optional? Yes!
Yes, in the same way that if you look at a city and imagine removing all the parks, the theatres, the interesting architecture and replacing it with prefab buildings in concrete and vehicle-only roads.
In the same way that your house is best served by stainless steel walls and concrete floors, plastic chairs and vynyl tables, without paintings, texture, patterns or mementos.

...things still work. You can still cook in the kitchen, still travel from A to B and live in your building. But what's happened? The onset of a slow decay.

Is KM an option? Yes, in the same way that an athlete can stop training. He won't die. He won't suddenly stop being able to run. But in thhe long term, can he compete? So what do YOU expect? Why should I teach you to run faster than anyone else if all you want to do is stop limping? Does you mission statement talk about sprinting ahead of the pack? Of course it does. So do your leaders act like this is the mission, or do they only react to injuries and limps?

Friday, November 22, 2002

This decision-support software is on special offer and a fraction of its old price Assistum .If you're interested in knowledge mapping, it could be worth a play. In effect its a rule-based system with the rules laid bare. So long as you're only reasoning over one case (e.g. the risk in one project) that's fine.
What I like about it is that it challenges your subjective rating of things. e.g. you may say to yourself "The risk of doing this project is medium". Assistum guides you through assessing the individual factors like market changes, innovation risk, your company's ability to run projects etc. When you finally return to the aggregate risk it may well say "You rated: medium risk, the engine rates: high risk because of the ratings you gave to factors X,Y,Z" You can then reflect on the mismatch.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Slack by Tom DeMarco, excellent new book by the author of Peopleware. The antidote to all the Fast Company, Lean and Mean, 24x7 macho posturing drivel that characterised most of the 90's.
CHoice quotes:
* Lister's Law "people under pressure don't think faster"
* "managers (good managers at least) are the lifeblod of an organization. Cutting them out is like giving blood to lose weight"
* "in fear organizations, authority has more force than reality... for a while"

One of the better talks at KMWorld 2002 was by David Gilmour of Tacit on ROI and Measurement. The gist is that most people askign you to prove ROI are faking it: they rarely demonstrate ROI for the thigns that really matter to them, they just go ahead and do them. Hence its much more important that KM shows how it impacts ont he important stuff, than it is to show some pseudo-accountancy.

My own thoughts are that saying 'Whats the ROI' is one of those stalling questions that sounds like a legitimate request when said in front of the board but is really a way of saying "I don't believe in KM" that sidesteps getting into a debate about it. I suspect no senior managers ask the ROI question of things that really matter to them, i.e their real core values rather than their espoused ones.

So here's my list of "Expensive things that never get asked to show ROI"
* Global workshops where execs jet in from all over
* Most training courses
* Furniture beyond the bare necessities (including the ROI of carpets, plants and large desks)
* Most downsizing programmes (they show apparent savings, but they imply one investment strategy over another, and nobody works out which ultimately yields more)
* Attractive buildings vs. concrete monsters
* Public parks
* Travelling non-Economy class
* Owning a cat
* Calculating ROI
I'd welcome more suggestions!

NB I'm not saying nobody ever challenges the cost of these, only that thay have huge intangible impacts that nobody has a handle on. It all comes down to what accountants see as assets vs. costs. Sadly employees are generally seen just as a cost, so investing in them is impossible unless your organisation uses some form of Intangible Assets accounting. So the next time you're asked to show ROI, say "sure, just show me how you assess intangble assets and we can discuss where KM fits in".

Friday, November 08, 2002

Wonderful! JIT Delivery comes to Knowledge Management in HBR. Davenport describes a classic expert system that could be 20 years old and gets away with claiming that this is the future for KM because its 'embedded knowledge'. Not that I'm compaining about expert systems getting a nod as still having value in very particular circumstances, it just doesn't deserve this kind of dressing up.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Apologies for the silence - I've just got back from KMWorld 2002 in Santa Clara. I was a bit concerned that it'd merged with Intranets 2002 but in fact the combination worked rather well. e..g sometimes the KM tracks felt like the same old stuff, but there was something more engaging on the Intranet side. About 450 people showed up, mostly from multinationals. Dominant themes:
* CoPs and networks (done to death, if you ask me)
* Expert profiling and location - good talk from Aventis on their use of Tacit's tools
* Collaboration\vitrtual teams

Interesting emerging areas:
* Social Network Analysis (hardly new per se, but uncommon in KM conferences still)
* Innovation Management - especially ideas management. (Mark McElroy was claiming this was 'new' KM though really KM linked to innovation is what Nonaka was on about all along).

David Gilmore from Tacit also gave an excellent talk on ROI (actually more Not-ROI and why it was a trap). I'd been thinking exactly the same thing and it was great to hear it so elegantly articulated.

I was speaking on KM for New Ventures - a topic that drew a small crowd in a vast 600-seater theatre. On stage it was was like viewing through a fish-eye lens and all my jokes fell horribly flat (guess I should've included substance in the talk as well so I had something to fall back on ;-). I did give this blog a plug though, so if you came here as a result - WELCOME!