Working Out Loud: Speaking to Leadership (Part 2 of 5)

anchoredSpeaking with Leadership and Working Out Loud

Part 2 “Speak Up”

  1. Show up whenever possible (Part 1)
  2. Ask to speak with senior leaders; chances are they will see you. 
  3. Advocate for yourself and others. (Part 3)
  4. Speak to the heart and mind. (Part 4)
  5. Have faith and courage. (Part 5)

“Senior leadership isn’t interested in what I have to say.”
“They (leaders) don’t care what we think.”
“We are just the hired help here.”
“I don’t have time and I am not really motivated”
“I have tried before and it didn’t work.”

I hear phrases like this often. I have heard people say what they can’t do and what leaders aren’t willing to do for most of my career. What I have found is that people make assumptions about leaders based on their personal perspective. The reality may be very far from a personal truth. In fact, there are many reasons why leaders want to hear from their staff. It is important to take into consideration that everyone is different and that organizational cultures are different. We have to be mindful of the approach in every organization but in my experience there are good people who are willing to spend time learning from their peers and staff.

**Note: When you are Working Out Loud, there should be a clear purpose articulated. It helps filter noise to signal as people try to gain clarity on your message.

Working Out Loud and Senior Leadership

A few years ago, my team was working on a project that would help grow business for our company. We were beyond excited and ready to get started. We had a client, a plan and support from our immediate leadership. Our team worked in a very specific business area; we were specialized to an extent. Our client / customer base was part of a specific practice in our company. When we discovered and developed this new opportunity, we thought that our company would jump all over it. We also thought that they had a process that we could follow or learn. We were wrong.

There wasn’t a process or practice we could follow and what followed was a series of rejection and overall negativity that could have stopped us in our tracks but that didn’t happen. Here is what we did.

  1. Read, Study, Learn, Write: Our team started working the 42nd hour in other words; we spent a lot of time working after hours. I don’t think we went Elon Musk but we met up, read books on the subject of interest, and we met with other industry experts and worked hard to write multiple aspects of a business case. On Sunday mornings I would blog about some of the things I learned but I would keep my writing generic to an extent. Our team figured that anything we were learning along the way could benefit others as well as ourselves. Writing also helped sharpen our understanding of the work and presented an opportunity for experts to help us.
  2. Shaping the Story: Who you are and what you do are important. Your company hired you for reasons beyond your knowledge, skills and abilities. You found a way to fit in and you are part of an organizational ecosystem. What does that mean? What is the story of you? We started by rewriting our resumes and we created multiple versions. We also wrote short biographies and created some high level presentations around our thinking.
  3. Learning Leadership: The corporate intranet is treasure trove of information. Every large organization I have worked with has a lot of information about their leadership in org charts but they also may have articles and biographies. The first thing I do is research both internal and external inter and intranet resources to learn about senior leaders. It is also general practice for me to know the people I work for directly. **note: Sometimes even leadership needs leadership.
  4. Schedule Interviews: Starting with my direct supervisor, we scheduled 10 minute phone calls or quick meet ups to discuss our ideas. In our case our supervisor was pretty excited about what we were doing. It was the next level up where we started to run into challenges but we scheduled meetings there too. When they didn’t want to meet, we scheduled meetings with their peers and folks above them. On one occasion, we scheduled a meeting with the most senior partner of our firm. When our peers and leaders told us that it would be impossible to reach him, we reached out to his Executive Admin and asked for help. We had an in person meeting scheduled almost immediately.
  5. Leverage the Network: We used our internal social network to build community connections. Our organization had over 22,000 people including a multinational presence. We used our understanding of community management and social networking to discuss our ideas. We asked for help in our communities and we were active contributors. We used the concept of “batching” work.

Nothing is Easy

Our team turned an opportunity into a great deal of money.  It wasn’t easy; it took hard work and a lot of writing. We also had a lot of rejection. Many folks in middle management rejected us even when we offered our work as part of a partnership. For every few that rejected us, we found friends and champions.

The most compelling aspect of this story is when we traveled to visit the senior partner. In hand we had a few slides talking to our thinking. We had sent some read ahead material that he didn’t have a chance to look at. We had a few discussions with his EA to learn about the best way to communicate with him. We sat down in his office and he asked, “How can I help you?” We were ready to answer that question. He listened intently, gave us direction and proceeded to help us. He also mentioned in our discussion that he had wished others would reach out to him. Most often, it is lonely place at the top with a lot of information prepared and filtered. We didn’t have a problem sharing our perspective and he used that perspective to help shape some of his strategic initiatives.

