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The role of KM in COVID-19 #COVID-19


Robert L. Bogue
 

Stephen –

 

While I think the ISO standard is an important forward step, it’s far from prescriptive (and it shouldn’t be.)  From a learning and development perspective the question is to what degree someone should own, be aware of, or lead an activity.  (Think RACI.)  From there you can identify what skills make up that objective and which of those skills need to be held by each person.  I’ve got numerous exercises to build trust in an organization and numerous structures to enhance trust.  Some are strategic.  Some are communications.  Some are just simply doing what you say you’re going to do.  The question is, what should the average (or even best) knowledge manager know about these trust skills?  In knowledge management, as you know, there are so many subdisciplines that you can’t be expected to know all of them in detail.  Thus my opening for folks to share whether they believe that the techniques are inside or outside the line.

 

Without losing the start of this thread, I reacted to your “absolute forefront.”  You provided a set of skills that perhaps are inside the circle of KM – but honestly I’m not convinced that everyone would believe they are.  I think that the COVID-19 situation is an interesting opportunity to consider how we’re advancing the profession and ways that we need to move – and ways we need to partner.

 

It’s no secret – and is in fact a subject of late-night TV humor – that the leader of the US isn’t always providing the most accurate information.  (Please don’t descend into politics because I don’t care about the politics of the situation, I care about the most good for the most people.)  So in the context of misinformation, what’s KM’s role to get to the right answer?  I understand your point of view about “truth” and even subscribe to it.  As I mentioned in my initial response, we’re telling front line workers things which are not safe – but it’s safest for the most people knowing that we have supply restrictions.  It’s another form of the same kind of awful triage decisions that healthcare providers have been forced to make since the profession was started.

 

I’m still not sure how the skills that KMers have directly relate to improving the situation.  Left to the natural evolution of the system, the chaos will continue until an answer comes along that addresses the requisite level of completeness (which is itself undefined).  After that the solution will take hold until it no longer meets expectations or it squashes out alternatives.  I don’t see how we’re going to influence a better outcome.  I agree that trust is critical.  However, it can’t be built in the moment.  The concept of safety is important too (it’s what trust leads to) but it can’t be generated now.  (It can be encouraged.)

 

The truth is that KM has a place in the labs working on understanding COVID-19 and those working on vaccines.  It has an important role to fill in improving the organization’s capacity to deliver solutions.   However, I don’t think addressing the bad information that is spewed from multiple angles is something that is a core KM skill.  It’s more the skill of PR and communications people – and as much as I hate it – political spinsters.

 

I think there is a ton of value we bring – however, I’ve always seen KM as a SUPPORTING role not a LEAD role (which forefront implies).

 

Rob

 

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Stephen Bounds via groups.io
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 8:28 PM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] In what Industries or Segments does KM Thrive? #futureofwork #kmers #proven-pra #jobs #discussion-starter

 

Hi Rob,

Well handily, we now have an ISO standard which defines the scope of Knowledge Management within an organisation :) So that should help us work out where the core KM skillset lies.

Here's how ISO30401 describes the mandatory requirements of a KM system:

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================

1.     Knowledge development: The organisation shall act to establish and sustain systematic activities and behaviours relevant to its Scope for effectively managing knowledge through its stages of development:

a)     Acquiring new knowledge

b)    Applying current knowledge

c)     Retaining current knowledge

d)    Handling outdated or invalid knowledge

(ISO 30401.4.4.2)

2.     Knowledge flows: The organisation shall act to establish and sustain systematic activities and behaviours relevant to its Scope for supporting all different types of knowledge flows:

a)     Human interaction (ie individual and team conversations and interactions)

b)    Representation (ie demonstration, recording, or codification)

c)     Combination (ie synthesis, curation, classification, and discovery)

d)    Internalization and learning (ie assessment and uptake of discovered knowledge)

(ISO 30401.4.4.3)

3.     Knowledge management enablers: The organisation shall integrate elements of the following enablers to create an effective KMS:

a)    Human capital (ie roles and accountabilities, senior management support)

b)    Processes (ie defined knowledge activities such as lessons learned)

c)     Technology and infrastructure (ie collaborative tools and physical workspaces)

d)    Governance (ie strategy, policy, SLAs, and codes of conduct)

e)     Knowledge management culture (ie norms of knowledge sharing and learning)

