Knowledge Managers #Build From Scratch

Walk a Mile

If  you go to a fitness center and sign up for spin class would you trust your instructor if they looked like this?


All too often Knowledge Management “experts” and “consultants” have a great deal of academic experience, theories, data and knowledge but they may lack practical experience and wisdom to understand beyond words the challenges of starting, implementing, maintaining and managing a KM practice.

The broad scope of KM is covered well by Stan Garfield in his posts  on LinkedIn.  The simple thought that KM covers so many areas of thought and practice is fairly astounding.

  1. Best Practice Replication
  2. Best Practice Transfer
  3. Business Improvement Services
  4. Collaboration
  5. Collaboration Systems
  6. Collective Learning
  7. Communities
  8. Digital Enterprise
  9. Digital Transformation
  10. Enterprise 2.0
  11. Enterprise Collaboration
  12. Enterprise Content Sourcing
  13. Enterprise Learning and Collaboration
  14. Enterprise Social
  15. Enterprise Social Network
  16. Insights
  17. Intangible Asset Plan
  18. Intellectual Capital
  19. Intellectual Property
  20. Knowledge and Information Management
  21. Knowledge and Information Sharing
  22. Knowledge and Learning Processes
  23. Knowledge Development
  24. Knowledge Enablement
  25. Knowledge, Engagement and Collaboration
  26. Knowledge Exchange
  27. Knowledge Flow Management
  28. Knowledge Management
  29. Knowledge Processing
  30. Knowledge Publishing and Curation
  31. Knowledge Retention
  32. Knowledge Science
  33. Knowledge Services
  34. Knowledge Sharing
  35. Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration
  36. Knowledge Transfer
  37. Learning and Knowledge Exchange
  38. Learning Communities
  39. Learning from Experience
  40. Management
  41. Organizational Effectiveness
  42. Post-Industrial Knowledge Age Transformation
  43. Performance Management
  44. Radical Connectivity
  45. Social Business
  46. Social Collaboration
  47. Social Learning
  48. Social Media
  49. Social Networking
  50. Tackling Wicked Problems

The number of thought and practice areas are further complicated by the context of “where used.”   In other words,  if you are an “expert” in KM are you a generalist or do you specialize in something like CX (knowledge centered support), knowledge transfer, community etc.

Are you a “polymath’ of KM?

Practical Practice for Practitioner Preachers

The US Navy has a training device called the USS Buttercup 080226-N-4515N-138by the time these sailors found themselves in this very cold and challenging training exercise, they spent a considerable amount of time learning about “Damage Control.”  The navy starts teaching sailors about damage control right from the start at boot camp.   The instructors are generally from engineering fields and are highly trained and experienced with shipboard firefighting, flooding, pipe patching, emergency operations.

Knowing what to do.. is different than doing … and for knowledge management this matters just as much and even more than other fields.


How does this apply to KM?

If you work for a company that sells knowledge management, the expectation is that you practice what you preach.   If you are writing books about knowledge management, the expectation is that you have experience beyond the case study.   If you have a desire to become an knowledge management expert, start “working out”  or better yet “working out loud” and seek out ways to actually practice the trade.

Lead by Example

I personally started on the road to KM through learning about collaboration and collaboration patterns in project management with large geo-dispersed teams.  It wasn’t easy and I think there were a few days that I would have traded for some time in the USS Buttercup.    The reality of asking people to work together, reduce conflict and find ways to communicate, collaborate and cooperate under high pressure, high stress, and and high demand was no easy task.   My team was learning along the way and more often than not we felt there wasn’t enough time to be academically astute.   What we came up with was an agreement and understanding that we needed to work past the 42nd hour .   We had to do the work but also learn the concepts behind it in order to master it.

For every area in the broad umbrella of knowledge management I would find something practical.   I found through some pain and frustration that persistence and clarity of thought and vision (and faith) the most difficult challenges could be overcome.  Here are a few examples of actions you can take to move towards mastery.

