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KMGN Newsletter. Issue 8

                                                                    April 2023 Issue #8

KMGN Chair’s Message 

The month of April was derived from the Latin word “Aprilis” which means “to open”. Whilst this refers to the blossoming of flowers common to the Northern Hemisphere (this month), it might also represent our (KMGN) hope to impact KM professionals and the profession in general.

In our efforts to be the most collaborative network of KM professionals, we hope to empower partners and members with the ability to open minds, hearts and will across various levels – be it at individual, team, or organisation level. In the workplace, collaboration can lead to improved productivity, increased creativity, and better problem-solving. When individuals work together on a project or task, they can bring their unique skills, perspectives, and experiences to the table. This diversity can lead to more innovative ideas and solutions, as well as a more efficient use of resources. Collaboration also fosters a sense of community and builds stronger relationships among team members. When people work together, they learn to communicate more effectively, share knowledge and skills, and support each other. This creates a more positive and supportive work environment, which can boost morale and job satisfaction.

KMGN activities which include KM courses, project teams, roundtables, and newsletter – are all designed to extend beyond the delivery of KM-related knowledge and expertise. These activities endeavour to enhance participants’ ability to collaborate in the evolving work environment i.e., remote, virtual, and agile - thereby improving their ability to implement of best KM practices.

I hope this edition of the newsletter might offer some new perspectives, and ultimately assist you - to open your mind, your heart and your will to possibilities for knowledge management.

Yours Sincerely

Faiz Selamat

Chair, KMGN (2023)

Editor's Letter

Welcome to the eighth edition of the KM Global Network newsletter, powered by our KMGN network partners from Australia. 

This edition touches upon the brief history of Knowledge Management in Australia and around the world and how it has evolved over the years. The article 'A perspective of the brief history of KM' by Dr Arthur Shelley takes us through the interesting phases of how different KM forums emerged in different parts of the world and provided a foundation to the formation of KMGN. It also takes note of the impact of technological advancements on the manner people collaborated and how this international network of knowledge communities can make a difference.

The next article takes us through the Knowledge Management journey of Aurecon - an international engineering, design and advisory company, and winner of two MIKE awards. Kim Sherwin tells us how Aurecon developed its KM strategy and built several platforms for its employees to collaborate and learn – all of which has resulted in Aurecon 'to work smarter, sustain growth, create greater opportunities, be more innovative and strengthen competitive advantage'. Kim also talks about how they went about creating a knowledge sharing culture within Aurecon and some exciting initiatives like ‘KNOW-vember’!

Then we look at how the project teams should network and collaborate in today’s time through this snapshot of a ‘Research on Social Capital in Contemporary Project Teams’ by David J. Williams. Anyone interested to understand how contemporary project teams can network and collaborate to improve practice should definitely give it a read. It shows that there is an increasing shift towards a culture that is more creative, flexible and diverse which could also enable innovation and introduction of new work practices. This research also supports the direction KMGN, as a network of networks, is taking and shows ‘how collaborative teams will work in future as early adopters of new collaboration approaches, fuelled by social capital'.  

And in the last article Dr Arthur Shelly reminds us of the effectiveness of storytelling. He talks about how true and authentic stories have the power to inspire, make complex ideas more accessible, appeal to our senses, and provide context and meaning. It cannot be stressed enough that the art of storytelling is one of the most powerful medium to engage people.

Hope you enjoy the reading this issue. Happy reading!

Ritu Grover

Newsletter Editor

A Perspective of The Brief History of KM. Dr Arthur Shelley

Knowledge Management has been a roller coaster ride in many countries, struggling from the ability to gain the attention of business and government leaders, and the lack of a formal professional body. Knowledge managers themselves have often been part of the challenges faced, as they argued about what knowledge is or is not in somewhat insular and academic forums.  If knowledge experts actually collaborated more and explored collective opportunities, the discipline and its value would have gathered momentum faster. In the late 1990’s, some constructive and collaborative forums started to emerge in different parts of Australia and in other countries. The earliest of these in Australia were the Melbourne KM Leadership Forum, ActKM in Canberra and the NSW Knowledge Forum in Sydney around 1998/9. Other states also formed smaller communities included Western Australia and South Australia, with a knowledge breakfast group gathering irregularly in Queensland. 

