What you have isn’t what you got!

InTheBox.jpgHey Boss… Yeah… YOU ***tink tink tink*** … I am talking to you!  You are the leader of this band and you don’t know any of your roadies! 

The Best Things You Never Knew You Had

A good friend of mine keeps telling me that he wants to work for me when I am President of company whatever..   I have considered the idea of moving from a middle management / leader role to a more senior position but I think that being in senior role is actually insulating and debilitating.    As your area of responsibility grows and concepts become less specific and more generalized, you can become a fan of bullet points and power points.  I am all for the Maxim magazine version of things (as long as I can enjoy the images as well) but it seems to me that there is no time to do anything but read the insulated, well prepared, well scripted untruth of the bullet list.

Unless you are engaged and involved, you don’t know what your people are thinking and frankly, they are afraid to tell you.   There is an inherent risk to them that you won’t like what they have to say and that their uninvited perspective that may not align with yours is distasteful.   You don’t know how hard they work for you or your brand.   You don’t know how they have pushed themselves to the edges of their own being to acculturate because being of a culture means tuning your own personal being.   It is easy to say that diversity in culture”blended” is something that can be natural but far to often instead of being a tapestry it is more like a bunch of crayons scribbled over each other.   Blended diversity does mean sacrifice and that is ok when there is purpose.  We can be a gray swath or that beautiful tapestry.

What is the purpose? 

If you are doing a job, if you are working on something, if you want to do it well,  you have to care about it and there has to be some PURPOSE.   There are  a lot of books about it, I don’t need to elaborate too much here but this is a reminder that people without purpose are like androids without direction.   “Will do as programmed sir or madam”..

If we understand our role and our place in this world, we can produce and innovate beyond your expectations and beyond your imagination!

Lack of knowledge about your own capability inhibits your ability to be the best you can be!

When you run a marathon, who are you running against?  Are you running to beat the competition?

Who is your real competition?  How do you know what capabilities you have unless you dig deep and push yourself?  How do you motivate others to do the same?  How will the motivation for them have a positive impact on you?

You won’t know unless you push yourself and ask questions.  The same goes for business.   If you are running a business, you have to listen, look, and learn from the mirror and from your team not look externally.  What is external is what you think you want.  It is what you THINK you are competing against, but you really don’t know.  I would say that they don’t know either.  They don’t know what is inside their own box of things.   If you are competing against someone who doesn’t know their potential and you don’t know your potential, how could expect a measured outcome?  How can you even know the possibilities?   How do you know what is real?    Even if something is real and you know it but others don’t, how will you inspire your team to help you get there?  What is in it for them?  What is their motivation?

Knowing what you have is a business requirement!

When working on knowledge management problems the first place I go is demographics!  I want to know WHO then What because most of us start with What then Who.   If you start with trying to understand What first, you are automatically limiting yourself to understanding the range or scope of possibilities around a capability.  For example:  “Provide me a list of what we do here.”

  • Build engines
  • Ship engines
  • Buy engines
  • Refurbish engines
  • Sell engines

So.. you sell engines..   ok..

What if I asked about the person first?

George has been working for ABC Engines for 15 years, he has a family and he is a master engine designer, builder and tradesman.   He loves what he does and recently has become very interested in water based motor sports.   He is also a pilot and served in the military as a Master Specialist on Tanks.  He also has a keen interest in electric motors..

This is a simplified concept but what possibilities exist from the first approach relative to the second?


More often than not personal agendas get in the way of what is best for a company relative to the people that work for the company.   When companies ask questions about their employees and wonder what would make them happier or more productive, there are only a few as corporate entities that are willing and able to accept the answers.  Some studies show that 19% of employees are disengaged at work..  I wonder why?


18 Employee Engagement Conditions

Employee engagement, according to the SHRM report, is more likely to occur when certain conditions exist. Employers can maximize employee engagement via improving these factors. The percentages indicate the overall satisfaction of employees with the listed condition of engagement. The items are listed in order from the employee survey results: most satisfied to least satisfied with the condition in their organization.