  1. As part of my practice, I realize that what I currently believe as “fact” is fungible and may no longer be a fact.
  2. Building trust is the key to success but without having context or purpose around your work, you can’t build trust.
  3. KM should always be tied to business and business should always be tied to people including employee engagement.
  4. If you want to learn about “how to” perform knowledge transfer build something from scratch that you may have some knowledge about but not be an expert in. IMG_0943I built an arcade system with a mix of old parts, new components, hand made pieces and customized software and operating system.   I had to learn how to do some of the work and I had to find experts for software and hardware that is over 30 years old.  In some cases I had to “make stuff up” because what I needed, I couldn’t find or it didn’t exist as I needed it.  (Helps in Knowledge Transfer/ Crew Change / Community)
  5. Always study and learn, I read often and I work hard to take both old and new methods into practice.  John Stepper talks about Dale Carnegie as part of his working out loud concepts.
  6. Practice in house at every level.    When I was an Associate at Booz Allen, my peers would always tell me that I (can’t do) certain things and that what I was working on was not accepted by leadership.   They were thinking about how they felt about their own boundaries not mine.   Knowledge Management as a practice should come from multiple directions, it is an “omni channel” area of thought and business.   Parts of it are viral and parts of it need leadership buy-in and ownership.   It is up to you to make it work and become a leader from where you are.


Knowledge Management is a lot of things to a lot of people but with clarity of thought and context it can be the right information, to the right people at the right time.   It is more than an academic exercise and you don’t need anyones permission to become a master of one or more areas in this field.    At the same time, if you don’t practice what you preach, you may find yourself in the same boat as the 350 pound fitness trainer.











Practical Knowledge Management #Make

Make Something

One of the most discussed topics in KM is knowledge transfer.   There are all sorts of methods and frameworks or tools available for knowledge transfer but it all boils down to practical experience.

I believe the best way to learn about knowledge transfer is to take on something new and learn about how you learn.   For example, if you are interested in learning how to play a musical instrument, take this on as part of your work in knowledge management.  Block out time to learn for yourself.

I always keep at least one or two basic projects going that will push my abilities to the edge.  I look for something practical at work or at home to build or produce and I try to keep the project small.

As I enjoy technical projects I have built picture frames from old computers, television controllers from small computers,  video game controllers and most recently a video game retro-machine.   Actually, the video game machine is still not finished but this project has been frustrating and a great challenge.   This is good because it has forced me to think about ways to learn under difficult conditions.  I will follow up with a more detailed post about the game machine but the project is well worth the time.

I would suggest looking at Pinterest, Instructables, or Make to find a small project to start.   Choose something that you have some comfort level with in the beginning and make the project achievable.   Think about how you are learning and developing the skills to get you to your goal.  As you are learning and building think about your work in knowledge management and find ways to challenge yourself to bring practical experiences to your work.

There are plenty of times that I have been told that something is not transferrable and that may in some cases be true but sometimes a different approach is warranted to achieve the same outcome.  As you learn and experience your projects, you will be forced to find alternatives and this is absolutely critical for practical knowledge management and knowledge transfer.

If you have questions or comments, let me know.  I am happy to share.




Keep It Simple for Practical KM

Pick 3

Stan Garfield has many great posts on Knowledge Management, this is one of my favorites (LinkedIn Pulse).   He talks about creating a list of top 3 objectives to address KM challenges at your organization.  I have used this approach successfully as a consultant and also as a KM organizational lead.

Which 3?

The first thing you need to do is study the culture of your organization.   You have to learn about your culture and understand your industry and the workforce demographics.   This is no small exercise and should take at least 1-3 months depending on the size of your organization.

The best way to find this information is to read about the history of your organization and set up a series of interviews.   You should meet with as many people in the organization as possible ranging from CEO to the custodian.  The best stories I have ever heard were after hours from the custodial staff.

Most of the time I take notes but when I am talking to a member of the C-suite,  I bring information about the value of KM and some common pain points.

Common themes will start to emerge..     Here are three examples.

  1. Older workforce has a lot of subject matter expertise with no time or inclination to share knowledge.
  2. Operational costs for knowledge tools have increased 3x,  we aren’t sure of cost / benefit.
  3. We spend a lot of time looking for information.

Build Stories

Once you have your 3 areas of focus build narratives around these that you can talk about.   This is the very start of your practice.  As written it seems simple but I promise it is a lot of hard work and effort.   You will benefit in many ways as you meet people and learn about your company.   Even if you have been with your company for many years, there is always something new to learn.

Let me know if you have questions!