(ISO 30401.4.4.4, ISO 30401 4.5)

4.     Key commitments: Top management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment by:

a)     fostering organizational values which enhance trust

b)    ensuring that KM policy and objectives are established, can be evaluated, and align with the strategic direction of the organization

c)     providing needed resources for the KMS

d)    communicating the importance of effective knowledge management and of conforming to, or exceeding, the KMS requirements

e)     managing the process of change towards adoption and application, and towards the cultivation of a culture that values, supports and enables knowledge management

f)      ensuring that the KMS achieves its intended outcome(s)

g)    directing, motivating, inspiring, empowering and supporting persons to contribute to the effectiveness of the KMS

h)    promoting continual improvement of the KMS

i)      supporting other relevant management roles to demonstrate their leadership as it applies to their areas of responsibility

To turn to the concepts I referenced earlier --

Trust is easy - it's right there as a management commitment in 4(a). I think it's incumbent on Knowledge Managers to inform and educate managers on what it means to 'enhance trust'.

 

To clarify what I meant by debiasing, you should think of "bias" and "propaganda" as opposite forces. It is often in the interests of organisations for people to believe certain things, or at least to act as if they believe certain things, which is functionally the same thing. That is very relevant to the entirety of the Knowledge Development component of ISO30401.

 

Psychological distancing is more niche, but I see it as an important tool to evaluate where 3(b) and 3(d) may be flawed, as well as the overall effective operations of knowledge development.

 

One last point: Although it's a somewhat brutal view, especially in a group that tends to associate "knowledge" with "truth", I genuinely believe that truth is a second-order consideration. While of course knowledge being "true" is a good predictor for it being "useful", utility trumps any philosophical assessment of truth and has the advantage of being objectively observable. A corollary of this is that people can believe untrue things as long as it doesn't affect the overall utility of the knowledge system in question.

 

Cheers,

Stephen.

 

On 14/05/2020 1:23 am, Robert L. Bogue wrote:

Stephen –

 

Thanks.  That helps.

 

I don’t know that I perceive any of these to be KM skillsets – though I should ponder that more.  I think they impact success of a KM initiative but I don’t think about them inside the sphere of core KM.

 

Clearly trust impacts everything in our world.  It’s the key driver for KM and collaboration more broadly.   (You can find more about my thoughts on trust at https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2019/07/03/trust-vulnerability-intimacy-revisited/ and the related links.)

 

I fundamentally don’t believe we can debias ourselves.   I think we can become more aware but not remove biases.  (My belief seems to be supported by most of the researchers but if you’ve got contrary evidence I’d love to see it.)  You linked to your article that speaks about changing people’s minds.  I think this is an oversimplification.  Having used the work cataloged in Motivational Interviewing (https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2017/01/02/book-review-motivational-interviewing-helping-people-change/) I recognize some of the aspects of what you’re saying in the article, but I’m not able to make the association to the current conversation.  Perhaps you can clarify the relevance for me.

 

With regard to psychological distancing, I agree that the more dissimilar that someone seems from someone else the less likely it is that they’ll accept their perspective or even evaluate it.  It’s one of the reasons that Everett Rogers said that innovators can’t directly impact the majority.  They need the early adopters as a mediator of the differences. (See https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2012/07/01/book-review-diffusion-of-innovations/)

 

I guess that I see most of what you’re talking about as aspects of change management rather than knowledge management.  While I believe that there are aspects of change management in KM, I’m not sure that I’d perceive it as core.  I could put a large number of skills in the KM bucket if I wanted to.  However, I don’t know that this supports the assertion that KM should be at the absolute forefront.

