Simplify Complexity in KM


Google gives us 10 results in less than .50 seconds, give or take a little.   You may be interested to know that Google isn’t alone, just search the major engines and count the results.   Without getting into the science of why this is the default response and display, lets just be aware that this is what happens.

So, what is this =1 business?

If you ask a room full of people where they get information when they need to know something, they say “Google.”   There is no debate about it.  Even if they search Yahoo or Bing or even their enterprise, they may say they “Google it.”  What they are doing is searching, searching for the one thing they need at that moment in time.

That is what this is about.  Results = 1, the one thing you need, that one piece of information you need WHEN you need it.  Now, people commonly understand that this is true but it seems that we forget.   We aren’t a knowledge based generation for what we know, we are a knowledge based generation of what we can find and how quickly.

This requires that we write, publish and share.   This also requires that we have the ability to gain access to contextually aligned INFORMATION that we can TRANSFORM into knowledge for our use at any one point in time.

There are many uses for crayons, some of them are simple and others are complex.   If you needed to find out what you could do with crayons, you would compose a search.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 8.57.14 AMOn the wonderful things that you can do!  What did you know?  You could get lost in here.  Most of us need to know the one thing we need.

Did you know that crayons could help you survive if you are out of power and need light?

Crayons have made careers and have inspired thoughts!  Crayons have helped children communicate and have been a fundamental part of education for many years.

In the end with all the complexity 

There is simply a crayon.  Maybe just one. 

Maybe the one that simply matters to YOU!


The OUTCOME is our need to convert information to knowledge that is relevant and important to US for US.   As the one!

That is why

trustand Good Communication are ALWAYS required!

For KM to be effective it has to go from Personal Knowledge to Information and BACK to Personal Knowledge! 

Personal Knowledge Management - MindMeister Mind Map.pngandonlinelogomaker-102613-2009


On Trust (Batdorf Perspective)

There seems to be something old but again new these days, it is interpretation of what is objective and subjective truth and from what perspective we have for the subjective truth. Trust has to be developed based on mutual understanding and that means understanding truths or at least understanding the perspectives of an individuals truth. The problem today is that there are so many hidden agendas we don’t know for sure what is objective and subjective truth and in most cases we don’t care to know.

Sometimes this lack of trust is by polarization of extreme concepts; for example liberal and conservative. All humans need to have both perspectives at some time during their lives depending on the situation but since the labeling has been defined not by perspectives but by the media; we believe everything that is written as long as it was written by the slant of the perspective we view as correct. This lack of trust isn’t only in our political views but in everything.

Seems that if we start our dialog with what is objective truths we might have some agreements before we get into the subjective part. That way we can build upon some foundation of communication between our humanity. Lack of desire to take the time to explore the common truths of objective views has resulted in a society that has no boundaries for integrity of our humanity and therefore has created great chaos (note I did not say complexity but chaos as complexity is an objective truth of the universe while chaos is a subjective perspective).




You need it..

KM in The World (For Real)

People have their own way (PKM-Personal Knowledge Management) of managing information relevant to them.

People and Organizations  share information in common ways out of necessity (EKM-Enterprise Knowledge Management). 

Regardless of how we manage information in order to share information in a meaningful and effective way, someone has to be prepared to receive information in an effective and meaningful way.

Hundreds of millions of books a year are sold on parenting, not one of them could prepare me for my children.

I have 4 sons, all of them are different.

My oldest would never touch an electrical outlet because he perceived that it could be dangerous.  (I re-enforced this thinking)

My second oldest generally doesn’t touch electrical outlets but he comes to me for advice prior to plugging something in.  (I support and re-enforce this thinking)

My third child doesn’t care about electrical outlets and may not know they exist.  (I work to remind him that they exist and that he should know what they are and what they do)

My youngest child likes to stick things in electrical outlets.  (I tell him often not to do this)
My children learn in different ways and keep information stored in different ways.  They perceive the world in different ways.   They are very different in a lot of ways.   That being said, there are things that are familiar to them and common messages that are clear to them all.   There are things they understand that are show stoppers in our house.    We are clear and consistent about a lot of messages and the frequency or requirement to remind our children or discuss these things with them will happen at a regular pace with additional discussion for each individual as needed.

The point is that communication and trust are the key foundation for the desired outcome whether in a family situation or business.

There is a certain amount of trust that is established when forming a relationship under any conditions including business.  (Speed of Trust Transformation Process) Stephen M.R Covey

Important Point

You already know.  You already know how important communication and trust are in business and in the context of KM.   Most people know this point so well that they immediately dismiss it as an area that they already have covered.