More on Whatever Happened to KM

RenderMeThis week I read an article in WSJ Whatever happened to KM by Thomas Davenport where he discusses some anecdotal and data driven evidence of a decreasing interest in knowledge management.   I found the article interesting but it felt a lot like Anne Thomas Manes 2009 declaration on the death of SOA .   The points that Thomas makes on the decline of interest in KM make sense but there are some hidden subtle areas of interest that he mentions that I believe we should talk about.   Below is the list of some of his ideas on why KM has faded.

  • It was too hard to change behavior. Some employees weren’t that interested in acquiring knowledge, others weren’t interested in sharing what they knew. Knowledge is tied up in politics and ego and culture. There were methods to improve its flow within organizations, but most didn’t bother to adopt them. Perhaps for this reason, the Bain survey (for example, the one from 2005) suggests that corporate satisfaction with KM was relatively low compared to some other management concepts.
  • Everything devolved to technology. KM is a complex idea, but most organizations just wanted to put in a system to manage knowledge, and that wasn’t enough to make knowledge flow and be applied.
  • The technology that organizations wanted to employ was Microsoft’s SharePoint. There were several generations of KM technology—remember Lotus Notes, for example?—but over time the dominant system became SharePoint. It’s not a bad technology by any means, but Microsoft didn’t market it very effectively and didn’t market KM at all.
  • It was too time-consuming to search for and digest stored knowledge. Even in organizations where a lot of knowledge was contributed to KM systems—consulting firms like Deloitte and Accenture come to mind—there was often too much knowledge to sort through. Many people didn’t have the patience or time to find everything they needed. Ironically, the greater the amount of knowledge, the more difficult it was to find and use.
  • Google also helped kill KM. When people saw how easy it was to search external knowledge, they were no longer interested in the more difficult process for searching out internal knowledge.
  • KM never incorporated knowledge derived from data and analytics. I tried to get my knowledge management friends to incorporate analytical insights into their worlds, but most had an antipathy to that topic. It seems that in this world you either like text or you like numbers, and few people like both. I shifted into focusing on analytics and Big Data, but few of the KM crowd joined me.

How *Some* Consultants and Vendors Make Money

My job as a contractor or a consultant was to find pain points, clearly identify them and work to either provide solutions or partner on finding solutions for my clients.   Pain points always exist and there are always opportunities to help organizations do a better job in management of people, process, methods and tools.   The questions around knowledge management through consulting are specifically around a clear realization of benefit through a short-term engagement.  That being stated, “you can’t get fat or fit in a day” and that is key to understanding how and why knowledge management is a hard pill for companies to swallow.   My experience as a consultant and through discussions with industry experts is clear and consistent, the client wants “a result” in a specific period of time.

The only way to demonstrate results with some level of assurance is to provide a technological capability or clear consistent organizational trends proving that the knowledge management exercise is working.   The price of waiting for results on the latter is too high.  From a profitability perspective, it realistically makes sense to implement a technological capability because we can prove and demonstrate  capabilities.   As the old saying goes that is “solving the wrong problem precisely” aka type III error .    From a sociological standpoint this challenge is not limited to this area of concern, it is pervasive.  Doctors are prescribing pills to lower cholesterol because it is “fast acting” and “easy” as opposed to going to the gym and changing a diet.   If consultants or vendors want to succeed they need to have a new pill and “Ted Talk” to go along with it.    The only difference is that you don’t see the pharmaceutical disclaimer at the end of the talk.

Notional Disclaimer

Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions while using Sharepoint to help them quit their siloed thinking behaviors. Some people had these symptoms when they began taking Sharepoint, and others developed them after several weeks of treatment or after stopping Sharepoint. If you, your organization, or partnered consulting firm notice agitation, hostility, depression, or changes in behavior, thinking, or mood that are not typical for you, or you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, aggression, anger, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia, or confusion, stop using Sharepoint immediately and call your Knowledge Manager right away. Also tell your consultants about any history of depression or other mental health problems before taking Sharepoint, as these symptoms may worsen while taking Sharepoint.