  • The work itself: 76%
  • Relationships with co-workers: 76%
  • Opportunities to use skills and abilities: 74%
  • Relationship with immediate supervisor: 73%
  • Contribution of work to organization’s business goals: 71%
  • Autonomy and independence: 69%
  • Meaningfulness of job: 69%
  • Variety of work: 68%
  • Organization’s financial stability: 63%
  • Overall corporate culture: 60%
  • Management’s recognition of employee job performance: 57%
  • Job-specific training: 55%
  • Communication between employees and senior management: 54%
  • Organization’s commitment to professional development: 54%
  • Networking: 49%
  • Organization’s commitment to corporate social responsibility: 49% 
  • Career development opportunities: 48%
  • Career advancement opportunities: 42%

When asked.. They will tell… Under the right conditions..

If you ask your employees to tell you what they want, more often then not they will tell you.  You would need to have their TRUST.  You would have to lower the barrier of FEAR.  You would have to give them a reason to tell you.  If there is no positive outcome why should they take the chance?   Most people want some form of security first! (See Maslow)  From there, you have a number of possibilities with most seeking purpose.   In that “purpose” you can find the most valuable ideas and opportunities.  In fact, you can find the best things you never knew you had in capability!

People / Stuff and Knowledge Management..

There are 4 people in the world today that know the formula for WD-40, so it is said. “WD-40’s formula is a trade secret. The product was not patented in 1953 to avoid disclosing the details of its composition; the window of opportunity for patenting the product has long since closed.[4][7] WD-40’s main ingredients, according to U.S. Material Safety Data Sheet information, are:

  • 51% Stoddard solvent (In 1953 this was the predominant cleaning fluid used by dry cleaners.)
  • 25% liquefied petroleum gas (presumably as a propellant; carbon dioxide is now used instead to reduce WD-40’s considerable flammability)
  • 15+% mineral oil (light lubricating oil)
  • 10-% inert ingredients ” –Wikipedia

Beyond that From a New York Times obituary of the executive that made the stuff famous:

The company never patented WD-40, in order to avoid having to disclose the ingredients publicly. Its name became synonymous with the product, like Kleenex.

[Former CEO] Mr. Barry acknowledged in interviews with Forbes magazine in 1980 and 1988 that other companies, including giants like 3M and DuPont, made products that closely resembled WD-40.

“What they don’t have,” he said, “is the name.”

So, these guys made a company that had a single product FOR YEARS that was holistically dependent on the corporate knowledge of a few people.   In later years, they diversified a little and bought other brands to incorporate.

But in the end the secret is… that maybe there is no secret!

At some point,  companies will have to deal with the comings and goings of younger workers that have different objectives and goals outside of staying with one company for 20+ years.  Their individual time to competency will need to be faster than it is today and the ONLY way that companies will be able to deal with this is through rapid knowledge transfer, the expression of tacit to tacit and tacit to explicit information and a keen eye on their staff.

What you think you have isn’t what you got ..   Interestingly enough (to me at least) a lot of organizations aren’t even willing to spend the time looking inward to figure out what it is they think they have relative to what they actually have..  

Health Insurance Rates Make Early Retirement Appealing #CrewChange


Unforeseen Crew Change

In an article written by The Motley Fool a study by the (CBO) Congressional Budget Office which I will include here projects “a drop in hours worked equivalent to having 2 million fewer full-time workers in the workplace in 2017.”

“You may be eligible for deeply discounted health insurance
Insurance premiums for older men and women are expected to drop by 19% and 32%, respectively, under the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent study. This will decrease the amount of out-of-pocket premium dollars this population will need to spend on health insurance, meaning they will need less money to cover health expenditures.”-Motley Fool 

Don’t gloss over the study.. 

The CBO study says ” Because the supply of labor is responsive to changes in compensation, the employer penalty will ultimately induce some workers to supply less labor.”   What this basically means is that as costs for employers go up, they will pass these on to their labor force by increasing the burden on labor.

The combination of cheaper health insurance if you are unemployed and burden on the labor if you are employed increases the opportunity  for retirement age workers to leave early or as planned.  The Affordable Care Act itself is an enabler for crew change.

There was a time not long ago.. when retired workers would take jobs just for health insurance.   They don’t have to do that anymore either.  It actually may be more expensive for them to take a job just to get health care as opposed to going to the government.   What impact will this have on the system relative to jobs older workers would normally take (Walmart Greeter)?

