Monday, April 30, 2007

Tooling Around - Blogs

Yes, Dave. I am Johnnie's evil twin, exiled to other side of the world by the Moore Clan. The Moore Clan run everything. That latte you had yesterday? Us. Iraq? Us. Wolfmother? That was us too (sorry). I look exactly like Johnnie except for a neat yet unflattering goatie beard.

Anyway back to tools. I don't want to blog too much about blogging - it's onanistic & boring. I worry about disappearing up my own fundament - if I did that then where would I get all my statistics from? However, the main addition I would make to Bain's advice is: Don't start with the blog.

My corporate blogging method would be:

  • Give everyone in your organisation permission to set up their own blogger/typepad account. Ask them to give you a link to their RSS feed when they've done that.
  • Give them a list of things they absolutely cannot talk about. Try to make it relatively short. You can't make this list short? Then may be you aren't ready for this yet. If they want to check anything with you then give them that option & respond quickly & decisively.
  • Make it clear to their managers that blogging should not be punished - provided people are doing their jobs. If they are not doing their jobs then find out why - don't just blame the blogging.
  • Advise them to be nice to people. Remind them that this is in public. "The evil that men do lives after them".
  • Advise them to think of 3-4 business-related things that they are passionate about.
  • Advise them to find 10 people that blog about each of those things. Look at the posts. Look at the comments fields. Do these people link to each other? What world are they about to step into?
  • Let them get on with it. They can work out when they feel ready to step into conversations. They can talk about that with you if they want.
  • Read their RSS feeds & give them a bit of encouragement. Be their first audience.
  • Only intervene if someone really screws up. You can't handle someone screwing up? Then may be you aren't ready for this yet. Suggest that your bloggers talk to each other about their experiences.
  • Don't treat them as another "channel" for messages - they are not a ventriloquist's dummy. But do treat them as conversational partners.
  • See who has kept it going after 6 months. Do something nice for them (preferably involving the blog).

Blogging allows you to:

  • Talk to customers & partners at all levels.
  • Scan the environment for change.
  • Identify potential thought leaders.

All for very little cost.

I am not going to pretend that there's anything maddenly original here but what do people think. Have I over engineered this? Underengineered it? What have I missed?

P.S. I am with Dave on the inaccurate use of methodology. Putting ology on the end of something does not make you cleverer.

More Change

Following on from the last post, one of the most insightful books I have read recently on the topic is by Patricia Shaw and called Changing Conversations in Organizations. Shaw is part of the shadowy & secretive Complexity & Management Centre based out of the University of Hertfordshire (though I think they're just a front for someone else). An organisation so shadowy & secretive, they have published a large number of books* (including the book by Philip Streatfield mentioned below) and run numerous masters & doctorate programs. If I was a documentary maker, I'd probably be drawing all kinds of sinister conclusions from the incontrovertable fact that Ralph Stacey once had a scone at tea shop run by Richard Pearle's nephew's piano teacher but for now I'll just have to talk about Changing Conversations.

The beauty of this book is that it does not attempt to make things simple for the reader. Change in the book is messy. The central case study (although the result is nothing as clinical as that term implies) concerns a change programme at an Italian Chemicals Factory (the chemical factory bit somehow manages to cancel out the Italian part in the glamour stakes, eh?). This is leavened with references to complexity science, the shortcoming of trad organisational development theory & some episodes where Prof. Shaw interviews herself as a way of reflecting on events in a dissociative manner. As with individual gambits described in the book, the result is is a calculated risk that eventually works. There is no papering over failure & changing the our world with others is never presented as anything less than a contingent, partial, ongoing business. I reckon this book should be required reading for all would-be "change agents**".

*Routledge do their bit to try to keep the CMC shadowy & secretive by charging an arm & a leg for hardback copies of these.

**Does a change agent get 10% of all the change that occurs - like a theatrical or literary one?

Words & Meaning: (5) Change

For some people, organisational change is a bit like this:

And sometimes they are right. You point in one direction & off your troops go, in nice neat lines. We have plans & communications. We have articulated the benefits for change to all concerned. We have incentive plans in place & measurement systems that will track the necessary conformity to our goals.


