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All healthy things evolve. According to the comedian, Jimmy Fallon, even “Mom Dancing: evolves. If you don’t believe him, take a look at the video above. (It’s Friday, folks!)
So if everything evolves, what’s happening to your knowledge management program? Is it moving on an upwards trajectory as it adapts to meet new and changing needs in your organization? Or is it stagnating like a fetid pond hosting malaria-laden mosquitos?
If you’re not sure, chances are you are stagnating. What are some signs of stagnation?
- little introspection or analysis regarding your KM program
- a lack of energy about KM on the part of your KM group or, worse still, your organization
- a dearth of actionable new ideas for your KM program
- your KM efforts are focused primarily on maintenance, without scope for R&D or innovation
- you are stuck at one level of development (e.g., creating document collections or keeping the intranet functioning) and aren’t growing and stretching to explore new forms of knowledge sharing
- malaria-laden mosquitos
What about some signs of growth and evolution?
- you have established sensible and stable information management practices
- the people in your organization recognize the pitfalls (and benefits) of knowledge silos
- your organization has active communities of practice that facilitate knowledge sharing
- your KM program is considered to be of strategic importance to your organization
- the people in your organization conduct themselves as individual personal knowledge managers who also have a stake in the enterprise-wide KM effort
If you’d like a more structured approach to gauging your evolution, I’d suggest you take a look at one of the many KM maturity models that the wonderful Stan Garfield has collected. And, while you’re at it, see some of the articles he has included that question the usefulness of maturity models. As with many things in knowledge management, there is ample room for diversity and disagreement!
(For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a maturity model, it is a diagnostic tool developed to help assess programs or organizations against a common standard of accomplishment and development. If you’d like a further explanation of the concept see Consultant’s Tool: What is a Maturity Model.)
This may be more than you can think about on a Friday, but I’d strongly suggest that you set some time aside in the next week or two to go through these models and see how your KM program stacks up. It might give you some new ideas and new energy to move out of that stagnated pool into a more vibrant future for KM in your organization.
For those of you who remember music from the 1980s, you’ll have recognized the inspiration for my title: Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution.” Here’s a video of the song for nostalgia buffs.
On Thursday, March 21, the family and friends of Carl Frappaolo are gathering in Boston to celebrate the life of one of the leaders of the knowledge management community. Since I cannot be in Boston for that gathering, I am writing some remembrances here.
I last saw Carl at the KMWorld conference in October 2012 where he accepted the KMWorld Reality Award on behalf of his organization, FSG. In many ways, the Reality Award typifies what Carl stood for: moving beyond the rhetoric to actually getting something useful done through KM. To underscore the point, here’s what the announcement of the award said:
This award recognizes an organization in which knowledge management is a positive reality. The recipient of the KM Reality award is an organization demonstrating leadership in the implementation of knowledge management practices and processes by realizing measurable business benefits.
While Carl was not about mere rhetoric, he certainly had a deep understanding of the vocabulary and theory of knowledge management. He knew what it takes to be “a good knowledge leader.” This provided the foundation for his more than two decades as a widely respected KM practitioner. His bio at Delphi Group (which he co-founded) is impressive. Here are just a few excerpts:
- “With over 25 years of experience working with a broad array of business solutions including knowledge and content management, portals, search engines, document management, workflow, BPM, records management, imaging, intranets and electronic document databases, Mr. Frappaolo is well versed in the practical business aspects and technical aspects of implementing large scale e-applications.”
- “Mr. Frappaolo has been recognized by AIIM International (the Association for Information and Image Management) as a Master of Information Technology and as an Information Systems Laureate, and in 2000, was bestowed the Distinguished Service Award by AIIM.”
- “Mr. Frappaolo has authored over 300 studies on the technology and practices of e-business, portals, Knowledge Management and Electronic Document Management and has been cited and published in leading industry periodicals….”
- “Recognized as an industry leader with great technological foresight, Mr. Frappaolo is a frequent speaker at conferences and trade shows and has delivered the keynote address at numerous national and international trade and user conventions. His audiences consistently find his presentations thought provoking and always on the cutting edge.”
I had the good fortune to hear Carl speak on many occasions. One memorable keynote talk he gave was at the 2010 Enterprise 2.0 Conference at which he asked “Can E2.0 Crack Through KM Culture?” While I cannot do it justice, my notes of his talk coupled with his slides should give you a glimpse of his knowledge and insight.