As this was before the introduction of social media and good quality affordable video conferencing, interactions between the groups were limited. Early on it was easy to get sponsorship from technology companies because they believed that KM looked like the next “big thing” for income, like quality had been in the early 1990s and “best practices” before that.

As it became apparent to more people that knowledge was not about selling “knowledge’ (or worse, information) as a consultancy or technology, the interest of the “bigger players” (those with lots of money) began to wane and people with an interest in managing knowledge to create value became the foundations of the “industry” (perhaps better phrased, collaborative communities who help each other find  options for challenges faced). 

Technology did have a role to play in these communities, not as a driver of knowledge transfer, but more as a facilitator of conversations that enables people to help each other, share insights and collaborate. Wonderful examples of this were ActKM Forum, which had over 1000 members and very active dialogue across a range of knowledge related topics. Other similar discussion forums were SIKMLeaders and KM4Dev, which continue to operate and cocreate social value for their members.

The Melbourne KM Leadership Forum slowed in activity in the early 2000s and by 2004 was only hosting a few gatherings per year. Around this time the Ark Group started the KM Australia and KM Asia conferences, which re-sparked interest in getting [people together to share ideas and insights. These events were usually well attended and were major connection and networking opportunities that enabled the knowledge profession to work towards a more solid community of knowledge professionals spanning academics and practitioners. Melbourne KM Leadership forum created a distributed leadership team who collaborated to organise monthly events that hosted local, interstate and international visitors, mainly face to face. As social media and videoconferencing became better, and more accessible, for volunteer communities, these events became richer and enabled virtual interactions. One positive impact of COVID was that people became more familiar with virtual interactions (out of necessity), which enabled more international participation. 

Meanwhile, as knowledge managers build stronger relationships the various local and national knowledge communities (such as AuSKM in Australia) began to form into a collaborative network, sharing resources and cross promoting each other’s events. This was the foundation required to form the KMGN. Initially 7 societies connected around a basic memorandum of understanding around sharing and cooperating in knowledge policies and processes. This has now evolved into an important network of over 20 knowledge communities. 

Imagine what we can achieve together as we amplify each other’s influence and when we start being recognised as a powerful set of informed resources to advise decision makers in commercial enterprises and government. Perhaps as an aligned knowledge collective and as a recognised international discipline, we can leverage knowledge to influence what is possible in the world.

Stay tuned…

Dr. Arthur Shelley

Dr. Arthur Shelley is an awarded learning facilitator and the founder of Intelligent Answers. He has 40 years of professional experience across the disciplines of science research, projects management, knowledge management and action learning/education.  

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Case Study – Aurecon’s Approach to Knowledge

Kim Sherwin

In March this year, Aurecon collected two MIKE Awards (Most Innovative Knowledge Enterprise), for the second year running – Hong Kong and Global. These awards are testament to the journey that the team has been on over the last few years. They demonstrate the value the organisation places on Knowledge and provide external recognition of best practice in the industry.  

Aurecon is an international engineering, design and advisory company with over 6,500 talented people spread across the Asia Pacific (75% in Australia and New Zealand). People, technical skills and knowledge are the foundation of our business and its the combination of these, that drive Aurecon’s ability to deliver innovative designs and experiences in a sustainable way for our clients, and for ourselves as a business.   

Connected strongly to the organisation’s Blueprint is Aurecon’s Knowledge Strategy – Connect Critical Knowledge. It is in our experience with pursuits and projects, the ideas of how we solve problems, and in the minds of our talented people. But as we know, having knowledge is not enough, it is what you do with it that matters.

