Montag, 28. Februar 2011

Why it is not enough to be a Knowledge Worker

You are doing your job, define your problems within the responsibility of your organization, analyze, assess input in order to evaluate complex or conflicting priorities, connect on the appointed topic, deploy divergent as well as convergent thinking on the task that you were assigned to by your manager, you are doing the things right, you are the perfect Knowledge Worker.
And yet, sorry, mate, you failed!

The corporate challenges ahead of us demand more, they demand the Knowledge Citizen.
The “Knowledge Worker” is a transitional term, describing a change in the ways of working in order to live up to the defined expectations on the worker of the late 20th century. The Knowledge Worker is leveraging on knowledge in hirarchical, quasi-static organizational structures with assigned tasks and responsibilities. In the 21st century the “worker” becomes in many industries a red-list animal, replaced by empowered employees. And the Knolwedge Worker must be transferred into the Knowledge Citizen.

The term is most easily understood from the fact that every human being is a world citizen. In this context – were the corporate is ignored – the World Knowledge Citizen is taking responsibility, he becomes the facilitator for Knowledge Mobilization. Here by default the external command is missing, the contribution is based on the internal motivation, giving meaning to existence, deploying a responsibility again based on existence, not on assignment. Knowledge is the criteria to contribute, not a mandate of authority.
But as one can be a world citizen and a citizen of a nation / country, taking responsibility as part of the world or the nation / country, there is apart from the World Knowledge Citizen also a Corporate Knowledge Citizen. Someone who is feeling and taking responsibility as he is part of the corporate organism, based on the insights and understandings, on the knowledge, he brings to the table.
“The only constant is change”, and the more truth and relevance this statement holds, the more static structures have problems to cope. Complex structures build to meet volatile challenges are out-lived by the time they are implemented. Decisions must be taken where the knowledge is, not brought via cumbersome lines of command towards where the authority is. Teams organize themselves reacting fast on complex challenges across organizational borders and dissolve with the same speed for re-organizing for other tasks and ideas. Innovation appears where knowledge is put into new contexts, where various knowledge aspects get connected. This all demands for the Knowledge Citizen. The Corporate Knowledge Citizen is the extension of the Knowledge Worker into a networked company. The Corporate Knowledge Citizen deploys the ways of working of the Knowledge Worker, but adds to it empowerment and taking responsibility, self-organization in ever-changing contexts, thought leadership and mastering replaces the hirarchies and organizational structure to slow for change. He not only does things right, but also determines, which are the right things. The Knowledge Citizen is a Knowledge Worker, who has extended horizon from department to corporate and industry.
This goes also along with change work patterns.
Thus Ericsson has defined the following expectations on the Knowledge Citizen that go beyond the ones for a Knowledge Worker:
        Organizes work for re-use
        Creates and shares knowledge
        Supports existing knowledge flows
        Strives to teach and transfer knowledge
        Refines knowledge assets by constructively reviewing & commenting
        Raises relevant questions and contributes towards discussions
        Understands giving feedback as a business instrument of a learning orgnanization
        Supports innovation by contributing, evaluating and giving feedback, takes risks in innovation
        Developes constantly the network and involves relevant stakeholders
        Seeks to learn from others and demands learning capabilities, learns from mistakes
        Acts as a role model
        Supports open leadership communication
        Re-uses knowledge and turns knowledge assets into business contribution
        Handles knowledge security in a responsible manner
        Deploys collaborative ways of working and supports sustainability
        Ambassadors corporate’s knowledge capabilities

It is no coincidence that these expectations go along with the introduction of Web2.0 capabilities as they enable an effective citizenship (world and corporate) and lower the transaction costs to an extend that break even has been passed. Collaboration is the way of being for the Knowledge Citizen.

Good arguments for the new term “Knowledge Citizen”? If not convinced yet, stay tuned, as the term invites also for the corporate perspective, but this is another story and needs another post.


