I will be flying to NYC to speak at Parsons Brinckerhoff’s (PB) Global Knowledge Management Leaders Meeting. I have collaborated with PB since 2005. During this time, I have had the pleasure of seeing, influencing, and designing components of their knowledge management strategy. My presentation will focus on strategies for enhancing tacit knowledge transfer within engineering firms. Specifically, how do you design robust mechanisms and incentives to promote exchange of tacit knowledge across global and functional boundaries.
I will be giving an invited presentation at the 2010 Talent Management Conference in Portland, Oregon (September 8-10). My presentation will highlight strategic, tactical, and operational mechanisms for building sustainable knowledge management programs.
About the Presentation
As an organization prepares for the departure of valuable staff, a key challenge is how to capture, store, and transfer knowledge. Managing knowledge and ensuring its transfer will increase productivity. This session will provide useful tools and processes for selecting the best strategy to fit your organization’s culture. Participants will explore the use of technology as well as best practice approaches and tools to preserve and transmit institutional memory.
- Understanding the value proposition of investing in knowledge transfer mechanisms
- Creating appropriate knowledge creation and transfer strategies for various organizational contexts
- Measuring the impact of knowledge transfer on organizational outcomes (e.g. innovation, cost reduction, etc.)
- Deploying technological solutions to enable knowledge transfer
- Deploying social solutions to enable knowledge transfer
- Understanding the changing dynamics of knowledge transfer with social networking sites
- Leveraging knowledge transfer processes for sustainable competitive advantages
I have updated the Consulting page on my website. Consulting engagements I offer range in scope from single-day senior executive briefings to small-term strategic project assignments. Here are some of the most common offerings:
Executive Strategic Planning Retreats: Working closely with the client, Kevin scopes out a keynote presentation followed by a workshop. The day begins with the keynote and a thought provoking discussion. The workshop can be used to facilitate corporate strategic planning and design, forecasting and planning for future trends that impact the business, or brainstorming and consensus building. Past retreats have focused on strategic innovation, designing collaborative alliances for organizational resiliency, and building crisis detection and response programs.
Strategic Advising and Consulting: These short-term engagements allow Kevin to work intimately with the client on focused areas of strategic opportunities and challenges. Advising and consulting projects range from strategizing knowledge management and innovation endeavors to technology management projects and competitive intelligence assignments. Past engagements have included advising a major engineering firm on designing a knowledge management program, reviewing business plans and specifications for products of a major technology organization, and serving as a senior adviser for market and customer intelligence projects.
Ideation and Commercialization: This unique offering by Kevin is centered on helping entities leverage their ideas. Kevin works with entities ranging from individual executives in leading organizations, to technology start-up firms, to independent thinkers (e.g., scientists, bloggers, and product designers). The focus is to help entities manage their ideas optimally for goal attainment. Past engagements include working with senior executives to publish their ideas in mainstream journals or books and helping technology start-ups formulate key strategic alliances.
Resources are needed in order to invest in knowledge management and innovation programs. Whether it is discretionary resources to acquire a new system for knowledge discovery or cash to buy gift cards to be used as incentives to promote knowledge sharing among employees, it is important to remember that resources can make, or break, a knowledge management effort. Not all resources are of a monetary nature. Many times, the most valuable resource required is attention. Employee attention to the knowledge management effort (e.g., a new method for codifying knowledge) is also salient for success. To get employee attention, in most cases, you need the attention of senior executives, who give their attention to the projects in which they invest significant resources. So, there is no getting around the fact that securing resources for knowledge management is a critical issue.
Unfortunately, few managers know how to write business cases that attract the necessary resources for their knowledge management and innovation programs.Business cases are strategic artifacts aimed to sell internal and/or external stakeholders on the merits of a project. Upon reading a business case, one should come away with a clear strategic understanding of the project and its value proposition, confidence in the project team, assurance that the budget for the project is reasonable, and awareness that the high-level project plan is sound. Based on my experience, I would suspect that out of every 20 business cases for a knowledge management related effort, about one is funded at the level requested, up to three are funded at 30% or below of what was requested, and the rest are not funded at all!
First, the scarcity problem means that organizations do not have unlimited resources (e.g., capital, or even more intangible resources, like managerial attention), meaning all needs are not going to be met. Recognizing the criticality of the scarcity problem means that when an organization considers a case for investing in knowledge management, it is going to be evaluated against every other case that is asking for resources. Too often, knowledge management business cases do not understand or account for this reality, and go by the wayside.
The second thing to understand is that knowledge management efforts need to show payoffs. In an organizational context, payoffs are compared across projects that are candidates for investments. Business cases that are able to demonstrate payoffs that are worthy of the effort (time, cost, personnel, etc) of the investment, and present convincing arguments on why the payoff will better the organization towards its future objectives, stand a high chance of being funded. Simply claiming a high payoff is not sufficient. The business case presented must be sufficiently evidenced to show that achieving the payoff is reasonable.