At KMWorld and shortly thereafter, Carl and I spoke about his work with FSG. He was inordinately proud of the accomplishments of that organization in the world. This pride is evident in his quotation featured on his FSG bio page:
What attracted me most to FSG was the mission of the organization. After a long and successful career as a consultant assisting hundreds of organizations advance their causes by maximizing the value obtained from their intellectual property and experience, I was looking for a chance to use my experience and skills in a way that would have a serious and positive impact on pressing and important social issues. FSG gives me that opportunity.
What is equally evident is the high regard in which Carl’s colleagues at FSG and beyond held him. He will be missed.
Many law firms find themselves in sobering circumstances. They are facing mounting economic pressures, more discerning clients, and a deep-seated reluctance to change a way of working that has not kept pace with science or technology.
Something has to change.
Unfortunately, change means disrupting all that is known and comfortable. It’s no wonder that people say: “Change is good. You go first.” In fact, the sheer challenge of innovation can be enough to keep the risk-averse from ever trying something new. And, even if they can overcome their natural tendency to cling to the status quo, a lack of knowledge regarding the most productive way to carry out disciplined experiments can mean that their tentative innovation initiative is either stillborn or severely compromised.
Thankfully, lawyers and law firms are not yet beyond hope. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, sometimes the help you need is close at hand. In fact, it may even be right under your nose. The technologists in your firm should have experience with a specific method of disciplined experimentation called Agile, which could provide the guidelines needed to help risk-averse lawyers conduct fruitful innovation experiments regarding how they practice law and how they run their business. To learn more about this, see my post What Technologists Can Teach Lawyers.
Has your firm benefited from this sort of collaboration between technologists and firm management? Have you used Agile to find better ways of meeting client needs and responding to current economic conditions? If so, please let me know. Yours might be the precedent that shines a light on the path for everyone in the legal industry.
[Photo Credit: Tim Difford]
In the middle of an otherwise unremarkable neighborhood association meeting this evening, my neighbor declared that he had to create a Twitter account right away. What stunned all of us was the fact that this neighbor celebrated his 80th birthday several years ago. He is not exactly in the age bracket that you would normally expect to see flocking to social media.
He was facing a situation that made him so boiling mad that he was willing to push out of his comfort zone to solve the problem. And what exactly was his problem? He was furious because he believed that he was paying an exhorbitant amount for his cable, internet and telephone service. To make matters worse, he was deeply disappointed by the quality of the service provided. And who is his provider? Time Warner Cable.
Another neighbor (in his late 50s) told us that when his teenage son had seen the family’s Time Warner bill, he uttered an expletive and then immediately set up a Twitter account for his father. Using that new account, the son posted a pithy tweet addressed to Time Warner (@TCW), complaining about the poor quality of the service and what he considered to be its outrageous price.
Now here’s the part that caught the attention of my 80-something neighbor (and the rest of us at the meeting, to be honest): shortly after the teenager tweeted his upset with Time Warner, the company’s customer service department called them with an offer to make the situation better. Consequently, the neighbor with the tweeting teenager was able to report an improvement in service AND a substantial reduction in his monthly bill.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a couple of dollars here or there. Rather, we’re talking about prices so high that Craig Moffet, an analyst at the Wall Street firm Bernstein Research, felt completely justified in making the following observation:
The cable distribution giants like Time Warner Cable and Comcast are already making a 97 percent margin on their `almost comically profitable’ Internet services.
Clearly, I’m in the wrong business.
That said, the reaction of my neighbors provides an important reminder to us all. Social media enables an extraordinary amount of direct communication. It has an immediacy and effectiveness that my 80-something neighbor had been unable to match using the traditional methods of letters of complaint or long calls to scripted customer service representatives. Social media also provide a very public way of communicating your concerns. My neighbor’s complaint letters are undoubtedly sitting in a circular file somewhere, never to see the light of day. By contrast, a tweet can be retweeted many times over and every iteration is recorded by the Library of Congress or one of the many search engines. If a complaint publicized via social media goes viral, then a company has a major public relations disaster on its hands. If you don’t believe me, just ask United Airlines about guitars (nearly 13 million views on YouTube)!
Thanks to social media, David once again has a chance against Goliath. Thanks to social media, the public can erect public barricades to attract the attention of companies that are much larger and more powerful. Thanks to social media, we have a shot at leveling the playing field.
Earlier this evening, I posted a tweet directed at Time Warner Cable. I’ll let you know what Goliath says.
— VMaryAbraham (@VMaryAbraham) March 8, 2013
[Photo Credit: Lyman Green]
He’s memorable because he says the most amazing things. Here’s a sampling:
“Actually, I’m not sure which way to go. I’ll turn in here and ask directions.”
“Here, you take the remote. As long as I’m with you, I don’t care what we watch.”
“You know, honey, why don’t you just relax and let me make dinner tonight?”
