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!







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?

Shout, Show and Share to Work Out Loud

Working Out Loud – Simply Works..

I can easily see how everyday my life is better for practicing behaviors that are aligned and consistent with WOL.   When I first met John Stepper he said “I don’t care about selling books, I care about helping people.”  If he were to have any disappointment it would potentially be that he could not reach further and help more people.   It left a very clear impression on me.   John conveyed his ideas beyond his words alone and spoke from his heart.    I believe that we should do our part to help people as well.

As a child my step father would go to the Salvation Army depot and pick up an emergency services disaster relief truck to serve firefighters on 3 alarm or greater fires.   It could be 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, he would go and serve the firefighters and police through the disaster.   He had a full-time job to do as well.   The whole family would go sometimes and serve cookies and milk or ice tea to the blackened faces and tired eyes of the NYC service members.   Andre (my step father) would say that we need to “show up” and he enjoyed just being there to help.

I thought about John Stepper and Andre both in consideration of the work I had before me in knowledge management.    It is empowering to serve and act to help others and I wanted to find ways to introduce these concepts in all aspects of my life.    I read a lot about leadership and I try to account and understand my failures along with my success.   I know I can do better and I work to stay resilient.

I am happy to share what I have seen actually work.  I also want to put this in context of this quote “The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.” – M. Scott Peck

I believe that John may never see the millions of people that he helps or the butterfly effect of his insights and wisdom but if we know that we help one person, this may be all that is needed to create a positive impact and the desired outcome.

Here are some basics that work.

Corporate Communications..  **Shout Out**

1) Use the 5 Whys.. to explain what problem you are looking to help solve by Working Out Loud.

2) Use stories to tell people the value of Working Out Loud without having specific problems to solve.

3) Ask your communications team to help share and convey your message.

Create an Event or a Series and **Show Up**

1) The more you show up the better off everyone is.   Your stories will get better and you will become more relaxed and comfortable.  Beyond that, showing up is showing that you care.

2)Go to your people.  People may not have time to come to an event or see you, but you can find your way to them.  Making the effort is critically important.



Every one of us has a story to share and experiences that can help others.    Share your ideas, your thoughts and your experiences and be open to listening and reading the thoughts of others.  It helps in many ways both for business and personal reasons but the practice of sharing and infectious and are good for your overall health and well being.   At the same time, have no expectations of getting feedback.   If you put something out there today it may find its way to usefulness many moons from now but have faith that it matters.





Before Knowledge Management and Working Out Loud

The Practice of Civility

If you ask 100 Knowledge Management experts how to effectively implement and practice KM, you really do get close to 100 different answers.  I believe this is because there isn’t one right answer.   I believe that we should consider that before we go into looking at maturity models and k-strategies that we must attend to and address how people in our organization feel and how we engage with each other.   A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting John Stepper.   John has written about ways to help people work and share knowledge by helping us understand that we each have a personal responsibility to help each other.    At the core of John’s message lives a theme around choice.   We have a choice on how we behave and respond to others.   We have a choice to help others and share our knowledge.    Here is a link to John’s blog

So now, when someone asks me “What’s Working Out Loud”?, here’s what I say:

“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”

  • Making your work visible: As Bryce described, this is indeed the fundamental starting point for working out loud.
  • Making work better: One of the main reasons for openly narrating your work is to find ways to improve it. You’re publishing so other people will see it, including some who can provide useful feedback, connections, or other things that will make your work better.
  • Leading with generosity: By framing your posts as contributions – as opposed to, say, efforts at self-promotion or personal branding – you’re more likely to engage other people. You’re not just looking for help but offering to help others, too. As Keith Ferrazzi said, “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
  • Building a social network: As you work out loud over time, you’ll be interacting with a broader range of people. The further you develop relationships with people in your network, the more likely it will be that you’ll collaborate with them and that they’ll be willing help you in other ways.
  • Making it all purposeful: Finally, since there’s an infinite amount of  contributing and connecting you can do, you need to make it purposeful in order to be effective. (Goals might be as simple as “I want more recognition in my firm.” or “I’d like to explore opportunities in another industry or location.”) You can still have plenty of room for serendipity, but having a goal in mind focuses your learning, your publishing, and your connections.

