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KM Asia 2002 ReportFirst published July 18, 2002 - Mais
First published July 18, 2002 - Maish Nichani
The Knowledge Management Asia 2002 conference is in town again. It is quite different from last year's conference in some expected ways. The attendee numbers are down, but not by much; the buzz and the excitement are down, but this could be related to the current economic climate, if not blame it on the after effects of the World Cup; there are more case-studies, showing that many KM experiments are in the "go-live" stage; and many of these case studies are very similar, revealing the stage of patterns. Overall, the conference is succeeding in getting together KM practitioners (been there, done that), KM theorists (not this, do that), and KM opportunists (why this, how about that) to share their views and experiences, which is always a good thing.
Sitting through the numerous presentations, I noticed some common themes:
- Companies are adopting a two-prong approach (people-to-documents, people-to-people) that is mentioned in HBR's much acclaimed article.
- KM initiatives are more strongly aligned with business strategies.
- It is still difficult to measure the ROI of KM initiatives.
- Many companies are realizing the importance of social spaces in addition to online collaboration spaces.
Here's my take on some interesting presentations.
Bank of Montreal
Richard Livesley, head of KM, Bank of Montreal (BoM), presented BoM's KM efforts. The bank's KM mission was to "create shareholder value by connecting people-to-people and people-to-information to effectively serve customers." Here's what the division represents:
- A small center of competence.
- A consulting services business model - a business within a business.
- An IT function that is staffed with people with a predisposition to deal with people issues.
One outcome of the division's efforts is kCafe. This physical place blends the usual cafe atmosphere with high tech learning tools.
Why did BoM invest in a physical place? Firstly because they wanted to give employees a place where they could meet face-to-face to solve problems using all the tools they required. Secondly because they realized that not all learning can be done online. Learners need guidance and help; they need someone to show them the way. The kCafe's Knowledge Engineer, who fills the role of a mentor and coach, helps the learners to try out new tools, techniques and practices. The Engineer also shares information between project groups thus helping to disseminate ideas between them.
Livesley informed me that the kCafe is very much an experiment in progress, but with the current enthusiastic uptake, plans are already underway to take it to the next level.
Singapore Prison Service
Teo Tze Fang, Associate Director of Singapore Prison Service grabbed the attention of the audience by announcing that his presentation is not all about technology implementations, but of people-sized initiatives. And so it was.
Here are some statistics of the Singapore Prison Service:
- 14 prisons cum drug rehab centers.
- 4 maximum, 9 medium, and 1 minimum security institutions.
- 17,000 inmates. (Tze Fang informed the audience that the inmates are now being treated as HR assets).
- 2,100 employees.
The problem: Traditionally the Prison Services was managed by a command-control regime. The new mandate was to change this management mindset and make it a more team-oriented decision making structure; to be Captains of Lives. The emphasis was on the change in the mindset of its officers.
The Prison Service took a rather unique approach to the problem. Rather than throwing only technology at the problem (the usual document management, e-mail management, discussion forums), the strategy was to increase the face-time. Yes, face-time. This is how they did it:
- Breakfast meetings: Gathering of both senior and junior officers once a week to discuss any issue.
- Learning Center: Collection of online resources, books, magazines and videos to stir the mind.
- Coffee Corners: Enabling sharing of everyday information.
Clarica, M.A, USA
Hubert Saint-Onge presented his KM experience with Clarica. It was a really nice presentations in which Hubert clarified some common theoretical misconceptions. My takeaways from his presentation are given below:
- Learning generates capability; facilitates change. This leads to business growth and financial performance.
- Learning must equal or exceed the level of change to be successful.
- Elements of individual capabilities are 1) attributes (values and beliefs) and 2) competencies (specific skills and knowledge). You can develop competencies, but you select attributes. To change mindsets, one has to tackle both competencies and attributes.
- Competencies are governed by explicit knowledge, while attributes are governed by tacit knowledge.
- Explicit knowledge can be enhanced (acquiring methods and rules for dealing with known and recurring situations), while tacit knowledge has to be reframed (reinventing methods and approaches for dealing with new situations and challenges).
- Organizational capabilities are largely a measure of how the organization deals with the enhancing and reframing elements of individual capabilities.
Want more? Go here: http://knowinc.com/saint-onge/
Knowledge Research Institute
Karl Wiig's keynote was on "Reinventing business with new generation KM." Wiig's presentation had so much breadth and depth that I am having difficulty in recalling the main points now. But you surely want to know how the New Generation KM is different from other generations. Right? Here it is:
- 1st Generation: Conventional KM (method oriented)
In this stage the focus was on KM technology, and on sharing "best practices".
- 2nd Generation: Thrust oriented
This stage is characterized by formalizing organizational learning, and fostering Communities of Practice and Networks of Practice.
- New Generation KM: State of the Art KM
In this stage KM becomes an integral part of organizational culture and the focus is on emergent systems and natural human processes like storytelling.
The part of the presentation that I did recall, Wiig skipped in a hurry. The title of that slide read: KM Is Required Where Work Is Complex. I have redrawn the graph that he presented:
- Past work was routine and well understood; ideal candidate for automation.
- Future work will require decision-making in non-routine scenarios and in unexpected situations; ideal candidates for new generation KM.
More information: http://www.krii.com/articles.htm
People attended KM Asia 2002 to learn what other KM practitioners around the world are doing, the challenges they are facing, and the visions they are reframing. At the end of the second day I saw many satisfied faces with a sense of renewed confidence in their eyes. From this angle, KM Asia 2002 more than succeeded in meeting its objectives.