“Awww, can’t your mother stay another week?”
“The ball game really isn’t that important. I’d rather spend time with you.”
“Let’s just cuddle tonight.”
In case you’re wondering, Mr. Wonderful* is not a living, breathing human male. He’s a little stuffed toy containing a recording that is triggered by touch; all you have to do is give his chest a squeeze.
Here’s how the tag on the doll describes him:
Mr. Wonderful. He says all the right things!
Mr. Wonderful has been carefully developed with today’s modern woman in mind. He is complete with good looks, sense of style, sensitivity, charm, and is genuinely sincere. The perfect gift for any woman, whether single or married!
As I was putting Mr. Wonderful through his paces the other day (to gales of laughter from everyone in the room), I found myself thinking that knowledge management personnel have their own version of Ms. or Mr. Wonderful. If I were to build such a toy, here are some of the things the doll might say:
“I’d love to contribute to the knowledge base. How much content would you like from me?”
“Shift my knowledge transfers from closed email exchanges to open wikis or blogs? Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Try something new? I’d love to!”
“Can you work with me to train my team on effective personal knowledge management?”
“I’d like to lead by example when it comes to knowledge management. What I can do to have the greatest positive impact?”
Do you have anyone in your organization saying these things or is it still only the stuff of your dreams?
The challenge now for all of us is to translate fantasy into reality.
Here’s a video of a bigger, chattier version of Mr. Wonderful:
*Disclosure: This link is through my Amazon affiliate account and may generate income to me.
The post I wrote recently on Gamification for Law Firms inspired me to dive deeper into the literature and lore regarding games and game design. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was surprised to learn through this reading that gamification is as much an art as it is a science. In fact, my reading drove home the point that good game design is relatively rare and requires more than merely attaching points or badges to a linear process.
If this is a topic that interests you, I’d encourage you to take a look at my new post just published in the ABA’s Law Technology Today column: Improve Your Legal Practice Through Gamification. In that post you’ll find some advice on how to move beyond “pointsification” to actually designing a game that is compelling enough to keep your colleagues engaged.
At the end of the day, that’s the whole point of gamification in the practice of law: using fun and good design to help colleagues do the things they need to do to help your legal practice (and business) thrive.
[Photo Credit: Janet and Phil]
Call me a bad parent, but every so often I relent and let my child order a pizza from Dominos. To be clear, it isn’t because Dominos offers the tastiest pizza in the neighborhood. (They don’t.) And it isn’t because they promise to deliver in under 30 minutes. (They don’t.) The reason we order from Dominos is because my kid gets a kick out of the Dominos Tracker (registered trademark).
For those of you who haven’t experienced this wonder of modern technology, let me explain. The tracker is an online display that lets the customer follow along as their pizza is moved through the critical stages of pizza making:
- order placed
- quality check
The tracker opens a small window into the operations of a vendor, allowing the customer to participate vicariously as their order is fulfilled. You see the pizza moving down the assembly line and you know the moment it’s placed in the hands of the person who will deliver it to your door. (That’s when you get your money ready.)
Now imagine what would happen if Dominos ran your law firm and set up a Dominos Matter Tracker? For each matter the client could check online to see at a glance the progress the firm had made to date and how much work remained to be done:
- new matter intake formalities
- background research & precedent gathering
- retaining local counsel
- revising drafts
- preparation for closing
- post-closing clean-up
Several years ago I wrote two posts on law firm transparency and asked if your firm was ready to open its kimono a little so that your clients could understand better what you do in exchange for the fees you charge. One early example of this is Mallesons Connect:
On the subject of transparency, Mallesons in Australia has blazed a new trail with Mallesons Connect. As described by Gerard Neiditsch, this new extranet application gives clients real-time information regarding lawyer activity, progress against project goals, and fees incurred. It also provides information on billing history and outstanding invoices. In the process, Mallesons learned that this transparency can have unexpected benefits. Besides keeping everyone accountable, Mallesons discovered that once their law department clients saw the invoice information, they were able to expedite payments.
Now that nearly four years have elapsed since those posts, has your thinking on transparency changed? Are you better prepared for it? If not, what are you waiting for?
Dominos delivers. What about you?
In the interest of fuller disclosure, here are some posts that provide further details on the experiences some customers have had with the Dominos Tracker:
[Photo Credit: Matt Chan]
When social media folks first started talking about gamification, I found myself skeptical. In fact, to be honest, I was downright derisive. Surely it was a flash in the pan, a trend I could ignore.
