A new CV … of value for the aspirational Knowledge Manager

At a recent Knowledge Management Mini-Conference arranged by Helen Palmer from RHX Group, it was refreshing to once again see the difference between “knowledge worker” and “Knowledge Manager” articulated. Here is the definition of each as explained by Helen:

knowledge worker
– a class of workers (like ‘blue-collar worker’); knowledge-savvy; primary work purpose is creating, distributing and applying knowledge

Knowledge Manager
– a title of a particular role (like ‘Finance Manager’); a person who has expertise in meta-abilities to do with creation, acquisition, distribution, application and retention of knowledge in organisational contexts

This provided some very interesting insight into my career to date. I have spent nine years working on a variety of significant organisational change projects for the State Government, spanning both Human Resources and Information Management change. This culminated in my role as secretariat for the Executive Sub-Committee for Information Management and ICT for the Department of Health. This was a job that had huge knowledge and change management requirements, but due to the bureaucratic nature of government was often highly administrative.

This led to a very interesting conversation between Helen and I about the career paths for aspiring Knowledge Managers (and Change Managers).

The emerging challenge

The emergence of Knowledge Management (I would argue including Change Management, Information Management and Learning) as a critical workplace vocation and skill set has oft been discussed as a part of the evolution of the 21st century worker. The management of corporate knowledge, as well as individual knowledge (including creativity) is both essential and nebulous. What has become apparent in the last 20 years is that knowledge management is both a specialised and a general skill set. Everyone must manage their own knowledge at the micro level, but the organisational knowledge is managed by a skilled professional at the macro level, to facilitate knowledge sharing and maximise the business benefits of knowledge as an organisational asset.

In this context the professional Knowledge Manager is emerging distinct from the more common “knowledge worker”. The formation of this sector has seen many Knowledge Managers discover their profession usually through serendipitous career progression, usually from an administrative, clerical, technical or professional service role. Being in the right place at the right time. This is on the verge of a boom, as open information sharing and natural (multi-disciplinary) learning methods become the norm, and young professionals (like myself) are realising the value and importance of managing organisational knowledge.

My professional background

In my endeavour to pursue a career in Knowledge Management I entered the Public Sector straight out of university through the Graduate Recruitment Program and knew my Bachelor of Arts/Business background gave me a bent toward generalisation rather than specialisation. It was to my surprise that my role in Organisational Development with one department was quite staid and lacking in Change Management. Also it was not as adept with technology as the broader industry. Therefore, following a few projects I moved to the Office of CIO in another department. This breadth of experience taught me a lot about different approaches to Knowledge Management, between “people knowledge” and “machine knowledge”. I still felt my government career experience was not matching the pace of industry change that I was observing outside of my job.

For a lot of this time I felt like a worker without a job title. When asked what it was I did in my job, the answer was variations of “projects of various kinds”, “at the moment, but that might change”, or “oh, I deal with organisational knowledge and change” – all of which attracted blank looks.

What is the Corporate Lattice?

The 2010 book, The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work written by Cathy Benko and Molly Anderson for Harvard Business Review Press, and well summarised in this Deloitte Review article, did much to form my view of the modern career. When I so often had to battle corporate silos, my view was that if people had sideways career moves as frequently as promotions, most of these battles would disappear.

The future career pattern is a lattice not a ladder

The future career pattern is a lattice not a ladder

The current day CV is designed on the premise that the corporate ladder still exists. Stating your work history in ascending order (most recent first) gives a visual construct of a linear and upwardly mobile career. It doesn’t accommodate sideways career moves, whether that is to shift industries, start your own business, or re-locate to a different city or country. It also creates a presumption that new work builds upon old work – therefore new work is considered more relevant, and work more than three years old is redundant. Modern careers now show that knowledge is gained across many years, and multi-disciplinary experience is a strength not a liability, but the modern CV fails to express that.