Part 3.. Advocate for yourself and others..

What is that story of you?

What can you do to advocate for yourself and others?

Why is it important to advocate for others at times over yourself?

What are tools that you can use?

How can this be applied to your business or organization?

Social Constructivist Learning @ Work

Cognitive and Social

Learning Concepts — Basic Premise of Social Constructivist.

The concepts that we have studied around learning for children can be applied to adults as well.  There isn’t some date or time that cognitive psychology just short circuits and expires.   As a KM practitioner and consultant I am finding that simple is more effective than complex and that lessons learned from education applies directly to Knowledge Management and education in business.

What is Social Constructivist Learning?

Lev Vygotsky ( a cognitive psychologist asserts that socialization and culture provide children with the cognitive tools required for development.  One of the best known concepts from Vygotsky, the zone of proximal development (ZPD) is as follows:

Vygotsky’s ZPD emphasizes his belief that learning is, fundamentally, a socially mediated activity. Thinking and problem-solving skills can, according to Vygotsky, be placed in three categories. some can be performed independently by the child. Others cannot be performed even with help. Between these two extremes are skills the child can perform with help from others. those skills are in the ZPD. If a child uses these cognitive processes with help of others, such as teachers, parents, and fellow students, they will develop skills that can be independently practices. As Vygotsky (1987) puts it, ” What the child is able to do in collaboration today he will be able to do independently tomorrow.” Whereas an extreme interpretation of Piaget can lead to the conclusion that teachers teach best who get out of the way and let a naturally unfolding development take its course, Vygotsky’s theory requires an involved teacher who is an active participant, and guide, for student.

Vygotsky’s concepts assert that children develop best in social or group settings, the use of technology to connect students would be an appropriate practical application of these concepts.

“A constructivist teacher creates a context for learning in which students can become engaged in interesting activities that encourages and facilitates learning. The teacher does not simply stand by, however, and watch children explore and discover. Instead, the teacher may often guide students as they approach problems, may encourage them to work in groups to think about issues and questions, and support them with encouragement and advice as they tackle problems, adventures, and challenges that are rooted in real life situations that are both interesting to the students and satisfying in terms of the result of their work. Teachers thus facilitate cognitive growth and learning as do peers and other members of the child’s community.” (

There are four principles are applied in any Vygotskian classroom.

  1. Learning and development is a social, collaborative activity.
  2. The Zone of Proximal Development can serve as a guide for curricular and lesson planning.
  3. School learning should occur in a meaningful context and not be separated from learning and knowledge children develop in the “real world”.
  4. Out-of-school experiences should be related to the child’s school experience.

How does this translate to adults in business ?

A KM facilitator or Community Manager (CM) acts essentially as an enabler for employees as performers and subject matter experts.   The information and knowledge management activities are centered through collaboration and connectivity of information in context.  The CM can create activity based toolkits that experts and activity performers can leverage as part of a collaborative approach.

Key factors include:

  1. A safe environment for students to collaborate.  ~Translates to “safe and open environment for employees”
  2. A facilitated set of activities that introduce real life concepts for students.~Translates to “facilitate activities that are simulations of real business situations or labs”
  3. Technological capabilities that “enable” active collaboration. ~ SAME
  4. Appropriate feedback models and measures that provide information to teachers, librarians and students. ~ SAME for adult learners

What tools and technologies could be used for these activities?  (for teaching but … applies to business)

  • Reading and Writing Workshops:  This approach teaches students reading and language arts from a student-centric or student-centered process that gives students as individual performers and groups a great deal of responsibility on making decisions pertaining to what they will study and the reasoning behind it.  This approach emphasizes the collaborative and social aspects and nature of learning.    Collaboration activities that occur in the workshop are facilitated and conference driven workflows that include classroom and non-classroom based activities.  Students will create ideas, drafts and written products through explicit exchanges with peer groups, teachers, parents and other relevant members of the student’s social network.
  •  The collaboration activities are “for purpose” and have a meaningful outcome for students to aspire to as opposed to providing a summary of a teacher lesson and/or reiterating a teachers personal perspective or interpretation.   The function of a group discussion in both small groups and larger whole-class groups creates a feedback loop that informs both students and teachers.  In the case of this collaborative construct everyone has an opportunity for shared learning and communication.  Teachers who have the ability to take on active learning roles can inform and teach students how to listen, write, speak, read and effectively communicate.   Teachers actively teach students how to learn and think about information and further convert this information into knowledge that can be actualized.  This pragmatic approach can prepare students for education from a learning engagement perspective, social perspective and practical implementation perspective.

