KM Euphemisms – ‘Culture’

Knowledge Management is something I love to do and to talk about.  Nonaka and Taguchi is music to my ears. However, in my education we talked around a central KM issue that needs to be considered more. The euphemism that is used in KM is ‘culture’.  What exactly does this mean? It means considering what a company says and comparing it to what actually happens. In other words, business ethics. Right and wrong.

Ethics are a requirement for KM. Right action is a requirement for KM. Countries and companies that excel at KM are also ethical organizations. The Scandinavian nations are an excellent example. Toyota is another, as is Google.

Let me make it clear from the outset that this is not a hagiography. All of these organizations have problems, and have committed ethical violations. However, they usually stick to a core set of principles and are at their most effective and profitable when they stick to those principles. Toyota is one of the few remaining Japanese corporations that guarantees employment, taking a loss during the 1980’s in order to maintain their workforce. The Scandinavian nations, especially Norway, Denmark and Sweden have one of the most effective education and welfare programs in the world. They also have some of the most innovative and successful corporations, like Erickson, Nokia and Ikea. Google has a clear corporate policy of ‘Don’t be Evil’ and have an ethical affairs committee to review changes in their corporate policies.

Culture is one of the most difficult areas in Knowledge Management. Changing culture is the primary reason that Knowledge Management infinitives take longer than structural and procedural changes. However, a strong and consistent corporate culture also increases innovation and creativity.

In a larger context, corporations operate much like countries. If there is a strong, ethical leadership with entrenched institutions to safeguard central ethical principles it encourages investment. A kleptocracy or a country with inconsistent laws discourages investment.


Are you willing to lose money in defence of your organization’s core principles?

What is ‘not for sale’ in your organization?

What do you pay people for? What do you encourage through bonuses and corporate policies?

What do you discourage through disincentives?


On the origin of ‘Don’t Be Evil’

The Contradictions that Drive Toyota’s Success
– Harvard Business Review


Business 2.0 – The Power of Blogging

The Transport Security Administration has been tanned in the media today over the actions of some screening personnel. You can read the details here.

I was impressed with the way that they handled the news of this on their blog. You can read the post here, with the announcement of policy change here.

You can tell from the tone of these posts that the TSA is not enthusiastic about the news coverage. However, the post on their blog was direct, honest and clear. There are good reasons for their security rules, but policies can be modified to be more accommodating of differences between customers.

I’d also encourage a look through the comments on the TSA website. Corporate bloggers can run into as controversial situations, and the wide variety of comments will give you a good idea about what can and will be said about your own embarrassing incidents.

I’ll repeat below my principles for dealing with a public crisis in the internet age

  • Be honest, your company reputation can be significantly harmed by a lie
  • Negotiate with this customer in good faith
  • Communicate your side of the story with the website publishing the accusations
  • A crisis management officer empowered to monitor and address these concerns can reduce the stress level of the entire board

Communication, Communication, Communication!

Yes, the TSA situation is embarrassing, titillating (sorry) and practically made for making the front page. The announcement here, however, was well done, clear and correct.

Frontiers of Business – The return of the Social Contract?

The Harvard Business School blog is an invaluable resource to me, a librarian, getting into the world of business. Reading it every day has been showing some encouraging aspects of the business community regarding Knowledge Management writ large. My understanding of Knowledge Management doesn’t rest on the software. KM comes out of corporate culture, and is based on trust. It is encouraging to see some trends like this recent post suggesting a partial return to the old social contract of long term employment.

A return to one company careers?

Knowledge Management Tools – Storytelling


Once upon a time?

In business?

You do it all the time.

I’ve made learning a professional career since I was 5 and one of the most efficient ways of processing a large amount of information is to tell it in a story. I learned trigonometry through distance estimating problems in Scouts, I learned the history of World War II through the story of ‘In Flanders Fields’ and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.

In the business world we have a very specialized form of storytelling, the case study. These stories form the basis of most BCom and MBA programs. My experience has shown me that while most Business School graduates can analyze a case study, very few can write them!

Good stories have structure, they have a beginning, a middle and an end. Writing a good story requires a careful weighing of what is important, do not include too many details. At a maximum, stories should be half an hour long.

In my opinion, storytelling comes into importance in areas of business where management, clients and front line workers need to understand the people behind the policies. Examples would include sales meetings, introduction of new policies, debriefing after a crisis, introducing new managment and training.

I’m including a link to ‘The Ultimate Storytelling Guide’ which you should take with a grain of salt. It is largely focused at childrens storytelling, but the principles are universal.

The Ultimate Storytelling Guide

Wikipedia – Storytelling
* Look for resources in the bibleography and links at the end of the doucment

Knowledge Managment Tools – OpenProj

Doing project planning is great when your at the office (or in my case the computer lab) where they have the licenced software. I know that some small and medium sized businesses have to make difficult decisions regarding just how many licenses to purchase. OpenProj solves some of the problems relating to Microsoft Project. OpenProj is an open-source alternative to Microsoft Project, capable of opening and generating the files used. This software produces very nice GANTT charts, allows you to visually estimate time needed for each phase of a project and allows you to set a ‘critical path’, the list of actions that must happen in order to complete the project.

OpenProj is free for individual use, but has a hosted version available that allows multiple access and version control for a small subscription fee.