inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #26 of 80: Nancy Rhine (nancy) Sun 10 Nov 02 08:51
    
Hi Brian, 

Thank you for your comments. While I understand your remarks and
questions and find them representative of those of many managers, this
all boils down to good business sense, IMHO.  Firstly, one's customers
are *already* engaging more and more in online conversations about your
goods and services *and* those of your competition.  Secondly, if you
have a public crisis (a la Odwalla for instance), you can bet they are
*really* talking about you - amongst themselves f2f, online, and in the
press.  So one of the tenets of sound public relations in my book
(literally and figuratively) is to be already engaged in dialogue
(emphasis on listening) with your market.  It would behoove you to be
working on establishing good will and trust with your staff and your
customer base. Your staff because they will be answering, unofficially,
their particular customers' questions. So they should understand the
ins and outs of whatever is going on.  This isn't naive. It's a
hallmark :) of smart and sustainable business practice.  What do you
think?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #27 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Sun 10 Nov 02 09:12
    
I don't think we're naive. It's because we recognize the entrenched
and conservative history of big business behavior that we think it's
time to encourage the change, especially, as Nancy said, given what's
happening now on the Net. We are devout ClueTrainers. 

Besides, not all businesses are hiding from their bad feedback. We
described Shell Tell and Hallmark. Proctor & Gamble (www.pg.com)
invites customers to join its "feedback sessions." Cisco invites the
networking professionals who both praise and criticize its products to
talk among themselves in public online forums. There's, we think, a
more powerful upside to communication than there is a downside. 

Some organizations will open up to try it; many won't. We'll see what
happens, eh?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #28 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Sun 10 Nov 02 09:48
    
Or maybe we can create a "tipping point" of truthfulness? ;-)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #29 of 80: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 10 Nov 02 13:15
    
I wonder what sort of companies are most likely to be receptive to
open communication?  I'd guess that the stakes are fairly low for
Hallmark, Shell, and Proctor & Gamble because they sell to the masses,
most of whom will never visit their customer forums.  In fact, their
real customers are the retail stores (or gas stations).  A forum for
retailers to talk among themselves would be more politically sensitive.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #30 of 80: Nancy Rhine (nancy) Mon 11 Nov 02 09:08
    
Brian, you bring up more interesting points...

In my view, the goals of the companies you mention are not to reach
every customer per se, but to reach those who have the time and
inclination to spend some energy communicating with a company. These
customers provide valuable experiences, ideas, feedback, competitive
intelligence, etc.  So the goal is to attract a goodly number of your
market to engage with you.  Especially when/since they are increasingly
communicating with their friends and neighbors about you anyway.  

There is this old marketing adage that maintains that customers will
share positive customer experiences with a few people, and negative
experiences with a lot of people.  So, my advice to organizations is to
get in there with their customers, hang out where they do, and listen,
and eventually ask questions and for their help. If there's no good
place for them to hang out online, create one and invite them there. 
Keep a light hand on their interactions because if you over-manage it,
people will shy away. Plus I always add that although I can't possibly
act on all their feedback <set the expectations>, I will be giving it
all close attention and respect. This has never failed to engage people
effectively, in my experience. In fact, at the last dotcom where I
worked, our customers analyzed what wasn't working, the good points,
the differences amongst us and our competitors, the pros and cons of
our marketing campaigns, pricing, everything - it was just priceless
information. Unfortunately the head of marketing would not stop and
listen.  Too bad. Turned out he should have. The company went under,
later.  ;)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #31 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Mon 11 Nov 02 09:10
    
Hallmark uses a customer sample of only a few hundred people in its
forums. That's enough to give them a better idea of what consumers are
thinking in terms of products. So depending on the use to which the
company puts the forums, scale of involvement may not be so important.
Of course, Shell might use its customer input forums to defuse critics,
but Shell is also a very forward-looking petroleum company. 

We recommend that such conversations become part of a company's
strategy. The game is different if you plan to engage with customers or
if you plan to actively develop input and dialogue with retailers or
partners. 