Here are some examples of this approach:

Whole Language:  “In the simplest terms, the “whole language approach” is a method of teaching children to read by recognizing words as whole pieces of language. Proponents of the whole language philosophy believe that language should not be broken down into letters and combinations of letters and “decoded.” Instead, they believe that language is a complete system of making meaning, with words functioning in relation to each other in context”. (What is the whole language approach?)

While these concepts are the basis for teaching children, they apply to adults almost across the board.

Some key characteristics of the whole language approach are:

  •  Acceptance of learners. This means, in part, that all learners are accepted regardless of their cultural or socio-economic background or other characteristics or labels. But in whole language classrooms, “acceptance of learners” also means that whole language teachers develop the classroom environment and the curriculum for and with the students, to meet their needs and engage them in learning about what interests them, as well as to cover essentials from the curriculum guidelines.
  • Flexibility within structure. Instead of having children do one brief activity or worksheet after another, whole language teachers organize the day in larger blocks of time, so that children can engage in meaningful pursuits. Thus they engage in fewer different tasks, but larger and more satisfying projects. They may have a readers’ and writers’ workshop, for instance, when the children read books and perhaps use them as models for their own writing. They may study a theme or topic at least part of the day for several days or weeks, using oral and written language and research skills to pursue learning in the realm of social studies and/or science and math, and using language and the arts to demonstrate and share what they have learned. Together and individually, the students have many choices as to what they will do and learn, which enables them to take significant responsibility for their learning. However, the teacher guides, supports, and structures the children’s learning as needed. Flexibility within the larger time blocks offers the time that learners need (especially the less proficient) in order to accomplish something meaningful and significant.
  • Supportive classroom community. Many whole language teachers help children develop skills for interacting with each other, solving interpersonal conflicts and problems, supporting one another in learning, and taking substantial responsibility for their own behavior and learning.
  • Expectations for success as they engage in “real” reading, writing, and learning. Kids aren’t kept doing “readiness” activities, in preparation for later reading and writing; rather, they are given the support they need to read and write whole texts from the very beginning. Whole language teachers have discovered that virtually all children can learn to read and write whole texts. This is true also of children who have heretofore been sent to resource rooms because they had difficulty with skills work. Indeed, reading whole texts is often easier for these children than doing the skills work.
  • Skills taught in context. Instead of being taught in isolation, skills are taught through mini-lessons and conferences, in the context of students’ reading, writing, and learning. For example: phonics is taught mainly through discussion and activities deriving from texts the children have read and reread with the teacher, and through writing the sounds they hear in words. Spelling is mainly taught when children are editing their writing, and grammar is mainly taught as the teacher helps children revise and edit what they’ve written. Skills like using the index of a book are taught when students need to locate information on a topic they want to research, while using the yellow pages of a phone book is taught when children need to locate resources within the community. In short, skills are taught while students are engaged in real-life tasks.
  • Teacher support for learning: scaffolding and collaboration. Teachers provide “scaffolding” for learning in many ways. For instance, primary grade teachers read Big Books and charts to and with children again and again, enabling the children to read whole texts before they can read independently. Whole language teachers help children write the sounds they hear in words, thus enabling the children to communicate through writing. They collaborate with children in carrying out research projects and, in the process, they model and explain how to do things that the children could not yet do alone. By collaborating on projects, children provide similar support for each other.
  • Contextualized assessment that emphasizes individuals’ growth as well as their accomplishments. Assessment is based primarily upon what children are doing from day to day as they read, write, do math and science, research topics of interest, and express their learning in various ways. Comprehensive, “portfolio” assessment will include data not only on the products of children’s efforts, but on their learning processes. Whole language teachers commonly involve children in assessing their own work and progress, and in setting future goals for learning. Parents and peers may also be involved in assessment. Individual growth and strengths are emphasized, along with progress in meeting agreed-upon goals and predetermined criteria.
  • Situated Learning- The concept of situated learning has been put forward by Lave and Wenger (1991). The idea is to look at social process and engagement over cognitive process and conceptual structures.  William F. Hanks puts it in his introduction to their book: ‘Rather than asking what kind of cognitive processes and conceptual structures are involved, they ask what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place’ (1991: 14). The fundamental idea around situated learning is based in the concepts of “communities of practice.”
  • Collaborative Learning- This is the idea that more than one person can work together to learn together.  Further that participants in this kind of learning approach will overall perform better than individual performs.
  • Anchored Instruction- “ refers to instruction in which the material to be learned is presented in the context of an authentic event that serves to anchor or situate the material and, further, allows it to be examined from multiple perspectives.” (Barab 2000:5)
  • Gamification (Gamification) is the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. Children today are extremely responsive to playing electronic games. There are number opportunities for social and collaborative learning thought live virtual construction and other virtual technologies. Some examples are Minecraft, World of Warcraft and even a new site called Growtopia. Working with the Librarian teachers can leverage these technologies with students both in and out of the classroom.  Additionally, children can extend their reach by employing these same technologies at home.
  • Model Based Instruction(Simulation)– Technologies have advanced in modeling and simulation well beyond the traditional block Lego.  There are Snap Circuits for children to create electronic modeling, amateur computing like the Raspberry Pi where students can create software applications, programs, games and operating environments.  Librarians can use lessons learned and best practices to reproduce and construct scientific models to describe, to explain, to predict and to control physical phenomena.



