Above and Beyond KM

A discussion of knowledge management that goes above and beyond technology.

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This publication contains my personal views and not necessarily those of my clients. Since I am a lawyer, I do need to tell you that this publication is not intended as legal advice or as an advertisement for legal services.
  • Royal Wedding, Kate & WillsAs much of the world knows, two particular people were married at Westminster Abbey today.  Whether or not you attended in person, watched on TV, or glanced at newspaper headlines, it was hard to ignore a certain royal wedding.

    I’m not qualified to comment on the religious, historic, political or fashion implications of the event.  But I must confess great interest in the real-time reaction to the event as expressed — not by professional journalists and commentators — but by ordinary folks via social media.  Whether you chose to follow Twitter or Facebook, there was a lively commentary that ranged from hilarious to touching. Equally, for those of you who didn’t want any part of the hoopla, the Huffington Post published tips on How to Block the Royal Wedding on Twitter and Facebook.

    While it may be the social event of the season, this wedding has also been a social media event:

    So one of the most conservative institutions in the world, the British Royal Family, has embraced social media. Do you think it’s time another conservative institution did the same?

    Which institution?  Your law firm.

    [Photo Credit: doyoubleedlikeme]

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  • Spare PenniesIs your firm or law department still counting its pennies? Or is your firm or company so optimistic about its prospects that you’ve been given a large budget to spend freely on knowledge and information management projects?

    The headlines in the legal technology press often feature impressive, state of the art, large-budget projects. However, what if you don’t have a large budget? What if your firm is maintaining a tight control on costs? How do you undertake effective KM and IM projects?

    At this summer’s ILTA Conference, we’re hoping to provide practical advice and real life examples of law firms and law departments that have found frugal ways to meet ambitious KM/IM goals. To that end, we’re looking for legal technologists who have implemented successful and cost-effective KM/IM programs. Specifically, we’re looking for legal technologists who have done so using free or very inexpensive resources. Perhaps they have found helpful open source software. Perhaps they have found a way to partner with vendors, clients or business partners to reduce or share costs. Perhaps they have found ways to use standard law firm tools like Microsoft Office to improve their KM/IM activities. Perhaps they have taken basic steps like creating a firm-wide taxonomy or ensuring that information flows smoothly without unnecessary duplication of effort.

    If you are a successful frugal innovator or know someone who is, please let me know.  We’d love to hear your stories and learn from your success.

    [Photo Credit: smackfu]

    2 Comments
  • Cleopatra's PapyrusImagine Cleopatra as a law librarian.

    (Let me give you moment to wrap your mind around that thought.)

    Consider the following:

    • April 10 – 16, 2011 is National Library Week.
    • April 11, 2011 was Equal Pay Day, the day that symbolizes how far into the year women must work on average to earn what men earn.
    • The American Association of Law Libraries’ 2009 Biennial Salary Survey makes the following statement:

        It should also be noted that the prevailing market rates of compensation for librarians, including those for law librarians as depicted in this report, may reflect a societal undervaluation of the education, knowledge and competencies associated with librarianship. Numerous studies have found an apparent gender-based devaluation of the work of professions and occupations that are predominantly female. Librarianship has been a predominantly female occupation since the late 1800s.

    • According to the American Library Association – Allied Professional Association’s Better Salaries and Pay Equity Toolkit:
    • Although gains have been made over the years in gender equity within librarianship, most library salary surveys still point to higher average salaries for men than for women. [emphasis added]

      Now compare what you’ve just read to the following excerpt from Stacy Schiff’s superb new biography of Cleopatra:

      Cleopatra … came of age in a country that entertained a singular definition of women’s roles. …Egyptian women enjoyed the right to make their own marriages. Overtime their liberties had increased to levels unprecedented in the ancient world. They inherited equally and held property independently. Married women did not submit to their husband’s control. They enjoyed the right to divorce and to be supported after a divorce. Until the time an ex-wife’s dowry was returned, she was entitled to be lodged in the house of her choice. Her property remained hers; it was not to be squandered by a wastrel husband. The law sided with the wife and children if the husband acted against their interests. … As much as one third of Ptolemaic Egypt may have been in female hands.

      When you think of the extensive legal and financial rights women enjoyed in the first century BCE in Egypt, it’s a little shocking to consider how long it took women to win similar rights in this country.  And, even though we’ve made advances, it appears that much remains to be done for women working in the “traditionally female” domain of libraries.  In fact, in light of the pay inequities suffered by women librarians, it’s hard not to wonder if we aren’t backwards in our views of women when compared to ancient Egyptians.

      To be honest, I’m not sure that Cleopatra would ever agree to be a 21st century female law librarian. Given her high level of education, political skill and leadership ability, do you think she would have tolerated the inequities?

      Why do we?

      [Photo Credit: William Arthur Fine Stationery]

    6 Comments
  • clocksEach of us is given 24 hours in a day, but some of us manage to accomplish a great deal more than others.

    How?