When looking at KM we have to understand that context (familiar or relevant mechanism of communication) and the data source (trusted or perceptual authenticity) are the key factors in “knowledge transfer.”  I want to point out that most discussions, principles and practices around KM imply these concepts but don’t deep dive into them. (implicit facet of KM)


Dave Snowden has expanded his 3 Rules of Knowledge Management to 7 Principles of Knowledge Management

  1. Knowledge can only be volunteered, it cannot be conscripted.  <– requires trust
  2. We only know what we know when we need to know it. <– requires trusted sources
  3. In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge. <– requires belief or trust
  4. Everything is fragmented. <–requires patience and understanding … trust
  5. Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success.<–trust
  6. The way we know things is not the way we report we know things. <–trust and authentic sources
  7. We always know more than we can say, and we always say more than we can write down. <–if you wanted to know more, you would need to go to the source or an authority

In Knowledge Management as a practice there is a requirement of trust and communication.   As a KM practitioner or consultant I could provide the best explicit advice on “how to” move and manage information in a highly effective and contextually relevant way but it won’t make a difference to YOU if there is low trust or poor communication in the business.

I have a friend that worked on C-130 aircraft (big airplanes), he had to climb inside the wing of the airplane to change out a bladder that holds fuel inside the wing of the aircraft.    He had all the tools that you would need to do the job.  He had all of the technical manuals and diagrams that he would have needed to know where things were.

He had all the instructions that were step by step on what bolts to remove in what order.  What was missing? (Example of the space he would have been inside while servicing the air craft)

If the president of his company came out and said ” I trust that you will do a good job” would that be enough?

How did my friend store his technical information?  Does that matter?

How did my friend report that he performed his job? How did he account for his work? How did he know that the job was performed properly?  How did he learn to do what he is doing?

Knowledge Transfer and Trust

It was an overcast day and the hanger bay was wide open to allow as much light in as possible.  Jim started his day by looking through his inventory of tools to make sure that everything he needed would be there.  His company provides a checklist but he has his own system of organizing his tools so that he can visually account for each item as they lay in a certain position in his toolkit.   He was fairly new to this job but had experience working on other types of aircraft that both he and his new company felt would convey to this position.   His new supervisor Shari has over 7 years of experience working on these aircraft and due to her military experience , her physical size and her passion for airplanes she has excelled at working in the tight spaces required to perform this kind of maintenance.

Today Jim will be climbing inside the wing of the plane all by himself.   In his past experience working on smaller planes he had been in tight spaces but never this small and dark.  Shari knew how uncomfortable the space could be and she also recognized the difficulty associated with this task.  The first part of the morning they sat in front of the wing near the engine and had some coffee while discussing the challenges and pitfalls of the job.   Shari also had to call over to the military to get a person to stand a fire watch while they were inside the aircraft.   Calling on the fire watch was something that Shari chose to do as an extra safety precaution from her previous military experience. This isn’t something their company requires but they support it as a best practice.

Jim doesn’t know Shari that well and doesn’t really trust her.  In fact, he finds her attractive and wonders what she is doing working on airplanes.   While he was in the military most women didn’t have roles like this and he has a natural inclination to discount her ability up front.  **say what??**  Now we know that Jim doesn’t trust her because he doesn’t know her and because he has some reservations about her being a woman.    This isn’t about what is right or wrong, this is what really happens.   How would you address this from a KM perspective?  Maybe this is part of the relationship of Knowledge Management and Human Resources?  How an individual performs and feels is important to organizational productivity and resilience.

Regardless of how things seem, Jim is a good guy, he wants to do his job and he is excited about this position.   As we continue, Shari helps him with his protective gear and they both get ready to board the aircraft.


Jim just got hired and the human resources crew ran him through 3 days of training.  Most of the training was about safety, harassment, corporate values,  and controls.  In other words, most of the training is things you don’t do if you work here.    When during his indoctrination training did Jim receive guidance on things he should do?  Knowledge Management starts day one, right away!  Most of the time, organizations are looking to protect themselves from harm but they don’t generally  prepare their employees for KM. 

Both Jim and Shari board the plane and find their way to the wing where they will be doing their work today.   It is a very tight closed and dark space, there are areas that you have to feel because it impossible to physically get into position to see.  There are areas that are uncomfortable to reach because your body is forced into an awkward position.

C130AircraftMan <– Aircraft Manual

C-130 Procedures to Change Fuel Cell <–Checklist

Note: These documents are very clear and explicit but they are not enough.   He would NOT be able to do this job by himself.

Both of them cannot fit into the tank area at the same time, she must talk him through every action through discussion and conversation.

“Hey Jim,  did you feel a notch before the bolt?”   Jim replies “yes, I feel it now”,  Shari replies ” Great!, now position the flat end of your 5/8 bolt tool on that notch to set it in place.”

They continued on to finish the job and shared some laughs over a beer after a long but successful day.