Donnerstag, 17. Februar 2011

Extension of the model with memory effects

One thing I have learned working with managers: Keep it simple and to the ONE point. My message with the work patterns and the power of sharing was: If you change the way of working to a knowledge culture, you will benefit from productivity gain, if you use the whip, it sucks. The model to show this was a simple as it could be.
Then I received a very inspiring comment (thanks, Reinhard!) to take into account fluctuations, and I did spent a happy morning extending the model towards an important concepts (in a hospital waiting room, mumbling over sketches of integrals): memory and knolwedge half-time.
Within this model then it is possible to understand then the importance of knowledge externalization.
The backside of this is that the mathematical apparatus gets quite heavy, I will describe in words the key ideas and only after that sketch the formalism.
Without saying before, the model was based on knowledge workers (no distinction between productivity and knowledge creation was made), this only simplifies the picture.
The simple model was static, instantanous. You need something, you demand knowledge, you get it - that's how it works with the help of social platforms (Luis was linking in twitter to a nice use case) - within seconds, well minutes.
But now the memory problem, the guy who had worked out the perfect answer for your question, ready-made and glossy, just left the company the other day (got hired by your competitor, won a million dollars, got driven over, your imagination ...). Most of you already what I am after, but for the sake of suspense, I am doing a little detour.
There are more sophisticated definitions of knowledge, but if we stick to a simple one: knowledge = information + context. Then we have to admit that knowledge is not eternal, it can be lost, and this can happen in two ways:
A The knowledge is not available anymore. The guy has just left the company the other day; this is why a key ingredient of Knowledge Management preaches the externalization of knowledge, put it into a database. But even in a catastrophical scenario the database can vaporize (which is hopefully more seldom than employee fluctuation).
B But there is another mechanism that results in the "loss" of knowledge: information loses its context, respectively the context losses its relevance. This is the concept of knowledge half-time (as an example might serve the dying of professions due to disruptive innovations)
So back to our friend, who left and enjoys his life at the beach, drinking coctails all day.
With respect to his knowledge for the company there are two scenarios:
A nothing externalized, everything only in his head: the half-time function of his knowledge for the company becomes just 0, 0(t), nothing left for the company.
B externalized to the database, there is the memory, the half-time function gives a good contribution for some period of time, until the context loses its relevance.
In mathematical terms:
With the concept of the knolwedge half-time h(t) we have prevented the model from exploding when introducing now the memory into the model (and summing up over the past):
The productivity in a time period is then build from working on own agenda, and using the memory of everything that has been shared and bears contextual relevance.

with  p(t) = o(t) + r*s(t)

P = int[t1,t2] dt p(t)                     
                       = int[t1,t2] dt o(t) + r* int[-inf, t] d t' s(t') h(t')


ps: I am pretty aware that the formulae are hard to read (especially without the proper signs) and harder to understand

ps: for the sake of simplicity I have not introduced any memory in o(t), that is even more complicating the formulae without transporting the message.

Mittwoch, 16. Februar 2011

The Power of Sharing

My occupation with work patterns let me to think about the productivity and the relation the work purposes.
Here you find a simple model that helps to explain productivity in terms of various work patterns. It shows the "Power of Sharing" something that was anticipated by Reinhard as comments to the post on work patterns .  

The model & formulae:

                    p = o + r*s

p    =    productivity
o    =    working on own agenda
l     =    learning / staying on top of things
s    =    support others / sharing
r    =    reach of sharing

o + l + s = 100%

The total productivity of a single employee is given by his own productivity and by the productivity shared by others that is creating productivity for the respective employee. Or to look at it from a different angle: the efforts working on own agenda contribute to own productivity, while sharing contributes to other employees producitivity. A very critical parameter is "r" the reach in sharing, it gives with how many other employees shared efforts create value.

Within the simple model there is no effect of the "stay on top/learning" part towards the productivity, which is based on the observation that there is none primerally; however the effectiveness of sharing is in my opinion heavily depending on the ability to see the bigger picture and to put ones own work in context of others, so one way of modifying the model is to replace in the formula "s" by "sqr(l*s)" (sqr = squareroot, in the scenarios below the parameters have been chosen that both formulaes match.

The focussed scenario
This is the traditional way of working, the employee is mainly focused on working off the own agenda, "unproductive" efforts in learning & sharing is luxury, only allowed / done.
Nevertheless as in this scenario sharing has been done to help others, quite a good reach (2) governs this scenario.

The whip scenario
While nothing else has changed, employees were supposed to do knowledge sharing on top of all the other activities. This scenario is usually supported by activity-based KPIs. As this scenario has the connotation of overtime, it yields often a cloudy atmosphere. That could - for a limited time - could be tolerated for the sake of higher Productivity. However - although more efforts are put into the sharing part - Productivity does not jump up. This is due to the effect of the considerably reduced Reach (r=0.5). Employees are measured on activity, the database is flooded with material that are not re-usable and / or is of poor quality.

The free learning scenario
While Working on own agenda is heavily reduced, the employee is "not working, but more chatting", the Productivity suprisingly stays the same. The horror scenario for all managers that all this sharing, learning and networking is corrupting Productivity, does not hold. Why is this? Because with a comfortable Reach (r=2), the Sharing is enhancing strongly the Productivity of others (or own productivity via contribution of others). With keeping the same Productivity one might look at the scenario, as if learning efforts were for free.

Knowledge culture scenario
What if then in a next step, we create a knowledge culture, we get better at sharing, we organize work for re-use, etc.? The Sharing will create even more Productivity, as it creates value with more employees (respectively you are leveraging on a broader network for re-use). The effect is visible in the model by a higher Reach (r=6). Productivity jumps up (while the Learning is still for free).