However, with all that in mind, why does change more often feel like this?

John Kotter is one of the world's foremost authorities on change management lays down the following eight steps for change:

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
2. Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition
3. Create a Vision
4. Communicate the Vision
5. Empower Others to Act on the Vision
6. Plan for and Create Short-Term Wins
7. Consolidate Improvements and Produce Still More Change
8. Institutionalize New Approaches

All of which is good stuff. But just as "innovation" is a darn sight messier than what it says on the label, so is change. The metaphor that keeps going through my head around KM & change (and if you don't think KM is all about change then go to the back of the class now) is moving an enormous boulder. If you try to lift it with your arms, you will break your back. Instead you have to find a leverage point. A place you can stick a crowbar and use your whole weight (and this where it actually comes in handy if you are a desk-bound manager with a weakness for tim-tams) to make some kind of difference. The point I made in the previous post about finding a group of people with a real (preferably solvable) business problem is related to this. They are your leverage point. It may be about lessons learned or virtual teaming, you have to start somewhere.

And this ties into Kotter's first point. It is very hard to establish a sense of urgency for KM projects. It is impossible to manufacture it ("If we don't set up a new product development community of practice, we risk imminent invasion from Mars!!!"). So find some people who already have a sense of urgency about something. KM practitioners have to be (N.B. metaphor alert) ambulance chasers. Be careful, this group of people may have a million other people wanting to solve their problems for them. They may even have hired the A-Team. So only step in if it is genuinely an issue where you can add value because you don't want to have to face down Mr T in a powerpoint duel now do you?

Tool Time

Martin Roulleaux Dugage & Tom Davenport both refer to the Bain Tools Survey. This survey is very useful & virtually unique - provided you take it for what it is. Which is basically what is perceived as "in" and "out" by various executives. Harsher souls than I would call it the business fad hit parade.

Newbies on the block Corporate Blogging (I want a corporate blog, just like that dude @ GM, I'm as important as he is goddammit!!!) & Consumer Anthropology (voyeurism given a satisfyingly scientific sheen) get mentions for the first time and demonstrate low levels of usage & satisfaction (everyone wants to beat up the newbies and take their dinner money).

Old war-horse Knowledge Management (I think it's something to do with intranets) rises to eighth place despite no one liking it much (KM = the Celine Dion of business?!?). Nearly 70% of organisations surveyed said they were doing some kind of KM activity. Apparently smaller firms were more satisfied than larger firms.

Which makes intuitive sense. Nearly eight years bitter experience have indicated to me that KM just doesn't scale very well. If you want to do KM properly in a 10,000 employee business, you actually have to find a much smaller group (say around 150 mark max) with a specific business problem and start there. Linking those groups of 150 with their different business problems is absolutely possible but really not something you'd want to rush into.

Looking forward to 2007, the main loser seems to be benchmarking. It seems that copying your classmate's work is going out of fashion (well, he was a bit "special" anyway, so no great loss there).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Internal Co-opetition & Value Networks

Co-opetition - an ugly word formed by splicing "competition" & "cooperation" - refers to organisations that compete in some markets & cooperate in others. Like the TV serial cliche (usually hit upon late in the second season or early in the third) where sworn foes must collaborate against a common enemy or face extinction. Unlike TV serials (where both sides are at each other hammer & tongs again at the end of 60 minutes - although with an extra frisson of sexual tension) such relationships may go on on for years.

Obviously the bigger the footprint of your corporation, the more likely you are to hit on co-opetition. IBM operates in the hardware, software & IT services markets and both cooperates & competes with the likes of Accenture, Oracle, etc. In fact the IT industry is similar to your standard high-voltage TV soap* in terms on bed-hopping & revenge plotting. But even the evil twins in daytime soaps have better personalities than half the IT industry (and yes, of course you, dear reader, are obviously in the better half - any visitor here demonstrates taste & style).

One observation I would make is that most people assume co-opetition occurs outside the enterprise, that corporations are bounded entites. In fact co-opetition is alive & well inside most organisations. But surely business units must cooperate to grow & survive I hear you say, why would they waste time on internicine warfare? Well for two reasons:
- Resources within firms are limited. And "Limited" may mean only "billions of dollars" but trust me, factories, fancy advertising, IT systems and oodles & oodles of people can't be bought with Monopoly money. Business units compete for captial & investment.
- Business units may well be closer to their partners outside the business and other groups within their own enterprise. After all, these people might literally be buying them lunch rather than just metaphorically. Have you ever enjoyed a metaphorical lunch more than a real one?

