permalink.gif 2003-02-28

permalink.gif What's in a name?

Fri Feb 28 19:46:45 GMT 2003  Permalink 

So far we have:

  • business journalling
  • knowledge-logging
  • k-logging
  • corporate knowledge recording (from Christian)
  • professional knowledge publishing
  • enterprise weblogging

any more for any more?

permalink.gif The trials & tribulations of a business journaller

Fri Feb 28 19:44:56 GMT 2003  Permalink 

Contextual problems faced by business journalling

Matt Mower [via Paolo] in an interesting analysis of the contextual problems faced by business journalling:

I think that there are at least two problems which we must solve for business journalling to be a widespread success.  I'd be interested in hearing about other problems people have specifically identified.

As an Internet professional working as an external consultant most of all for SMB companies, I'm often find myself trying to convince my clients of the importance of what I call the corporate knowledge recording, which is in many respects what Matt calls business journalling.

I do that since I'm aware of the importance of it in my professional activity: personal memory is limited and faulty by nature, in the end. So I try to log and log and log, even if I didn't completely work out the problem yet (but I'm studying some solutions).

Nevertheless, introducing knowledge management concepts and habits into client companies is every time a struggle. I'll try to summarize the problems I've been recognizing and facing.

Business journalling takes time
This is undoubtful, I see it over and over again, lack of time is, personally, my main problem about business journalling. But nobody tried to convince me to log, I wanted to start logging. For client companies is different: worker's time is an expensive resource, expecially for SMB companies whose personnel is often the minimum for a certain amount of work. Knowing that logging (or journalling) takes time, from the client perspective logging costs: the hard part is to convince the local boss that the cost will turn into a bigger revenue and, most of all, explaining that the ROI is not a matter of weeks or months but, probably, years. The long period scares most SMB companies whose plans, sadly, seldom reach the next year.

People are lazy by nature
Even when I succeeded in introducing business journalling practice into companies, I always found that suddenly the process stopped due to people's natural lazyness. After the first moment of enthusiasm, people tend not to keep on writing. The only way I see to win that lazyness is external motivation (see below).

Competition is the problem
People at work are competitive. Most of the times I deal with development teams and TLC companies, engineering and science environments in general. People working for those companies are competitive, tend to show "how good they are, how better than the others they are". This makes them jealous of their knowledge, tips and tricks. In addition, they know that spending more time producing than spilling their secrets will pay.

Lack of external motivation
People work on a utility basis. They give more to get more. Motivation comes from company prizes given for good results. There's no motivation in saying "Please log what you do so that it will be useful to others, especially when you'll leave the company and need to be replaced with somebody whose training will be faster thank to your knowledge logging". The only way to give journalling motivation to workers is to judge their merit not only on their "productivity" but also, and at the same degree, on their contribution to the corporate knowledge.

Convincing the local boss to accept the journalling costs and give "monetary" motivation to the workers on behalf of the future benefits is the real challenge I always have to accept. And sometimes it's a really hard challenge.

[CristianVidmar.com]

Cristian adds some interesting factors to the mix of problems surrounding adoption of business journalling.

  • Time
  • Motivation
  • Competition

I'll try to include these later.

permalink.gif Open State

Fri Feb 28 19:16:10 GMT 2003  Permalink 

Open Source Government?. The question then becomes, what kinds of constitutional structures are appropriate to furthering the stated aims in an internetworked, interdependent... [The Obvious?]

What a good question.

More about:

permalink.gif London by night

Fri Feb 28 14:44:00 GMT 2003  Permalink 

London by night.

London seen from space

The International Space Station has taken a photo of London at night. Is this progress?

On one level, I don't care, I like the fact of the picture.

Then again, if I had my way*, I would have maps pretty much everywhere at home. One of my most recent moments of little-boy-level enthusiasm was visiting a very pleasant, large townhouse where the 'cloakroom' (i.e. the toilet behind the kitchen) had been wallpapered with an A-Z of London. How wonderful.

I blame at least some of this on being given an illuminated globe at age about five, and my excitement, later in my childhood, on realising that it was slowly going out of date.

[Rogue Semiotics]

Cool pic although I actually think it would have been more fun to post it and ask what the hell it was ;-)

More about:

permalink.gif Oh yeah, I trust you now!

Fri Feb 28 12:44:38 GMT 2003  Permalink 

Windows Update keeps tabs on all system software. Spy on the wire [The Register]

Is this true?

The use of SSL suggests a deliberate attempt to prevent me from knowing this is happening.  A deliberate attempt to decieve me.  I would not tolerate this from any other vendor.  Why should I tolerate it from M$?  And they want my trust?

For me they have two choices:

  1. Refute the allegations with independent verification.
  2. Apologize. Destroy the data (and collateral data) & prove that they have.  Give a solemn undertaking that this will never happen again.

I'm turning off Windows update, now.  If I was interested in switching before, you can bet that goes ^10 now.