The study tells us that the demand for labor will increase and that the supply will decrease starting in 2015 except in the case where

employers of 50 or more full-time equivalent workers that do not offer health insurance (or that offer health insurance that does not meet certain criteria) will generally pay a penalty. That penalty will initially reduce employers’ demand for labor and thereby tend to lower employment.”

Double Whammy!

What do you think?  How will this impact your business in the next year or so?  Are you ready for your older workers to leave early?  I have heard that it is happening already..


For Your Company – How much do you depend on Google? ~KM

Jake used to get his searches for free....
Jake used to get his searches for free….

The Value of Internet Searches

This is something to think about in relation to how organizations use external search tools.  This doesn’t apply to Google alone and I am not stating that Google will in fact charge us for search.  I am asking what would happen if they did.  I am also wondering out loud what the impact would be if they charged a subscription?   We live in interesting times, where water costs more than soda even though the water we get out of our tap may be better quality.   Communication apps are selling for BILLIONS of dollars while communication companies can’t make a buck.    More money is invested in technology companies on tech that entertains us over tech that would save us and heal us.   It is very possible that our personal and professional relationship with companies like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and others could change and that our reliance on these companies could give them the leverage to charge for searches.   Why not?  Just a thought..   Better yet.. What would that do to the knowledge base of your business?


Innovative Company A with Super Awesome Brilliant Employees

Fred: Hey George!  How do you flig flam the whatsamazzoozit? 

George: Ehh.. I dunno..  Let me google that…


What just happened here happens ALL THE TIME in companies and organizations all over the world.   What would happen if Google AND other search companies decided to realize their magical hold on us?

  • Are you prepared to function holistically without an external search capability?
  • What is the value of Google and/or Bing, Yahoo, Dogpile, Refdesk etc?
  • What does this capability or this knowledge base represent in terms of support to your organization?
  • How would your staff manage less Google?
  • Would you pay for a subscription license to search the internet?

More over

  • How does external search create NEW capability and NEW opportunities for your organization?
  • Should these search companies get a piece of new business because they helped you get it?
  • What if they decide that this is something they want to do?

Even if you have a closed organization and you have great concerns for sharing corporate intelligence this does not impact the requirement or the desire of staff to consume data from the outside.

When **cough** I mean if this happens.. what will you do?



The Reconsideration of Email as the MVP of Knowledge Assets


Just send me an email

“Don’t call it a comeback I been here for years… ”   We haven’t gotten to the point in business where any other form of communication has eliminated email.    It doesn’t matter what business you are in email is still a heavily used resource.    I know of small companies with movements to eliminate the use of email or they push to only text or IM, tweet or something else.   If someone needed to get a hold of them or they want to know more about their business there is a good chance that somewhere there will be an email involved.

There is a lot of use of email today for the purposes of national security and threat risk reduction (example using metadata to find Paul Revere (http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/09/using-metadata-to-find-paul-revere/)

Email with consideration of other collaboration and enterprise content management technologies can be a powerful business tool.    Here is the hook for you.. .below you will see a visual representation of my email exchanges over the past 8.2 years from my personal email account.   I am not sharing the “who part” but if you look at the connections, the colors and the size of the circles, you can determine a person or group of people that I have chosen to communicate with often and in addition, save those exchanges because they had some long term value from my perspective.    If you want to see yours and you are not afraid to share some data go here https://immersion.media.mit.edu/

Email Pattern

What good is this to me or you?

Why email and not other social platforms?

What information would we look for?

How hard would it be to make something like this become a reality?

Communication Patterns | Context and Information

Everything that we do in our working lives creates a real time concern for “the right information at the right time.”   There are plenty of things I need to know later that I don’t want presented to me now and that I don’t want to filter through.   While some things are random, there are great opportunities for business hidden in plain sight in patterns!

Companies today are using email meta information for all sorts of activities.  A Forbes article http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/28/smallbusiness/data-mining/ which tells a great story of using predictive analytics based on external email traffic to increase revenues.

I am suggesting that we consider INTERNAL analytics coupled with current KM practices!  What if….