Canny executives will move managers between business units in a bid to stem the latter problem but usually undo these efforts with siloed measurement systems that focus on individual product sales rather than total returns from a customer or territory. If you are being paid to work with your new friends and screw your old ones then many people find a way to live with the cessation of christmas cards and BBQ invites.

Most organisations find some sort of compromise to deal with this. More people are moved, cross-LOB teams are formed, measurement systems are tweaked and heads are knocked together (though some might be rolled).

A useful tool you could use for analysing this situation are value networks. Only rather than dealing at the corporate level, focus on roles that explore units with both your organisation & your partners. Now if someone has already done that, I would love to hear about it.

*Back to TV again, don't go to business school - 2 years siting in front the box with "The Bold & The Beautiful" on repeat is easily equivalent to an MBA. End up as obese as the average middle manager for a mere fraction of the cost!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Turbulence & Complexity: Why all IT is not the same

Andrew McAfee has just published a study on the impact of IT in different industries in the lasst decade. I am a little suspicious of the findings on methodological grounds (correlation vs. causation) but I want make some different observations here.

So Andrew finds that industries with a high IT spend have experienced more concentration & turbulence over the last decade. As the last decade has seen a great increase in IT spending in certain industries, Andrew assumes that this increased competitiveness is due to increased IT investments. The WSJ article & the methodological article both identify two key areas of IT spend:
- Internet technologies.
- ERP technologies.

The WSJ article then notes with that IT is supposed to make things more stable than less. What can be going on?

I want to suggest this data obscures two opposite trends that were going on during the 90s.

1. The first trend was standardisation. ERP systems drive conformity through organisations. In many ways, ERP systems were the technical manifestations of BPR & corporate centralisation programs designed to instigate control. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing but it is not scary (to senior management).

2. The second trend was the internet. Whilst the major ERP vendors eventually made their platforms internet-compliant, the internet was initially seen as irrelevant and then disruptive, disintermediating and seemingly uncontrollable. In short, it was scary.

So the question I would pose is, is the concentration and disruption in certain industries a function of IT spend (which would have been ERP-based for most of the 90s) or a change in their operating environment triggered by the emergence of the internet?

The point on which this question turns is: Were the industries with high IT spend in the 90s also those most vulnerable to disruption by internet technologies? Because the sales turbulence graph in the WSJ looks awfully like the NASDAQ (which was primarily powered by dot.coms). My guess is yes, but I don't really have the numbers to prove it.

The theoretical underpinning for this would be Alexrod & Cohen. A complex system is understood in terms of variation, interaction & selection of entities in an environment. The extent to which different manifestions of IT impact these qualities will drive the complexity of the system (if such a thing is possible to measure). I see the internet as positively impacting interaction between entites (and ERP being neutral) as it offered many more P2P channels than had existed before. I see the internet postively impacting variation as more business models became possible (and ERP being neutral). I see neither the internet or ERP having a direct impact on selection criteria.

To get philosophical, Andrew's position is somewhat comforting in that it tells organisations: "If you make the right IT choices, you will ultimately be successful. Your future is in your hands". This may be partially true but the more discomforting perspective is: "You have less control over your future than you think. Your nightmares about disruptive technologies and new competitors are real".

What do you think?

How do I get my employees more passionate?

Hmmm - this is a tricky one. There are many contributing factors but number one is: Don't beat the passion out of them in the first place.

Bottom-line: There is no cast-iron guaranteed way to make others care. They are called "intrinsic motivations" for a reason.

