Part 1: HKKMS & KMRC Lessons from the MAKE award winners – Conference Reaction 2011

I went to the HKKMS/KMRC Knowledge Café style conference last Friday. This was billed as ‘an exercise in KM. Rather than a highly structured morning of speakers and Powerpoint presentations , we are just setting a few boundaries: choosing a good venue, the start and end time, and of course, the purpose – to allow those interested in KM a chance to hear from those organisations that won awards from the Hong Kong Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise (MAKE) judges.’

Well, OK, it sounds good but the proof is in the pudding. We started with some introductory remarks by Prof. W.B. Lee, head of the Industrial & Systems Engineering Department, which sponsors the Knowledge Management Research Centre, KMRC, and runs some excellent under graduate and graduate programs with strong KM components and then some more remarks by the President of the HKKMS, Les Hales. They both emphasized that now Hong Kong has a critical mass of KM professionals. It does with more than half-a-dozen good KM programmes in the city. Take a look my Education page for a pretty comprehensive list of the Hong Kong Knowledge Management programmes here.

I’ve done some digging thru LinkedIN and got a little World Bank KM timeline going here. The keynote speaker was Nicolas Gorjestani, formerly the Chief Knowledge & Learning Off icer, at the World Bank, from 2000-2007. Nicolas is the 3rd person I’ve met over the years who had/has a leading role in the World Bank’s knowledge management programme. The other two are Stephen Denning, programme director of KM at the World Bank at unspecified times, and Madelyn Blair, Division Chief at the World Bank 1978 – 1988. They are all very interesting people. However, I remain a bit bemused by the idea that KM at the World Bank should be some sort of ‘global’ benchmark for KM practices. The World Bank is THE BLUE CHIP aid agency. Can we, who are working in much more day-to-day mundane organizations, learn from something that is so unique and special? For the same reason, I don’t think holding up MicroSoft, Apple and IBM as examples of good or bad corporate management is very useful.

Nicolas gave a passionate talk. He believes KM is about making the connections between people. This is a core KM belief and it’s true; people are who make it all happen. He thinks KM is not about organizing ‘knowledge’ – e.g. libraries, repositories, documents, records. Of course, every corporate KM programme I’ve ever seen has a big component of organizing all this ‘explicit’ knowledge. It isn’t sexy but it is necessary. He puts a lot of emphasis on ‘trust’ and how ‘trust’ is required before anyone will share ‘knowledge’. He had an amusing example of the ‘new matrix organization’ at the World Bank with lateral connecting layers (sausages) who renamed themselves Network Heads or Network Anchors because they didn’t want to be called Network Facilitators or Network Co-ordinators. My observation is any matrix organization creates a guerilla war to turn itself into a hierarchy and most of the time the guerilla war wins. He emphasized the importance of un-learning and leaning from failure. The World Bank will run a ‘Fail Fair’ next week which sounds like a wonderful idea. My idea is that success and failure are close companions and we should not forget that sometimes what was initially thought of as a failure turns out to be a success or vice versa. I’m slightly skeptical of Nicolas’ idea that the 20th century was about rigid hierarchical organizations and the 21st will be about organic, fluid and more human organizations. I think he is confusing ‘rich’ country issues and ‘emerging’ country issues. China, India and Africa are now quickly ramping up with large hierarchical organizations in many business and government sectors. Are these really different from how Europe and the Americas, note I’m including North, Central and South America, developed and expanded throughout the 19th and 20th century? I don’t think so. Europe and the Americas have been rich for so long now that their organizations need to cope with the unique issues of size, aging work force, shrinking work force, expansive expectations from the workforce, which makes them by necessity place more emphasis on the ‘human’ side of the organization.

Then Nicole Sy, from the KMRC, Knowledge Management Research Centre, explained how the MAKE awards winners are assessed. The MAKE awards, Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises, are assessed by judges from business, government and academia. The criteria is established by a UK based consultancy named Teleos which support and enables THE KNOW NETWORK, ‘A global community of knowledge-driven organizations dedicated to networking, benchmarking and sharing best practices leading to superior performance.’ Teleos is rather mysterious. I’ve been told it’s a small British KM consultancy but I can’t confirm this thru Google or LinkedIN.

Award winning is very important because it gives recognition which in turns ensures continuing support from the powers that be up that dreaded hierarchy, or matrix or hybrid hierarchical matrix. In Hong Kong, we give awards for everything from Young Leaders to Best Marketing Campaign to most successful English essay and we like to announce the winners loudly and publically. I suspect it is linked to the British school tradition of prefects, best boy, best girl, sports days and the like.

David Gurteen was the facilitator for of Knowledge Café. I heard his presentation last year at the HKKMS conference in Hong Kong. I also attended a half-day work-shop on how to run a knowledge café. I’ve run a few knowledge café this past year so I was really interested to see how David would run this ‘conference’ knowledge café. More to follow in my next post …


1 Comment »

  1. Baoman said

    Answers from the MAKE Award Winners – APQC KMEDGE

    From 2008 – questions and answers from global MAKE Award winners and the managing director of Teleos, Rory Chase.

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