Monday, January 30, 2006

Capturing knowledge - part 2

My daughter and her friend got first prize in the science fair!! We were very nervous after seeing the quality of other displays. Most were much more impressive. Their display look like a small bungalow hidden between high rise condo's. Factors that helped in judging were:

1) Kept it visual, not textual - The display was mainly pictures and graphics, with an example filter and testing equipment. You could scan and understand the project quickly. Many of the other exhibits had pages of text and required extensive reading in order to understand what was going on.

2) In the language of the audience - It was obvious that the kids did all the work. All terms used were in the language of a 2nd grader, not something so impressive that it took a Ph.D. to understand.

3) Understood the real-world application - They understood the difference between our filters and what's used in practice because we toured our local water treatment plant. By leaving the lab and seeing the real-world, they knew reality as well as theory.

4) Enthusiasm and clear explanations - Most importantly they did a great job explaining the project to all who asked. Their excitement was obvious as well their understanding of the subject matter.

This was a great learning experience for them and a good KM lesson for me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Efficient communicaiton - The three minute song

I'm taking a performance class. One of the first requirements is that we prepare three songs, each no longer than three minutes in length. I immediately groaned, because most of my songs are much longer and I hate to cut any of the lyrics that I painstaking wrote. Each line is vital to deliver my message. However, in listening to radio, I realized that most songs are right around 3-minutes. These artists (the ones who make money) have figured it out.

In thinking about this, the most effective communicators are those that get to the point quickly. They've learned, that to have success you need to keep it short and to the point.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Implementing keyword tagging

Over the past year we had a team develop a new scientific keyword taxonomy (i.e. tags). These tags provide the relationships between our unique projects (for example, project related to the arsenic).

We are using these tags as a metadata field in our CMS and to support our new web search capabilities. We have not yet added them into our project tracking database and that's a next step.

The challenge we're now facing is consistency in using these tags by different users and in different (not integrated) systems. A final issue that we've tabled for the time being is the impact on existing products that use old tagging schemes.

We just had a meeting and came up with the following recommendations:

1. Project managers should only tag projects once for all systems
2. For consistency sake we need a gatekeeper to ensure that PMs are tagging projects consistently. The gatekeeper will review any changes to the keyword list.
3. We need to integrate entry of these keywords across all our systems. Entry can either be automated or manual by one person and we're now evaluating options

We've discussed and tried in the past more flexible/collaborative ways of tagging, without much success. Because so many of our products rely on structured relationships between projects, we need to ensure the consistency of use.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Capturing knowledge

This weekend I helped my seven-year old daughter and her friend prepare their science project. We spent around four hours building water filters and running a variety of tests. It was great fun. Everything was going great up until the time we had to write the lab report. At that point, the mood rapidly changed from fun and excitement to tears and frustration. She finally ended up with a report and did a great job (for a second grader). Of course, the report missed some of the important details, and it was difficult to see the excitement that she had. The excitement returned when got a chance later to describe the experiment to her grandmother and answer questions. She was easily able to articulate how we did the experiment, how the filters worked, and the challenges we ran up against. At the end, grandma had a good understanding and I was peppered with more detailed questions later in the evening about water treatment. Her excitement was passed on!

This speaks volumes about capturing knowledge. Next time I think about how great it would be to capture tacit knowledge, I will remember this example. Writing things down is difficult to do and especially hard to capture the excitement. It's much easier to verbalize what you know, it's more interesting, and a much better way to exchange knowledge.

Friday, January 06, 2006

KM interconnectedness

I've spent today reviewing the past year's KM activities and ideas for the future in preparation for a meeting with senior managers. We're plotting out where to put the emphasis in the coming year. Points that really struck me are:

1) Every activity required multiple individuals in multiple groups. In most cases it took longer to accomplish than expected due to hand-offs between individuals. There were delays in scheduling meetings due to working around travel schedules, losing time due to the start/stop/start nature of these activities, and often conflicting priorities.
2) Many of activities we're not core job functions, even though they were identified as important to the organization. The famous "other duties as many be assigned" clause in job descriptions.
3) We didn't reward folks enough for their extra efforts on these tasks.
4) There was often an initial compliance with the new task and then a drop off in compliance.
5) We accomplished a lot and have even more to do.

Some lessons from these:

1) Embed, embed, embed - this will be my motto. My goal will be find every opportunity to embed processes, such that they don't get forgotten after the initial push.
2) Schedule meetings when they are needed, and don't delay because everyone can't be there.
3) Focus efforts even more. Select a few activities and concentrate on moving them through completion.
4) Find more ways to acknowledge and reward these "extra efforts."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

End of the year blog statistics

This is the time of year to reflect on all-sorts of things, so why not blog statistics.

I started blogging in December of 2004 and was just another anonymous blogger until July of 2005 when I started promoting my blog. I added SiteMeter in July of 2005, so here are the statistics for the last half of 2005:

Visits: 826
Page Views 1662
Average length of visits: 1:21
Highest visits in a month (December): 350
Links to my site (from Google) - 163
Most popular entry: Lessons learned during CMS implementation

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

An interesting KM program

An interesting knowledge management (KM) program is at the Training, Research and Networking for Development (TREND) Group in Ghana. While I'm sure we have large technology differences, both on the KM side and application side (drinking water technologies), I was surprised to see how similar our KM challenges and approaches are.

In their background paper they describe the knowledge challenges as:
1) How to tailor information to the needs of local users
2) Ensure that information is optimally used,
3) To develop capacity to manage and use the knowledge, and
4) Identify where more knowledge is needed.

They go on to describe the development of a Resource Center with services to:
- Assess knowledge needs and demands
- Collect, validate and store information
- Package and version information to target groups
- Dissemination knowledge
- Quality assurance of knowledge disseminated
- Marketing and promotion
- Generate revenue to support KM activities

They have spent a lot of effort on promoting the need for KM. One comment that sounds familiar is that there is little coordination of KM activities between institutions.

For implementation they approach KM from 4 angles:
- Information and communication technology
- Human resources management
- Office and workspace instruction
- Organizational set-up