Some people can have serious reactions while taking Sharepoint, some of which can become life-threatening and overly costly to an organization and/or a person’s career. These can include rash, swelling, redness, and peeling of the skin and many trips to the unemployment center and/or a technical recruiter. Some people can have allergic reactions to Sharepoint, some of which can be life-threatening to an organization and include: cost overruns, cost underruns, poor results in knowledge transfer, mass exodus, performance failures, higher overall costs to infrastructure and support, poor or uninformed change management, lack of governance, decrease is sales, decrease in operational funding, decrease in margins and overall liquidation of departments or teams. If you have these symptoms or have a rash with peeling skin or blisters in your mouth, stop taking Sharepoint and get medical attention right away.


As a consultant,  I knew going into an engagement what would happen based on my experience of watching organization after organization take the same actions over and again.   That is why my team and I started with talking about why KM fails.   Sometimes it didn’t matter to clients why others failed because they had end of year money to spend or other reasons that they didn’t care.   Vendors and consultants can capitalize on organizational change and lack of knowledge around what it takes to make knowledge sharing practices successful.   Enough of this has happened over the course of the past x amount of years to give KM and other areas of work that deal with human behaviors a bad rap.    The pill is the quick fix and the quick sell but it only works if there is a health plan in place that encourages organizational recognition of the importance in human factors.

This is not a referendum on consulting or vendors as I would not knock a doctor for prescribing a statin.  This is about an understanding that until Ray Kurzweil realizes his dream of uploading his soul into the grid, knowledge management will be a part of life in organizations whether they choose to fund a practice or not.   Consulting firms and vendors will simply create solutions or leverage old solutions with new names and sell the capability or services under a different set of words.

Pay Now or Later

Knowledge Management won’t fade or go away or die because the concepts of KM are fundamental to an organizations ability to perform.   Consultants, vendors, academics, industry experts and others can call KM something else or stick the concepts in a different bin but water is water or a rose is a rose.    Agree or not this is a simple concept,  organizational knowledge is a generally replaceable intellectual asset in the form of capabilities, services, process, tasks and associated methodology the more an organization knows about “how” to do something the better the organizational ability to optimize performance, agility, productivity and innovation.    In the end, an organization will pay for “ability to execute and perform.”   If you lose the knowledge and the “how to” you have to pay to replace or substitute with some “like” knowledge.   That may or may not get the organization to the required results but then again that is very much like a fad diet or pill to solve the problem.

A Fish Can’t Whistle

Davenport says “Any chance that this idea will come back? I don’t think so.”    I think the question is upside down.   Is there any chance in the next 20+ years that concepts under the knowledge management umbrella will go away? I don’t think so.   Ask an Oil and Gas company what they would do if all of their engineers were replaced by robots.  Ask doctors and nurses what they would do without lessons learned, best practices, fresh information on current medical news or journals.   Hand a classroom of children all the classical instruments of our history and ask them to play the 5th symphony.     Organizations need people, process, methods and tools.   KM by any name is the “right information to the right people, at the right time for the right purpose.”     Watson can’t teach people how to feel or provide immediate feedback on “am I doing this right”?     Learning and development itself is part of the equation in KM but useful feedback by someone who knows and understanding of time to competency relative to an organizational requirement for competency is where the rubber meets the road.

Forgetting Practice

Shake and Bake Medical Center has decided to convert all of their hospital services to a flexible workforce urgent care center.  They have invested in all of the latest technologies and the finest most up to date infrastructure.   The medical center uses big data and Watson like technologies to perform analytics on each patient.   They converge data provided from a patients history, labs, DNA, feed from public google content, paid for data from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social outlets, data from purchases on food and buying habits through an agreement with banking systems, data from Fitbit or like devices  and data from government sources as part of a sanctioned data exchange program.    On arrival, a doctor or nurse practitioner could run thousands of queries and sift through petabytes of data to come up with a comprehensive profile about a person.    If we consider moving forward with a homogenized and pasteurized flexible workforce augmented by big data and emerging futuristic technologies what could go wrong?    One of the greatest challenges in healthcare today is communication.   Surgeons make critical mistakes and errors due to many factors but communication is one of the top.

In this great articleConnecting with Patients: The Basic Ingredient of Care,” written by Colette Herrick, published on the Six Seconds website, Colette discusses the reality of diminishing time for the patient provider relationship. – HLBlog

The financial reality of modern healthcare creates a relentless pressure to reach a swift diagnosis and treatment plan, to get the billing codes captured, and to move on to the next patient. These objectives are not conducive to empathy.

