Agile and Knowledge Management, part 2

A couple of days ago I posted about Agile and KM, this is a part 2 to that post and is a result of a discussion I had at a meeting the day after the presentation.

In the meeting we were talking about the business case for KM and how to best get started once you have some basic level of approval and support, which is to move on to a pilot stage.

Being successful in KM is continually doing this agile cycle: business case, pilot, business case, pilot, each one builds on the success of the previous one, each one is a small, manageable piece of the KM puzzle. Each one matures the people, process, and technology a little bit more. You keep going until the whole organization has adopted KM as a regular and necessary part of its activities and operations and then you continue to evolve and improve your KM activities. While you’re doing all those business cases and pilots, you’re integrating those 10 lessons into the organization’s behaviour.


Agile and Knowledge Management, part 1

At our Knowledge Worker Toronto event on January 23, 2013 our speaker, Gil Broza, spoke about the human side of Agile. Now, Agile, for those of you who don’t regularly interact with software developers, which I imagine are many of you who read this blog, is about iterative and incremental design and development of software applications. Gil was speaking about lessons that could be learned from the experience of software developers in this area and transferred to other areas of the organization. That activity in itself is a knowledge management activity: knowledge transfer of lessons learned, but I digress.

Gil spoke about 10 lessons that the rest of the organization could learn and apply:

  1. People are not resources
  2. Focus
  3. Nurture the joy of delivering value
  4. Take small, safe feedback-rich steps
  5. Mind the physical environment
  6. The social environment matters too
  7. Want high-performance teams? Be ready to invest
  8. Manage less, lead more
  9. Collaboration rocks
  10. Human conduct trumps “best practices”

There was a discussion after the presentation and Q&A ended about how this talk fit in with Knowledge Workers/Knowledge Management, this is what I contributed to the discussion: these 10 lessons are about how knowledge workers like to work. In the KM consulting that I do, I often have a section in the report about knowledge workers, especially when I’m working with an organization that is hierarchical. Knowledge work and knowledge management thrives in a flatter organization model, one where sharing and working together is expected, and the silos of a hierarchy are detrimental to achieving the goals of the organization.

Anyone else have any thoughts?


Some of my time away from my business and knowledge management is spent being creative, painting and creating art. I keep looking for ways to incorporate art/creativity into the KM consulting that I do.

In the fall I used scribble drawings to start and end some requirements workshops that I was running for a client and it worked really well, helped people relax before and after the intensity of the work of the workshops. I think it helped the workshop results.

I also have some creative/artistic activities that help illustrate in a quick and easy way the power of collaboration, although I haven’t had the opportunity to do them with any of my clients, yet.

What I continue to search for is a more concrete way to bring more creativity into my KM consulting.

I know taking breaks to “exercise” the right-brain helps come up with new and innovative ideas and connections, and certainly innovation is one of the benefits of KM–sharing knowledge, making new connections between and among people, but how to be more creative as a regular part of my KM consulting, that is the question.

Maybe the answer is to focus more on the innovation side of KM and bring creativity in that way.


Knowledge is the network

One of the themes at KM World in October 2012 was that the value of knowledge management is in the network, i.e. the value comes from the connections and the collective whole, rather than individual people, activities, processes, or technology. This was a shift from previous years where there was more focus on technology.

That the value of knowledge is in the network, is something we have known for a long, long, time. There has long been acknowledgement that “it’s who you know,” in business and in life. What has changed in the last 10 years is the ability to stay connected to people and to connect with people in geographically diverse locations through the use of technology, but it’s still about, “who you know.”

Our networks provide access to opportunities that we might not have been able to discover on our own. They pass along interesting articles, books, and other pieces of knowledge and information. Someone says something and that makes us think of something else or ask a question that’s not been asked before. Someone else builds on our ideas, it becomes an iterative process and suddenly we have created something new, some innovation that didn’t exist before.

When someone in our work network moves to another company or role, we all-of-a-sudden have to fill the void left in our knowledge network: who else knows what that person knew, how long will it take their replacement to learn the things we need them to know, what do we do until the gap is filled?

Organizations that go through down-sizing/right-sizing/lay-offs/retirements all have to figure out what to do about the impact on the knowledge networks of their organizations. Those that don’t take the loss of knowledge and the disruption to the network into consideration are negatively impacted by the loss/turn-over.

So what can organizations do to try to keep some of that knowledge when people leave the organization or create opportunities for innovation? Knowledge management activities like communities of practice, mentoring programs, lessons learned processes, after action reviews, expertise location activities, to name a few, and the technology that supports them all help to capture and share knowledge as well as make connections that might not happen otherwise. Knowledge management activities also give the knowledge longevity that it might not have otherwise.

Once the knowledge management practices are in place there is a need to make sure that it remains relevant through regular review and updating processes. This relevancy check could be as simple as reviewing documents and knowledge bases, or sending staff to conferences and training courses. It all becomes part of the learning and continuous improvement that the organization desired by implementing knowledge management in the first place.

This was also published in the Knoco January 2013 newsletter, which can be accessed here