Posts Tagged ‘knowledge worker’

T0-2 Starting a New KM Language in Your Organization

October 13, 2009

Starting KM in your organization also means starting to learn a new KM language among your members. A simple tool towards this end is an FAQ on KM (FAQ=frequently asked questions) which can be circulated among members or placed in the KM webpage in your intranet.

Download CCLFI’s FAQ on KM by pressing “Ctrl” while clicking HERE. The FAQ will appear in a new browser tab.

wordle of FAQ

Thanks to Wordle for the above “word cloud” of the FAQ

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T3-1: Showing a Concrete Benefit of KM to the Knowledge Worker

September 28, 2009

A tendency when KM is introduced to an organization for the first time is that knowledge workers tend to look at KM as “extra work.” If this is how they view KM, regular work will win over any extra work, particularly if the periodic personnel evaluation system measures his/her performance only in regular work.

I use this simple slide to convey to individual knowledge workers a benefit KM can give them: they can finish their work faster. Most knowledge workers like this. This slide mentions five typical factors that affect speed of completion of work.

KM benefit for individual K worker

I use the above figure to drive home some points to clarify the meaning of intellectual capital and its three recognized components: human capital, structural capital and stakeholder capital.

  1. I include the third factor “support from boss and teammates” to show that effective action (the goal of KM) is affected not only by knowledge assets or cognitive factors, but also by motivational or affective factors. Therefore, these cannot be ignored in actual KM practice.
  2. The third factor is actually internal relationship capital, in contrast to stakeholder capital which is external relationship capital. I use this example to show that stakeholder capital – the usual third component of intellectual capital – is externally looking and miss out on an important internal factor that also affects productivity and effective action. Why do you think companies spend money on team building workshops?
  3. Notice, too, that the fourth factor “decision rules are clear” is both within the purview of quality management as well as knowledge management. I use this fourth factor to illustrate the fact that KM and QM overlap.
  4. The first, second and fourth factors are examples of structural capital while the last factor is an example of human capital.

You can use the above chart and ideas; if you do, please acknowledge me as its source. Thanks!

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When Your Communication Boundaries Are Breached

September 1, 2009

You can easily tell whenever your communication boundaries are breached. The signal is: you feel uncomfortable or bothered. It is your body’s way of telling you that something is going wrong. If you keep ignoring these signals, the repeated discomfort and bother will drain your energy. Then you feel tired easily. If this goes on and on, your bodily resistance wears down and your health suffers.

Once you become aware that your communication boundaries are breached, do something! Announce your communication boundaries to the group. If communication boundaries are constantly breached in a group, then productive communication is not feasible and communication should be ended. Indigo Learning Practices — towards a group of equals seeking to create and build something together — cannot happen.

Productive communication requires that each member of the group appreciates, is committed to, and voluntarily practices the Personal Learning Mode. A good group communication strategy in their journey towards Indigo Learning is to learn together and compare notes as each member of the group practices the Personal Learning Mode.

The 16 topics discussed in previous blogs on “Setting a Personal Learning Mode” can be good topics for practice and for learning together in a “community of practice”:

    L11 Will to self-improve
    L12 Listening
    – Can we manage knowledge? (a practice in listening)
    – Listening (and building cross-cultural relationship capital)
    L13 Learning how to learn
    – The reflective knowledge worker
    – Personal learning history
    L14 Voicing
    – Ask high-value questions
    – The art of interviewing
    L15 Double-loop learning
    – A tool for learning to unlearn: internal “5 why’s”
    L16 Concepts can block learning
    – Your judgment can block your learning
    – Memories (or past experiences) can block (or unblock) learning
    – External attention can block your learning

Constant and life-long learning is the hallmark preoccupation of a successful knowledge worker. In school, we learned technical subject matters. In acquiring his or her own personal learning mode, a knowledge worker complements this by learning about himself or herself, and thereby learning how best he or she can learn on a continuous basis. Therefore, it will also benefit a knowledge worker to cultivate his or her own personal learning mode even if he or she is not part of a learning group or a community of practitioners.