After this experience Jim and Shari will build on their trust.   How did the organization prepare them both for this task?  From a Knowledge Manager perspective,  what information was missing from the technical guide? (any relevant conversion of tacit to explicit)  What about the fact that he couldn’t possibly do this task alone?  Does it matter how he feels about Shari?   What if he thought she didn’t know what she was doing and he was simply going to use his own experience?  What if she didn’t trust him?  What if she didn’t want to share this information with him because she thought her job was at risk? What if she didn’t like him?

How does personal knowledge come into play here?

Shari doesn’t have a lessons learned database and she doesn’t have a best practice playbook.  Her company only requires her to use the checklist and follow safety procedures.   Additionally, her report only requires a listing of the overall task, a validation signature and an explicit test report.   There isn’t an immediate mechanism for feedback on her interaction with Jim.   The company doesn’t see that as part of a cost savings or risk reduction factor.  Of course if Shari has a hard time with Jim, she can report it but in this case there isn’t a scoring or maturity process to show his proficiency level.    Jim will take his lesson learned from this experience and park it in his tacit knowledge bank.   He may take a note and shove it in his tech manual or if the tech volume is electronic, he may have to find another way give himself a message.

More on PKM

Real World KM

Every job has information that is both tacit and explicit.   There are also a great deal of implicit factors that Knowledge Management can’t procedurally account for.   In other words, there isn’t a model or process for everything.   It takes active facilitation and interaction to create a successful knowledge practice.   Knowledge isn’t something you can hold or tie down, it is fluid and dynamic.   To say that we can manage it, is a stretch at best.   We can manage information but we can’t manage knowledge.   What we CAN do, is pay attention to people.

In my scenario with Jim and Shari, the company could have a Community of Action, Practice or Interest that they could have introduced him to during his on-boarding process.   If the company is very small, maybe it is just a team building lunch or an introduction meeting in a comfortable setting.    This is part of KM and there are costs associated with this but there are also great benefits.   If he were more comfortable up front to trust his team, he could be more productive. There are many factors that most organizations overlook.

To be successful in KM, the organization must consider People, Process, METHODS and tools.    I see (PPT) all the time, but if you look at the checklist above think about how you would change the fuel cell of a C-130 and be honest about it.   You need the people and these people create the learning path by providing their methods and a certain amount of their tacit knowledge.


Knowledge Management or the practices associated with KM are tied to every facet of business.  If knowledge is not transferred business will not occur.   Yet, it is like air or water only of high value when we are short on supply.    It is easy to focus on the technological aspects of KM and more challenging to deal with the soft or people areas.    As Knowledge workers, we must continue to raise awareness of KM and the critical role that communication, trust and transfer play in organizational success.   If unchecked,  valuable knowledge will simply be information at rest hidden in someones desk or someones forgotten thoughts.

Questions? Thoughts? Feel free to comment..

The Truth in Getting Attention from Leadership


It feels like we are at war with ourselves on some level when it comes to corporate business.   Somewhere up there, “they” don’t get us.   Somewhere down there “they” don’t understand.   It is difficult to know a person (leader or follower) through the layers of other people between you.   It doesn’t matter why this happens but it matters that this is reality.

Say What?

Leaders may say something very generic that means something to everyone and nothing to someone.


Making Chatter

It was a bit nerve racking to send the request up to our boss.  It always feels that way when we do something out of the ordinary and take a chance.  Good old risk,  we fear for the unknown even though the unknown is around us all the time.   I wondered if I would get my good friend and team mate in trouble along with myself.   It seems that we could get to be a problem for our organization if we keep speaking with leadership and moving up through our chain of leaders as often as we have.

I have been asked by peers, middle management and some senior leadership why we ask for time to meet with so many people.   The answer is that we are practicing our trade.    When a person speaks to an audience the message is generic to all of the audience as opposed to when a person interacts with us individually,  the story and thinking is much more coarse and rich.   It also is an opportunity for us to ask questions and get real (raw) and politically insensitive answers.   If people have a willingness to talk and give us a little time, we have a strong desire to look, listen and learn.

The Conversation

In our world there are a lot of assertive, smart, well-educated and dynamic people.  They are the intrapreneurs, they are the source of our abilities and they are the arm that executes but with all that; WE who are THEY feel something just short of empowered.   I have felt it too, in my press of coherence and ultimate simplification of “us and them” I made the separation and pointed up towards the sky and said “The Ivory Tower.”   That didn’t help me get answers, it just raised more questions and I started to feel disconnected.    This keeps going back to the same point,  it is about how I feel.    It is about how you feel too.   It is about us as people both together and individually. Why?  Because emotion is the elephant!  See Elephant and Rider think of your emotions as an elephant and logic or “rational you” as the rider.  “The rider represents the conscious controlled processes and the elephant represents all of the automatic processes. The metaphor corresponds to Daniel Kahneman‘s Thinking, Fast and Slow.[22] This metaphor is used extensively in both The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind. ”   If emotion is powerful and in most cases automatic. We may be challenged to settle ourselves down.   This is where the conversation becomes important.