The cost to Cisco of writing off surplus inventory in 2001 was
gargantuan. The majority of that cost is said to have come from their
customers'double-ordering at a time when it was crucial to them to have
product delivered on time. If Cisco had been in better communication
with them and had understood their thinking ("We'd better submit an
order direct to Cisco and one to it's distribution partner, too, just
to make sure we get delivery.") it could have avoided overproduction. 

If strategies are based only on past history and statistical trends, a
lot of insight is lost that could be gained through conversation with
a base of typical consumers and partners.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #32 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Mon 11 Nov 02 09:19
    
The customer community can be a sampling, as Nancy mentioned with
Hallmark above, or perhaps wider with the Cisco example.

How widespread does adoption of conversation have to be internally in
a company to start gaining critical mass and showing value?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #33 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Mon 11 Nov 02 20:54
    
I wish there were simple answers to such questions, but any answer I
give will have many counter-examples. You mentioned the tipping point
in an earlier post. The tipping point may be reached by volume of
conversion or by a significant event. 

If enough people in an organization begin using email to collaborate
and plan, others will feel compelled to join in rather than be left
behind. But if a small team pulls off a creative coup through the use
of independently organized online collaboration, the company may be
converted suddenly to adopt new ways of doing things to replicate
success. 

Critical mass in an organization is whatever the executive level
people buy in to. So we recommend that executives keep their eyes out
for emergent groups who are more productive than the average. See how
they're pulling that off, then see if it can be adapted to other
groups.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #34 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Tue 12 Nov 02 04:40
    
I'm not at home so don't have the reference with me, but someone,
somewhere said 5% adoption you have a trend and 20% adoption you are
unstoppable. 

I suspect there ARE so many factors. Shall we poke at one a bit?
Trust?


(waving from The Hague)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #35 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Tue 12 Nov 02 12:20
    
Quick reminder -- curious about Nancy and Cliff's book? You can find
chapters of "Building the Knowledge Management Network" online at
http://www.socialchemy.com/chapters.htm


And for those of you who are not members of The Well following this
conversation - don't forget you can email your comments and questions
to inkwell-hosts@well.com -- Join in!
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #36 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Tue 12 Nov 02 19:48
    
These days, when a lot of people are having a hard time finding work,
I hear many employed people admitting that they'll put up with a lot
more organizational dysfunction than they would have tolerated several
years ago. A hierarchy can be an adversarial environment where those in
power positions fear being displaced by the up-and-comers. A great
idea promoted publicly by a customer service agent might get a reward
or it might be squashed by a paranoid middle manager.

A trusting and trustworthy social environment makes it a joy to
contribute new ideas. You shouldn't have to be courageous to point out
areas that can be improved in your company. If the leaders trust the
people they hire to put forth their best effort, and if people get
rewarded for that, having a company-wide conversation is easy.

I'm sure there are many of you reading this who are saying something
like, "Yeah...and so?" And that's what's wrong with most organizations
-- like corporations, they are soulless entities, focused on profit,
not particularly concerned about the humanity in their communications
policies.

Trust takes time to build. It's easy to destroy. It may take even more
time to rebuild once damaged. If the power in the organization doesn't
engender trust, the rest of the organization has to work in spite of
its leadership, or the whole thing breaks down.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #37 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Wed 13 Nov 02 14:16
    
Can we have conversations without trust?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #38 of 80: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 13 Nov 02 14:38
    
I'm sure it depends on the subject.  That's the trouble with talking
about communication in the abstract.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #39 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Wed 13 Nov 02 21:44
    
I agree, Brian, about the abstraction here. Unless any of you readers
can describe related situations in the companies where you work, our
explanations here are one step more abstract than in our book. We
expect that people who buy and read the book will have problems in
their workplaces that our ideas and examples will help to solve.

But back to the question about trust, it's pretty clear to me that in
a work environment (as opposed to a family, a club, an association)
people respond to incentives and the assurance of job security when
asked to contribute to the company beyond what's in their job
description. 