At Aurecon, we believe connecting critical knowledge is a driver for innovation. Driven by an award winning innovative and inquisitive culture (Australian Financial Review BOSS Most Innovative Companies, 6 years running) that is supported by knowledge sharing practices, the creation and dissemination of learning content has become integral to the way we work. Teams across the Aurecon globe contribute to the upskilling of our people through a number of internal and external methods. 

Underpinning our current strategy is Knowledge@Aurecon (K@A), a central platform where critical knowledge assets are captured and shared across the organisation to bring our insights, experiences, and our client’s ideas to life. At Aurecon, ‘critical knowledge’ refers to our deep smarts – such as our experience, insights and ideas – that enable us to work smarter, sustain our growth, create greater opportunities, be more innovative and strengthen our competitive advantage. The power of making our knowledge easily accessible through a central platform supports teams across Aurecon to win work and deliver for our clients. It gives us the ability to not only explore and fast track unique solutions with our clients, but also  understand what we know and leverage the insights to build sustainable client relationships as their trusted advisor.

The ‘Knowledge@Aurecon’ platform:

To share content in the platform, a copy is taken of the original knowledge document. The content is then cleansed (removing sensitive information as required) and shared via a single interface called kDrop.  The content is then reviewed by the knowledge team and checked for confidentiality or third-party intellectual property restrictions. When cleaned, the knowledge is loaded into the respective kLibrary for sharing and streaming into the kHubs. A governance guideline has been written for the K@A platform. The purpose of the guideline is to provide oversight for the ongoing management of the Aurecon knowledge ecosystem. The guideline details ownership, stakeholders, access, approval and process for change for each knowledge component. It’s a process, now ripe for automation. 

Our organisational knowledge culture

The Knowledge team is part of a broader Eminence, Digital and Innovation team, helping Aurecon holistically be competitive, curious and future focussed. The team reports through Eminence and Capability, two focal areas of the organisation that elevate Aurecon's position in our chosen markets, influence quality delivery and design excellence on projects, and nurture diverse networks of technically eminent, original thinkers.  

Key to our eminence strategy and organisational knowledge culture are Aurecon’s 26 technical Capability Leaders, who are the leaders of their respective Communities of Practice. They are responsible for leading the development and maintenance of their capability kHub within the Knowledge@Aurecon platform. 

To continue to grow our capabilities across Aurecon and help our people become more specialised in their areas of expertise, as part of the development of their kHubs, Capability Leaders identify Knowledge and Learning champions within their group. These champions help capture knowledge and share it to the knowledge environment – they also encourage and train others to do this. 

Enhancing tacit knowledge and further building on knowledge culture, we have various learning and sharing channels including Yammer, MS Teams, Know and Tells, Communities of Practice learning weeks, lunch and learns, and our annual “KNOW-vember” program; a month of knowledge sharing and networking activities from both internal and external speakers.

We’re a small team and also have stewardship for the organisation’s library and research function. Through a large network of contributors and active Communities of Practice, we nurture knowledge sharing and act as custodianship of knowledge. We are on the cusp of a new chapter in our strategy and whilst we are a ‘work in progress’, we are excited to use the successes and insights of our involvement in the MIKE Awards, to further galvanise the next steps and tackle the opportunities that automation and artificial intelligence offer us.

Kim Sherwin BA(Hons), MA, MCLIP, AALIA 

Kim has 20+ years of experience in libraries and knowledge management across a range of sectors including engineering, design, law, defence, tertiary and higher education and public libraries. Kim is currently the Director for Knowledge at Aurecon.

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Research on Social Capital in Contemporary Project Teams David J. Williams

The way in which we connect, and work is evolving. The landscape in which project teams operate has changed over the past 20 years as contemporary project teams and agile work practices have become more commonplace. Some of the assumptions and hypotheses from traditional sociological theories are less relevant for designing how project teams now share knowledge, information and resources. 

This research contributes to the understanding of how contemporary project teams can network and collaborate to improve practice. Unless we progress both in theory and in practice, we will fail to take full advantage of the emerging social and technological opportunities to tailor networking techniques to address volatile objectives and a dynamic environment. 