My Wife Can End a War With A Whisper.

The kids are fighting and screaming, stuff is getting thrown and tempers are flaring.  The youngest of the bunch is swinging fists of fury and yelling at the top his lungs!  Something magic happens when my wife leans forward getting close to him and whispers.   It is almost like an on/off switch and he stops.  I noticed that she does it with the big kids too, including this big kid.   In business,  the conversations are just as charged but most of the time the people at the bottom don’t get heard and the anger and frustration builds.   It seeps out now on social networks, writing and hallway water cooler conversations but instead of being productive, it becomes destructive.    The results are bad and that is the truth.    What I am suggesting is that we should take the approach of whispering while there is conflict and that whisper is the beginning of the conversation.    We were told that leadership would not see us.    That was untrue.   We started talking up through our leadership chain and had very good conversations that allowed us to express our feelings and provided information for us to shape our path.   It wasn’t with a scream, it was with a whisper.   The people we spoke with expressed their feelings as well.   These conversations are not one-sided or mechanical as some would suggest they should be.

We Can..

You would like to know that we are told that our ideas and dreams are not possible.    To those that don’t believe me, I say “when we get where we are going, we will come back for you.”   If you are reading this I want you to know that I don’t think that I am any different from anyone else or special.   I am not being treated in a special way either.   Talking with people is not always easy but it is what we CAN DO.   We can talk to each other and we can find ways to communicate, collaborate and cooperate in order to help each other.   We are not alone and neither are they.    Fear is not going to shape our lives and stand between us and our potential.   We press through our fears and make decisions based on our perception of opportunities and our vision.

What do “They” Want?

What can I do to help?  That is the most common question that we hear.   WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?  This question doesn’t mean that we get everything that we want or that they are even capable of providing what they want but it is the beginning of a conversation that opens the door to the possibilities.    The concept that comes to mind for a lot of people here is wrapped in the art of negotiations but I would say that sometimes we can’t negotiate everything.   We have to find the shared values and the shared winning solutions but because we are dealing with emotion (powerful) we may not always get rational perspective on what winning means.    For us, sometimes it feels like we are moving inches when we are in fact moving miles.   Most people regardless of rank or status want to help and more importantly they want to be loved.

Crisis does not drive our Solution

It isn’t easy..  This isn’t a 12 step process or some secret sauce pattern that if we follow the recipe all will be well.    This is hard work and sacrifice.   When I repaired computers for a living, I would joke that when I cut myself and bled into the machine that is why it would work.   The joke was on me, because I did bleed in the machine.  I bled my time and my sweat and the actual blood from my hands.    It takes hard work and sacrifice.   A stone is shaped by the beating it takes by the stonecutter.   We as people aren’t always willing to do what it takes because it is hard.    Sometimes it feels like we are alone and that we have had to fight everyone and negotiate with everyone.   There is doubt and disbelief all around and on top of this our economy is in a crisis.  In the discussion point above about talking to leadership, I mentioned that we are able to start the conversation and that can take us miles.  The world is a big place and sometimes it is a far distance to get from here to there.    When I feel unmotivated, I am inspired by my wife, my children and my friends.    I know for my friends and family, I work hard to do the same for them.  It is our support system that makes us strong and that is what I work hard to keep up.   When I feel weak, I enjoy the benefit of someone else sharing the load.     This year we have had difficult challenges in business and the difficulties are adding up and pressing on us.   In the Federal government and Department of Defense,  our people are pressed and stretched to the end of their patience and abilities.   Most companies are responding to these same pressures by throwing the baby out with the bath water-link added for Wendy.

We have chosen not to react to every individual activity during this prolonged crisis.   We decided to think long-term and stay strong through the difficult and frankly scary challenges.   While planning for the worst and hoping for the best, we are also seeking out the best opportunities and possibilities to change the dynamics of the situation.   In other words, we seek to change our situation as opposed to specific behavior.

Final Thoughts

When man first flew up into the clouds, did he think he could touch them?   The sky itself is elusive.  Even when you are in the clouds you can’t hold them in your hands.   They could never be yours to own.  That being said you could live in the clouds.  You could soar through them and enjoy them.   Most of what we deal with regarding everything and anything is about perspective.   This is known to all of us but we forget that when we are in a rank and file position.   The truth about getting attention from leadership is that you are important.  You are important but they don’t know you to know that you are important.   If you have ideas and want to be heard, find the language in which your leadership speaks (not just $$) and reach out to them.  If they tell you “no” try someone else.   But don’t give up if you have something to say or you want to learn how you can best make a difference.

chainsforcoThe chain that binds you is an illusion.