In many work cultures, sharing your expert knowledge could be the
first step in making you expendable. So, sure, trust is an important
element in persuading people to share what they know and to collaborate
on improving the company.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #40 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Fri 15 Nov 02 11:33
    
Hey, if this is like talk radio, we're bombing. All you hecklers out
there, please dial in. Don't tell me the place where you work has it
all figured out and things are just hunky dory. I'm not believing it. 

(Posted after listening to Gary Radnich doing sports-talk radio on
KNBR -- THE sports leader.)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #41 of 80: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 15 Nov 02 11:47
    
Here's a question, Cliff.  In environments where some people have more
facility and comfort with the written word, how can you help those who hate
to write make use of collaborative systems?

I see a lot of barriers to sharing info.  There's the aforementioned 
fear of making oneself obsolete.  There are personality issues like 
fear of complaining or criticising and then being considered too 
negative and simple shyness/introversion. 

But I think the fear of writing due to grammar/spelling gaffs, along with
the old computer discomfort factor, are more widespread than we text
blabber-mouths would like to think. Any suggestions? 
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #42 of 80: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 15 Nov 02 17:33
    
(The place where I work is clearly hunky-dory... but then, it's my home 
office!)
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #43 of 80: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 15 Nov 02 20:05
    
Well, one of the things about online collaboration systems is that
there are so many to choose from.  At my company, everyone uses
Outlook, management and product requirements people write formal Word
documents stored in some network folder somewhere that I can never
find, there are a couple of engineering groups that use a Wiki (my
favorite, but nobody in my group uses it), and bugs get recorded in a
bug database written in Lotus Notes.  And, being a portal company we
also have an internal portal that I use mostly to get the phone list. 

Despite all that, the interesting stuff doesn't get written down, and
a lot of the stuff that's written down is out of date.  I haven't
written much in the Wiki lately because it seems like not many people
go there to look up information.  Instead we have meeting where we tell
each other things and forget the details.  And nothing controversial
happens in writing.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #44 of 80: Nancy White (choco) Fri 15 Nov 02 22:13
    
Or what about TOO much stuff, interesting or not?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #45 of 80: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sun 17 Nov 02 05:49
    
I've spent the last couple of years working in high-tech corporations
and I've seen enormous barriers between the people at the top of the
organization and the people below. There's a "management point" where
at some point in the organization, managers all start using the same
language, a different language than the one used by people below that
level, by techies and team leads. The management language includes a
lot of cheery optimism aimed at Wall Street, and uses phrases ranging
from "EBITDA profitability" (ie, the company would be profitable if we
didn't have to pay for the money we borrowed) or silly management
phrases like "executing on our action plan". The ability to speak this
language sets managers apart; it seems to come with an inability to
speak *straight* talk.

I don't know how managers learn to speak like this; I assume it's by
rubbing against other managers in manager school. I have tried reading
some of the pop management books, and I understand some of the
concepts, just enough to be able to recognize the gap.

At heart, the talk is an attempt to align everyone in the corporation,
from the top down, with a set of abstract objectives. However, below
the tier of middle management, the objectives are often too abstract
to help anyone do their job. I had some great arguments with the folks
at Genuity who were trying to get everyone behind the slogan "Do you
want to change the world today?" or some such. I was pointing out that
techies want to keep the network lights green. Management *really*
doesn't want their rank-and-file techies trying to change the world -
techies might change it in ways that wouldn't have much to do with the
"path to profitability". 
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #46 of 80: Nancy Rhine (nancy) Sun 17 Nov 02 09:34
    
Betsy, your remarks make me both grimace and smile with recognition -
there is a human characteristic in my opinion that causes people and/or
groups where self-esteem is shaky to revert to in-group language to
make themselves seem exclusive and oh-so-very-important. It reminds me
of the early days of the WELL when a particular sysop wanted to keep
the software particularly difficult to use and poorly explained to keep
the "riff-raff" out.  From that point forward, I knew his and my goals
were different. His was exclusivity, mine was mass access.  No
judgement either way, just very different goals.

