Barriers to Knowledge Flow

January 30, 2007

After my first Community of Practice meeting I talked one on one with some of the CoP members to gauge how they felt about it. And found that they thought the call was a good start. However there needed to be more material there to keep the members coming back for more.

Some of the members wanted the community to:

  • Be focused on tangible outputs such as best practices and recommendations
  • Be a meeting of peers to discuss ideas and questions
  • Be a forum to get early warning on potential customer issues
  • Be a means to gather feedback and provide validation of feedback
  • Capture best practices in the field from all over the world

These are all valid actions or goals to have for a community, however some potential barriers exist that have to be addressed:

  • What information is shareable? How do you ensure security of the document?
  • With whom is that information shareable?
  • How do you send out the information?
  • Who determines the validity of the information?
  • How is the information validated?

On the surface these seem like very basic and easy to answer questions. However in the context of a cross functional community of practice answers to these questions can be disconcerting for a few. I believe that answers to these questions will help to build the following in the community:

  • Trust – Trust is a huge component of any community. However, it is something that is hard to build and so very easy to destroy. It only takes one corporate or governmental leak to clam the whole system up.
  • Framework – A functioning community must have a framework and defined roles for its members. This also includes rules for interacting with the community both internally and externally.

Of course there is more that makes a community successful, but I’m still learning. Need more check out CPSquare.


Communities of Practice

January 18, 2007

This blog is called kmapprentice. So I guess its time to write about my recent KM work. Recently I’ve been part of a group trying to get a Community of Practice (CoP) started up and focused on a specific technical topic.

Our method was to:

  1. Identify the key subject matter experts (SMEs) on the topic from inside the company.
  2. Of those SMEs identify those that had 4 basic values
    1. Demonstrated Leadership
    2. Technical Excellence
    3. Results Oriented
    4. Easy to work with
  3. We then contacted each of the 20 core team members about their participation and provided a presentation on the CoP back ground.
  4. Each member of the core team on the CoP was given a set of HW to:
    1. Name, years at company and area of focus
    2. An influence map of the groups that had contact with
    3. Their top three issues they would like to see the CoP work on
  5. The meeting was scheduled and completed this week

Some observations along the way:

  1. By individually calling each member I found that they were all quite eager to join and some were even honored to be asked. Others thought that is was fine but showed no great interest. But nobody said it would be a waste of time.
  2. Attendance was 95%, only one person did not show (and only because of time conflict). Prior to the meeting I sent a meeting reminder which may have helped attendance but who knows.
  3. Part of the first meeting was to do a round of introductions; however, since this was a conference call with participants from the UK and the US, we couldn’t just ‘go around the room’. So I picked a random order of introduction and put up their background slide while each person spoke. Also on the slide was the next person ‘on deck’. This seemed to work well as the introductions went efficiently.
  4. I felt it was necessary to setup the structure and expectations, so I did spend the majority of the time talking, however I hope that future meetings will be less so.
  5. For the most part the meeting went well and the discussion while not ground breaking was good as participants warmed up.
  6. Unfortunately 45 minutes into the meeting a heated discussion started up and I was forced to step in and table the discussion. It also helped that a couple colleagues emailed me to also ask that I table the discussion, so I didn’t feel like I was overstepping the coordinator role. However, the discussion took the ‘wind’ out of the room and everyone got quiet again.
  7. I had to cut short part of the meeting so that we could end on time.

I think despite the lone tangential discussion the meeting went well and initial feedback was positive. I am looking forward to hosting the next one. If nothing else to see which participants decide to show up. I intend to follow up with a brief call to each member next week and have already sent them an email ‘thank you’ for attending.

Board Update

January 11, 2007

Well, its been almost a month since my last round of meetings with my Board of Advisors. I did accomplish all of the goals that were expected of me. And I have scheduled another round of meetings for this month. These should take place early next week.

I was pleasantly surprised today when I logged on One of the stories posted was titled “8-Ways to Enhance your Career“. The article was from the Wall Street Journal and the first way believe it or not was to “Create a Board of Advisors”. The article went on to say “Find two or three people you admire, and take each one to lunch a few times this year, says Dale Winston, chief executive of recruiting firm Battalia Winston International. Look to your advisers for counsel, feedback on your career progress and introductions to new people or ideas. The ideal board will include someone at work who understands your company better than you do, someone within your industry who has a broad sense of what’s happening in the field, and a third person who understands what you want from life.”

Well I guess there goes that patent idea. But its nice to see some indirect approval of the method I laid out for myself. It would appear I’ve started off on the right path, (at least according to Mr. Winston). I am sure you’ve been wondering who my Board of Advisors are? Well they all agreed to be put on my blog, so click on Board of Advisors above. It would also appear from reading the article that I owe my advisors lunch, something I will gladly rectify the next time I see each one.

Here were my goals to complete before the next meeting:

  1. Sign up for a class that I will demonstrate quantative skill
  2. Sign up for Toast Masters
  3. Begin volunteering
  4. Research into a comedy or improv class

I’ll post more on each goal after meeting with my advisors.

Hard Work

January 8, 2007


At HDS there is a leadership book club that discusses a new leadership book once per month. A brief list of past titles includes “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell, “Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Spencer Johnson and The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey.

This month the book was You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference by Mark Sanborn. Its a quick read at 102 pages, but with most business / leadership books, implementing or executing all of the ideas or even those you most relate too, takes time. The title pretty much sums up the theme of the book. That there are ways to demonstrate and practice leadership everywhere (not just at work, in fact its most often NOT at work). This is a recurring theme in most leadership books, and I hope its because the theme is true, and not because its an easy way to sells leadership books to those in non-managerial positions. “You don’t need to be a leader” and other books like it stress that Leadership takes many different forms in many different forums and that success is not guaranteed because of where you are on the corporate ladder. Leadership is defined in the book as influence, the ability to provide a vision, communicate it and persuade others to help you make it succeed. It has more to do with your effectiveness and I dare say ‘luck’ (although, there is no ‘luck’; I define luck as those people who work hard to put themselves in wining positions, to be at the right time and place and thus only seem lucky. All their hard work is mostly invisible to outside observers).

Overall I would recommend the book for anyone looking to improve their Leadership IQ as its a minimal investment in time spent reading and instead you can focus your time an efforts on planning and executing, two far more important things, that will require hard work.

In fact it seems that any project be it implementing a new Knowledge Management initiative at a company, improving your skills, learning a new language or other worthwhile activity will require hard work. Which is good news and bad. Bad is that it takes lots and lots of effort. Good in that it is possible even if you don’t have the immediate skills. This article from Fortune talks about the Secret to Greatness.

The article’s summary says it all “The critical reality is that we are not hostage to some naturally granted level of talent. We can make ourselves what we will. Strangely, that idea is not popular. People hate abandoning the notion that they would coast to fame and riches if they found their talent. But that view is tragically constraining, because when they hit life’s inevitable bumps in the road, they conclude that they just aren’t gifted and give up. Maybe we can’t expect most people to achieve greatness. It’s just too demanding. But the striking, liberating news is that greatness isn’t reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.”

So maybe the business improvement books aren’t just selling snake oil to make us feel better. There may be some truth to what they are telling us after-all. Its just that my goals may require a lot more hard work than they (or I) realize. What is it they say, ignorance is bliss?

Happy New Year

January 4, 2007

Well I took some time off for the holidays and did not blog, check email or surf the web (much). I am looking forward to getting started on my goals from my Board of Advisors. So far I’ve signed up for a Statistics class at Harvard University’s Extension School. Hopefully this will help to improve by educational background.