Here are a few things that won't help:

  • Beating people up a lot. Some research I saw on the front of someone else's newspaper on train last week stated that negative evaluations have 4 times as much impact as positive ones (can someone confirm whether I just made that up please?). Which means that you have to be nice to people at least 80% of the time or else they will think that you think they suck. And hate you for it.
  • Not caring that much yourself. If my boss doesn't care then why should I? And not just saying that you care but showing it by offering time & resources to it. Words are cheap, actions are a bit less cheap. Attention is the scarcest resource for most executives & therefore the resource most appreciated.
  • Making people do stuff they hate. Everyone has to do a bit of something they don't like. It's good for us (in a Victorian school marmish kinda way - you eat that soggy, overboiled veg now). I may be unusual but I like doing stuff I am good at and am often good at doing stuff I like. Not always (I am fond of male catwalk modelling but that career is still on hold) but often. If people are put in the wrong roles then do not expect them to get passionate about them without a super-human effort of will.
  • Motivational speakers. Now these words aren't cheap. I have seen & heard many truly inspiring people. Wonderful, wonderful people. Have they all changed my life? No. Because a depressing environment (the things I have just written about) will squash all that post-talk inspiration as flat as a little flightless bird under the remorseless tracks of a tank.
  • Bribery. Shawn Callahan recently quoted Alfie Kohn - who has spent years indicating why the uses of rewards as motivational tools have limited value.

So what can you do? Well, David Maister gives a wonderful example of inspirational management here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Words & Meaning (4): Passion

Patrick Lambe blogs about passion - or what passes for it these days.

Why do people say they are "passionate"? It seems mere competence isn't enough. Do I want a passionate airline pilot or competent one? "I can't fly this baby for **** but god I love wearing this uniform!!!"

So I think some of it comes down to trust & measurement. As the things people do become less tangible, we find it harder to judge their competence. But if they're passionate, well, we can just see the passion bursting across their faces in paralytic spasms. They must be good!!!

Plus if people actually want to do their jobs you can pay them less to do them - no matter how much junk you hit them with. Intrinsic motivation in employees, customers or partners is great because you as a manager/supplier have to do less work yourself.

So we say we want "passion". And people tell us they have what we want. Of course, both sides in this tawdry transaction could be lying. Is passion actually really truly like drugs?

Punter: "You got some stuff?" (Translation: "This activity scares me the heck out of me but I'm trying to look cool in front of my friends - esp. the cute chick on the left who thinks I got my appendectomy scar in a gang fight. I'd rather be at home having a bath right now.")
Pusher: "Yeah, I got some good stuff" (Translation: "I have some headache tablets I crushed with my shoe. I will sell you these at 10 times their actual value. This street corner is cold, windy & dangerous. I'd rather be at home having a bath right now.")

Where is Barry White when you need him?

Standing in the Way of Control

Just finished The Paradox of Control in Organizations by Philip Streatfield. In some ways Streatfield is the anti-Trump. Dear ol' Don & his ilk (and yes that means you Jack "Winning Guts" Welch) tell us stories of how gosh darn great they are and how we should be just like them if we want to do what matters in this world (make heaps of $$$, run large corporations, appear in our own TV shows). I have no qualms with their own pursuit of this lifestyle. Not too keen on it myself - but then I'm not a kid from the wrong side of the tracks made cliched (unless you count Bognor as the wrong side of the tracks - and Arun Council's tourism officer would register a protest if you did).

Streatfield does not run his own corporation but he did rise to a senior position at SmithklineBeecham before joining Entertainment UK. And as you read the following it's important to remember that his background is in supply chain ("trucks 'n' ****ing sheds" as one supply chain practitioner once theorised it to me) not chakra alignment or group hugging.

The paradox that Streatfield talks about is that managers like to think of themselves as "in control". People look to us to tell them what to do. So we tell them. People behave as if we know what we're doing. And we feel it rude to disabuse them of this notion. If we are particularly naive/arrogant/high we might even belief that ultimately we are in control. We have methodologies, measurement systems, MBAs, speakerphones on our desks ferchrissakes!!! What Streatfield bravely fesses up to as a practicing manager is that ain't necessarily so. We are in control in some senses - and in others we are not. And that is a bit scary.

