Published: Designing a Successful KM Strategy

Advance copies of our book, Designing a Successful KM Strategy are now available from our publisher, Information Today, Inc.

It will officially be published in mid-January, so if you buy it before that, you get 40% of the regular price.


I did a workshop based on the book at KM World, on Nov 4th, that was well received, as well as a couple of book signings–it was great to talk to everyone about the book and how it can help them regardless of whether they are just starting with KM or at a point where they are re-evaluating their strategy after implementing KM for a few years.

Information Today has also made a chapter available for preview, you can access it here

Nick (my co-author) also has some helpful links up over on his blog at

I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to get in touch if you have any comments or questions.

(Left to right) Ian Thorpe, Stephanie Barnes, Patti Anklam, Connie Crosby at KM World book signing for, "Designing a Successful KM Strategy"
(Left to right) Ian Thorpe, Stephanie Barnes, Patti Anklam, Connie Crosby at KM World book signing for, “Designing a Successful KM Strategy”


KM in Law Firms: compare and contrast

(this is a slightly longer version of an article that I published in the Knoco March 2013 newsletter, one of 5 flavours of KM that were discussed)

In many law firms knowledge management starts in the IT department, and in a few cases, the library and like in many other organizations is focused on document management and technology. Also in common with other organizations law firms are dealing with pressure to reduce costs, be more efficient and effective for their clients, address issues of an aging workforce, and the technology demands of freshly minted lawyers who expect near instant access to knowledge.

There are also differences in KM inside a law firm. While in many organizations KM focuses on not just access to information/knowledge but on learning from mistakes, e.g. after action reviews and lessons learned processes and databases, this seems almost totally absent in law firms.

As I prepared to write this article, I wondered if I had just been missing something because of my limited exposure to KM in law firms. Maybe there really was a learning focus that I was missing out on; but in the research scan I did to supplement my experience, I didn’t find what I was looking for.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is KM being done in law firms, but it focuses on documented knowledge. A fine activity, and definitely about connecting people to the knowledge they need to do their jobs, but not specifically learning focused and not focused on innovation as is often the case in other organizations.

It seems lawyers see knowledge management as a way to:

  • Give the firm a competitive advantage since the firm’s know-how becomes more easily accessible
  • Increase productivity: lawyers don’t waste time searching for information
  • Improve practice support by fostering collaboration
  • Speed response time to client requests
  • Provide an on-ramp for junior lawyers to get up to (billable) speed more quickly
  • Help integrate the “practice of law” and the “business of law”[1]

Now, I have done work with Steven Lastres, the author of this work I’ve just cited, and have the highest regard for what he is doing in his firm, which is leading the way for KM in law firms, but by not including the learning aspect of KM it seems to me that law firms are missing something.

One of the presentations that I attended at KM World 2012 was Eric Hunter’s, “Innovation, Change Management, & Business Optimization.” Eric Hunter is another leader in the law firm KM sector. What they are doing at his firm is moving towards that learning objective through collaboration and social technologies[2].

If law firms are lagging behind other organizations, the question that comes to my mind is why? In my experience law firms are conservative and risk adverse. They believe that only a lawyer understands their business, which has resulted in people with a CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) type title at law firms being lawyers, and the main people on their teams are other lawyers and librarians. This lack of diversity on their teams and lack KM specialists specifically, I believe, has led to the focus on documented knowledge.

There is a shift happening, however. Law firms are starting to look outside their industry to see what lessons they can learn from other industries and from KM specialists. I have been doing a series of workshops and webinars for law librarians. The participants in these sessions have been engaged and interested to learn the lessons that I have to share from my experience in other industries. And I have been glad to share my experience and let them know that they are not alone, that the challenges they face are the same challenges that any KM leader faces; somehow there’s comfort in that knowledge.

Note: Connie Crosby and I have also just launched a KM Strategy assessment service for law firms, feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in learning more.

[1] Lastres, Steven, “Knowledge Management in Law Libraries: The Role for Legal Information Professionals” presentation at CALL ACBD Conference, from, February 28, 2013.

[2] Hunter, Eric, “Law Firms of the Future: Driving Intranet Evolution with Google+”  from on February 28, 2013.

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?

Collaboration versus Command and Control

This post is about differing management styles and approaches to not just knowledge management but to business and ultimately life.

Do we believe there is a limited “pie” and so we need to compete and create hierarchies to control it (whatever “it” is in our own particular case) or do we believe in working together to make the pie bigger and be content with our own slice of pie, however big or small that may be?