Starting with Respect

Author: Barbara Richman
Organization: HR Mpact states

If each employee develops an awareness of respectful behaviors and necessary skills, it is anticipated that employees will serve as role models and that these behaviors will spread in the workplace and beyond.  The following are ten tips to assist you in accomplishing this objective:

  • Before acting, consider the impact of your words and actions on others.
  • Create an inclusive work environment.  Only by recognizing and respecting individual differences and qualities can your organization fully realize its potential.
  • Self-monitor the respect that you display in all areas of your communications, including verbal, body language, and listening.
  • Understand your triggers or “hot buttons.”  Knowing what makes you angry and frustrated enables you to manage your reactions and respond in a more appropriate manner.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and practice self-restraint and anger management skills in responding to potential conflicts.
  • Adopt a positive and solution-driven approach in resolving conflicts.
  • Rely on facts rather than assumptions.  Gather relevant facts, especially before acting on  assumptions that can damage relationships.
  • Include others in your focus by considering their needs and avoiding the perception that you view yourself as the “center of the universe.”
  • View today’s difficult situations from a broader (big picture) and more realistic perspective by considering what they mean in the overall scheme of things.
  • “Each one influence one” by becoming a bridge builder and role model for civility and respect. Act in a manner whereby you respect yourself, demonstrate respect for others, and take advantage of every opportunity to be proactive in promoting civility and respect in your workplace.

Here are some slides from JHU on Civility that you can use 

 Practically Civil

There is a saying that we only have one chance for a first impression.   I believe this is true but I don’t think it stops there.   Even if we made a good first impression, our relationship and interaction depends on what we do next.   All of the listed behaviors above can only be effective if we make a choice.    Choosing to behave as indicated takes a lot of energy.    In order to practically apply these behaviors, we must first realize that there is a cost upfront.   I haven’t read anywhere about this but I have experienced it.    Just because you make a choice to be civil doesn’t mean that people around you will make the same choice.   I have found in my own experience that have to spend time explaining to people why I am choosing to behave or respond to them in a certain way.   It does amaze me sometimes that it appears we have lost something of ourselves due to different forms of psychological distance 

Our relationships have become more abstract and how we interact with others is less personal and more disconnected.   If we look at each other through the lens of an Iphone or email, we as people become something less than a person.   As we continue to move in the next generation of electronic connectedness, we are allowing our human connectedness to slip away. One example may be the commodity based or flexible workforce.   Why do I want or need to know Howie if he will only be here for a short time?    Another aspect is that we as workers have a clear affirmation that we are only a line item on a spreadsheet.

The Connection

If we are simply a line item on a spreadsheet why does any of this matter?

Have you ever used  I went to the library a few months ago and looked up people from my family history.   The only thing I could find was their names on a list.  It was a handwritten list from the census.  I could barely read the handwriting but I could see the names of my great grandparents or so I thought.   The generations that came before me are not even known to me and the people who are closest in terms of generation are just names on a list.   At the end of the day,  we are really names on a list.  If we allow that to rule over us and govern our behavior, we close the door to our experiences in the moment.

The connection is that we have a choice and it goes back to John Stepper.   We can choose to keep information to ourselves hoping that hoarding will help us personally or we can recognize that we are part of something bigger.  We are part of a network and we are connected to each other in ways that we can only discover through sharing and openness.  Our knowledge strategies must include an understanding and practice in sharing behaviors.   Our underlying objective should be that we become so good at sharing that there is no need for people to help facilitate sharing activities in that it happens naturally.   At the end of the day we all share a common end but we have a choice on how we behave and how we feel along the way.

Final Thought

A recent PBS documentary called talks about happiness.   Something to consider based on the research is that approximately 50% of our happiness comes from our genetics, 10% comes from environment and 40% comes from choice.   What this means to me is that if we choose to respect each other and we choose to be kind and we choose to share and we choose to be happy, the moments of our lives will be rich and overall more pleasurable and full.

Before you go … please take a look at this (Happy)