Learning to deal with that anxiety in yourself & others is a critical skill for a manager. The first big project I managed (well, big for me - I need a gant chart to change a light bulb) felt like driving an articulated lorry down a steep hill with the brakelines cut - and small, fluffy, endangered species jumping out in front of me at random times (budget cut, budget back again, scope changed, stakeholder replaced, team member replaced, etc). Initially my stress levels went through the roof, then after a while I just got on with it. [N.B. I recommend a state of detached engagement. If you fail, will people die? If the answer to that question is "yes" then you better have good support & a strong stomach. But for most people, the answer is "no" - no matter how much of you secretly wants it to be "yes".]

If you want to find out more, read the book.

There are two lies. One that we are not in control of our own destiny - what happens to us is the responsibility of others. Now this can be true - if you are a new-born infant. The other is that we are solely responsible for the outcomes of our lives. And this is true for no one - unless you gave birth to yourself (which I know to be physically impossible - I have diagrams). The truth is that whilst we are not wholly in control of our lives, no one else is either and we have the biggest stake in looking after ourselves. And the other thing to remember is that everyone else is in this position as well. So welcome to the club - treat the other members nice.

Post title brought to courtesy of The Gossip.

Words & Meaning (3): Innovation

So back in 2001 when we had blown grandma's life savings on "investments" in stock (and after all that advice she had given us about consultants too), all anyone wanted to talk about was cost-cutting & firing people - sorry "strategic profit improvement". So we cut out the fact-finding trips to Barbados & fired some people - sorry "strategically improved our profits" - and then wondered what to do next. "Growth" was the word on everyone's lips. So we rubbed our hands greedily over China & India and then got the shock of our lives when we realised that "growth" meant their right to grow into our consumer goods & professional markets and our right to grow very afraid and our children's right to grow poor (N.B. I don't necessarily believe that a larger world market overall means that the West will be disadvantaged but I couldn't let that stand in the way of rhetoric - more on that another time).

So the rallying cry became "innovation". Now what does innovation mean? From my extensive reading around the subject and exposure to some of the world's finest research labs, I can say that it means: "Doing something new that makes things better". That may mean new income streams or greater efficiency or whatever.

There are different types of innovation. Tidd et al differentiate product, process, positioning & paradigm. To which you might add organizational and others from here. But basically anything you can ask a questions about (who, how, what, where, why, when, so what) you can innovate around. In fact, anything you do, say or think; you can do, say or think differently.

But there's a problem here. We don't like to do things differently - esp. if some moron we don't know is telling us do things differently. Innovation inherently involves change & conflict. And here are two things that most organisations are bad at doing well. If instead of "innovation", we called it "annoying large numbers of existing employees & customers" then it may lose its allure a tad.

Which brings me to the incremental / radical distinction. To me, this is simply an issue of scale. All innovations are radical to someone - otherwise their value is presumably small. The radical / incremental distinction actually boils down to: "Does this merit a whole slide in the CEO's next quarterly investor call?"

So let me bring on Bob Sutton. Bob is currently getting a lot of well-deserved attention for a book with a rude word in the title (penny in the swearbox, Bob). Before that book, he wrote this one. It has 11.5 rules in it to encourage innovation. I refer you to rule 8: Find some happy people & teach them how to fight. Constructive conflict is good (but that doesn't give you a free pass to behave like the title character in Bob's new book) - and it is only through constructive conflict that innovation will happen. If you want to find out more, read the book.

N.B. There is "good" innovation and "bad" innovation. Modern sewage systems in cities to reduce cholera & typhoid = Good. Enron-style creative accounting = Bad.

Words & Meaning (2): Excellence

So we are all In Search Of Excellence and we all need A Passion For Excellence*. However there is also The Paradox Of Excellence. Hang on - I thought excellence is good? How can it be bad? Someone should tell these guys. In some ways this is a relief as all those times I thought I was screwing up I was actually unconsciously avoiding the paradox of excellence. Phew!

So excellence seems to boil down to: "Doing stuff well". Or even "Not screwing up". So far, so uncontroversial. However, this means that if you tell your people "We expect excellence" and then don't tell them what that actually means, you have pretty much given them a cast-iron, 5-star guarantee to fail. Unless you have hired telepaths. In which case they know all about that almost-forgotten tryst with the CFO's wife in a yuletide stationery closet. These are not people you can fire without expensive "favours" from New Jersey's finest waste disposal consultants. This factor may outweigh their abilities to predict your every whim in the cost/benefit stakes.