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A Tool for Learning to Unlearn: Internal “5 Why’s”

July 4, 2009

Discovering root causes is important in problem solving. A tool in identifying root causes is “5 Why’s.” It is used in TQM, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and other process improvement methods where the causes sought are often technical, procedural, systemic and other external causes.

If “5 Why’s” is used for eliciting root causes of a particular human behavior, then it becomes a tool in double-loop learning. Let us illustrate how to apply “5 Why’s” in internal double-loop learning.

Let us imagine that a quality management problem occurred and it was found out that the immediate cause was a person’s failure to perform a specific action assigned to him. The following is an illustration of the method.

    Why 1: Why did you not do action X?
    Answer1: I don’t know how to do it.
    Clarificatory question: When did you discover that you don’t know how to do it?
    Answer: Much earlier.

    Why 2: Why did you accept the assignment when you know you cannot do it?
    Answer: (pause) I cannot bring myself to say that I am not sure I can do it.

    Why 3: Why can’t you tell frankly you cannot do it in the first place?
    Answer (more likely to be elicited in a private conversation with a trusted colleague): I want to appear that I know; I don’t want to appear that I am stupid.
    Clarificatory question: Do you find yourself in this situation often?
    Answer (after some pause): I guess so, yes.

    Why 4: Why do you keep putting yourself in this situation, only to create more trouble for yourself when you yourself know that it often ends up that you are unable to do your assignments?
    Answer (elicited only after the person sees his own pattern of behavior): I really don’t know; it just keeps happening.

    Why 5: Please recall many similar situations in the past, even as far back as your childhood. Study these situations. What do you see or discover?
    Answer (after several days or weeks of recall and reflection): I remember I was so hurt and humiliated and afraid when my mother kept scolding me saying “You are really very stupid and incompetent” every time I cannot do something. I just avoided those feelings next times by not saying anything.

I offer the following observations in relation to the above.

  1. If a BPI team has not established a trustful culture of learning, the team cannot go past Why 1 or Why 2 because the first questions will trigger defensive reactions, rationalizations or even debate that will fail to get at the root causes.
  2. According to Harvard Professor Chris Argyris, BPI cannot really get at many root causes unless individual team members are willing to delve into why they keep on doing what they do or why they keep not doing what they don’t do (Why 2 and Why 3 and up). Argyris calls this “double-loop learning” which he said requires deliberate effort because often people are not aware of the reasons behind their own patterns of behavior.
  3. Deeper levels of “why” (Why 3 and up) require time (it cannot be rushed), a trusting atmosphere (it depends on WHO is asking) and a private or one-on-one situations (it depends on a supportive context). It also requires skills of “conscious living” on the person asking the question and candid reflection on the person answering.
  4. Self-discovery at Why 5 can be cathartic and lead to effective self-healing of the automatic behavior pattern. In the specific example above, it also requires a strong enough foundation of self-esteem to be able to get to acknowledge deep-seated emotional hurts unearthed by Why 5.
  5. The ability to unlearn is an extremely rare skill. A knowledge worker who, through practice, can go deep at Why 4 and Why 5 levels is better able to unlearn.


Listen to Lao-tse:

    “He who knows much about others may be learned, but he who understands himself is more intelligent. He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”

Note that there are embedded links in this blog post. They show up as colored text. While pressing “Ctrl” click on any link to create a new tab to reach the webpages pointed to. Many thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the image used in this blog.

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The Reflective Knowledge Worker

June 17, 2009

If self-reflection (or similar internal listening skills; see my last blog post on “Learning How to Learn”) is a key to successful business leadership, then self-reflection is also a key to success for knowledge workers.

What is the first practical step in learning self-reflection? From my experience, the doorway to learning internal listening skills is conscious moment-to-moment control of attention.

Practice it now. As you read these words, your attention is on the computer screen. If a phone rings now, your attention will be diverted to the telephone and to what the caller is saying. After the call, you revert your attention to reading this blog post starting from where you left off.

All of these are externally-focused and externally-driven attention. As much as 99% of our attention at the workplace is external.

Practice being also aware of how your mind is responding to what you are reading now. Is there agreement, or doubt? Does your mind shoot off on something you remember that is related to what you just read? Is your mind now making a silent internal conversation stemming from the ideas expressed here? Are you noticing any discomfort triggered by a word or phrase? Is your interest level moving up or down?