    This is the key question behind a recent series of conversations between Bob Pozen and Justin Fox, the editorial director of the Harvard Business Review Group. For those of you who many not know him, Bob Pozen is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the chairman emeritus of MFS Investment Management. (When Pozen was executive chairman, MFS managed over $200 billion in mutual funds and pension assets.) In anticipation of Pozen’s upcoming article on productivity in the May issue of the Harvard Business Review, I listened to a podcast in which Pozen provides some Productivity Secrets of a Very Busy Man:

    • Focus on Results, Not on Time Spent. In his post, It’s Not the Time You Spend but the Result You Produce, he argues with the eloquence and passion that only a recovering lawyer can have that focusing on the time logged puts the incentives in the wrong place and inevitably has a deleterious effect on your personal life. To answer the concerns of lawyers who feel bound by the billable hour, he tells the following story:
      • After the SEC, I worked for a law firm in Washington, D.C., for six years. While many lawyers stayed at the office late, I soon realized that charging clients by the number of hours worked did not make sense for me. In my view, it’s not the amount of time you spend on helping a client; it’s the result you’ve produced for your client. After a few years, my clients knew that I was efficient, so I ran an experiment. I sent them a letter explaining that in the future I would be billing them for double the time I actually spent on their work — unless they objected. Not one client objected.
    • Know Your Comparative Advantage. While most people think about comparative advantage in terms of where they excel in relation to others, Pozen believes that each person should focus on those things that only they can do for their organizations.  Put another way, what is their highest and greatest good from the perspective of their organization? (See What Not to Spend Your Time On.)
    • Think First, Read or Write Second. Pozen believes that before you begin reading nonfiction, determine what it is you want to get out of your reading.  Then, read to meet that goal. (See How to Be a Speed Reader.) Similarly, before you begin writing, create an outline that shows your intended conclusion and the path there. Of course, if your research send you in a different direction, you have to be prepared to adapt your outline accordingly. The key point is to have a sense of direction; don’t just stumble about in the dark. In case you’re skeptical about his approach, you should know that he produced his most recent book in nine months.  It was 457 pages long and received good reviews. (See How to Be a Speed Writer.)
    • Prepare Your Plan, But Be Ready to Change It. Pozen is a great advocate of spending a little time each evening to preview the next day’s calendar and plan what needs to be accomplished. He also uses this time to establish his priorities for the day. Here’s how he describes his approach:
      • Every night I look over a schedule of exactly what I’m going to do the next day. I might have a call at 8:30 a.m., a meeting at 9 a.m., and so on. For each event on my schedule, I’ll write down a few words about what I want to get accomplished. Then, on the same page as the schedule, I’ll compose a list of tasks that I want to get done that day, in order of priority. As the day goes by, I check off the tasks that are completed. At the end of the day, I review the ones not done and decide when I should do them in the future — or to delete them if circumstances have changed.
    • Nap! Pozen is a realist when it comes to circadian rhythm and understands that not everyone can work at peak productivity all afternoon.  Therefore, he is an advocate of the 30-minute power nap. It’s the pause that refreshes — and it makes the rest of his highly accomplished life possible.

    Before you leave the office tonight, make a list of the key things that need you need to accomplish on Monday.  Then go off and enjoy your weekend!

    *****************************

    If you’d like to read more from Bob Pozen, here is a link to Pozen on Personal Productivity, which lists his other blog posts on productivity.

    [Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds]

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  • Servis Superheat Washing Machine Poster (Poster 21)In a world run by bean counters, knowledge managers sometimes fear that they will get short shrift if they cannot marshal the data necessary to impress the folks in green eyeshades. The problem is, of course, that it can be challenging to find compelling metrics to support the case for KM. In the context of law firm knowledge management, we often say that KM done well helps lawyers work more efficiently and effectively.  But has anyone at your firm produced recent data to support this proposition?

    This comparative lack of data has always made me uncomfortable.  We may shrug and say that trying to prove KM ROI is a fool’s errand, but that doesn’t always dispel the lingering discomfort. Consequently, I was heartened to receive a reminder this week from a master of data, Dr. Hans Rosling, of the value and limitations of data. Dr. Rosling is famous for making data sing. If you want an impressive demonstration of his abilities, take a look at his four-minute video below: 200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes – the Joy of Stats.  By any measure, it’s a tour de force. Unfortunately, it isn’t one I could reasonably replicate standing before the executive committee of my firm.

    So what is to be done?

    Draw inspiration from Dr. Rosling’s most recent TED Talk about the Magic Washing Machine.  In  his usual fashion, he presents a stunning array of data relating to global population, income distribution and energy consumption.  All of it is interesting, however, the statistical pyrotechnics are slightly depressing for a data-challenged knowledge manager like me.  But then suddenly, at the 7:50 minute mark, he explains the magic of washing machines and does so without a single data point. Rather, he relies on anecdote and illustration to make his point very powerfully. At the end of the presentation, I remembered his explanation of the magic, not the specifics of the  data he provided during the bulk of the presentation.

    When making the case for KM, don’t ever underestimate the power of storytelling.  In truth, Dr. Rosling’s greatest strength is his ability to tell a compelling story.  That story may be grounded in data, but it’s the narrative line rather than the scientific detail that remains in your memory.  You don’t need to be statistician or magician to pull this off.  Rather, you just need to be able to recognize —  and tell — a good story.

    200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – the Joy of Stats:

    Dr. Hans Rosling and the Magic Washing Machine:

    [Hat tip to Michael Mills of Neota Logic Inc. for sending me Hans Rosling's TED talk on the Magic Washing Machine.  Hat tip to Evangeline Warren and Mark Salamon for sending me Dr. Rosling's talk on the Joy of Stats.]

    [Photo Credit:  Black Country Museums]

    3 Comments