So communicating intent becomes important. Klein talks about 7 things that need to be communicated:
1. Purpose of task (higher level goal)
2. Objective of task (image of desired outcome)
3. Sequence of steps in plan
4. Rational for plan
5. Key decisions that need to be made
6. Antigoals (unwanted outcomes)
7. Constraints

To find out more, read the book. So bear this in mind when asking for excellence. If you don't ask for a sandwich, don't be surprised is someone hands you one of these high value items instead.

*This is a book that claims to "take you from behind". Call me picky, but I don't like my literature to assault me. Any book that tries to get me in a chokehold will find itself in the shredder pretty darn quick. My grandmother warned me about consultants like you, Peters.

Words & Meaning (1): Value

Three. Little. Words. That trigger my gag reflex. First up...

1. Value:
"What is the value proposition?"
"Have you delivered value?"
"Have you demonstrated value?"
"We add exceptional value."
So what is this value stuff? It's not cold, hard cash, because if you replace "value" with "cash" in the above phrases they become even less meaningful than they were to begin with. Presumably it's what people will pay cold, hard cash for. And as we well know, people will pay cold, hard cash for virtually anything.

So value = virtually anything? Hmmm. Well that doesn't make much sense: "Let me show how I added virtually anything". Not going to cut it.

We must follow the lovely Dr House & remember that "Everybody Lies". Or rather they do not say what they mean (which amounts to the same thing, surely).

When someone asks you whether a certain activity is adding value, what they often mean is: "Am I going to get fired or promoted for doing this or letting you do this for me?"

If you know they are definitely going to get promoted for this activity, say: "The value proposition is clear as demonstrated by these examples of other people who got promoted for doing this". The technical term for these examples is "case studies".

If it could go either way, say: "There is value potential here, as demonstrated by these charts. Why don't we do a value pilot and measure the value-add?" A pilot is wonderful face-saving device that whilst it doesn't guarantee promotions, also protects people from getting fired.

If it will definitely get them fired, then tell them whatever you like. If they're brighter than you, they'll spot it a mile off and you'll be out of the door. If they're dumber than you, they deserve it anyway (it's a Darwinian thing).

Brainstorming as Improv Method

[Another ACT-KM reprint]

I've been thinking a lot about brainstorming & creativity recently. It took me a surprisingly long time to realise that brainstorming is formally equivalent to the improv exercises I had done in some acting classes a few years ago. In some ways this will be hard to understand unless you have done this stuff but here goes.

Many people dread getting up on stage. Many more people dread getting up on stage without a script (or even a detailed set of powerpoint charts). The fear is "I will say something stupid, or not say anything at all, and people will laugh at me & I will feel bad". We developed filters to prevent ourselves saying or doing things that may lead to humiliation.

Improv attempts to create the conditions for group creativity. This involves the application of rules & practice to allow trust to emerge between individuals. If you observe a new group doing improv exercises, it takes them time to develop this trust (generally about 2-3 hours) - esp. if they are novices. And the weird thing is, anyone can do it. Take someone who says "I am not creative / I have no imagination", give them the rules and let them get on with it and they will be amazed with what they come out with.

[N.B. I am coming to believe that trust is a complex responsive process between identities based on a first-fit pattern match - but that's another post & you'll just have to take my word on that for now.]

So what does this have to do with brainstorming? Well here is a definition I found on the web: "A method of shared problem solving in which all members of a group spontaneously contribute ideas."

We (and that includes me) normally do brainstorming badly. Someone will come up with an idea and it will either be ignored or critisized. Now the criticism may be perfectly valid but it tends to stop the flow of creativity. Brainstorming tends to be a painful, unfun activity that ends prematurely. Studies also vary in their opinion of its effectiveness.

I propose that for brainstorming to be truly successful it needs to follow some of the rules of improv:
1. Set the scene & be specific. When you offer your problem/challenge make it as concrete as possible. Give an example. Give slightly too much information. And it should be phrased as a problem or challenge rather than an assertion. Because you can only agree or disagree with an assertion.
2. Say "Yes and". If someone makes an offer (even a ludicrous one) build on it and take that one stage further.
3. Don't Block. Rather than say why an idea won't work, say what is required to make it work. If you ask a question of someone then try to add more information while doing so.
4. Leave the analysis to the end. Analysis of options should be a separate activity. Some passive/unconscious analysis occurs anyway because people will respond more to certain offers than to others.

