Gestión del conocimiento para los niños

Lo siento, Miguel, me olvidé de este Powerpoint…

Knowledge Management for Kids

I had forgotten about these slides from our project debriefing tool and process rollout.  Just in time for summer vacation, here is a beach-related lesson learned from my son…

Sentiment analysis and project debriefs/lessons learned

This post by Giles Palmer at Brandwatch (here) hits on something I’d like to try with our increasing volume of project debriefs.  We’ve done a couple of analyses of project success and trouble factors (I’ve posted on them a number of times, especially here, here, and here), but I’d like to take it to the next level.

We haven’t had a lot of success having our project managers analyze the debriefs.  First, they’re not exactly expert media analysts.  Also, because it is “their” domain, they’re very invested in the topic.  Everything seems important to them, so we end up focusing on what are essentially “neutral” responses and issues.  It appears that most PM’s “wetware” doesn’t discriminate finely enough.  And frankly, the opportunity costs of having PMs do this kind of work are substantial.

The sentiment analysis technique seems like a great filter to ID those questions that provoke the most positive or negative responses.  Once we go through that analysis, we can then cross-tab on the debrief questions, industries, solutions, projects, etc. that provoke the strongest responses.  Only then would be bring in senior folks to refine the analysis.  Furthermore, debrief questions that prompted a lot of neutral responses may need to be reworded or removed.

I like the idea of cross-pollinating across functions, and this idea seems promising.  I hope to pilot this approach later this year and early next…

How this post (and the Internet) are rewiring your brain

Nicholas Carr has an on-point Atlantic essay for we bloggers (here).  While I think that the copy editor over-reached with the headline, there’s a lot of grist for the mill.  I especially relate to some of his struggles with concentration while reading books:

My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore.

As I said, I relate to the feelings, but I’ve found that they’re most strong when I’m reading non-fiction or business books…note the distinction ;-)   Carr quotes someone who hasn’t read a book in ages.  I’ve found that I read at least as many books, though the mix is more weighted to novels now.  I don’t feel anywhere near as distracted when reading quality fiction.  Like the complete works of Jacqueline Susann, or the novels of Harold Robbins…you know, the giants.

I do, however, deliberately tailor my posts to a shorter attention span, especially making sure that a post doesn’t bleed off the screen (or if it is hard to shrink, putting the “more” link earlier in the post).

Leadership Failure in Complex Initiatives

Extending a recent theme — leading and learning in complex initiatives — I’ve just started looking at a book on The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations.  Many of the conclusions and insight reflect some earlier posts (collected here).  This post may contain my personal record for categories/tags, I guess the complexity topic has become pervasive as well!

The essence of the argument is that most humans think about problems in ways that defeat their efforts to deal with complex problems.  I especially like the insight that complex situations rarely yield to fixed rules consistently.  Per an insight I’ve heard before: “All complex problems require iterative solutions.”  In other words, we need to be prepared to take multiple passes at solving these types of issues, sometimes with different techniques.

Hat tip: George Colony’s Counterintutitive blog (here).

Engaging middle management in “Enterprise 2.0”

Following up on an earlier post on Web 2.0 blockers (here), I’ll forward some block “busting” suggestions from that Clint Boulton report on Enterprise 2.0 (here). 

Middle managers in their ’50s will likely not have been as exposed to computers and their corresponding technologies….   [T]he way older generations adopt the tools is different.  For example, a 69-year-old CIA agent has done more than 30,000 edits on Intellipedia.   This is because he uses Intellipedia to post all of his content, an extension of his upbringing that people are supposed to use one tool to do all of their work. By contrast, Generation Y CIA agents use the application situationally, and use other apps for different information sharing.

That’s an excellent observation…I’ve found this when working with experienced line managers, especially.  Tremendous resistance at first and for a while; however, once they made the breakthrough of how to use a tool, they were comfortable with it.

 [A]ll it takes is one champion within a department or workgroup. If one respected leader starts blogging or posting to a wiki, others will follow.  It also helps when management admits something is important and seeks help to “get it,” according to Pete Fields, senior vice president for the e-commerce division at Wachovia bank.   [The CIO] didn’t grasp the enterprise 2.0 tools coming to the fore but acknowledged them as transformative. So, he sought out a “couple Gen-Y folks in his group to be reverse mentors.”

I’m planning to do this with my team…we’re looking to hire someone to drive Web. 2.0 adoption, perhaps leveraging a high-potential/top talent from development.

Facing Reality, “Ground Truth,” etc.

