Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina - Finding the right information

I've been watching the story of Katrina unfold and my heart goes out to those impacted. Like many people, I've been searching for information on what is really happening especially to folks I know. I typically goes to the Weather Channel and CNN for information. Unfortunately, what I finds on these sites is a few pictures of the suffering, watch some reporters get blasted by the wind, but few hard facts. I found some information on blogs and disccusion boards, but still not what I was looking for. Finally today, some resources are emerging that can actually help folks, but still it's difficult to get a clear picture of what's happening.

This event highlights the KM challenge. Providing usable and timely information, not just information. The "news media" provides a lot of information, but is this the knowledge that people need? It would be great if there was one source that provided information to the important questions like:
- What are the locations of the shelters? (pre as well as post event)
- How do I find loved ones, my friends, or neighbors? An example is the Next of kin registry.
- How do I get assistance? - Fema has a disaster assistance program.
- Maps - what roads are open, what areas of New Orleans are flooding, etc. ?
- What's the best way I can help?

Like most events, people are rushing to provide information. What is needed is someone to coordinate the information gathering and provide the information that people need to make decisions. Someone is needed to coordinate this and provide that knowledge that people actually need.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A leader

We had the retirement party for our executive director yesterday. In essence he started our organization and without doubt is responsible for our current success. So what made him a successful leader? Here are some of things that were said about him:

- Visionary - He had a strong vision of the future
- Innovative - Implemented ideas that were thought to be crazy at the time. The model for our organization has been copied by at least 8 other organizations. He also encouraged innovative among all staff.
- Decisive - Could make quick decisions, but still be could be persuaded to change his mind if you gave a strong enough justification.
- Allowed people to do their job - He set forth the vision and goals and then let staff do their job.
- Loyalty - Believed in his staff. Because of this we have been a very stable organization
- Set the tone - There is a balance of personal and business relationships. Most of our partnerships started with personal understanding and trust. At meetings, there was always humor.
- Asked good questions - Always seemed to ask the obvious questions that were overlooked.
- "The success of the individual, is judged by the success of the organization." - He was very humble and put the organization's success as top priority.
- Positive - His final statement at the party was something like "We are the best organization in the world and we've done it by hiring the best people who are committed to our mission."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blog Traffic - Results

It's been about a month since I started efforts to increase traffic on my blog. During this phase, I focused on adding my URL to blog listings. Results to date are:

- 148 hits and 298 page views in the past month
- The biggest day was a high of 60 hits. This occurred three days after getting on Blog Catalog. Since this time, there has only been a trickle of activity.
- Number of links to my site has increased from 4 to 13.
- Received 4 comments
- Had a one day flurry of spam hits

It seems that the traffic is related to the days I get added to a list. After an initial flurry, traffic dies down.

Being a scientist, I'm going to give it another month, then move to my next phase -- article marketing.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Knowledge management and songwriting

Knowledge management and songwriting - what does this have in common? Believe it or not a lot.

I just returned from at week at the Song School and Folks Festival in Lyons, CO. During the week I was exposed to a huge number of amazing artists. Only a handful of which ever become popular. In seeing this large amount of talent in one place, the question comes up, why do some artists become household names and other toil on in obscurity. An analogy to knowledge management, is how do you get your information recognized in this age of information overload.

Over the last week , I looked at what sets artists apart. Here are some thoughts (note: these are not universal truths):

- Being different - One of the students that stood out to me was playing a Bouzouki (a Greek type of mandolin). His unique sound is what I remember.
- Simple is often the best - Being a guitarist, I noticed those that were playing the hard stuff. However, the tunes that stuck with me often had very simple melody lines (and in most case only three chords).
- It's not so much the instrument, it's the music - I spent a ton on my last guitar, however, Joe Craven "has made it" using a Holiday Inn trash can for a drum and a banjo made from a bedpan.
- Evoke an emotional response - In performance classes we discussed connecting the audience to the music. The challenge is to reach the variety of different individuals.
- The performance is key - What often separates performers is how they walk on stage, the short stories they tell, or if they make eye contact with you. The performance can be as important as the sound.
- The words are important - It's amazing how different people interpret lyrics and how these differing interpretations can change the reaction to the song.
- Breaking the rules - Often the most memorable songs break the rules. If all musicians followed the rules, we'd be pretty bored. Those that are innovative stand out.