More about:

permalink.gif Contexts for Business Journalling

Fri Feb 28 12:32:54 GMT 2003  Permalink 

David Buchan has prompted me to think a bit harder about the contextual problems faced by business journalling.

I think that there are at least two problems which we must solve for business journalling to be a widespread success.  I'd be interested in hearing about other problems people have specifically identified.

The first problem is what I would describe as: knowledge as a separate activity and the second as lacking a voice.  I think that the solution to both of these problems lies in finding contexts that enable people to journal more easily.

Knowledge as a separate activity

Some of my underlying assumptions about people at work are:

  1. most people do not love their job in the way that I (and other seeming KM enthusiasts) do
  2. most people do not see themselves as knowledge workers (especially those who are not desk bound and do not deal primarily with electronic info and, or, paper)
  3. most people have a view that learning is a discrete activity (we learn in a class-room during specified period, then go out and get on with the rest of our lives)

I think there is an "awakening" process that must happen before you begin to see how knowledge & learning are intertwined into everything you do.  Until then, I think that they are considered to be separate activities practiced in specific contexts (e.g. I am going on a training course).

For the unawakened I think that a business journal is a big blank page that is quite scary and you need to be pretty bold to venture off without a map.  In these times of "Axes in the corridor" boldness isn't the first thing on everyone's mind.

I think the answer lies in finding contexts which are less threatening and lead people to consider knowledge more often in their day and think about how knowledge affects everything they do.  I hope to tie business journalling to these contexts in the hope that I will have more success with my clients that way.

Lacking a voice

I think most people are conditioned to not say anything they don't have to.

In school we are taught to be silent and only speak when questioned directly by an authority figure.  This process of conditioning is continued right the way through education and into work.  Hierarchies support this type of behaviour.

Business journalling turns this don't speak until your spoken to ideology on it's head.  Now you're given a blank page and told to say whatever you think you should say (within limits).  I think that the evidence so far supports the conclusion that people are not comfortable with that.

Drawing on my own experience I found beginning to blog was a challenge, i found myself afraid - not knowing what to say next.  I persevered, I think, because I have always wanted a voice: I dislike authority and am opinionated.  I don't necessarily think everyone else has the same drivers.  I'm also cognizant that, when I started, there was no axe that could fall.  I wasn't worried about saying the wrong thing, or having my words used against me.  I think these are common worries for anyone speaking up (regardless of the medium).

Once again I think the answer is to look for contexts where people already think it's alright to voice their opinions and to leverage these contexts for business journalling success.

Contexts

As I mentioned in a recent post I think that two likely candidates are After Action Reviews and Communities of Practice.

The After Action Review (AAR) is a technique that compares actual results of a task or project with the expected results.  The aim being to identify strengths and weaknesses and help teams to bond together and improve performance.

Don Clark gives an excellent summary of the process and some of it's benefits.  From that I have highlighted some of the questions & talking points a good AAR should raise:

  • Ask why certain actions were taken
  • Ask how they reacted to certain situations
  • Ask when actions were initiated
  • Ask leading and thought provoking questions
  • Exchange "war stories" (lessons learned)
  • Ask employees what happened in their own point of view
  • Relate events to subsequent results
  • Explore alternative courses of actions that might have been more effective
  • Complaints are handled positively
  • When the discussion turns to errors made, emphasize the positive and point out the difficulties of making tough decisions.

These sound to me like fantastic material for building a business journal.

The second context that I think could be very useful is the Community of Practice.  I don't want to write too much about these here because they're a big topic and I'm not an expert.  However one of the definitions given on the page I cite above is groups that learn.  In my mind, groups that learn by doing - not as a separate activity.

Within a CoP people have a context in which they can ask questions, share knowledge, raise awareness and it may be that a business journal will seem a more natural place in which to do that.  Hopefully also within a CoP members can develop the levels of trust and respect that are required for any collaborative effort to be successful.

Conclusion

For me, all this leads towards a concrete realisation that business journalling cannot stand in isolation.  That it is not a solution, but, part of a solution that has to involve contexts which complement it's strengths.  It may be that After Action Review's and Communities of Practice may be good choices, time will tell.

However this also means that, in order to bring business journalling into an organisation requires that they have either already established programs such as AAR, or you have to introduce those at the same time.  This sounds like a daunting prospect.  Any AAR experts out there?

A few points to bear in mind:

  1. I've highlighted business journalling throughout the text to emphasize my use of the term where I might normalling say k-logging.  I'm open to better terms but I'm going to try and use this until someone comes up with one.
  2. I'm making a lot of assumptions.  Please challenge them.  I'm trying to keep to the philosophy of "strong opinions, weakly held" and avoid becoming dogmatic about something so new and unproven.
  3. I don't think I'm identifying anything new here.  I think this is these are formulations of the same problems people have been wrestling with since KM acknowledged that it wasn't a purely technical issue.  What is new is that I'm beginning to understand these issues better - your milage may vary ;-)

I'm also looking forward to hearing other peoples ideas for contexts for business journalling.