One of the best aspects of Graham Durant-Law’s blog (here) is his willingness to “tell on himself” and the KM profession.  When recalling an interview he gave to a KM researcher, he quotes from an old David Snowden post (here) to good effect:

I have sat in many a conference listening to a presentation from a KM person in a company where the statements about what has happened bear little relation to the reality on the ground.

The critical difference is that Graham doesn’t believe he’s immune to the “happy-talk” syndrome, suggesting that his interviewer might want to check with Graham’s users to validate the “ground truth.”

His example is something that I need to follow.  It is always much easier to get something delivered — just get the work product “done” — as long the customer(s) aren’t consulted about whether it conforms to requirements.  Because I’m such a nifty and clever “thought leader,” it is tempting sometimes to blame initiative failure on stakeholders who “just don’t get it” or had not given their all.

Graham’s post was a useful reminder to let a little fresh air into my group’s initiatives.   I also need to remember that when failures or issues come up it’s more important to put:

…out of my mind the wrongs others had done and to resolutely look for my own mistakes.

Middle management blocking blogs, wikis, syndication

Clint Boulton reports on an Enterprise 2.0 panel that tackled one of the most frustrating barriers to collaboration adoption — middle managers (here). 

Middle management is one of the key obstacles to the adoption of user-generated content tools such as blogs, wikis and RSS feeds in businesses…[per Sean Dennehy from the CIA:] “They’re not onboard yet. They’re not comfortable with the tools. They’re not sure how the tools fit into the existing processes…”

This last point highlights two of the most persistent gaps I’ve seen in executing “2.0” — where do the tools fit in the process and who will bother to figure this out?

Businesses count on middle management to grease the wheels of business processes. If middle management isn’t going to get onboard with using blogs and wikis to disseminate information, how will the rest of the business proceed?  They won’t, or if they do, it will be ad-hoc and perhaps less effective workgroup collaboration.

Exactly…for too long 2.0 evangelists have assumed they can simply bypass the old guard.  They can, but that means the impact of collaboration is diffused or isolated.

Furthermore,  some of these issues are endemic to many industries.  Sadly, I’ve run into this as well even in a technology company; it is amazing how constitutionally resistant many consultants from a technical background are to collaboration.  Becoming middle managers seems to reinforce their bias against cooperation.

Links — basic and advanced PM Glossaries

Developing a common vocabulary should be a key early milestone for any PMO initiative.  To that end, here are a couple of links that might help inspire the lexically-challenged among us:

Elizabeth at The Girl’s Guide to Managing Projects links to Tom Mochal’s short glossary of key PM terms at TechRepublic (here, PDF here).  It’s a one-pager of the most important terms.  What I like is that it hits on many of the most misunderstood (e.g., assumptions vs. constraints) and most fundamental concepts.  One quibble: some of the definitions are a bit non-standard (e.g., project definition (charter) is problematic, it doesn’t note the “authority for PM to spend resource” expected from a charter).

On the exhaustive end — and we know how us PM types like detail — one of my colleagues introduced me to the Wideman’s Glossary (here).  Here I like Max’s attention to acronyms and abbreviations.  He doesn’t get them all, but he manages to catch most I’ve seen (and some I wish I hadn’t).

Conclusions — Avoiding the Experience Trap

NOTE: Finally, I’ve gotten to the 12th (and last) post of a series on an HBR article by Prof. Kishore Sengupta, et al on The Experience Trap.  Below are the summarized conclusions with my comments:

  1. Learning on the job simply won’t work in any but the most basic environments: PMs do not have the time or perspective to learn from their mistakes when dealing with chaos.  OTJ is unrealistic outside of simple project management or team leadership roles.
  2. Managers can continue learning only if they’re given some formal training and decision support: This conclusion is especially important for PMOs, which must respond by adjusting training approaches from canned classroom lectures to interactive workshops and simulations specifically tailored to the challenges the PM community will face.
  3. Challenge spending of training dollars most heavily on entry-level hires: This assumption needs to be challenged considering the evolving complexity of projects; regardless, more attention needs to be paid to senior managers.
  4. Importing project-planning tools wholesale from other companies or industries is risky: Plug-and-play fixes to complex problems just aren’t available and worse, are often misleadingly easy to implement, hard to make work.
  5. Senior recruits cannot be expected to hit the ground running: Unless recruits come from exactly the same environment — pretty rare if not impossible — it will be hard for them to jump right in without some substantive exposure via advanced training/on-boarding.
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