Drinking Champagne

Drinking your own champagne” was how Jo Hoppe, CIO of Pegasystems, described the process that some with a less elegant turn of phrase have called “eating your own dog food.” It means using your own products and taking your own advice.  It also means moving out of the world of the theoretical into the painfully practical. Jo Hoppe calls this becoming “a living laboratory.” And nowhere is this needed more than in knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0 deployments.

Knowledge managers (at least in the legal industry) are accomplished when it comes to identifying the “things lawyers won’t do.”  You don’t even have to buy a law firm knowledge manager a drink before they start complaining about how lawyers don’t attend training sessions, or won’t spend enough time in an application to see its full range of capabilities or won’t take a few minutes to properly profile or file a document.  This conversation can rapidly disintegrate into a pity party unless you have a real life corrective.  So, I suggest that we all drink our own champagne.   But, before we can open that bottle of bubbly, we need to have a few moments of honesty and ask ourselves some questions along the following lines:

  • Do we take measures to “walk a mile in the shoes” of the lawyers we seek to assist?
  • Do we follow processes within the KM group that promote transparency and mutual accountability?
  • Is our natural tendency within the KM group to behave competitively or collaboratively?
  • Are we using Enterprise 2.0 tools to facilitate the information flow within the KM group?
  • Do we have personal experience of the benefits of social media tools before trying to sell it to our colleagues?
  • Do we keep ourselves up to date on the training we need to be productive?

What are your answers?  Are you in the “do what I say, not what I do” camp or do you actually drink your own champagne?  One director of knowledge management I know posts all of her team’s projects on her firm’s intranet, showing goals and achievements (as well as shortcomings) against plan.  In so doing, she embraces the transparency that is a key part of social media use within the firewall, shines a little light on the work of her team and makes herself accountable for the work of her team.  Others use wikis and blogs to manage KM projects, thereby giving their teams invaluable first-hand experience of the benefits and deficits of the software and processes they are using.  They are world-class quaffers of champagne.  What about you?

[Photo Credit:  Waldo Jaquith]

9 thoughts on “Drinking Champagne

  1. I can empathise with your description of the 'pity party'. The one that puzzles me is how few KM people share their own knowledge and insights by blogging.Anyway… There is another thing to bear in mind when the drinks start to flow at that party. How does the champagne taste? Is it actually more like dog food? When I experience a setback in the form of poor attendance at a training session, inattention at meetings, or lack of use of the latest snazzy system, my second thought (after “lazy ingrates”) is that something was wrong with what was on offer. More often than not, if people don't make use of what is on offer it is because it isn't very attractive, not that it is attractive but something else gets in the way.

    1. Mark -Just for the sake of discussion, what would happen if we applied a conceptalong the lines of contributory negligence? For example, endusers may notadopt the latest KM offering because the KM staff didn't do a good job ofcreating or explaining the tool. In addition, perhaps that user isn'tdesperate enough to overcome inertia to learn something new. All too often,it isn't the case that one side or the other is completely in the wrong.Sometimes both have contributed to the mess. In any event, a good way toreduce the culpability of KM is to ensure that we practice what we preachAND that we work to gain a clear understanding of what our users need.- Mary

      1. In the abstract, I agree — allocating responsibility is not a black/white question. The point I meant was that it is only by testing the concoction that one can tell if it is champagne or something noxious, but we should always be conscious that poison is just as likely as pleasure. (It always amuses me that for Germans, Gift is poison. I wonder if the Trojans felt similarly about the gift they were presented with.)

        1. Testing the concoction. Sounds like a useful activity for knowledgemanagers … and witches!All joking aside, we should not underestimate the importance of practicingwhat we preach. Our congregation can spot a hypocrite a mile away.- Mary

  2. The point of “eating your own dog food” is that you are willing to “share the pain” with your customers by using the product you're offering yourself (and to demonstrate that yes, it is actually “eatable”).”Drinking your own champagne” is a bit silly in this context, as *nobody* would have any problem with that (well, very few, anyway). I wouldn't be very impressed if somebody told me that “this champagne is so good that I'm even drinking it myself”….If people feel your KM system is like Champagne, it won't be very hard to get people onboard. But I think most people feel that KM is more like dog food – and showing that you're prepared to eat your own dog food is much more impressive than drinking your own champagne 😉

    1. Atle -Whether we're producing dog food or champagne, the key is that we shouldconsume it just like our intended audience. Unless we practice what wepreach, we'll find that our so-called solutions don't come close toanswering the needs of our endusers.Perhaps our other goal should be to make KM more like champagne and lesslike dog food. Is it really necessary for all of us to suffer through thedog food?- Mary

  3. Testing the concoction. Sounds like a useful activity for knowledgemanagers … and witches!All joking aside, we should not underestimate the importance of practicingwhat we preach. Our congregation can spot a hypocrite a mile away.- Mary

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