From the outset, one must realize that making the case for a knowledge management effort and calculating payoffs is not easy, when compared to making the business case for a new piece of manufacturing equipment, such as new welding machine or a color photocopier. Investing in a piece of new machinery can be directly tied to increases in product quality and/or quantity through multiple metrics (e.g., lower defect rates, finished products per hour, etc). Calculating the payoffs for investments in knowledge management efforts is not as easy, nor is it as direct, and first-order effects are difficult, if not impossible to measure. Knowledge management efforts lead to changes in behaviors, approaches, and methods that, on their own may not have direct bottom-line impacts. However, when these are mapped and traced to organizational processes, the impacts can be measured and articulated. Needless to say, this is often a more time consuming and creative effort than simply measuring direct impacts as in the case of outcomes from a new piece of manufacturing equipment. Equally important is that there is a lag time between when one invests in a knowledge management effort and when one witnesses outcomes that result in payoffs. Accounting for this lag time is not easy, yet it is essential to building an adequate business case.
The third, critical realization that we need to appreciate is the fact that investing in knowledge management is akin to a group as a whole investing in a common effort. Consider the case of investing in initiatives such as the promotion of fair trade practices. Most people agree that increasing the adoption of fair trade practices benefits society. The challenge arises when we ask who wants to take responsibility for investing in these efforts. If taxes were raised to support these efforts, would you be happy? Rational individuals often want others to bear the cost of these common efforts and gladly enjoy the benefits, yet hesitate to initiate responsibility. A similar predicament faces knowledge management efforts. Departments within an organization want their peers’ units to invest in a common effort. Each department might see knowledge management as an effort someone else should put up resources for and hence defers spending its own resources. In some organizations, knowledge management efforts might be viewed as a tax levied on a department’s resources. This tax, is something every department either does not want to pay or wants to pay the lowest possible amount; yet any outcomes from the tax, such as infrastructure (e.g. a new intranet) is of interest to all. Moreover, the departments may get upset if they see the common effort they invest in does not perform up to par. This is akin to how one feels when one drives down a poorly maintained road, knowing that one has paid taxes for its upkeep. Knowledge management is seldom viewed as a profit center in an organization. It is important to remember that building a business case for a knowledge management effort is often similar to trying to build a case for increasing investment in an effort common to the whole organization.
The above three challenges, while severe, are not insurmountable. To learn more about how to build a good business case for knowledge management and innovation programs, please send me an email and stay tuned for my forthcoming article in Business Information Review.
Without a good business case, knowledge management will remain a theoretical, and even an impractical, concept in organizations. Good business cases give individuals a chance to put theory into practice, by providing resources for implementing knowledge management programs, processes, and technologies. Writing good business cases requires time, effort, and practice. Seldom is one born with the ability to write good business cases.
I will be speaking at the Conference on Intelligence and Nuclear Proliferation hosted by the Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS) at King’s College London in June. Kristen Lau and I have authored a paper that examines how information management failures led to an inability to adequately assess and detect nuclear threats in recent times. Lack of adequate information management capabilities have led to numerous international crises surrounding nuclear non-proliferation. For example, the inability to predict nuclear tests by India in 1998, the colossal failures surrounding assessments of Iraq’s WMD capabilities in early 2000, and today, the challenge of addressing Iran and North Korea.
Intelligence and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Programs: The Achilles Heel?
Intelligence is a critical component of all counter-proliferation activities. It allows us to assess and determine what makes up the current threat environment in terms of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. When informed with an accurate assessment of the situation, policy makers are better suited to counter the proliferation threat. However, success and failure hinge upon how well information is managed during the intelligence process. The intelligence process as it relates to estimating nuclear capabilities or intentions is wrought with many challenges and complications. The denial and deception techniques employed by states running covert weapons programs and the dual-use nature of many weapons components create many difficulties for intelligence organizations. Additionally, illicit transnational networks obscure the situation further by serving as a source, for both nation states and non-state actors, for acquiring dual-use commodities and technologies. These challenges can lead to the miscalculation of a state’s capabilities or intentions. As was seen with the case of Iraq in 2003, western intelligence services grossly overestimated the capabilities of Saddam’s regime. This paper presents a comparative analysis of three cases of nuclear proliferation: India, Pakistan and Iran. Drawing from the analysis, the authors examine the lessons learned and propose recommendations for future counter proliferation policy and strategy.
To read prior papers published on this topic, please see:
• Desouza, K.C., and Lau, K.A.* “Managing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Information Management Perspective,” International Journal of Public Administration, 31 (13), 2008, 1457–1512. [LINK]
• Desouza, K.C. “Information and Knowledge Management in Public Sector Networks: The Case of the US Intelligence Community,” International Journal of Public Administration, 32 (14), 2009, 1219–1267. [LINK]
Nicholas D. Sweers II and I have authored a case study on the complexities of change management when underground resistance is present. The case study will appear in the Journal of Business Strategy.