The Portfolio CV

When discussing the Corporate Lattice with Helen, and my experience with it, she mentioned to me what she called her “Portfolio CV”. This format effectively turns the modern CV on its head and draws out activities of a knowledge worker that may identify potential Knowledge Management capability. It is a concise 4 page document, with the following pages.

1. Cover Page

Provide contact details, biographical summary, and list of strengths/capabilities relevant to role.

Content is customised for the role which the CV represents; may have multiple CVs to represent different roles or specialities.

2. Portfolio Page

Accurately specify selected pieces of work that support the claims on the Cover Page (Regardless of the currency, industry or whether it was paid, volunteer or extracurricular.  If you’ve done it once, you can do it again)

Content is drawn from a list or ‘database’ of relevant work.

3. Testimonials Page

List quotes and feedback from clients, managers and peers; it confirms the quality and impact of the work explained on Portfolio Page.

Content is drawn from a list or ‘database’ of relevant quotes.

4. Details page

List employment placements, qualifications and other facts of relevance.

Content is constant between versions.

In my instance, creating a Portfolio CV was quite easy for pages 1,2 and 4 – the challenge was page 3. Public servants are well trained on the precautions required when putting statements on the record. It took quite a bit of foraging and chasing, but I was able to get some testimonials from previous co-workers and managers. In discussing these challenges Helen described that it is a trait of saavy professionals to keep their network engaged and collect written testimonials. Coming from an industry where long tenures are the norm and silos run deep, that is something that I have realised through this experience.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Having come through this process, I now have a very interesting career document. One that definitely defines my Knowledge Management and Change Management experience very clearly. However, I get the sense that the recruitment industry in Australia is not completely ofay with the multi-disciplinary nature of KM and CM. The most success I have had to date has been through discussions with other Knowledge Managers. Others still appear to think of Knowledge Management as a heightened records keeper, and Change Manager as a project manager with pizzazz.

In closing, I’d like to return to this concept of a KM career path. Of all the colleagues I’ve spoken to about how they got into Knowledge Management, it has always be a circuitous route, a chance project, or a fortunate happenstance that helped reveal their aptitude for Knowledge Management. But where is the feeder pool for the next generation of Knowledge Managers; where are the 2ICs and the deputies/juniors to the current crop of KM field leaders?

This blog post was written by guest author Christoph Hewett. Christoph is General Manager of Resonant Integrity Training Solutions, a consultancy for knowledge, change and learning.

Image credit/source: Wikimedia

Making and applying an Activity-Time budget

I manage work with a knowledge focus [1].  I manage teams with a knowledge focus because I value the knowledge members create, acquire, share and cultivate.  Therefore I value the activities that are knowledge generating. Here’s a technique I use in management to better support and promote knowledge activity: activity-time budget system.

The concept – overview

  • Promoting and endorsing particular knowledge cultivation activities, while quantifying and qualifying the time expended on activities per week.
  • A systematic method to maintain new mindsets and behaviours in professional practice of managing knowledge.

Why the technique came into being

As a Team Leader,  I wanted empowered team members who had effective personal knowledge work practices. Specifically, I wanted:

  • To address work-life balance: Setting realistic expectations and reasonable conditions so knowledge workers could do good work, then truly and deeply rest their knowledge engines switching off from work.
  • To address the tendency to overlook and under-do important but ‘boring’ or ‘passive’ knowledge activities like  record keeping, organising, planning, reporting and reflecting;  to treat these items as necessary, not discretionary work.
  • To reign in the tendency to over-do some work achieving a quality not valued, or to drain resources for little return: To invoke the principle of ‘good enough’ given the available resources and time constraints.
  • Better decision-making about work priorities and energy expenditure with definitive yet flexible guidelines that would continue to be useful in professional practice.
  • A culture of autonomous creative action and approaches that didn’t require my specific input or endorsement; to enable opportunities to make a personal mark on work, or develop lateral professional interests. Staff could do what they believed was vital work without my permission as long as they could justify it against expectations.