A simple model, showing nicely some effects of work patterns on the productivity.


ps1: Luis Suarez was shaking in his comment the work patterns by questioning that email is a way of working adding ones own productivity ("email is someone else's to-do list, not own agenda"). Unless you would be able to work off several to-do lists of others (I don't think that's you picture of email, Luis), it only emphasises the results. At the best you work off one other agenda with email, then collectively we stay with the some productivity on "own agenda" (although corrupting the terminology, if you sum up all "own agendas"), if email is a waste, then the productivity factor on working of the own agenda is less then one, even more emphasizing the Power of Sharing

ps2: the "l" learning in the formula - that is not a mistake, the perspective is that learning is not having a direct effect on productivity (simple model). see below also.
The indirect effect is not - yet - in the model, one modification would be replacing "s"
by "squareroot(s*l)" in the formula.
proposed modification to avoid s=100% catastrophe:
A replace "s" with "squareroot(s*l)", meaning this productivity appears when you combine you learning / seeing the bigger picture and share then by creating context, this would save you extreme scenario, resulting in p=0, which is for me a sensible scenario, when you don't produce anything on your own (working on own agenda), what would you be able to share that is creating value (not taking into account "knowledge speculation" (parallel to trading speculation at stock exchange). However this modification alone breaks with the same argument, productivity without working on own agenda (but less drastically, with a reach of 2, one would end with p=100%)

B additionally to the A modification, have the side condition "o > s", meaning your extreme case is forbidden (that is of course a rather clumsy way of argumentation), so the real argumentation is that in order to share something, one needs to produce something (which is working on own agenda)

Dienstag, 15. Februar 2011

Sharing - a new work pattern

One important aspect for driving change and the implementation of Knowledge Management is the ways of working, work behaviour and work patterns.
I have experimented in looking at it, analyzing how my own work behaviour has changed, distinguishing between the “traditional” and the “Web 2.0” behaviour.
The “traditional” ways of working I use for something like 2005, and they include mainly face-to-face, phone and email, while “Web 2.0” way of working stands for today and is a collective term for also including community and wiki collaboration, as well as the deployment of Social Media in terms of blogs, microblogging and virtual connectivity / social networking of any kind.
A model that provided me with some insights distinguishes the work purposes (respectively the productivity character of occupation):
  • work on own agenda (this gives my own productivity);
  • stay on top of things / learn (no immediate, direct productivity)
  • help / support others / share (this creates productivity of others, when re-used)

While the traditional work pattern – and the steering mechanisms – focus on working off the own agenda, the “Web 2.0” work pattern are characterized by much less work on the own agenda, but increasing efforts spent on staying on top of things / learning and support others /sharing.
So sticking to steering mechanisms that favours working off the own agenda create a mismatch towards wanted ways of working in an Enterprise 2.0.
Moreover it is a fair question by managers – no, in fact, it is THE question: What is happening to the collective productivity when changing the ways of working towards “Web 2.0”?
But before answering the question on productivity in a simple model, the approach should be verified (My own experience – especially with changing jobs in between – is a bit of a sub-optimal sample, so I am heavily interested if you work behaviour has undertaken the same change): Do you experience the same shift in work patterns?


Montag, 7. Februar 2011

How social are the Social Media?

In a recent post I have scratched on something that was called a generational war.

Is there a generational war ongoing? and if yes, what is the role of Social Media in this war?
But before becoming specific, every coming-of-age-novel is about questioning the established ways of life and finding one’s own, if we call this a generational war, then we are in the generational war since Adam's and Eve's day. It is a simple truth of life that there is always friction between generations, and progress of mankind appears within the tension of knowledge sharing and knowledge refinement.
In German a generation was named after their protest against all institutions in 1968, and after ten to twenty years exactly this generation was on their march through these institutions to power.
So, is there something particular going on right now? Let’s look at the parties in this specific campain: Boomers and Gen X as the olders are often named in the collective term digital immigrants,
while Gen Y is the first generation of digital natives. The the academic playground is an early indicator, before the digital natives coming to work (there you find the characteristics of the Digital Natives, Summary page 69).
And indeed these terms show the specific paradox of this generational clash: Digital natives and digital immigrants.
While in earlier times, the young were born into a world established by the elders, they were immigrating into an established world, and it was their role to question this world, to test what is of substance, and what to wash away and replace by their answers.
Now the young are the "Natives", indicating that it is their world, the autocracy of the youth; a digital world that is neither build nor understood by the old. In doubt, just compare the pop idols Ernesto Che Guevera with Mark Zuckerberg.
"Immigrants" on the contrary is not what I associate with filial piety. Immigrants are dependent on the natives' pity, immigrants have not the same rights as natives, and they trigger the phobia of foreign infiltration. If at all they find their place in the new society the hard way. And most of the time immigrants don't speak the native language, in our case the language of Social Media.
Whether this clash is of singular quality depends on the speed (and disruptiveness) of innovation, but I don’t see any reason for the Gen Y to be complacent (looking at the internet companies, many of the stars are day flies, do you remember them?!).
Am I polarizing? Well, you can kill the messenger, but I am observing, listening what is out there happening. I don't think Social Media can be called social, if it excludes generations from the conversation. And I don't think that a company can survive, if it does not support the externalization of the knowledge of generations, if it does not come to terms with an intergenerational contract. And as well, I don't think a company can survive, neglecting the developments of Web2.0.
I am advocating the conversation, to avoid the hype and to find solutions that serve the company and the employees.
So the true challenge of leadership might be to create value from a generational melting pot.