As a small business person, I am not particularly interested in growing my business to be bigger than it is. I like doing consulting and giving focused, specialized service to my clients, I don’t need, nor do I want to grow my business to 25, 50, 100 or more people, I wouldn’t be able to do what I like to do in those scenarios. If a client or potential client wants services that I don’t offer, say development work for a particular software platform, I am perfectly willing to refer them to someone I know who specializes in that work rather than do it myself, or hire someone to work for me to do it for the client.

In my KM practice I often talk with people about what it takes to be successful with KM; people are often looking for that “magic bullet,” but there is none. It takes hard work to be successful with KM in any organization, but the more open and collaborative the organization is, the more likely it is to be successful.

Being open and collaborative is hard for a lot of people, especially for those who believe in a limited “pie” and hierarchy. Being open and collaborative goes against everything they believe in–command and control. They believe the worst about people, that people have to be told what to do, that without that command and control structure people will not do their jobs. They believe there is a limited “pie” and they are going to compete and they are going to win by whatever means possible, because that is the way the world works. Except that it’s not.

If you assume the worst about people, you get the worst; if you assume the best, you get the best, that is the way the world works. At least that is the way my world works, and the way the world that I want to live in works.

Being open and collaborative helps us all work together to produce a desired outcome, because we want to, because we believe in it, because we trust and respect ourselves and our colleagues. It makes a bigger “pie” possible, it also helps us to be content with the slice of “pie” we have.

Bigger is not better, more is not better.

So when I see KM people behaving in a command and control fashion, it confuses me. How can they be good at implementing and managing KM in an organization with behaviour like that? It smothers KM and sharing to be controlled. KM and sharing grows exponentially when it is given space (Nonaka’s ideas around Ba come to mind) and is allowed to happen; when it is supported and enabled, not controlled. Maintaining that openness is hard, it’s hard to have a lack of solid ground under us, we want the certainty of the rules and the ground, but to be successful in KM and in life we have to be okay with that uncertainty.

It takes a lot of self-knowledge and self-esteem to be okay with uncertainty and to manage in that way, but it’s the way to get the most out of your KM program and life.


What does collaboration mean to you? Does it mean doing what you’re told? How about finding someone else to do the work? Telling someone else what to do?

I hope none of those are your definitions of collaboration, and I hope that your definition of collaboration looks nothing like any of those.

Wikipedia defines collaboration the following way:
“Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group.” or at least it did the day I wrote this, April 5, 2010 at 9:14am EDT.

I like this definition of collaboration, but it does not always mirror my experience of collaboration. I like this definition because it talks about working together for common goals; sharing, which is a big part of Knowledge Management; building consensus; and that leadership comes through a decentralized and egalitarian group. I really, really, like this last part.

Leadership can come from anywhere and when I am working on a team that is collaborating effectively leadership does come from anywhere and everywhere, it is not hierarchical or command and control style. Everyone contributes, and everyone reaps the benefits. Everyone gets a chance to have a voice and contribute to the end product, diversity of opinion is valued and the end product is better than any one of us could have done on our own.

Unfortunately, I have also worked with groups/people that do not collaborate effectively. They wait for someone else to do the work, make things happen. Wonder why deadlines are missed, why communication is a challenge, or why the team doesn’t function effectively.

Things happen too quickly now, in this information age, with instant or near instant access to information. No one can know it all, if we don’t work together towards our goals, breaking down hierarchies, which only slow things down, we will be left behind, and no one wants that.

Canada 3.0, continuing the theme

I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week (June 8-9) at Canada 3.0, which was an amazing experience. Sitting in a room with 1000 people who want to see Canada move forward and be a leader in the digital media space was energizing and motivating and if you’ve spoken to me in the last few days you know that I can’t say enough good things about my experience there and that I want to get involved and help move this forward.

Continue reading “Canada 3.0, continuing the theme”

Can you manage knowledge? (part 2)

I was at two more presentations/discussions this week, one talked about creating space in organizations for knowledge, the other was on followership, and really had nothing directly to do with knowledge at all, however both have made me think that I need to continue my writing on managing knowledge, not to mention the wonderful replies that I got to my original post. At the “Followership” event the other night we were given a copy of Barbara Kellerman’s book, “Followership” and were treated to her speaking about it, so I may have another post once I have actually finished the book. In the meantime, some more thoughts on managing knowledge. Continue reading “Can you manage knowledge? (part 2)”