November 18, 2003
A quick report on KM Europe in Amsterdam
The KM Europe event took place in Amsterdam between November 10. And 12. I attended the two first days. This is a quick report on what I found to be of interest, even though I saw maybe only 30% of everything.
A- General Overview
First comment : Few people :500-600 people maximum, and much more interest in attending conferences form users and researchers than in visiting the booths of software editors. Some of them, though, were quite impressive. Entopia’s K-Bus now has an embedded Social Network Analysis function which maps the relationships between people starting from a query or a document (the underlying questinon being « who are the people who know something about this ? »)
Second comment: KM software editors finally acknowledge that the inertia of habits and behaviors as well as the training costs associated with their products are the most important barriers to making business. Thus, the trend is to try and sell new KM applications as « add-ons » to be seamlessly integrated with existing and widely used applications like e-mail or SAP. For example, if country A has a CRM system and country B has another one, you will be more successul in selling products and services to bridge the two systems than in selling a new CRM system with all the bells and whistles, as a new environment that everybody has to learn about. As one of the presenters said, « the worst ennemy of KM applications is e-mail », which is an excellent one-to-one, action-driven system, and and a pretty lousy one-to-many learning-driven system. And yet, everybody uses it for everything.
Third comment : The network of KM professionals is quite active. This community is likely to use the most advanced networking tools available, and many have their own weblogs (« K-logs »). The bonds created across borders of country, language and organizations are quite amazing. Everybody knows everybody.
B- Interesting presentations
Carla O’Dell – Président of APQC
She is from Texas, and (yet ;-)) really good! Her presentation was about what APQC has been doing in KM for the last 8 years. APQC is a research and consulting center on KM with 65 people, based in Houston TX. That specialized in KM 8 years ago.
Questions of participants were excellent as well.
A few « gold nuggets » from Carla :
“Technology is non sufficient, but it is necessary. You can’t imagine a KM project without technology. ”
“Developing a knowledge sharing culture is a consequence of KM, not a prerequisite ”
“In 2001, we found out that Communities of Practice were central in all successful KM initiatives ”
“Retaining knowledge. If you wait until the last moment to take care of the problem of retirees, you will fail ”
“Teams use 3 or 4 collaboration tools before they settle on one ”
“The key to measuring the value of KM initiatives : link them very tightly with business objectives and business processes. Don't measure at the corporate level but at the process level ”
“We have found out that financial officers don't buy the 'time saved' argument. We have not found it useful to audit a KM program without an underlying business problem ”
"Successful pilots in KM are most of the time focused on the client, and address a burning business need."
"Always address the measurement issue from the beginning. This is how KM project teams start focusing on the right questions"
"Assets make things possible. People make things happen."
Carla also presented a few checklists of things you need to think about when launching a new KM project:
1. What is the business problem you are trying to solve ?
2. Will a better flow of kowledge/information clearly improve the outcome ?
3. Who needs it ? Where and where ?
4. Who has it ?
5. How are we going to close the gap ?
6. How do we measure the change and the outcome ?
Onc you’ve done this homework, you can start thinking about setting up a project team and work on :
2. Value proposition
Her recommendation is to lauch ony those projects that can provide a return on their costs in less than a year.
The role of a corporate KM group in a company is to provide the tools, the models, the guidelines and community jump-start services. It is typically a team of 3 to 20 people (3 at IBM)
Jef Staes, ex-Siemens, Consultant.
Jef made a presentation on the principles of good learning program. Jef believes that « learning power = information flow x learning tension » and that learning programs should be based on :
1. First develop learning tension, the desire to learn. This is typically «classroom teaching»
2. Then develop learning skills, both in the technical and social field.
3. Implement sophisticated learning processes, because we are now in the GATA age («Give Away – Take Away») and action learning is the name of the game.
A few good ideas for communication purposes.
Ole Hinz – Consultant, Managing Director of KIO, a consulting firm in Copenhagen, Denmark, and also a PhD student, researcher, and member of ECLO
Very disappointed with management books (collectively dubbed as the « Heathrow Academy »), which define « knowledge » in very different and vague terms and with no reference to history or litterature. Ole rediscovered Aristote, who distinguishes several types of knowledge :
Techne – the technical « know-how ». This is the domain of Communities of Practice.
Episteme – the « know-why ». The understanding of cause-effect relationships. Consultants play an interesting role here, because they are (or should be) able to adopt a systems thinking attitude, as well as a helicopter view on day-to-day operations.
Phronesis – the « know-what ». Knowing what is good for me and for the human society as a whole. Understanding values, discovering emotions.
Ole believes that we are progressively rediscovering phronesis in our 21st century organizations.
Fun : Dialog in a corporate boardroom – presented by Ole as authentic:
« The boss – I called this meeting to chat with you about what is going wrong in this company. I encourage you to be very open and say what you believe are our problems. I will be very open myself. Anybody wants to start ?
A senior exec – I think one of our major problems is that this company is managed by fear.
The boss (loudly) – This company is not managed by fear, you know it, and this was really a stupid thing to say.
The senior exec – I still believe this company is managed by fear, but you are right, I shouldn’t have said that. »
Edna Pasher is the famous KM guru from Tel-Aviv, who in 2000 made a brilliant audit of the State of Israel using a knowlede economy framework including things like intangibles, social capital etc. She made a presentation on managing innovation, which I personally found a little obscure and could not attend until the end. I found out that her work has been inspired by two famous thinkers, the books of whom she urged everybody to read : Christensen and Gary Hamel.