So I mused about ways to address the underlying issue of finite resources (time) and expenditure of resources (energy and time). This triggered childhood memories of the personal power and discipline that came from receiving and spending pocket money; from there the concept of activity-time budget system seemed obvious …

How it works

The normal number of employed hours per week is the 100% activity-time allowance.  Percentages for 5-6 categories of activity expenditure  are assigned, with explanation about the kinds of activity each category represents. Individuals then autonomously allocate their activities and time to meet budget.

It is important to monitor expenditure against allowance. If there is significant variance (it’s an accounting thing!) over a 2-4 week period then a closer look is warranted, with adjustments made. Maybe the budget breakdown isn’t right, or the employee has insufficient skill or resources to be effective, or there is simply too great a volume of work expected.  A key reason for setting the allowance and the budget, is to ensure that an activity-time debt doesn’t mount up, for then you risk the quality of the person, and the quality of the work.

Specific steps to get started

1.  Decide how many hours a week you allow for ‘work’.[2] This becomes your 100% of work allowance.
2.  Define a list of activity categories against which work allowance will be assigned.  Define examples. Check that examples don’t overlap into other categories.
3.  Define how much work allowance (%) you want to assign to each activity category.
4.  Schedule time in calendar for each allotment of work activity (either individual or group of activities). Break into multiple allotments as is most useful.
5.  Monitor your expenditure against allowance, and adjust as necessary.[3]

Examples

Below are examples of the categories and assigned percentages for two work-place scenarios where I have applied the method.

Scenario 1: Team of fixed-term employees assigned to internal development project
Budget
10%    Administration
10%    Project planning and reporting
5%      Professional development
10%    Internal/team participation
65%    Project and client work

Administration
Opening and processing correspondence (including email)
Maintaining business records, including filing
Keeping desk and work space in order
Weekly or fortnightly 1-1 meeting with team leader

Project planning and reporting
NB: Not for a Project Manager but for personnel on project team
Reviewing and updating plan of work for coming week and coming 1-2 months
Reviewing progress and composing reporting content (for verbal or written delivery)
Contributing to project documentation, e.g. Risk and Issues log, Project Plan

Professional development
Attending courses and professional association meetings
Reflecting after attending courses, etc (including note taking or journalling)
Reading books, blogs, tweets
Networking with professional contacts outside organisation (including using social media)
Participating in mentoring or coaching activities
Preparing and maintaining personal Performance Management documentation

Internal/team participation
Attending and contributing to team meetings
Organising and leading team meetings when it’s your turn
Contributing to team well being (organising adhoc social events, checking in with people)
Maintaining relationships with team colleagues
Contributing to team collective knowledge, participating in briefs and debriefs

Project and client work
Stakeholder engagement work (including discretionary coffee meetings)
Designing, organising and executing activities listed in project plan

Scenario 2: Single person self-employed
Budget
10% Admin
10% Professional enrichment
20% Business development
60% Project/Client work

Administration
Doing filing, invoicing, expense claims
Internal business meetings and discussions
Managing computing tools including backups and configurations

Professional enrichment
Activities that replenish my mojo
Reading professional books, blogs
Attending seminars, courses and conferences
Networking with professional contacts

Business Development
Networking with strategic contacts
Developing products and services for business
Developing and managing proposals for work
Developing and maintaining prospective client relationships

Project and client work (typically income generating)
Maintaining customer relationships
Project management for client projects
Providing services to clients

 

[1] I can’t take credit for the brilliant phrase “Management with a knowledge focus” that goes to www.knoco.com
[2] You could also apply the time budget system to your life, with 100% being the total number of hours in a week (n=168), then allotting how you want to apportion where you spend your time.
[3] Consider allocating and monitoring your activity-time expenditure using an electronic calendar. For future time, make entries of how you intend to expend the time. Ensure your forecast is within budget constraints. For past time, make entries of how you actually expended the time. Compare the actual time against the budget, to determine the amount of variance.

 

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

Knowledge mgmt and Information mgmt – same-difference?

