KM World 2012 Notes: Facilitating Knowledge Into Action

I am pleased to be at the 2012 KM World. Here are my notes for 2011 and 2010. I attended the workshop, Facilitating Knowledge Into Action led by Katrina B Pugh, President and Faculty – Align Consulting and Columbia University and Lesley Shneier, Knowledge Specialist. The World Bank.

Here is the session description.

To thrive in today’s global economy, leaders understand that they must quickly capitalize on the know-how that hides inside their organizations or networks—in the teams, processes and experts that comprise them. However, approaches such as documentation, After Action Reviews, brainstorming, and even social media tools, still leave gaps—knowledge blind spots, mismatches, and jails. This session teaches an approach that addresses these problems without breaking the bank. “Knowledge Jam” uses facilitated conversation to cross boundaries, surface usable insights, and put knowledge to work.

Knowledge Jam is both planned and improvisational. Real-time capture, desktop sharing, and shared sense-making improve the output quality and commitment to it. Knowledge Jam complements crowd-sourcing and the other connectivity strengths of social media. Explore (and justify) applications for Knowledge Jam in your work. Imagine the “competency of convening” as a new competitive advantage. Get practical experience facilitating a conversation-based knowledge transfer method. Learn how the disciplines of facilitation, conversation, and translation put new insights into practice, not just repositories. Learn how organizations are using conversation-based knowledge-transfer along with social media for executive successions, offshoring effectiveness, smoothing mergers and acquisitions, new product development, and network performance.

Kate said the process is described at  Knowledge Jam in a Nutshell.

(Blogger’s Note: Since will be a very interactive session so taking notes will be a challenge.)

A Knowledge Jam goes beyond collaboration.

It is a systematic process of obtaining tacit knowledge and making sure it gets into business processes. Kate asked us to reflect on peak moments where someone allowed for insights to emerge. Responses included:

  • distributing the conversation,
  • turning insights into useful actions,
  • developing an environment for trust,
  • creating dialog, and then, allowing for reflection.

Other aspects include allowing for sharing the leadership of the conversation such as allowing someone else to grab the marker for the flipchart.  Another concept is having a broker for a group who acts like a “personal shopper” for relevant knowledge.

One way is taking ideas from one industry to other areas through a translation process.

Facilitation, conversation, and translation are the three main components of a Knowledge Jam. Tacit knowledge is a thorny problem but it needs to be brought out. There needs to be a system to convey tacit knowledge. How to move from individual excellence to broad improvement? The context always changes so you cannot simply copy stuff.

While 76% of organizations share tacit knowledge, most efforts are isolated. The potential users of knowledge are often not considered. There can be knowledge “blind spots” (can’t see it), knowledge “mismatches” (wrong context or misaligned goals) and knowledge “jails.” Facilitation is needed to illuminate blind spots, Conversation is needed to avert knowledge mismatches, and Translation is needed to avoid knowledge jails.

Facilitators enable conversation between knowledge seekers and those who have knowledge.  There is a lot of planning in advance of a discovery/capture event.  Then afterwards there is brokering to get knowledge into a process and then application and measurement.

Origins of Facilitation – intelligence acquisition, Conversation – organizational learning, Transitional – collaboration. Kate gave an example about how Fidelity relocated an IT support center from one very different culture to another and used Knowledge Jam to surface and deal with risks.

Process of knowledge jams:

  • Select – score, sponsor;
  • Plan – get participants, topics;
  • Discover/capture – facilitate conversation;
  • Broker – translate and circulate;
  • Reuse – apply and measure, get stickiness.

The Discovery capture phase should be between 60 and 90 minutes – no longer, no shorter. If it is only 60 minutes more advance planning is required.

Kate said that facilitator is not a role in an event but a life style. It is the talent of the 21st century. There are a large number of skills involved, prioritize, coordinate, preside, models, probe, nudge, etc.  At the same time, a Knowledge Jam is not the answer for everything.  Major changes are good candidates, especially when roles are going to change. You can set up a 2 x 2 chart of impact versus feasibility to help select topics.

There are different knowledge types:

  • Declarative – What do we have today? What are the features, services, target customers
  • Procedural – What planning method or rule of thumb did you use? What are the steps?
  • Conditional – When would you choose each option? What triggers you to choose a particular topic?
  • Social – What about the politics or your social networks influenced how you went about this?
  • Systematic – What other programs, roles, emotions, processes influenced your planning, and how? Is there a feedback loop? How does that particular experience size up to others you’ve done or seen?

When you facilitate make sure you model openness and diversity. Remember learning happens at the boundaries. Also, keep dialogue going so all sides participate and listen. Be sure to state the ground rules in advance.

Kate said she takes notes and facilitates at the same time. This is a real challenge. She has also used Google docs with multiple people putting content in at the same time.

We next did a role play of a knowledge jam? There is:

  • a broker (seeking knowledge),
  • a knowledge originator (who has the desired knowledge), and,
  • a facilitator (who makes it all happen).

There can be multiple people in both roles. This makes it more complex as you have to keep each person engaged in the their role and make sure their needs are met. The facilitator says the main goal is to achieve understanding rather than problem solving.

I think this is important. Jumping to solving the problem too soon may cut things off before there is a real understanding. Problem solving may also inhibit gaining the understanding. It is similar to separating the results form the conclusions in a research report.  The problem facing the broker may be different than that faced by the knowledge originator, especially when there is cross-functional knowledge harvesting.

As the session progress, the facilitator notes to the participants that the recording of the session means we are making explicit what was tacit before. Knowledge jams are a very specific process with a defined methodology that can bring out useful tacit knowledge and help ensure that it is applied to solve problems.

Here is a review of Kate Pugh’s new book – Sharing Hidden Know-How. I highly recommend the book.

Post by Bill Ives of the Merced Group and AppFusions, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

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