Why was I so resistant to gamification? I had a hard time believing that points, badges and leaderboards could be enough to get people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. Further, I had a really hard time imagining gamification in law firms. Would conservative law firm culture embrace gamification? Above all, what use case could I reasonably propose to a law firm?
As with many things, the longer you live with an idea, the less strange it becomes. Once gamification became mainstream, it was difficult to ignore. In my case, a series of presentations at various conferences last year opened my eyes to the possibilities:
- Bryan Barringer of FedEx showed attendees at the E2.0 Conference how gamification elements designed to fit with corporate culture could be used to “unlock knowledge.”
- Col. Scott Reid, Chief Knowledge Officer of the US Army JAG Corps, reported at the ILTA12 conference that their milBook social platform award points to contributors. In fact, contributors can win extra points for providing an answer that someone else finds helpful.
- At KMWorld 2012, Thomas Hsu and Stephen Kaukonen from Accenture demonstrated the benefits of intelligently deployed gamification elements to further a knowledge management initiative.
All of this led me to reconsider using gamification inside a law firm. But I was still stuck trying to find a decent use case. And then it hit me. What’s the one thing many lawyers have great trouble completing in a timely and accurate fashion?
Instead of badgering them to submit their time or punishing them by cutting off their direct deposit rights (or even withholding their paychecks), what if we used gamification to encourage timely compliance?
Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. A Google+ post by Richard Hare led me to a question and answer site with a discussion on the following question: Implement gamification on Time reporting to minimize late reports? It turns out that legal is not the only industry that has trouble getting people to submit their time records promptly. Slalom Consulting has adopted a “Promptitude” scale that uses gamification elements to help employees submit their time records on time. A key part of Slalom’s approach is the judicious use of “shamification.” Meanwhile, a Harvard Business Review Management Tip encourages readers to “make the job more like a game.” Is this the piece we were missing in legal?
Do you know of an organization that has successfully used gamification to encourage the prompt submission of time reports? If so, please let me know — there are law firms that desperately need this information!
The Gamified World:
If you’d like more information on gamification, here are some resources for you:
- Belsky, Six Reasons Why “Gamification” Will Rule the Business World
- Carter (IBM), Social Business Update — Gamification (video)
- Dominguez, Playing games at work — get ready for gamification (video)
- Duggan, 2013: The Year of Gamification
- Werbach, Gamification (Coursera)
[Photo Credit: Stephen L. Johnson]
According to a recent LegalFutures article, Professor Richard Susskind includes a warning for Big Law in his new book, Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future:*
Professor Susskind accepted that there is some force in the argument from the largest ‘elite’ global firms – which he numbered at about 20 – that for bet-the-ranch deals and disputes, clients will still want the services delivered, more or less, as in the past.
`However, they should not be overconfident… If one leading firm breaks rank, or if a major new force (such as a “Big 4″ accounting firm) emerges, and brings a new proposition to the market – a credible brand at half the price of its competitors, for example – then this could fundamentally and irreversibly change the market; and not just for the elite firms but across the entire profession.
`Leaders of the elite firms should suspend their likely incredulity at this scenario, if only because major clients, as never before, are commonly saying that they are now actively looking for alternatives to the traditional ways of some of the great firms whom many regard as too costly and sometimes too arrogant.’
After reading this quote, curiosity led me to the websites of the largest international accounting firms where I discovered some interesting things. While I didn’t find anyone there explicitly hanging out their shingle to offer legal services, I did see materials that could be viewed as coming close to offering advice on issues that lawyers have handled for years:
- Compliance and Regulatory Risk Management
- Financial Services Regulation
- Privacy and Data Protection
Admittedly, Big Law doesn’t have a lock on either these issues or on the general counsel of their clients. Nonetheless it’s instructive to see the ways in which the accounting firms are talking about these issues with Big Law’s clients. Here’s a small sample of what they are offering:
- Deloitte, The Risk Intelligent General Counsel
- Ernst & Young, Top four governance trends of proxy season 2012
- KPMG, General Counsel Survey 2012
- KPMG, Global Anti-Bribery and Corruption Survey 2011
- KPMG, Is Your Corporate Governance Keeping Pace With Legislative Change?
When you dig into the financial regulatory offerings of accounting firms, you find content that could easily have been distributed in the form of that favored Big Law communication tool — the client alert:
- Deloitte, Dodd-Frank Act: Compliance with External Business Conduct Standards in the Derivatives Market
- Deloitte, First look: A Practical Guide to the Federal Reserve’s Newly Enhanced Prudential Standards for Foreign Banks
- KPMG, Dodd-Frank and the Conflict Minerals Rule
- KPMG, Dodd-Frank Quick Hits Alert – Swap Terms Defined & Volcker Rule Conformance Period Clarified
- PwC, SEC Adopts Final Rule for Investment Adviser Registration
And that’s not all. At least one accounting firm has gone far beyond the traditional legal alert memo. PricewaterhouseCoopers now offers PwC’s Regulatory Navigator: a mobile app available through the iTunes store that purports to provide
everything you need to know about how the changing regulatory environment is impacting your firm and the rest of the financial services industry. With a primarily US focus, this app provides access to PwC’s insights on the latest regulatory changes and links to key original source information, such as proposed and final rules.