I like to pay attention to organizations that are trying to open the
doors of communication, whether it be amongst layers of in-house
hierarchy or amongst company reps and customers.  I notice this week
that Unicted Airlines has just announced its Customer Advisory Panel
and is asking for participants to give them feedback. You can sign up
at united.com/feedback - will be interesting to see what develops, if
anything, with that.

Another company featured in the press this week is Applied Medical
Resources, a $50 million medical-device company. The CEO reports that
they use use regular conversations with its customer base. "We ask our
customers what they want to see in our future products - what problems
they have that we can help resolve.  We consistently remind ourselves
to listen to what the customer needs, not what we need."

An important point in working for change in organizations and trust
levels, is to research and remember that there are many groups where
innovative good people are honestly working to change their
organizations and where they realize that sustainable, longterm success
rests on collaboration and mutual exchange.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #47 of 80: Christian Crumlish (xian) Sun 17 Nov 02 13:16
    
Riding the current hobbyhorse, can either of you comment on the
concept of klog or k-logs (knowledge-capture weblogs)?
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #48 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Mon 18 Nov 02 08:22
    
Re: Gail's #41 and reticence to participate because of writing talent
or lack thereof.

If the culture of the organization is such that misspellings and poor
grammar are going to brand an otherwise smart and creative person as
below standard, the organization has some deep-seated problems. Of
course a spell checker would help. But when offering these
opportunities to converse online, the organization needs to frame them
with encouragement. Part of the social contract must be to not penalize
people as if it was English Composition 101. The emphasis should be on
exchange of knowledge and ideas. Everyone should strive for brevity
and relevance. It should be explained that with time and experience,
the online conversational skills will develop.

The WELL was pretty awkward in its first years, but over time a
"style" has developed that, to me, has become invisible. To newcomers,
I assume it's challenging. But communication among veterans of this
culture is now much easier than it was in the beginning. The same will
happen in organizations.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #49 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Mon 18 Nov 02 08:34
    
To Jon in #42: in an office of one, the conversations can get pretty
crazy.

To Brian's #43

Lots of large corporations who "silo" their divisions adopt different
software platforms to serve different needs. Nowadays, these platforms
are delivered with their own proprietary portal interfaces. The people
working in the different divisions learn their own portal languages and
tools, which are incompatible with those being adopted in other
divisions. This further partitions the specialists who should be
communicating to integrate knowledge across the company.

So, Brian, your situation is increasingly common and represents just
the sort of problem our book is attempting to confront.

The CIO or CKO (Knowledge Officer) is the one who should be solving
this situation by creating cross-divisional or interpractice
communications platforms that are used to share knowledge. Of course
such platforms need influential champions and incentives for use,
otherwise they are abandoned. If the company doesn't have a coherent
knowledge sharing mandate, it's up to the mavericks within the
organization to hack their own solutions. 

It's one of the ironies of business that your company -- a portal
company -- would find its employees using its own portal only as a
phone list. Perhaps a one-time conversational "event" bringing together
disparate knowledge holders would reveal to all the value of providing
and using a cross-company knowledge forum with a message board, email
list and active wiki. Even a weekly visit and comment would likely
energize some new ideas.
  
inkwell.vue.165 : Cliff Figallo and Nancy Rhine, "Building the Knowledge Management Network"
permalink #50 of 80: Cliff Figallo (fig) Mon 18 Nov 02 08:43
    
To Christian's #47

The technology of k-logs is simple enough and yes, they fit perfectly
with our online knowledge sharing model. What they require are rules
for use (or a strict editor/moderator) so that everyone who contributes
to them is on the same page and everyone who reads them is protected
from overload and irrelevancy.

Collaborative publishing -- as valuable its potential -- can also
result in a big mess. Every participant must act not only as a source
but as a filter. The collective aim must be to provide the least amount
of words necessary to inform while providing links to deeper
information at the option of the reader.

I regard blogs as a rediscovery of the killer app of the Web, made
easier. And just as Web pages have proliferated into billions of pages
with a high "junk" quotient, a collaborative blog can easily grow into
a bloated repository for personal opinions and tangential trivia.
  

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