 

As for “nudge theory” I assume you’re speaking of the work cataloged in Nudge (https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2017/04/10/book-review-nudge-improving-decisions-health-wealth-happiness/) if so, then I’d say that it’s certainly a “pop psychology” book – however, the underpinnings are much more solid than many other books (notably Duhigg’s The Power of Habit - https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2018/08/06/book-review-the-power-of-habit-why-we-do-what-we-do-in-life-and-business/)  There are numerous other works that support the fundamental science about the susceptibility of humans to small and unnoticed “nudges.”  You could look at Influencer as a reference point for something more scientifically grounded.  (https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2015/11/30/book-review-influencer-the-new-science-of-leading-change/)

 

With regard to changing people from wanting to feel safe to wanting the truth, if you ever figure out how to do that reliably you’ll be king of the world.  At every level we don’t want to know the right answer, we want to know the answer that’s good enough.  We want to feel OK, not be objectively right.  (See Change or Die - https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2014/07/29/book-review-change-or-die/, The Paradox of Choice - https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2011/11/26/book-review-the-paradox-of-choice/, and The Happiness Hypothesis - https://thorprojects.com/blog/archive/2012/01/19/book-review-the-happiness-hypothesis/)

 

To up level the conversation, I’d love to hear what people believe to be core KM skills, which ones that folks believe are supporting, and which ones are ancillary.  If we’re going to broaden the circle to include these as skills… how far do we push the edge?

 

Rob

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Stephen Bounds via groups.io
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2020 10:30 AM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] In what Industries or Segments does KM Thrive? #futureofwork #kmers #proven-pra #jobs #discussion-starter

 

Hi Rob,

There are a few avenues I consider relevant from a KM perspective:

  • Interpersonal and impersonal trust frameworks explore how trust is established and the consequences it being broken (in short, without trust we either waste time independently validating what we're told or more commonly, go to an alternative, more trusted source of information)
  • Debiasing theory helps us target our information strategies the correct way to win the public debate
  • Psychological distancing helps explain why people aren't properly evaluating risks even when they hear information in an unbiased way

You also mention that "people want to have the best response (rather than the self-serving one)", but that actually forms part of my point. KM is (or should be) a value-neutral discipline. Our KM theory should guide people in understanding how incentives and demotivators alter how decision-making actually plays out in organisational and societal systems -- and to give people the tools to understand and interact with these systems for themselves.

For example, "nudge theory" is unfortunately mostly a pseudoscience due to oversimplification. But we see that the concept of people having tools to alter systems behaviour is very powerful and attractive.

Cheers,
Stephen.

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================

On 12/05/2020 9:39 pm, Robert L. Bogue wrote:

Stephen –

 

I was pondering your message, and was wondering, two things.  First, why do you believe that KM has the skills and tools necessary to help with the COVID-19 crisis such that we should be at the “absolute forefront” of the public discussion?  Second, what causes you to believe people want to have the best response (rather than the self-serving one)?

 

I’m in an interesting spot in this discussion.  My wife is an infection preventionist.  We’ve reprioritized content production in the studio to allow here COVID-19 content to be produced ahead of everything else.  She’s got 42 pieces of content that she is contracted to produce for long term care.  We have a patent for an invention explicitly designed to reduce infections.  It’s unrelated to COVID-19 but one that has a high mortality rate.  My daughter is an ER nurse and has both caught and recovered from COVID-19. 

 

I watch the misinformation everywhere.  We’ve got unreliable tests (40% false negative), the push of antibody testing that has absolutely no use.  You don’t develop good immunity and the tests don’t differentiate between the different kinds of antibodies to tell us to what degree you might become resistant to it.  People want to FEEL safe whether they are or not.  There’s not enough personal protective equipment to cover our front-line workers appropriately.  My wife and I bought our daughter a full-face respirator for work so that she didn’t get reinfected.  We’re telling workers to reuse masks when we know that the efficacy is reduced when we do that – and we have to so that we can spread what we have around.

 

My point is that we don’t add value to the discussion, we do.  I just think that the thing that’s needed is a way to tamp down the misinformation and I don’t know that I’ve seen any of our tools designed to do that.  Am I missing something fundamental?  Even the key systems thinking pieces (tragedy of commons, supply chain oscillations) are things that we’re aware of as KMers – but I don’t know that it’s at our core knowledge for the industry.  Again, I feel like I’m missing something.  I think that we have the capacity to add value, but I don’t think that the public is interested in “right”, I think they’re interested in feeling safe.

 

Rob

 

-------------------

Robert L. Bogue

O: (317) 844-5310  M: (317) 506-4977 Blog: http://www.thorprojects.com/blog

Are you burned out?  https://ExtinguishBurnout.com can help you get out of it.