In case you’re wondering how accountants are able to do all of this, the answer is pretty simple. The accounting firms are hiring Big Law veterans to do the legal analysis and counsel clients. The ones I’ve talked to take great pains to emphasize that they are not practicing law. Even still, they are finding lucrative ways to make their understanding of the law available to clients and in the process are offering a service at a price clients seem to find tolerable.
The crumbs from Big Law’s table may not be sufficient to feed another large law firm, but they might provide a lucrative snack for a host of uninvited guests from other professions. One day soon there may be enough crumbs for a veritable feast.
[Hat tip to Donna Seyle for pointing out the LegalFutures article.]
[Photo Credit: looseends]
*Disclosure: This link is through my Amazon affiliate account and may generate income to me.
I came to New York City to work as a first-year associate in a fabulous firm. The deal I made at that time with my family was that I would try the practice of law for three years — one for each year spent in law school — and then I’d move on to something else. Nearly 22 years later, I’m finally moving on. In the intervening time, I’ve had the good fortune to learn from and work with some of the best lawyers in the country, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve some terrific clients. In that period I also shifted from a full-time legal practice to the challenging discipline of law firm knowledge management. And that shift provided even more opportunities to learn — about the business of law, about the opportunities and challenges presented by technology and, most importantly, about how and why people share knowledge.
Now it’s time for me to take that learning and move outside a single firm and industry. In fairness, I had been engaging externally for some time through this blog, via Twitter and by speaking at or organizing various knowledge management educational sessions, most notably those offered by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA). In particular, the opportunities provided to me by ILTA to develop innovative session formats that improved the educational experience of attendees opened my eyes to the possibilities of helping others connect and learn in new ways.
So what’s next? To begin with, I’ve decided that for the next little while I’d like the flexibility of a portfolio of projects rather than a single employer. I also know that I’d like to stretch some muscles and use some talents that haven’t always found an outlet in the legal industry. Accordingly, I’ve lined up several projects that will allow me to build on strengths and learn some new skills.
- Technology. For years I’ve talked to technophiles about the critical importance of the people and process elements of knowledge management. I know some have thought this means that I’m a technophobe. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, I’ve simply been frustrated by what can appear to be a blind faith in technology solutions implemented without due consideration for the human elements. Now I have a chance to put my learning (and rhetoric) to the test. I’m teaming up with a wonderful group of designers, developers and entrepreneurs in this country and abroad to create some new knowledge sharing tools. As we get closer to a working prototype I’ll tell you more about it here. For the time being, suffice it to say that we’re exploring new ways of making social media relevant and useful to segments of the business population that are still waiting for their social media road to Damascus moment.
- Education. I’ve been given the opportunity to help teach a class that is part of the Masters of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy at Columbia University. It is an innovative hybrid program that combines brief residency periods with online learning. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about how this combination of face-to-face and distance learning contributes to a rich educational experience for the students. I expect it will provide a glimpse of how the education sector is reinventing itself to remain relevant. Again, more to come as I learn more.
- Writing. Since I began writing this blog nearly five years ago, I’ve discovered that writing is critical for me. It forces me to stretch — I read more and I think more. The reflection that good writing requires gives me an invaluable opportunity to learn and develop. So my plan is to write even more in 2013 than I have over the last few years. Expect more blog posts here and elsewhere.
- Facilitation. You only have to attend one pointless meeting to understand the value of good meeting facilitation. Over the last 15 years I’ve done a goodly amount of facilitating critical meetings, strategic planning efforts, retreats and workshops. For me, the joy in this work is seeing the attendees uncover their own truths. I don’t supply the answers, they do. And in the process they identify the strategic path they need to follow. This is hugely rewarding work and I plan to do more of it this year.
All of this adds up to a comfortably full plate. That said, if you see any interesting projects in which I might be helpful, please let me know. (You can always reach me at KMAdvice@gmail.com.) As I have discovered, I have only two speeds — fully engaged or resting. For the next few years, I want to be fully engaged.
2013 promises to be exciting. I hope you have a rewarding adventure this year as well.
Happy New Year!
[Photo Credit: Photon Bomb]