It all starts by your decision to consciously control where you focus your attention. There are times when your mind — without your conscious control or decision — shoots off in a different direction while you are attending, say, a meeting. In each such occasion of absent-mindedness you miss what is being said for several seconds.

The mind — the prime tool and asset of knowledge workers — is often like a poorly-tamed horse that literally gets off-track every now and then. And worse, the horse rider (=we) fails to notice this most of the time! Control of the horse begins with conscious attention: the horse rider must direct his attention on his horse consciously and every moment along the way.

The knowledge worker depends very much on his horse; therefore he must be a constantly alert horse rider.

untamed horse

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Evolving Forms of Governance

May 20, 2009

As I type these words I am enjoying the view of Kowloon across the Hong Kong harbour. Beyond Kowloon I can see the distant mountains in the New Territories. Somewhat to my left are the mountains of Hong Kong Island. I can see the moon-shaped Peak Tower on Victoria Peak over the high-rise buildings in Causeway Bay.

Panoramic views from a high place always bring me to a quiet space within me. Very early this morning, in the twilight zone between sleeping and waking, I again experienced an in-flow of new ideas — a process that happens to me countless times before. I am not sure exactly how the process takes place. After I receive them, my mind then shapes and clothes them into words, paragraphs and figures. Today the ideas came at the right time so that they can find their way into this blog. The middle three diagrams below are explicit rendering of the ideas that came to me this morning.

Following the long-term evolutionary framework in the last blog (see “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations?”), we can see that forms of governance have been evolving also according to the two megatrends (the 3×3 diagram below was first presented to the Futuristics in Education course for Malaysian senior education officers last August 23, 2005 at SEAMEO INNOTECH). Glocality and counter-glocality were discussed in the previous blog on “More Power to Glocals!”

governance 1

The great American democratic experiment can be viewed as a steady movement towards the lower left or indigo quadrant, the direction of the two megatrends (see previous blog). It remains to be seen how it will further evolve in the next centuries.

governance 2

Tibetan Buddhism was never a centralized and doctrinaire religion from the beginning; it has been an independent experiential and learning-oriented practice among generations after generations of lamas or monks across Tibet, Mongolia and elsewhere.

Potala Palace (photo credits to Wikimedia Commons)

Potala Palace (photo credits to Wikimedia Commons)

The political loss of Tibet to the Peoples Republic of China led to the farther spread of Tibetan Buddhism as a personal practice across the globe; from our framework, this is movement towards the indigo quadrant. What has happened is consistent with what Padma Sambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, prophesied 1200 years ago that the Tibetan people “will be scattered like ants across the face of the Earth.”

governance 3

However, we see from our framework that the evolution of Christianity was regressive from Pentecost up to the Middle Ages, and then it reversed back towards the indigo quadrant starting with the Protestant Reformation and continuing with Vatican II reforms.

governance 4

The modern corporation is also evolving (see my blog on “From corporate disregard to corporate embrace of stakeholder capital to socially-embedded corporations”). The advent of knowledge management, organizational learning/presencing, corporate social responsibility or CSR practices, the power shift (see Alvin Toffler and Daniel Bell) to knowledge workers/enterprises and a “flatter world” according to Thomas Friedman, are forces that tend to push the modern corporate practice towards the indigo quadrant.

governance 5

What do you think?

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Q26- Information: another Force for Democratization (Trans-Societal Megatrend #2?)

May 3, 2009

What is common among these three events: (i) the Fall of Bastille in 1789, (ii) the invention of the microprocessor in 1971, and (iii) adoption in 1992 by 118 national governments of Agenda 21?


Here are more hints.

Can you discern what is common among these six trends?