Knowledge management (KM) and Information management (IM) are different and related. It’s easy to be confused and think they are the same, that KM is somehow a more faddish version of IM. Some would say it doesn’t matter – I beg to differ. To do better KM requires a different focus than to do better IM, and therefore different expertise and approaches.

Here’s my take on the difference.

For KM, the focus is knowledge; which is to say, the focus is people. Knowledge needs a knower. People create and carry knowledge. They learn, they make-sense, they make knowledge part of themselves.

For IM, the focus is information; which is stuff that lives outside a person. Much information starts out as knowledge. But when it gets detached from a person, it tends to lose context and meaning. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, simply it has different value. (More on the knowledge vs. information difference below)

The aim of good KM in an organisation is vitalising your knowledge-base. (Remember your knowledge is in people, so your knowledge-base is what people know, as well as how they come to know it.) Managing knowledge means creating and maintaining the right conditions so knowledge can move and nourish the organisation. And this doesn’t mean putting it into information systems – it’s about harnessing social power: conversation and relationship.

The aim of good IM in an organisation is utilising information to make decisions and explain organisational activities. Managing information means developing and administering systems that collect, organise, process and aggregate information. This can mean using KM to improve people’s knowledge about to know where to get good information, and know how much value to give that information.

Information is a-kind-of knowledge, often referred to as explicit or codified knowledge. Knowledge often gets captured in more tangible forms because it makes it easier to move across time (it can outlive you) and across space (it can go without you). What started out as the knowledge of the knower becomes information, and will remain information, until someone makes sense of it and comes to know it.

Maybe this example will help you sense the difference between knowledge and information:
‘80 Rahera Street’ – As a piece of knowledge, these words represent a location where I used to live, where I shaped my environment and made many memories. My knowledge of 80 Rahera Street is emotional, aesthetic, geographical and functional. This knowledge lives in my knowledge-base and can be used to restimulate memories and facts of use to my family, and potentially real estate agents!
‘80 Rahera Street’ – As a piece of information, is an address to a specific geographical location. This can be put in a database and be used to confirm my identity and to send me stuff.

Often people working in the KM space, attempt to resolve the KM vs IM confusion by stating that they are working on the people-side of KM. Thus distinguishing themselves from the IM part (i.e. information technology and systems) under a KM umbrella.

So next time you are defining or implementing a KM strategy/solution – check: are you doing knowledge-people stuff as well as information-systems stuff? If you are focusing on information-systems stuff, then you are making IM change not KM.

And why does it matter? Because KM approaches and skills are different than IM, and you might be attempting the equivalent of building a house with cooking tools and techniques. (For ideas on KM techniques see The work of Knowledge Mgmt vs Information Mgmt.)

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact.  With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

What is it to ‘manage’?

I’ve recently got frustrated about a lack of management ability in people with whom I was collaborating:

  • They couldn’t keep track on what they said/wrote, or what they agreed to provide
  • They couldn’t respond or act within negotiated schedule, nor had time or presence of mind to renegotiate
  • They said yes to things with good intentions and little realistic ability or capacity to deliver

So it got me thinking – if I want to encourage or facilitate different behaviour, what knowledge or behaviour am I seeking?

What is it to manage something? With the answer to this question, surely it is possible to plan, execute and measure efficacious action. Here’s what I came up with.

To manage something is to:

  1. Know what you have (description, characteristic, breadth and depth)
  2. Know what state it is in (right now)
  3. Know what you could do with it (now or in the future)
  4. Know what you want to do with it (purpose)
  5. Be prepared to make a decision or act quickly and accurately
  6. Be able to ‘plan’ a series of actions in consideration of time, resources, budget, people, promises, expectations, etc

And I think this can be applied regardless of what you are managing, i.e.
Work (i.e. Action tasks)
Project
Emails
Content
Self
People
Information
Vegetation and vermin (This one is inspired by a sign I saw in provincial Victoria.)
Water
Money
Wealth
Assets

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and ways to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.