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Stephen Bounds via groups.io
Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 3:40 AM
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] In what Industries or Segments does KM Thrive? #discussion-starter #futureofwork #kmers #proven-pra ctice #jobs

 

Hi Patrick,

Oh, I completely agree that KM is hard.

My frustration stems from the occasional feeling that people in the KM community have resigned themselves to the implementation of amateur-level KM with amateur-level knowledge of the discipline on the basis that it is better than having no KM at all.

KM should be at the absolute forefront of public discussions about the global COVID-19 response. What has played out across the world is absolutely not just luck (while still being a factor). We have the theoretical frameworks relating to complex adaptive systems, knowledge creation and diffusion, risk, trust, and communications to understand the problem and contribute to future solutions.

Yet I don't think I've heard KM mentioned even once in public discourse. Right now there is minimal understanding that this is at the very core of our discipline.

While the braggadocious over-promising and under-delivery of the 90s and oughts led to a serious credibility problem for KM, now we are afraid to promise much of anything at all. Worse: since there is no common underpinning of skills as a practice, we can't even point to successes in one organisation as a reasonable predictor of likely success in another.

We have to work out how to address this lack of coherence as a discipline. Otherwise we're just going to spend the next 20 years talking to each other and not to the people who need to hear it.

Cheers,
Stephen.

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================

On 12/05/2020 3:59 pm, Patrick Lambe wrote:

Hi Stephen

 

I don’t think hardness is really a factor in survival of KM functions. Lord knows, KM is hard.

 

Financial Management (and its embedded threadlets, financial management norms institutionalised into general management practice) have had 600 years to become institutionally and societally embedded. They are propped up and reinforced through pervasive laws, regulations and standards. Legally you can’t operate as a business of any size without this function. It has become a key mechanism in the whole capitalist way of creating and moving value around in society - and taxing and regulating value creation. This means you can fire any given CFO or accountant and hire another one to the same specification. Financial management has become mechanised to a large degree in many organisations. All of these factors act on its “indispensability” and none of them pertain to knowledge management at its current state of maturity. 

 

So while I think the metaphor of embeddedness does apply across management disciplines, and can be applied to knowledge management as to financial management, this metaphor does not extend to dispensability. KM just doesn’t have the same depth of institutional rootedness to compare with a function like FM. That’s why KM has to demonstrate value, repeatedly, win and retain support, repeatedly, play the political game, repeatedly, in addition to becoming embedded. In fact, I know of cases where over-successful embedding has rendered KM effectively invisible, and the phenomenon happens that Matt talks about - periodic loss of support, followed by reinvention of a new function a couple of years later.

 

Perhaps this was more to your point Stephen?

 

P

 

Patrick Lambe

Partner

+65 62210383







twitter: @plambesg





Knowledge mapping made easy: www.aithinsoftware.com

 

On 12 May 2020, at 1:10 PM, Stephen Bounds <km@...> wrote:

 

Hi Murray,

I think it matters quite a lot in the context that this conversation arose, which was around KM jobs.

Similarly to engineering, Patrick made comments about the pervasiveness of "small f small m" financial management -- yet I see no signs of a world in which the CFO and accountants are all made redundant. Chartered professionals have reached a level of specialised expertise where there is a broad recognition that their skills cannot be easily replicated by a lay person. 

To be blunt, if "frankly KM isn't that hard" then we need to make it harder. Otherwise, we will continue to see dedicated KM roles being shed from companies en masse when there are economic downturns.

Cheers,
Stephen.

