Friday, 16 July 2010

The KM expert bag carrier

Week in week out a group of hardy professionals lug heavy bags round the world for mile upon mile for their employers, whilst demonstrating excellence in knowledge management.

As well as the physical demands of carrying many pounds of equipment, food, clothing these knowledge workers are expected to manage the whole ennvironment around them to ensure their employer has the opportunity to perform at their optimum level, without interruption from man, machine or animal.

The amount of information and knowledge of the macro and micro environments these professionals are expected to have to hand in an instant, working under extreme pressure and in the gaze of a global audience, scrutinised by the worlds media and press, is phenominal.

What happened when we were here last year? What did I do then? How did it turn out? What if I go long? What if we play safe? How far is it to that bunker? What is behind the pin? Where is the wind? What club did we use yesterday/2 days ago/last year/year before? Where did we end up? What's left of the pin? What's right? How far to the front? Where do I aim in this wind? Is the fairway hard? Is the green soft? Do I swing hard? Which way does this break?

Professional Golf Caddies need to be walking encyclopedia's of local knowledge at every venue they work at, not to mention psychologists, nurse maids, sounding boards and whipping boys!

No matter how good their boss may be, how talented and successful, he will always rely on his knowledge expert in order to be able to get the job done!
British Open Golf

Cuts, Cuts, Cuts- Where's the KM?

Today is the closing date for UK Government departments to submit their proposals for cost savings in the coalition's comprehensive spending review. Figures of up to 40% reductions are being bandied about with seemingly little interest or concern from the general public on what this might actually mean.

Without going into the finer details of what 40% could really mean to departments, we are seemingly going to see massive reductions in staff numbers across government.

Effectiveness and efficiency, value for money, leaner, smarter, faster, handing power to the people and moving away from central government.

A quick glance at government websites and you will either see a standard message that the content of the site is under review, or indeed find you are looking at pages that have been removed and pasted into the national archive.

So a simple enough task to copy and paste web pages before they disappear, but what about capturing tacit and explicit knowledge, knowledge sharing and expertise of employees who make a difference, who know how systems work, how improvements get implemented, who do their jobs efficiently and effectively, but ultimately will be axed as 'cost savings'. How do you incentivise knowledge sharing (great blog by nick Milton) in a workforce that is being cut?

Fail to implement an effective strategy to capture at least the core knowledge and there is surely a risk that the short term cost savings will see a spill of valuable knowledge far greater in size than any oil leak.

Today, The Royal Society have written to the government outlining a case for investment rather than cuts to science funding
"The debate is taking place at a time when other countries, facing similar economic dilemmas, are accelerating their investment in science and innovation. France has announced a 35 billion Euro investment in its knowledge economy. Germany has increased its federal budget for education and research by 12 billion Euros and the US last year announced a $21 billion boost for science."

And the government are busy publishing each department's 'structural reform plans'

I hope we see our chief knowledge officers working in government step up to the mark in the coming months and use the moment as an opportunity to flag up the risks the cuts present and demonstrate how real investment in skilling up depts in effective KM cultures should be the way forward.

Tony Jameson-Allen

Founder of Evolution Networks
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Trustee of The Funzi and Bodo Trust

Thursday, 8 July 2010

No. More Consultants!

7 July

Working day over and it was time to head to Arup in Fitzroy Street, London who were hosting the latest Gurteen Knowledge Cafe.

A pleasant hour pre cafe spent catching up with all things KM with Judy Payne at a coffee cafe before a short walk to see a lot of familiar faces already starting conversations and welcoming new cafe goers into the fold. David described the cafe model to all and whistle in hand, allowed a quick session of speed dating introductions before we moved in to Cafe mode.

No more consultants. Can we do without them? was the topic put forward to the cafe by Geoff Parcell and Chris Collinson . There was a big turn out on the night, all of whom assisted Geoff and Chris work their way to winning a million in an interactive presentation hosted by David 'TV Tarrant' Gurteen. As the who wants to be a millionaire contestants Geoff and Chris (or was it Chris and Geoff?) made their way toward winning the big one, they answered a series of questions based on a recently published book called No More Consultants.

The pair of contestants seemed to have a rather in depth knowledge of their subject and safely moved up to a sizeable sum of winnings, suggestions from the cafe crowd that the pair of consultants should possibly take the money and run before sharing any further insights were met with more than the odd chuckle.

So having moved smoothly up to the big money, David, having spent the previous day studying clips of Millionaire, delivered in full Tarrant style, the final question:

"Is there a place for consultants in companies and organisations today, and if so, what is their role?"

Time to ask the audience.......

Cafe time! 15-20 mins at 3 diferent tables and the conversations really developed to ask some searching questions. As ever, with such a fascinating mix of people, experience and viewpoints, the discussions quickly moved away from trying to answer the question to examining what the question really meant and how or why has the use of consultants developed and what is a consultant anyway?

Key points that have managed to remain in the grey matter this morning:

  • The concept of loyalty and a one company career pathway is fast disappearing
  • Workforces are made up of individuals with specific, transferable skill sets
  • People are likely to be delivering time limited projects in their jobs and it is now becoming acceptable practice to then move on to another company for their next project
  • Fixed contracts have become accepted as 'the norm' in many organisations
  • How are fixed contract employees any different to consultants in all but name?
  • Given the shift toward a transient project focussed workforce and the apparent 'demonisation' of the use of consultants by government departments and the public sector, perhaps there is opportunity to examine how 'consultancy' is marketed and viewed
  • One conclusion? Perhaps the modern workforce are all consultants.......
Following table discussions, the cafe came back together to work through the 4 possible answers and in true cafe style decided to add a 5th option..... was there a definitive answer? Well that depends........

Cue applause for the contestants, demands by the cafe for a cut of the winnings and finally a big congratulations and thank you to David on the 10th Anniversary of the Gurteen Knowledge Letter . 120 Issues published and an ever growing readership now beyond 17,000 people worldwide!

Following the end of the formal proceedings, a chance at last to say hi to Ron Donaldson, who has also blogged on the cafe

Cafe part 1 finished, part 2 continued at a local watering hole, which proved rather lively due to a good number of spanish supporters watching the world cup semi final. A warm evening meant a pleasant pint outside (with plasma screens in view!) and a chance to chat with Chris, Geoff and network with good good people. Geoff spoke passionately about his previous work as senior knowledge advisor with BP and his secondment to the WHO UNAIDS programme, a perfect example of connecting people and communities with the relevant local information and knowledge required that leads to meaningful improvements to the quality of life through finding out from the real experts, what makes a difference. The world was then put to rights and armed with a number of new contacts who I'll be emailing after publishing this, I headed back across London which was seemingly transformed into a sea of celebrating red and gold. "Y Viva Espana"

Tony Jameson-Allen
Online & Knowledge Manager

Founder of Evolution Networks

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Trustee of The Funzi and Bodo Trust