Some links:
Johnnie Moore
Improv Rules

Return on Investment & Other Dramas

[This is a reprint from the ACT-KM list a couple of weeks ago - prompted by posts from Patrick Lambe & Joe Firestone]

People rarely say what they really mean. A senior executive will say: "Give me the ROI for KM" when they often actually mean is: "I do not understand this activity or what you do - prove it in a default language that I understand & feel comfortable with".

Now to be blunt, the numbers most ROI calculations come up with are baloney. But they grab attention. The Accenture book 'Return on Learning' demonstrates this (in my opinion). Accenture's training department had to justify their existence & they put together a rigorous case that indicated that every $ spent on training generated $3.5 in extra revenue (in terms of improved productivity, greater retention).

The $3.5 number is just bait. But in putting this together they identified what the drivers were that they impacted. Which led to an interesting dicussion about the role of & future for training.

The other observation I would make is that managers portray their organisations as rational entities driven by calculation. Sometimes they are, and the further you get away from the front line then that's all you are left with - the numbers. But the dirty little secret is that organisations are run as much on perception as on analysis. If all your subordinates (and indeed your superiors) tell you that something is the bees knees then you don't tend to ask for numbers - unless everyone is in the proverbial.

Which is where a technique like MSC comes in - it makes the outcomes from an initiative real for people. It allows executives to feel the value. "This stuff is important for my people & it makes them more effective in these concrete ways".

So some conclusions:
- You can't just tell people, you have to show them.
- You have to have the numbers (as the invitation to the dance) but people have to feel them.

So if someone asks you for ROI:
- Think about the measureable bits of the business that you impact.
- Find some data that shows you might conceivably rock.
- Get your foot in the door & take the listener on that journey.
- Ensure that while you are doing this, people are feeding your key stakeholder lots of examples of where you have actually rocked.

Can anyone come up with examples of where they have done this?

Cost of Knowledge

"In fact employees spent, on average, less than 17 percent of their time searching and scheduling, and more than 80 percent eliciting, interpreting and applying. The results are consistent across organizations and for workers of all ages, positions and lengths of tenure."

So we spend more time interpreting & using than finding - who woulda thunk it?

Value Networks

So I've been a bit obsessed with Value Networks recently. The Value Networks crew have established an Open Source site. In addition there is Oliver Schwabe's blog.

I find it is often good to start with the pictures. Most people can grasp a picture quicker than they can big chunks of text.

At the Sydney Bloggers Meeting, I got talking to a few marketing types about VNA. A post the the VN list generated a link to Ecosystema. I am waiting for a demo & I will let you know how it goes...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I Don't Care What You Know

I like charts. I prefer graphs but charts will do. Whilst pondering Wilson & Olsson I encountered this article by Maureen MacKenzie.

I also like Rorschach inkblot tests - but not on Fridays. Can you tell me what you see?

NSW KM Forum: Dead French Guys

I am no longer a committee member of the NSW KM Forum but I reserve the right to attend and heckle speakers for having the temerity to hold opinions other than my own.

Tuesday's speaker was Michael Olsson. Michael talked a bit about Descartes, a little about Foucault and about the debate between himself & Tom Wilson. Tom likes cats. Tom doesn't like knowledge management. Michel & Rene are French and dead. Tom & Michael are neither of those.

Michael deserves props for bringing Foucault into KM and also using Foucault to discuss power. Discussions about power tend to get people hot under the collar. Those who have it don't want to draw too much attention to it (with some exceptions) as those without it might start asking some hard questions.

KM Books Wiki

Is there a book on Knowledge Management that you love? Or hate?

Do you yearn to share your love (or hate) with others?

Then help is at hand. Behold: The KM Books Wikispace!!!

Spread the literacy lurve.

Sydney Bloggers Meetup

So despite not having been an active blogger for nearly a year outside the firewall, I went along to the Sydney Bloggers Meeting. I got poked into starting blogging again.