In her experience seeing the struggle to find enough time to apply the nuts and bolts of medicine, many professionals have difficulty using empathy and emotion in their encounters and decision-making.

When I raise this topic … there are typically two objections:  “I don’t have time”; and, when they are really being honest: “I don’t know how.”

With the pressures of applying the medical science we’ve been taught, using the art we’ve learned along the way, and facing the administrative burdens that go with the territory, we can find time to learn and effectively apply Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to our work. Colette explains:

The reason real empathy takes no extra time is that true empathy is not about an action it’s about a feeling.

How do we get there? How to we learn Emotional Intelligence and synchronize that with our skills, our science, and our time pressures? One of the keys is to know that using EQ results in real, positive changes for the patients and clinical outcomes. A study of diabetic patients in Parma, Italy concludes:

 [The] results suggest that physician empathy is significantly associated with clinical outcome for patients with diabetes mellitus and should be considered an important component of clinical competence.

The question isn’t about what the doctor knows about the patient as much as what the doctor knows about how to interact with a patient and others involved in patient care.

Knowledge alone is not enough..

The notion of a knowledge management program is great but in consideration of ROI or TCO or strategic investment, innovation, research and development etc,  the focus must be on gaining the basic information required in order to perform tasks that serve business requirements.   This drives a need to focus on areas that can return great value through analysis.    The concept is logically sound but flawed by humanity.    Google is showing great promise in AI which lends itself to fears around the singularity concept.   In our business world, we are forcing ourselves to be desensitized and emphatically stating that “it is just business” and that we should focus on facts.  If we base all of our decisions on facts we will still find ourselves with undesirable and costly results.    Imagine that you are using only data to make decisions without any consideration for morals, values or ethics, would that be a business that you would want to be a part of?  Would that be something you are proud of?   We balance our knowledge by experience, facts, and other data points to make decisions that have positive outcomes.   There are many occasions that someone would make a seemingly illogical business decision at that moment in time.  Those aren’t decisions that would convey well coming from a best practice through a Sharepoint repository.  In fact,  storytelling is an important part of KM but the stories have to be meaningful and be in relative context.    There are many tacit factors that have to be considered.   These become very clear when a gap is created from their lack of existence.

A young doctor tells a family “Your grandmother is very sick and dying, we are going to do nothing for her because statistically speaking, she doesn’t have long to live anyway.”   It’s just the facts…

Solving the wrong problems with great rigor

If we leverage the doctor consultancy or “Nurses R Us”  model for healthcare how could we ever know to gauge emotional intelligence?  The concept of EQ or RQ is addressed in knowledge management and can’t be ignored until the rise of the machine.   If organizations seek to switch people and/or technologies to create cost savings and efficiencies these will simply shift costs.  History says, it will increase costs overall because organizations will need to hire consultants to fix the new more challenging problems they created.   Will the machine now tell the doctor as part of the checklist

  1. Present facts to patient.
  2. State facts in kind manner.
  3. Create sense of emotional connection.
  4. Hand patient overall diagnosis.
  5. Enter information into billing system.
  6. Have patient sign in 17 places that they understand their rights, the facts and that you doctor_____<–fill in.. have been emotionally sufficient.
  7. Collect payment and refer patient for funeral services. ** Please Note: Shake and Bake will get 7% of all funeral service dollars with doctor allocation of .07%


KM is not dead.  KM is not dying. Knowledge will continue to be shared.   Organizations will have to deal with knowledge management and they may call it something else but it will still have the same properties as knowledge management.    As companies get closer to the non technical Y2K of our time known as “crew change” we will gain more insight as to how important knowledge sharing is.   I am confident that between now and 2020 companies will spend a lot of real dollars on knowledge transfer.   Maybe they won’t call Mr. Davenport for help or call it KM but they will call for help until 2030 when the machines take over or Ray has us all sharing our hopes, our dreams and bottled tacit knowledge in the Matrix.


Please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors as I outsourced my blog to Google's AI ChatBot.

Boiling the Frog – Human Factors around Sharing

The parable of the boiled frog is told to create a shared understanding around the key challenges in coping with change.