This is just a short list, and are there are many other items I could add to the list. In communicating information, these same apply in making your information stand out among the crowd.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Preventing blog spam

Two weeks ago I began efforts to get my blog noticed. And now I've hit the big time, getting spam on my blog. This morning I learned about Blogger's delete comments feature. Now I need help on how to block spam on Blogger and preventing posts from that famous blogger, anonymous.

Any suggestions would be welcome.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The IT KM conundrum

I've been pondering the relationship between information technology (IT) and knowledge management (KM)? Our organization has defined KM as managing the flow of information among our staff, customers, and other stakeholders. It's very clear that KM is not just technology, but where's the line between technology and KM?

I received an interesting e-mail today that IT staff are going to be developing the organization's IT plan. In the next few minutes, I had a parade in my office of folks asking questions. The situation in our office is that we have an IT group housed in administration and KM technologies (Web and CMS) housed in Technology Transfer. While most times these folks work well together, these artificial boundaries at times become real boundaries. When TT first mentioned the idea of an overall IT strategy, IT objected. Now IT says they are going to develop a strategy and it's TT's turn.

The whole issue boils down to these groups not being connected. These individuals need to be as connected as their systems need to be connected. The IT strategy is a good example. From a technological perspective it's clear that the expertise in both groups should be harnessed. From a business perspective, the organization's business strategy (which KM is one component) needs to be the core. The challenge will now be to bring all these groups together on the strategy.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Nothing changes the culture more than success

Today we celebrated the success of our first major all-staff effort on our content management system. The task was for all-staff to transfer their files into a new temporary file structure. This is necessary so that we can batch load these files into the system with metadata permeating down from the folder level. In the process of doing this we had people remove the ROT (redundant, outdated and trivial files). I don't have metrics on this, but after being in this organization for over 17 years, I removed between 50-75% of my files. Getting 45 people to spend up to a day cleaning up and reorganize their files is a reason to celebrate. Now since we can find documents, we don't even need the CMS (just kidding).

The celebration was quite simple, I made a small announcement at today's all staff meeting about what we are celebrating and then we an ice cream sundae party in the afternoon. In was just a 30 minute break in the afternoon, but people like to be acknowledged. The funniest thing was that one person who has been slow in transferring files was dragged into party. After some good natured ribbing, she walked out and immediately set to the task of moving her files. Another reason to celebrate.

For another form of celebration, I nominated one of my team chairs for an individual performance award. Coming into this project, she was identified as a stakeholder that could be a detractor if not involved. By putting her in charge of a team, not only did she steer the team into finishing a difficult task, she took it on herself to do the work for implementation (a herculean task). She also has ownership of the system and has become one of the systems biggest champions, let's party!!!!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Blogging for knowledge management

Last week I researched how to get my blog noticed. I tripled the number of comments to my postings (going from 1 to 3 comments). I also had 28 hits in the last week. Not huge numbers, but at least there's some activity.

I was asked the question, why am I blogging about knowledge management (KM)? It doesn't appear to have any benefits to my customers or in my current job.

The reason I started blogging was as an experiment. I wanted to see how blogging works and if people use it, prior to investigating business opportunities.

One of my knowledge management goals is to increase our customer's connection to our research. Currently we use traditional communication items newsletters, Web, conferences and other print communications. A few years ago we started having customer account managers visit our large customers. However, we still find that there is the need for more connection to our research. A comment from a recent focus group asked for more transparency in research processes. In the future, I'd like to take advantage of some less-formal or less-structure communications tool to increase the transparency and add a more personal connection to the research. Using communities of practice or blogs are great opportunities.

For example, wouldn't it be great to go to a research project and not only see progress reports, but to also read the observations (in a blog) of the researcher or their graduate students (the later would be really interesting, since they are doing most of the hands on work). Then to be able to post comments or ask questions in a community. This would not only help our customers feel more connected, but could also lead to better research by having end-user review and feedback.

We're taking the first step in this direction by developing a collaborative tool for our ongoing research projects. Blogging and communities could be the next step. This is at least a year off, since I don't want to introduce too many new things at once.