Cindy Hubert , from APQC, gave a lecture on measuring value creation of KM projects. This was the summary of an extensive consulting mission made by APQC on behalf of sponsoring companies, and focused on understanding the best practices of other « partner » companies, namely Caterpillar, Ford, IBM, Holliburton and Schlumberger.
The presentation is not available on this site for copyright reasons, but you can ask it to me if you want.
A few ideas I got out of this presentation.
Companies that have been successful with KM projects :
1. Are centered on numbers. They measure everything from the beginning, and spend time doing that (1day/month)
2. Use several KM practices on their projects : AAR, expert locator, content management, CoPs…
3. Use Communities of Practice as the cornerstone of their KM initiatives, whereas other less sucesful companies focus on content management. They use CoPs as the main vector for transfer of best practices.
4. They clearly link each KM program with a specific business problem, and a burning one ; they find how a better flow of knowledge will contribute to improving the situation ; they embed the KM project in existing business processes ; they use business metrics to monitor progress (like success ratio of commercial proposals) as well as KM metrics (measuring the flow of knowledge)
5. They use software tools for content management, collaboration or semantic analysis as the only source of pure KM metrics
6. The adopt conservative approaches to measure « soft » returns, i.e. those not directly related to business. « Sales increase » is business related, and can be measured precisely, whereas « customer satisfaction », « cycle time reduction » or « employee morale » are not.
7. They have on average a corporate KM team of 10 people with a budget of $2 million and a positive impact of $15 million on the business. The corporate KM team is in charge of providing knowledge sharing methods and tools, as well as organizing knowledge sharing events servng the needs of KM projects of various business units.
8. They experiment new methods and tools all the time, and this is a mission of the corporate team. Some corporate KM teams are so innovative that they licence their methods and tools to the organization. This is the case for Ford’s BPT (Best Practice Transfer) method.
C- Less Interesting Presentations
Renault’s KM Program
Jean-Marc David presented the KM program of Renault, stressing the fact that, at Renault, « a KM project is not different from any other project » and thus must be justified by a good business case. Several « bossy » comments during his presentation such as « a specific organization is in charge of the corporate taxonomy, and everybody must comply with it » and the lack of attention (at least in his speech) to the specific needs of individuals, whether clients or employees, seem to indicate that Renault’s KM program has been designed from a pure management perspective.
One can be skeptical about the commitment of employees to back such a program. But maybe Renault is only betting on compliance…
Nevertheless, it seems to work, and Jean-Marc David is hiring. Good for him !
KM at Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce (I don't remember the name of the guy) presented a method to capture and store the explicit knowledge of experts in particular technical domains of importance to the company. The process has been created in relation to the problem of retiring engineers and technicians and the associated loss of know-how. These are typically 3 month projects handled by « Knowledge Engineers », whose role is to interview the experts in a very structured way and feed a database with the results. It seems that the knowledge engineers are well trained and coached, and very motivated. It also seems that this is not always the case for experts.
Overall I thought it was a very good process, but maybe a questionable response to the business problem. It would have been preferable for the company, from my perspective, to try and maintain some links between the company and retired engineers using the CoP framework, and to « pump their brains » only in the case they wish to turn the page and leave the company for good.
This is the growing list of other weblogs posts on "KM Europe" (see also conference presentations online ).
In his impressions of last weeks KM in Europe conference in Amsterdam (presentations now on-line for download) Martin Dugage, (weblog Mopsos) writes: The network of KM professionals is quite active. This community is likely to use the most advanced net...
Ein langer Bericht und ein paar Reflektionen von der KM Europe 2003 in Amsterdam. Und Katzenbilder.
Thank you for this great report on KM Europe. As I am doing my PhD on valuing KM strategies, I would be very interested by the presentation made by Cindy Hubert.
By the way, I would like to launch a weblog like yours. Do you have any tips to give me ?
Have a great day,
Posted by: Alex Perrin at November 19, 2003 10:44 AM
Re: Rolls Royce's KAMP methodology (presented by Mike Moss, by the way)I agree that an extended CoP would be a good addition, but I think you miss the point that the process produces high quality documented knowledge that's much more readily available than the expert themselves. i.e. its a very time-efficient way for experts to share knowledge. It also dramatically cuts the training time for the graduate doing the elicitation. Finally, you cna never be sure that an expert won't join a competitor, and once they've announced htis, it can be very hard to get their cooperation.
Posted by: Sam Marshall at November 19, 2003 05:36 PM
Thank you very much for sharing this with us. The most valuable parts of this report are your comments and nuggets.
As a new comer to the field, I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks again.
Posted by: Dorai at November 22, 2003 05:45 AM
Just a comment to Sam Marshall regarding the Rolls-Royce case. In my comany, marketing people are spending millions to elaborate sophisticated teaching material to help sales people make better proposals to our clients. The question is: is it worth the trouble? An alternative to be considered, for example, would be to have good sales people with good knowledge of the field review these proposals before they are sent to the customer. I'm not saying there is a right or wrong approach, but only that we are so used to learning from written courseware and teachers that we tend to forego other forms of learning experiences that can be far more effective as the cases of Siemens and Merck Japan suggest. I found out that managers don't like those too much however, because they are more difficult to control. I sort of ticked when Mike Moss acknowledged that some experts had been reluctant to play this game. What about some others, who might have been less openly reluctant, but nevertheless not very enthusiastic either. Can you really expect a high quality output from them?
Posted by: Martin R. Dugage at November 22, 2003 09:09 AM
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