Frog in Hot Water

The story as told by many over the years is that if you put a frog in hot boiling water that it will immediately jump out as a natural response to the environmental conditions.   If you put a frog in a comfortable temperature and slowly heat the water, the frog won’t notice the changes over time and won’t respond to the temperature change until it is too late.

The frog tale has been debunked but the science behind it was never the point behind the story.  That is the focus of my thinking today.

When Facts Matter or Not

When I worked for a consulting firm, it was often stated that we should “focus on facts” or “facts are friends” but not unlike the tale of the boiling frog, the facts are not really facts, they are facts of convenience.   The personal and political agendas get in the way of sharing and the focus on self-centered and selfish behaviors is highly prevalent.  These behaviors make it very difficult at best to build trusted relationships.   The lack of trust makes it difficult to share information and knowledge.   People wind up feeling like they are in survival mode.    All the while information and knowledge does change hands but it seems to be a lot of noise and little signal.

More often than not, organizational sharing appears to have increased over time but has mostly decreased in effective or relevant content.  The fact is that content generation has dramatically increased but one has to question the sheer amount of content usefulness.


Why it Matters

If you throw the frog in the boiling water, there is a really good chance it won’t get out.   We have an expectation that we can place people in high intensity, high velocity and high stress conditions with an expectation that they can manage it or get out in a reasonable time.   Frankly, that is non-sense. We want these people to learn fast and suck the knowledge through a technical straw and become an expert within moments.  News flash, this isn’t the Matrix and Neo isn’t working for you.  We also are looking in many organizations to find ways to share information, data, and knowledge in an open and transparent way but not really.    For the past 5+ years all I have heard about is crew change concerns and subject matter expertise worries but they sort of equate to the boiling frog in the sense that we are watching the temperature rise a degree at a time.   Ultimately, it really “boils down to” the same things we recognize as true over human history.  You can fill your desk with the greatest books of all time but without the mastery of language and an understanding of the subject, you will still know nothing.   It doesn’t matter how smart you are either because you are dealing with unknowns.   If there is no trust,  you cannot transfer knowledge.   If someone thinks you have an agenda, they won’t teach you and they won’t listen.   All of the content and sharing that may come from you the learner or the teacher would be for nothing, just a number or artifact but potentially useless.

One must recognize that if we do not consider how we treat people who at the end of the day whether the frog was thrown into a boiling pot or it was trapped in the pot because the heat snuck up on it, both instances result in something bad for the frog.   Companies will spend millions of dollars on technologies to solve the problem of sharing but few will spend the time <– the time in understanding the behaviors.   If you don’t understand the behaviors and the human factors and they are left unattended, the result will be very bad.

Knowledge Driven

A trust driven organization will tell us that the frog story is a parable to help us think about the dangers of rapid change and our lack of awareness in change.  It would also say that the frog story is just a story.    It is that simple difference of being open and transparent that creates an environment that allows people to share.   If there isn’t a trust driven organization, there will never be a knowledge driven organization.


What we know is the frog story is told to help us understand and be careful in many situations, ultimately it is about awareness.  Gaining awareness is gaining knowledge.  We can only gain knowledge with trust.  Finally, just because we have content generated and information sharing occurring as an activity doesn’t mean that the information or knowledge is useful.   It can only be found useful from an authoritative source, authoritative meaning “trusted.” Additionally, if we don’t have trusted relationships, we may not even understand what we are looking at.

The answer..  start and lead with honesty, truth as you understand and clear intent.   All other roads will see someone boiled.


This post was written for my friends in consulting..  



The Value and Practicality of the Narrative

Practical Application of the Narrative

Operational Tacit

My cousin is medical student studying in one of the worlds best medical schools. The time-tested and effective best practice in medicine is to teach students by way of books, labs, peer-to-peer, mentoring, coaching and discovery. Consider that educators are not limited by these mechanisms but these are common tools they leverage. The discovery aspect of the education becomes most important as the students enter their medical residency. The student’s experience and awareness of the realities in medical practice become real at this moment. It is the point in their journey where reality sets in and they are actively gaining a tacit understanding of their world.