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================

On 11/05/2020 4:53 pm, Murray Jennex wrote:

I have worked with people who didn't know they were engineers (but its not real common).  I'm not sure why you are sensitive about this, that people can do KM without knowing they are doing KM.  The name KM came about in the late 90s with it being OM, organizational memory or perhaps OL, organizational learning before that.  Those practitioners didn't know they were doing KM until they embraced the term KM.  Managing knowledge is not something that KM invented, people have been managing knowledge for centuries without knowing they were doing KM.  Now I didn't say that people adopting a knowledge practice are knowledge managers, but they can be and are managers and frankly, smart people in any discipline can figure out how to adopt and implement good knowledge practices.  I won't say they are as good at as a KM professional but they get by.  This is not unique to the world as the world is full of amateur engineers, astronomers, photographers, farmers, financiers, etc.  Heck, even on this list I've seen many posters complain about doctoral level KM professionals who teach KM.  It sounds elitist to suggest that only KM professionals can do KM, frankly KM isn't that hard if you study the different disciplines that we combine and have the vision to see what needs to be done.  This is why we are seeing some KM positions eliminated even though we know we provide value.  Heck, we are seeing MBA enrollments decline because gifted amateurs such as Mark Cuban say you don't need to be a MBA professional to be a good business person; and to some degree he is correct.  Same applies to KM....murray jennex



-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen Bounds <km@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io
Sent: Sun, May 10, 2020 10:53 pm
Subject: Re: [SIKM] In what Industries or Segments does KM Thrive? #discussion-starter #futureofwork #kmers #proven-pra ctice #jobs

Is there such a thing as an "embedded engineer"? If not, why not?

I have some issues with the idea that people "don't even know they are doing KM" unless people also "don't even know they are doing engineering".

I don't think workers who know how to assemble Ikea furniture "are" engineers, and I don't think people who informally adopt a sound KM practice within their teams "are" knowledge managers either.

Cheers,
Stephen.

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================

On 10/05/2020 6:24 am, Murray Jennex via groups.io wrote:

I understand your point Nick, but I look at embedded KM much like I would look at a embedded system, something that works but is buried in the innards of the system and is something nobody notices until it doesn't work.  I see embedded KM as KM built into the work practices: knowledge capture a part of the analysis of problems, knowledge sharing a part of the setup of how knowledge is saved and searched, collaboration with colleagues a part of the work culture and evaluation system, and etc.  You don't need a KM function to monitor this as monitoring is also embedded.  In these organizations they don't always even know they are doing KM, it is just good practice or common sense (I think this is something we have said as KMers for many years).  Where you do need some KM function is in governance of processes and data: mainly for ensuring knowledge alignment with strategic goals, incorporate process changes, and to anticipate future needs and process modifications.  How large this function is I'm not sure and it probably varies widely in practice.  How did embedded KM get there in the first place? That is where KM may have had a role (and I would agree it is done better if KM did have a role in initial design) but with knowledge workers it will happen even if there is no formal KM guidance as it is just good sense.....murray jennex



-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Milton <nick.milton@...>
To: SIKM@groups.io
Sent: Sat, May 9, 2020 7:40 am
Subject: Re: [SIKM] In what Industries or Segments does KM Thrive? #discussion-starter #futureofwork #kmers #proven-pra ctice #jobs

I don’t think embedded KM means no KM department, its just that they have a different function – support, monitoring, coaching, training, measuring, rather than doing. .

 

After all, most organisations have embedded financial management, but still have financial professionals and a CFO. 

 

 

 

Nick Milton




 

 

From: SIKM@groups.io <SIKM@groups.io> On Behalf Of Chris Jones
Sent: 09 May 2020 15:09
To: SIKM@groups.io
Subject: Re: [SIKM] In what Industries or Segments does KM Thrive? #discussion-starter #futureofwork #kmers #proven-pra ctice #jobs

 

Rahul - sure, my ask is to understand the industries or sectors of the economy (or perhaps more broadly, the global organizational landscape, to include NGO/NFP's & Government agencies) where KM is successful. For me, with on-going threads about KM job losses, demise of KM, and the like, I'm wanting to learn whether success is tied to unique industry needs.

Bill - thanks again for these inputs.

Murray - the examples are helpful; in my work in utilities, I've learned that fault intolerance tends to show up as increased, very detailed processes and controls, where knowledge is clearly integral - so I see your point.

Nick - execellent chart !! and I was hoping this sort of analysis had been done.  Interesting that you show embedded KM as the ideal end state in an applied maturity model rather than an alternative approach to a functional "KM department".  Curious if there's another thread on KM maturity models - guessing yes? I'll check - 

Appreciate all the responses, you're definitely advancing my thinking - thanks much for taking time to weigh-in.

Chris