  • You are trying to figure out something that happened years ago but the people or person who were involved have long since retired or moved on?
  • You are trying to figure out the source of certain information.
  • You are trying to figure out who influences certain information.
  • You are trying to find information but you only come up with documents and charts that don’t tell a story.

In email people are sometimes forced to provide context.  As a matter of fact, a lot of times if someone sends an email message without context, they will get a response from the receiver (s) with a question about what they are sending.   We would see that as a pattern in the form of an exchange based on time, people, subject etc.


Jane work for a parts manufacturer and was just promoted to Production Distribution.   She is taking over a job held by the famous Bobby D, he has been with the parts company since day 2.  He has used his parts distribution and customer pricing excel sheet since he was able to convert book to electrons.   Jane recently learned that Bobby D had some written notes about his tool but nothing that could help her really understand what he does with it.

How would a Knowledge Manager or Knowledge Transfer expert deal with this situation?
What would Jane do if she didn’t have a KT plan or a person to help her?

What if Bobby D passed away?  What options does Jane have?

Thankfully Bobby had thousands of email exchanges with customers and internal pricing and distribution team members.   Analysis could reveal the most critical exchange requirements from internal to external sources and could inform leadership and Jane on what would be needed to perform the required tasks in order to get Jane working without Bobby!

It is safe to say that over the years customers or internal staff had questions on how pricing was accomplished or what process was used.   Using analysis we could see exchanges and present word clouds or and other forms of information to infer relevance.

The use of emails as a knowledge asset opens up the possibilities for answering questions related to current concerns!

The reasoning behind a focus on email is because it already exists.  Side note, gasoline was a waste product that Rockefeller figured out how to reuse http://www.attendly.com/rockefellers-unconventional-approach-to-getting-rid-of-waste/.

Email is archived and buried in the sand like a waste product instead of the valuable commodity that it is!   Organizations are concerned about introducing new technologies to drive communication and sharing but they are sitting on a gold mine of information that they have accumulated about their business over the course of time.

If used in conjunction with current knowledge management efforts, email can be one of the best and most powerful tools in the corporate business intelligence arsenal.

The Ultimate MVP

What would the ultimate toolkit in KM look like?    Regardless of what the news may say, knowledge management and the practice of information exchange is still heavily linked to email.   Instead of rejecting email as old technology and something we should look to get away from, we should look to email as a bright spot for communication and knowledge transfer and leverage it to help bring out the best information for use with our work force and our business!

If you disagree, let me know.. I am open to learning!!!

Didn’t Bobby work in accounting in 95′?

Here are some links that may be of interest..






Sometimes Simple is Effective!

Knowledge Transfer / Continuity , Crew Change (May not be a problem after all)

Don't worry.. I am making money today!
He can’t hear you over the sound of all that cash…

What if I told you that in the next 5 years, the water in your pipes would stop flowing at some point.  What you will need to do is build a backup pipe to the street and then divert the flow of water to make sure you have continuity of service.   There will be a lot of costs around this and, in fact, you may actually have some disruption of service while we are working on your pipes.  Would you spend the money now?   What if I told you that it was in the next 5 years but most likely in the 5th year?  Would you want to take care of it now or later?  What if I told you there was a chance that even if the water stopped flowing that we may be able to do some things when the water stopped to make it flow for a little longer without replacing the pipes, would you do it now?

What if the water pressure was degrading over time?  What if water stopped or slowed at random?  Would you do it now?   What if everyone in your neighborhood is having water problems except you at the moment, would you consider your situation?

Pay now,  pay later or pay never?

Need a Catastrophe

It seems to take a catastrophic event (something real and compelling) to force companies to respond to an emergency that could have easily have been avoided or prevented.

An article about BP suggests (http://blogs.hbr.org/2010/08/if-only-bp-knew-now-what-it-kn/) that the disaster in the Gulf could very well be tied to a failure of knowledge management “We are not saying (we’d like to, but we can’t prove it) that there is a causal relationship between the dismantling of a knowledge management program and the subsequent missteps that culminated in the Gulf disaster. ”

Nick Milton had a different perspective http://www.nickmilton.com/2010/06/did-km-fail-at-bp.html<–just bringing in other thoughts.