As part of this experience, my cousin was sent to an emergency trauma center for a few weeks. The hours were long and erratic. One of her first experiences in the center happened not long after her arrival. As she stood in the hallway with one of her student partners, the doors flung open and medical staff were running down the hallway pushing two gurneys. The staff all the while working as a high performance team yelling to each other and coordinating activities as they ran down the hall. My cousin looked over to her friend and said regarding the two gurneys together “I wonder if that is one person or two”

Beyond those words there lives a rush of adrenaline, fear, hope, wonder and an internal experience that can only be described in such a way that it scrapes at our tacit understanding. We understand the idea of jumping out of an airplane or being in a war like situation but through discovery and our own experience we gain the knowledge that informs our hearts along with our minds.

The Story in the End and the Beginning.

The narrative is the connection of events. The connection of events as spoken or written tells a story but not THE story. The power of the narrative is the contextual explanation of the relationship between things. We understand things as stories and this is how we rationalize our world. The narrative as words spoken or written is an important part of our humanity and our effectiveness in communication.

The Common Threshold

The narrative can be practical, effective and for purpose. Every job role has purpose and this purpose is aligned with a greater vision, objective and scope of activities. The narrative in use can be the starting point for these activities.

Practical Use

For every role or activity the narrative can be the starting point. The starting point is the key to understanding the who, what, when, where and potential for how (over time) at a given period of time.

Narrative Activity

The basis of a high level summary that identifies who, what and why. These are given based on a period of time and understanding of a situation.


George is part of the cable group, the cable group pulls cable for the cable company. The cable is used to support internal and external customers of the organization (Organization x). Organization x is a media company that is focused on the distribution of video and audio services and channels for millions of customers across region x and around the globe.

Understanding where George fits creates a sense of clear purpose for George but also allows for a value mapping of his role to the greater purpose of the organization.

The cable group is part of the infrastructure team. The infrastructure team manages physical assets based on new cable requirements and operational maintenance considerations.

The cable group enables Organization x to grow and serve new markets by creating the physical channels and conduits of connectivity. The cable group allows Organization x to maintain operational excellence by maintaining the infrastructure and supporting current physical network topologies.

The story of George in scope.

George represents every person in context of their role. This person is a performer and actor, he has value and this value needs to be understood. The role and context of the role is the list of things that George may do.

1)Maintain tools

2)Project Planning

3)Repair, create and install cable and cable channels.

The narrative can help clarify and express with more definition the stories within the activities in the list. The time it takes to capture the story is an investment in the future relative to business and knowledge continuity. The job description is only the list but George is the person and his work is much more than a list or process. It is a composition of these patterns interwoven by relationships to form the story.

At the end of a story we learn through reflection.   Our daily lives are filled with short stories that we don’t have the time or take the time to reflect on under most normal conditions.   Although, there are times that we do but we may not write these down or share them any further.  “Honey, how was your day?”  The end of the day can cap a chapter or maybe it is just a pause.

The point is that people choose to reflect on narratives most often when there is a perception that the story is over.   From a business perspective, we can ask to reflect at any time in the story to understand what is happening and participate as an action agent or actor ourselves.  In a lot of ways there isn’t a need to say everything out loud all the time but if we never ask, we never know.

The proper care and feeding of an organization.

George is set to retire. Over the past 36 years, he worked as a tradesman in Organization x as a “Cable Master” he could have written the book on cable but over the 36 years he never had time. He never had time and most folks didn’t know anything about what George actually did. Human resources had George classified as Senior Lineman Cable Technician. They looked at their records and realized that he was set to retire last year at 35 years of service but due to economic conditions he never put a retirement package in.

George was good an employee, he was effective and impactful in his work. Due to one condition or another, George must retire.

In 3 hours you are to capture 36 years of his work..

Consider the framework of many companies today in terms of employee engagement and understanding.    If Organization x is an average company leadership may have actually engaged with George concerning his performance, activities, role and responsibilities 35 times.     We could say that they had 35 opportunities to capture the narrative or reshape the story.   On most occasions over my career,  I have seen managers / leaders try to find ways to just get the performance assessment over with.  Even in the case where assessments were 360 degrees or converted to an ongoing activity, they are always something to avoid.