This case study highlights the challenge of dealing with underground resistance when leading organizational change. Underground resistance has deterred many change management efforts. Moreover, strategies to address underground resistance are still at a nascent stage of development in management practice and literature. The case tells the story of Sam Bridgeport, a Senior Partner at a major consulting firm in Seattle, who has been charged with leading a restructuring effort that will significantly affect the everyday operations of the organization. Unlike past change management initiatives, which often failed, Sam was wise to encourage employee participation from the start. As a result, Sam was able to mitigate most of the opposition against his plan, but he soon finds out that he gravely underestimated the natural human tendency to resist change. Sam discovers a covert, underground resistance effort is quickly gaining steam, and he must put a stop to it before it’s too late.
Executive responses to the case study from Mark R. Jones, CEO, The Sunyata Group and George Head, Senior Vice President Broadband Services for Stratos Global will also be published.
Jared Keller, Yuan Lin, and I authored a paper that describes how agent-based modeling can be used to consider policy options for dismantling terrorist networks. The paper will appear in Technology Forecasting and Social Change.
Dismantling Terrorist Networks: Evaluating Strategic Options Using Agent-Based Modeling
Dismantling dark networks remains a critical goal for the peace and security of our society. Terrorist networks are the most prominent instantiation of dark networks, and they are alive and well. Attempts to preemptively disrupt these networks and their activities have met with both success and failure. In this paper, we examine the impacts of four common strategies for dismantling terrorist networks. The four strategies are: leader-focused, grassroots, geographic, and random. Each of these strategies has associated pros and cons, and each has different impacts on the structure and capabilities of a terrorist network. Employing a computational experimentation methodology, we simulate a terrorist network and test the effects of each strategy on the resiliency of that network. In addition, we test scenarios in which the terrorist network has (or does not have) information about an impending attack. Our work takes a structural perspective to the challenge of addressing terrorist networks. Specifically, we show how various strategies impact the structure of the network in terms of its resiliency and capacity to carry out future attacks. This paper also provides a valuable overview of how to use agent-based modeling for the study of complex problems in the terrorism, conflict studies, and security studies domains.
Abstract: The prominence of business process outsourcing (BPO) continues to intensify in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. Engaging in BPO can help an organization focus on its core competencies, while gaining specialized knowledge, skills, and processes in auxiliary spaces. The literature is laden with evidence that engaging in a BPO will help organizations secure financial, operational, and even strategic advantages. While there is little doubt that organizations can attain these benefits, few BPO arrangements work out as planned. Managing risks in BPO arrangements is paramount. In this case analysis, we describe a significant failure through chronological description of scandals that took place at one of India’s largest outsourcing vendors, Satyam Computer Services. In describing the study, we draw attention to the fact that organizations need to (1) improve their sensing capabilities and keep abreast of strategic transformations at their outsourcing vendors, (2) be able to plan for and execute contingency plans, and (3) balance the risks and rewards of BPOs in terms of knowledge and capabilities dependencies.
Bhagwatwar, A., Atesci, K., Deo, T., Desouza, K.C., and Baloh, P. “Business Process Outsourcing: A Case Study of Satyam Computers,”International Journal of Information Management, Forthcoming.
Thomas H. Davenport wrote a nice post on the Harvard Business Review blog on why the US Intel. Community failed to stop the Christmas Day Bomber from boarding a flight to the US. Tom highlights my paper published in the International Journal of Public Administration that examined information and knowledge management in the US Intel Community.
To access Tom’s Harvard Business Review blog, please click here [LINK]
To access my paper, Information and Knowledge Management in Public Sector Networks: The Case of the US Intelligence Community, International Journal of Public Administration, 32 (14), 2009, 1219–1267, please click here [LINK]
To read a short blurb on the University of Washington Information School website, please click here [LINK]
The current issue of the International Journal of Administration contains a paper that I authored on collaborative information and knowledge management. The paper is titled "Information and Knowledge Management in Public Sector Networks: The Case of the US Intelligence Community."
This article contributes to the public management literature by exploring the critical challenges that underpin the construction of robust information and knowledge management strategies in networked settings. The ability of the network to sustain itself, thrive, and achieve its objectives depends on the success that the network has in organizing and coordinating its constituent organizations. The network's collaborative information and knowledge management strategy is critical to the functioning of the network and the achievement of objectives. A robust information and knowledge management strategy will bring organizations in the network together, help them share resources, collaborate on efforts, and further their objectives in a holistic manner. An inadequate information and knowledge management strategy might lead to disconnects in organizations due to lack of information sharing, poor collaborative knowledge generation, lack of coordination, leading to a fragmented network. Drawing on a multi-year, multi-method, and multi-organization study of the United States Intelligence Community (USIC), the article puts forth a comprehensive framework to examine information and knowledge management challenges within the USIC, as well as other public sector organizations.
Keywords: information management; knowledge management; public sector networks; intelligence agencies; intelligence community
To access the paper, please click [LINK]