Freitag, 4. Februar 2011

Knowledge Management is dead

Knowledge Management is dead, thank god. And I would not have given it a thought and it would have rested in peace, if I hadn't come across a blog post, where they have finally caught the murderer. Social Media vs Knowledge Management: A generational war, and Knowledge Management was among the casulties, it was outlived by the younger generation.

Let's park the discrepancy in quality of the two terms, and follow a bit more the elaboration as it is outlined in the post.
Knowledge Management is so old-fashioned, that it had died of age anyway, it is just that Social Media accelerated the process. Knowledge Management with all the dusty concepts and terms: Knowledge Cafes, pre-defined Ontologies, Subject Matter Experts, Mailing Lists, Communities of Practice with Community Leaders and Community Specifications. And even the Knowledge Manager.
You know the discussion: When will we finally have reached the maturity in Knowledge Management that the role of the Knowledge Manager is superflous?
So here is the good news to all managers, who painfully let go some utilization for rusty KM efforts and even a specific role: Knowledge Management is dead.
Peter Drucker's term Knowledge Worker bears already more than half a century on a bent back, and Knowledge Management was branded in the early 1990's. 
The idea was simple: Knowledge is an asset (and in many industries the most important one), and assets shall be managed to create optimal value for the company.
And the idea came with its manifestations. As we all know, just an idea is not creating any value, it must be turned into business (this is what I call "manifestations" - the philosophers among you know the distinction and are very welcome to provide the classic terminology). The manifestations were state of the art of the 1990's: Mailing Lists, predefined ontologies, etc. (see the listing above).
Thank god, we have buried the Knowledge Management manifestations of the 1990's, RIP. This, the manifestation of Knowledge Management of the 1990's, is what sloppy has been named Knowledge Management, because Social Media is a much hipper buzz than calling it Knowledge Management manifestations 2010.
However if you look at the idea of Knowledge Management, is has become even more important nowadays (now you also understand why I get shivers, when people confuse Knowledge Sharing with Knowledge Management). The management of knowledge and building business around it, has become the decisive race towards success (see Networked entreprise is leading into the future).
Only the manifestations, the ways of working, the tools, the media have changed. Now it is called Social Media, but I bet my fantastic salary that in 2020 there will another buzz. Because the idea of Knowledge Management is not about implementing about a specific tool, it is about gaining a relative competitive advantage, it is about striving one step beyond what everybody does and knows. Like with the managers, who have changed names, but are nevertheless expected to manage the business, the Knowledge Managers support to manage the knowledge, but not doing the same things as a decade ago. Today's challenges are around creating value out of Collaboration, out of Web2.0 opportunities and out of Social Networking, managing the knowledge in a better way.
So please join me in saying:
Knowledge Management is dead, long live Knowledge Management!


ps: this post is not a fair summary of the above mentioned blog post! It is well worth reading.

Dienstag, 1. Februar 2011

Google: A weekend to innovation

There is a lot of talk and hype about the impact of Social Media in what is happening in Egypt (and Tunesia before). One aspect that I would like to share with you on the fly comes from the Offical Google Blog and has the catchy title: Some weekend work that will (hopefully) enable more Egyptians to be heard.

The post bears many very interesting aspects:
  • The marketing aspect of the blog format
  • Some years ago there was a marketing theme "Make yourself heard", well that was in the old times, now Google is doing the job for the Egyptians.
  • There is no weekend in Google if there is an idea in the air
  • It only takes a weekend to drive an idea towards a service in Google
  • Google is making for sure money with it, but they also take a responsibility for society, that is nowadays described by "Knowledge Mobilization"
  • And by the way Google is entering what was considered the traditional telecommunications sector - the boundaries of Telecommunications and Social Media do only exist anymore in some heads
Hail Google, but I am wondering whether it would take only a weekend to put such an innovation in China in place, or whether in a similar situation there the technical challenges would have been much more complex and time-consuming.