Now over the 35 opportunities of the annual assessment process which we could recognize of the story of this year past,  the narrative is left and the story stays with George.  It is interesting to consider that companies always tell stories of their foundation and history but they never attend to that history as it lives.  It is only upon reflection of the leadership of the company.   If these same organizations leveraged the time they have to engage their staff, capture the narratives and share the purpose, imagine how much more rich the organization could be.  Also, if we knew more from George over the past 35+ years, we would know much more about his contribution as a person of value and of what we need to know and do moving ahead to maintain and grow.

 Practical Behavior

We are here for a very short period of time.   That is true of every person everywhere.    Our history and heritage is important and understanding how we connect and relate in a given period of time offers understanding that will help prevent mistakes or benefit us in the future.   We have an opportunity to trade a little time on a daily, monthly, weekly, yearly basis to close chapters and reflect on many stories / narratives in our world.

The explicit capture and collection could lead to codification or an organized understanding of who, what, when, where, why and how an organization functions.   The benefits are endless.

Take a look here a good place to start!


Collecting Knowledge isn’t Easy

Being Human

Qualia (from the Latin, meaning “what sort” or “what kind”; Latin and English singular “quale”, pronounced KWAHL-ay) are most simply defined as qualities or feelings, like redness, as considered independently of their effects on behavior.

In more philosophical terms, qualia are properties of sensory experiences by virtue of which there is something it is like to have them.  (

Feeling Complexity

I have a memory of being a child living in an apartment.   My mother was out for some reason and it was a cold winter day.   I heard her putting the key into the door and since the door had multiple locks I jumped up and ran to the door to help.   When the door opened up I felt a blast of cold air as she grabbed me and hugged me.  I could smell the scent of rain and snow mixed in with her normal mom smell.   The cool feeling of her outside jacked was cold to the touch but warm to my heart.    This is one of my favorite memories but it is truly hard to describe.

Collecting Knowledge

Everything we can manage is the result of something we can produce.   We can suppress emotions but we can’t really manage them.   We can suppress our reaction to something as long as we can condition our minds to respond to input based on practices of conditioning.   In other words,  if you are boxer,  you may have a condition where you tolerate more pain but we technically can’t manage it.

A collection of knowledge is a “best attempt” to get information about something.    Imagine if we sought to collect all of the knowledge you have, how could this be done?   You don’t even have access to all of your knowledge.    In fact, we rationalize the things we don’t know by addressing them with faith.   I don’t mean religion when I say faith, I mean a rule of expectation.   These rules of expectation allow us to perform tasks.   They are short cuts that our brains use to be effective.

When collecting knowledge, we have to unearth the short cuts. 

When you turn on your computer, you have an expectation that it will perform as you expect.  You may not possess all of the knowledge in the device, all of the knowledge that the device is connected with and/or the knowledge to make the device itself function.

If you wanted to collect knowledge about the device, you would seek out all of these things and more.   In a way, it doesn’t make sense.    What a lot of people say at that point of complication is “it is what it is.”  Why?  Because we can only manage so much and tolerate so much, there are thresholds that we should consider.

We might consider the term Knowledge Management a false harmony.   We can see an explicit list of things in a collection but it would be at best faith to consider that we could attain an understanding and rationalization of this list of things.

Where’s Waldo

Why are we looking for Waldo?

What is the purpose of Waldo?

Even though there is a lot of information here,  the knowledge to find Waldo in fact lives outside of the picture in your head.   I will find Waldo either before or after you find Waldo.  In fact, the only way I could find Waldo faster than you for certain is if I had this picture before you and I know where he is.    One thing is for sure for most of us, we have faith and belief that Waldo is in fact in this image.   What if he isn’t there?  The shortcut of belief that Waldo is in the picture allows us to set the stage to spend more time looking for Waldo.   I could present you with the answer of where Waldo is or you could go on the learning journey of discovery and find Waldo yourself.

It all boils down to the fact that it is all complicated.    We could even consider that depending on our level of tolerance for frustration and patience that you or I may never find Waldo.

Knowledge Management Considerations

We could consider that since we have the technology to collect but we don’t have the capacity to yet understand the wholeness of a collection, that we still need to consider and maintain the value of our subject matter experts.

Knowledge has the most fidelity at the personal level.   We should consider that any overall Knowledge Management practice will always end with something to collect and someone to maintain or interpret the collection. As opposed to gaining the collection as an holistically explicit thing unto itself.