  • Political: the break-up of the Soviet Union and democratization of Eastern Europe; replacement of military dictatorships with elected leaders in Latin America; fall of dictatorial regimes in Taiwan, South Korea, Philippines and Indonesia; end of apartheid in South Africa; recognition by Israel of the Palestinian Liberation Organization; “people power” revolutions in the Philippines, Chile, Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Indonesia and Serbia;
  • Economic: the shift from socialist to market economies in Russia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Eastern Europe where decision making by a few central planners was replaced by choices of millions of consumers; global shift of wealth creation from industry to services thereby a power shift from capital and machineries to knowledge and knowledge workers; global shift of market value from intangible (=mostly knowledge) assets than from tangible assets;
  • Social: the growth of the voluntary, non-profit and non-government organizations, which mobilize civil society for causes such as human rights, rights of indigenous peoples, women’s rights, environmental protection, etc.; the adoption in the Rio Summit of 1992 of sustainable development as the new mainstream development paradigm; the growing adoption of corporate social responsibility and socially responsible investments;
  • Technological: satellite TV, personal computer and WAP-enabled mobile phones which are placing tremendous information, computing power and choice in the hands of individuals and households;
  • Religious: Protestant Reformation, Vatican II (“priesthood of the laity”), women in the priesthood, creation spirituality, personal spirituality replacing adherence to organized religions; and
  • Organizational: the flattening of organizational hierarchies, growth of horizontal networks and virtual communities, emergence of autonomous intrapreneurial work teams and post-industrial empowerment of knowledge workers.

If you said “democratization” (or any of its synonym), then YOU ARE RIGHT!

Democratization is a trans-societal megatrend because it cuts across political, economic, social, technological, religious and organizational domains.

The people side of this megatrend picked up speed over the last three centuries, while the technological side jump-started about half a century ago (see diagram below). Indeed, the information revolution is another force for democratization. Together, the telephone, the personal computer and the Internet is a powerful and empowering combination.


Do you think that it is reasonable to expect that this global megatrend — democratization — will continue to permeate all aspects of life and society throughout the world for the next centuries?

Photo credits to Wikimedia Commons for “The Storming of the Bastille” by Jean-Pierre Houël and the picture of a Hitachi HD6803P microprocessor; thanks to the UN Division for Sustainable Development for the cover page of Agenda 21.

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A Success Factor in KM: Motivating Knowledge Workers

April 15, 2009

Further to my previous blog post, I compiled the results of some studies showing that user satisfaction or commitment (internally-driven) and/or motivating/rewarding knowledge workers (externally-driven) contribute to success of KM initiatives:

A. Two of five factors to ensure KM initiatives succeed:

  • High priority given to the initiative at the very top of the hierarchy
  • Establishment of incentives to share knowledge.

(Source: Mathi, Kavindra: “Key Success Factors for Knowledge Management.” MBA thesis, Internationales Hochschulinstitut Lindau, University of Applied Sciences, FH Kempten, Germany, December 2004)

B. Factors identified as critical through multiple regression analysis:

  • Establishment of a reward strategy
  • Willingness to share knowledge
  • Top management support

(Source: Yu-Cheng Lin and Lee-Kuo Lin: “Critical Success Factors for Knowledge Management: Studies in Construction,” Department of Civil Engineering, National Taipei University of Technology, 2006)

C. From Randy Williams: “Critical Success Factors When Building a Knowledge Management System” (Sharepoint Magazine, 4 December 2008) two of seven success factors are:

  • Motivating staff
  • Executive support

D. According to Murray E. Jennex and Iryna Zakharova: “Knowledge Management Critical Success Factors.” Management.Com.Ua, 29 June 2005:

D1. Two of eight design recommendations for a successful KM system:

  • Have senior management support
  • Build motivation and commitment by incorporating KMS usage into personnel evaluation processes; implementing KMS use/satisfaction metrics; and identifying organizational culture concerns that could inhibit KMS usage.

(Source: Jennex, M.E. and Olfman, L. “Development Recommendations for Knowledge Management/Organizational Memory Systems.” Information Systems Development Conference 2000)

D2. Eight factors common in 18 successful KM projects out of 35:

  • Senior management support
  • Linkages to economic performance
  • Motivational incentives for KM users

(Source: Davenport, T.H., DeLong, D.W., and Beers, M.C. “Successful Knowledge Management Projects.” Sloan Management Review, 39(2), 43-57, 1998)

D3. Importance of user commitment, motivation, incentives or reward system was among the findings of 7 studies, support from top management in 6 studies, and clear goal or purpose in 4 studies.


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