Community Managers and Knowledge Managers with a clear understanding of business AND employee needs as “requirements” can work alongside their peers as enablers.  A clear understanding of technology and the applicability to the various approaches in context of collaboration and social learning will educate the subject matter experts and practitioners alike .  As technology, process, and practice evolve facilitators can maintain their role as the implementation and facilitation specialists which  create, maintain, grow and facilitate the various lessons learned, best practices and technological capabilities in order to support the shared objectives of facilitated collaborative learning and instruction for the specific purpose of enhancing business.


Harold has it right!

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..  

The Context of Perspective

Chipping Away

Day after day, we chip away on the mountains of work or things we need to do in our lives at home.   A lot of people live in “unintentional isolation,” which creates some complexity with regard to our ability to be holistically better.

A few years ago, I read a book called The Curse of Blessings by Mitchell-Chefitz.  This week while considering what to write, I was thinking about how innovation comes from pulling information across domains.    I happened to pull this book off the shelf and when I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised to find this story.    I emailed the author and asked permission to share his content.   Have the courage to venture left or right!

Curse of Blessings 49

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books50

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books51

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz Google Books52

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books53Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books54

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right C Story an Change Your Life   Mitchell Chefitz   Google Books55

Curse of Blessings  Sometimes  the Right Story Can Change Your Life Mitchell Chefitz Google Books56Thank you Mitch!

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.

The 42nd Hour

CohenMWhitney.jpgcohen_whitneyCohenAfter 42 CohenOcampo_o

It was dark, I was awake but still trying to sleep.   I woke up before the Morning Wake Up followed by “Reveille reveille, all hands heave out and trice up.”    It didn’t  matter if I had slept or not I was still tired.

The room was lit by small red lights, it smelled musty like mold, ass and fuel oil.   Everyone was moving around at the same time and grumbling.   I was on the bottom rack, which mean’t that I had to wait for the two guys above me to get up.   I had to keep my curtain closed because if I didn’t, I would see a sight that for me would be let us say unpleasant.   I actually had an old magazine picture of  Marilyn Monroe on my rack.  She was not of my generation but neither was the Navy.   It was old in this place but new at the same time.

My days and nights were long ,in the vastness of the gray walls of the box I felt trapped in (ship), time was only bound and unbound by the blow of a whistle.  In other words,  work was 24 hours a day every day and rest(sleep) was in two hour increments except on Sundays.   We knew it was Sunday because someone told us.    That was the life of a Damage Controlman or other engineering type.      These seemingly endless days will stay with me forever,  I never expected them to follow me into my civilian life.


It is that moment when the main character in a body of work makes a critical discovery.   I had this moment not long ago when I saw the garage door open up.   As it slowly crept up, I saw the shadow of a small figure coming towards me.   It was Sammy, my youngest son “Daddy.. daddy, you’re home.. you’re home!!”

SammyCohenblog42.jpgWhat is more precious than time?    It was the critical discovery that the enemy is me.