Interesting that the HBR article also said that BP had a severe case of “Exxon Envy” which led to bad decisions in regard to their knowledge management program.  That is a pretty strong statement by HBR. What does that say about Exxon?

If something costs money and leadership doesn’t see the cost convert directly to savings, revenue or the reduction of risk, they won’t spend the money on it.

Some thoughts on why crew change may not be a problem after all!

When a catastrophic event occurs it may be cheaper to pay later.    

How many times have we heard or read about organizations KNOWING something and not sharing or KNOWING something and not having a level of awareness about what they know?   The government has changed its KM practices since 9/11 http://gcn.com/articles/2011/09/05/knowledge-management-since-911.aspx

It took a terrorist attack. We still don’t know what we know and we still don’t share enough. 

I don’t have to make a list of companies or situations because it is so common that everyone has a story or common knowledge of knowledge sharing failures.

All this being said, the concerns of crew change may not be an issue at all!   Here is why:

  • People are retiring at different times and the failures associated with their retirement can be overcome by brute force.
  • People that are of extreme value are coerced into staying or coming back.
  • People that are retiring may know how to do something today that is of value, but may not matter in the long run.
  • In a lot of organizations, people are being replaced by automation
  • Crew change may be akin to Y2K.
  • If companies cared about it they would do more than they are doing.  They would invest but they don’t, they essentially throw pennies at a problem that needs dollars.

It MAY take an event in an organization like a mass exodus to create enough of a concern in knowledge loss to make a difference, but the likelihood of that is ?.

When is too much enough?  Experts say to work this problem now, companies say they worry now, but will work it later.

Sales People

Who is raising awareness on the issues of crew change?   An article back in 2011 https://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=110134 asks if this is a wolf cry or reality?  Once again, this is about paying now or paying later.   If a company pays to start a knowledge transfer and continuity program, they will see it as a cost and their capability will perpetually remain flat.

What would you buy?

1) I am offering you a process and tool that once licensed will guarantee your organization can find and process energy resources 5% faster.

2)I am offering you a process and tool that once licensed will guarantee that you will continue your current operations at the very minimum as-is and at the very maximum with few disruptions.

You could take a position as I often do that knowledge transfer offers additional opportunities for innovation.  To decision makers this means nothing.  Innovation is something that you look back at and say, “wow”.    If you plan for innovation, you never get what you plan for because innovation itself as an activity is rarely targeted.  (see http://www.steveshapiro.com/)


It is estimated that Y2K cost over 1 trillion dollars to prevent or mitigate.   Was it worth it?  Was it really an issue?  Did the money spent prevent a major meltdown?   What new capabilities came from the Y2K expenditures?   Do you remember how much a Cobal programmer could make at that time?  Was it worth it?  They had valuable explicit and tacit knowledge!


In terms of knowledge on the job, if you can’t do what you did, you either pay to get someone who can or you do something else.

  • What you knew may not matter.
  • What you know may not matter.
  • You can do something better if you reinvent a capability based on the need and current requirements not on old ways. (Refactoring the workforce)
  • There is a reason that business isn’t worried.

Please Disagree

I hope that you have an argument that blows this post out of the water!  I have seen in my own practice the cost of ignoring knowledge transfer and continuity.  It isn’t a knowledge issue, it is a business issue.   I was on a program that once spent over 30+ million dollars on technology that was shelved in the long run because knowledge transfer did not occur.

When organizations believe there is value in knowledge transfer, they pay for it.    More often than not they talk about it, but they view it as a cost.   It is essentially viewed as a maintenance activity when it could be and I said COULD BE an opportunity to do things better, save money, add value and lower risk.

Until there is a direct impact on the bottom line that exceeds a corporate pain point, my position is that they WON’T invest the time and the money.    Frankly there are a lot of people in leadership roles that don’t think their staff is anything more than a resource or a corporate asset.   Do a short history check and see who the best leaders in our past century were “Neutron Jack,”  “The Peoples Tycoon,” etc.    What about the leadership books?  Art of War and others like this are touted.  You have to kill and be an asshole.   You have to make the shareholder happy at all costs.    You are thinking about now and the near future as opposed to investing in the long-term.