This qualitative research engaged with participants to explore how contemporary project teams span Structural Holes (gaps in knowledge and information). The most significant distinctions were the move away from a focus on outputs, controls and monitoring, and towards a culture that is more creative, flexible and diverse. Opportunities to improve how project teams operate include a greater focus on project impact, alignment of culture with the objective, creating identity and maintaining stability in the team. 

This research provided a lens through which to look at how people in contemporary project teams share resources,  information, and knowledge across organisations to address Structural Holes. Strategies are proposed for project teams to better leverage their networks through diverse targeting of high-value networks. 

The research found that project teams can gain value from their network by formally including targeted networks into the design of their stakeholder engagement. However, it remains challenging to effectively measure the return on investment. 

Project teams with uncertainty will benefit from obtaining complex knowledge, fragmented information, and resources by developing strong ties to span specific structural gaps through participation in discrete networks of small clusters. 

Project teams delivering complex projects will benefit from developing a strategy to access a broader network (weak ties) of diverse industry and subject matter experts for codified knowledge and discrete information. This will also enable innovation and new practices to emerge.

This research supports the direction and practices of KMGN operating as an inclusive agile network of networks. We are role modelling how collaborative teams will work in the future as early adopters of new collaboration approaches, fueled by social capital.

David Williams AM

David has 35 years’ experience in project management in the construction and defence industries. He is 

the Principal Specialist, Intelligence & Information Systems within an Australian Government agency and is completing a Ph.D. in sociology. He is also the President of the Australian Society for Knowledge Management. 

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The Many and Diverse Lives of A Knowledge Manager. Stuart French

A few years ago at a KMGN event, I had a wonderful conversation with a Knowledge practitioner who had found KM late in his career. He lamented not finding the discipline sooner but also said he had been acting as a knowledge manager for years but just did not know what it was called.

Joining the dots

I asked him what he was doing that he later recognised as knowledge management and he said, "Lots of little things, but the main one was the role of ambassador." Having worked across all different parts of his industry over the years, he had noticed that while people had grown in expertise - leading to new inventions and breakthroughs - it had come at the cost of specialization and that, in turn, had created a new problem because all these experts knew very little about the other parts of the business, meaning they often fixed one problem and created more for others up and down the supply chain. To solve this, he had spent a decade focusing on being a boundary spanner. Whether it was introducing experts to one another, pointing out how a solution might cause an issue with logistics or finance or training, or eventually, consulting to the executive on the structure of their business and communications within the value chain.

One thing in common

One of the interesting things I have noted about knowledge managers is they often come to the craft with a broad set of experiences, sometimes across multiple industries. In my case, the insights from Oil & Gas, Water and Sewer utilities, Healthcare, Medical Waste, Finance and Shipping industries to name a few meant I got to experience IT, Sales, Procurement, M&A, Legal, Transport and Training all before I found the discipline and started a Masters of KM in 2003. I don't think that's a coincidence. In fact, I suspect it speaks to the nature of both the role of a knowledge manager and of the people who choose to practice it.

Now, more than ever

Of course, this is all paired with the skill to really listen to experts and practitioners alike to understand complex, interconnected problems in the first place. Most knowledge managers I know seem to have developed a nose for wicked dependencies and a suspicion of simple answers. I am not sure if that is from the principles of KM, or being forced to witness the repeated failures of simple ideas that hinder strategic outcomes. Either way, it seems that with the introduction of new specialist AI tools and business, people looking for any shortcut can do more with less, the gap of ambient awareness is only growing larger, making the broad and deep understanding of knowledge managers even more valuable to growing enterprises.

Stuart French

Stuart is Program Manager, Knowledge at the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria, Australia. He has a Masters Degree in Knowledge Management and helps organisations understand their strategic knowledge assets and opportunities for reduced risk and greater effectiveness. Stuart is currently Australian delegate to the KM Global Network and chair of the AFAC Knowledge, Innovation and Research Utilisation Network (KIRUN).