The walls aren’t haze gray but I am underway.   I am underway because I am bounded by my own box.   It is work…. and it begins at the 42nd hour.     It was not long ago that I had a dream of having a house to call my own.   It was my goal to have my own place and have the ability to raise my kids in a safer place than the Bronx.    Working hard isn’t the problem.   It is all the sacrifice and loss that is the problem.    It is my goal to create as much stability for my wife and children as I can.   If I can do that, and I can help others along the way, I would pay the price of lost time.    When the garage opens and I am coming from work or a work related trip, it isn’t long before the boys are running out of the garage or down hall of the house to greet me.   It is the best!  For that moment in time, I am a rock star and I love the hugs and kisses.   I know I am working hard for them and it brings me to tears to see them have what they need and maybe a little more.

The 42nd Hour

My work day is pretty normal, at least I think it is normal.   I wake up early morning, get all the morning business taken care of, check my emails , texts and any other messages and get myself into my car.    I plug in whatever audio book I am in the middle of and head out to work.    I may take a call or two on the way to my client site and on arrival on-site find myself in a meeting or three.    Most of my day is answering questions that are mostly random and/or I am in meetings.   I would say that I am productive from my perspective for a very short time in the day.   The day may fly by but it is still a long day,  I get back home and my wife who is a full time mom and student gets us all ready for baseball practice, homework or other activities.    We get to sit down and eat together sometime around the 6 o’clock hour but all the while my smart phone goes off or emails are popping in.     I look up at her sometimes and she just gives me that look which tells me she is disappointed but understanding at the same time.    My kids know that “Daddy has to worK” almost always.    In terms of hours logged, I would say that they don’t exactly line up.   I am almost always on.   When I do take time off, it feels like I am missing something and/or I am going to be overwhelmed if I don’t keep up.   It sort of reminds me of the old Lucy episode when she is working at a chocolate factory.  It isn’t long before you miss something and all feels like it is lost.

This introduces the concept of the 72 hour work week.    HBR wrote an article about this recently  in context this is more about Executives, Managers and Supervisors.   I am addressing what happens for the rest of us after the 42 hour.

What happens after 42?

I could be into hour 40 by my 3rd work day.   After work and after some home life, there is work.   As a consultant, I have to read, write, and study related concepts, keep my network fresh and up to date and report on all aspects of what I am doing for my business leadership and for my clients.  These reports will look different and feel different to my various stakeholders.    I will have to be a cheerleader, and a rock for some of my team mates and to others I will ask for help and have my own tears for people who may understand how I feel.   In a lot of the work I do, it is a foreign language, it isn’t like I can talk to my family about it and it seems that the more I learn, the more I have to read to either find ways to be conversant in my area of work or find ways to teach what I am learning.    All of this takes me time.    I have seen and heard the horror stories from others as well.  I had a manager who fell asleep in his car driving home late at night and almost got killed in a tunnel.   I have known people who work from their hospital beds and of course those of us work have worked from Disney World (GUILTY).

After the 42 hour the work seems to become more productive because you are not in some unproductive meeting or dealing with a line of people physically demanding your time.   It is also where all of my business ideas and entrepreneurial work takes place.   I have developed more business opportunities at home after 8:00PM than in the office at 10:00AM by far.    Sometimes my team-mate Wendy would come to my house and bring her family while we work on ideas, even on Sunday after she goes to Church.

No Tears But I Wonder..

I recently met with some colleagues whom I consider friends.   I asked “What does the end mean, when I say, begin with the end in mind?”   Jay didn’t hesitate and said “happiness.”   It is what a lot of us want, after all, as I said in the beginning here, it would make me happy to find and maintain stability.   Long gone are the days when you get a job and you work 9-5 for one company until the end of your career.   That being said, companies today seem to expect 60+ hour work weeks.  Even when you make great business strides they look our efforts as a tragic necessity.    With my leadership, I started using the term “after the 42nd hour” in order to differentiate when I am working on after hour but seemingly mandated areas of work.

I am not alone, I have asked others about their work lives.   Organizations are demanding more and giving back less to their employees because employees have fear that if they don’t sacrifice their blood and all of their time that they are disposable and of less value than others who are willing to do more.  Of course you have outliers who just don’t seem to give a shit and work their 42.5 hours but in the end they are viewed as less than stellar performers.

YoungHowieSomewhere between my younger self and today SamBoErin and Me

FamilyCohen I don’t want to lose everything that I started fighting so hard for in the first place.  The things that really matter after the 42nd hour.

Me and E