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Using Stories to Engage People Around Knowledge Initiatives. Dr Arthur Shelley

Stories can be very effective in influencing people because they have the power to engage our emotions and imagination in a way that facts and statistics do not. A well-told story can capture stakeholder attention, inspire, evoke empathy, and influence perceptions, behaviours and beliefs. Used authentically, stories have the power to engage our emotions, make complex ideas more accessible, appeal to our senses, and provide context and meaning. This makes them a powerful tool for informing people about possibilities and engage people around initiatives.

The true story below is an example that has been told many times over the years by different people to engage senior decision-makers. It gets attention because of the headline and the tangible value it generated. However, the greater value is somewhat hidden. It is the trusted relationships the people involved generated in this collaborative experience they had. After this initiative, they continued to collaborate on other initiatives that generated even greater tangible and intangible benefits. 

USD20 Million increase in sales: A collaborative problem-solving success.

A new food product range was selling in excess of USD100 Million per year and all factories capable of making it were running to full capacity. The business knew it could sell more, if it could produce more. There was a multi- million-dollar proposal to build a new factory to increase capacity, but it would take several years to complete. By then there was no guarantee that the demand would still be there in such an impulse driven market. 

Due to time pressures, none of the engineers in each of the factories making this product wanted to “share what they knew”. They needed to keep their heads down and focus on ensuring their own line was as fully operational as possible. The central KM team tried to get each of the engineers to share their knowledge, either through a project site or engage in a virtual conversation. After considerable debate a few of the engineers agreed to participate in a thirty-minute call, hosted by the KM team. They were asked to focus on what they thought was the biggest issue or opportunity for them. Once they were on the call with something of mutual interest to them, they found they shared the same challenges. The conversation quickly accelerated, and they went well overtime. They asked for support from the KM team for better ways to interact. A collaborative team site was set up and each engineer was asked to add just one file they thought would be useful for others. Soon, solutions for issues solved by one engineer were being shared with others, providing useful ways to adapt to resolve similar problems. Conversations were regularly facilitated by the KM team. After a few months of virtually interacting, improvements in several factories were generating benefits. The community of engineers had formed, and the trust established. They agreed to get together face-to-face, to run some trials in a factory in Turkey. Several of the engineers participated in the trials and within a week their collaborative interactions increased global production capacity by twenty per cent! This immediately enabled a staggering extra USD20 Million in saleable product per year and removed the need for the additional factory. 

Although such significant tangible benefit stories are rare, without the initial investment in some time to connect and share knowledge, people do not know what can be achieved. This community formed in the early 2000’s, before social media or highly interactive virtual tools such as collaboration boards and stable, affordable videoconferencing. Connecting people around a common purpose is the seed that sparks remarkable value cocreation. Modern tools make this easier and more efficient, but it is the people interactions that are the foundation of value creation.

Use stories with authenticity and care!

There are risks with using stories as a communication and engagement strategy. It can be seen as preaching and biased, or worse untruthful and manipulative. Informal stories from friends and colleagues are trusted and have a deep impact on the typically small number of people who get to hear them. “Official stories”, curated and released through corporate channels, are treated with a degree of scepticism, and they should be! Such stories may be perceived to be “manufactured messages” to influence the target audiences to think and behave in the way that management determines. 

Although a shared vision is a good thing, and this does require clear communication, it is better achieved through interactive dialogue than what some may consider propaganda. Intelligent people like to feel involved and well-informed. However, they react negatively to being inappropriately manipulated or misguided. A story does not have to be untruthful to be unethical. Stories can be presented in incomplete ways, or information taken out of context to bias or misrepresent the reality to inappropriately influence the perspectives they create. This should never be done and will only cause issues in the longer term. Always seek permission to use others’ stories and content and treat other people’s information as you would your own ensuring you deal with it with utmost respect. 

Dr. Arthur Shelley

Dr. Arthur Shelley is an awarded learning facilitator and the founder of Intelligent Answers. He has 40 years of professional experience across the disciplines of science research, projects management, knowledge management and action learning/education.  

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