Knowledge and information

Snippet tip

Information = blah blah
Knowledge = bleh bleh

Why bother?

Because the *effective* tools and techniques for the creation, storage, access and sharing of information and knowledge are different.

Don’t waste your money trying to manage knowledge in the same way that you manage information.

 

Learn more on “KM: The Works”, a day-long training for KMers in professional services.

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Becoming a go-to expert

I am taking an online business course at the moment, run by the authors of “The go-to expert”, Heather Townsend and Jon Baker. It’s only just started (although I knew of the book a while ago) so I can’t really comment on it yet, but it made me wonder how often KMers are or want to become a go-to expert.

There are, of course, pros and cons.

On the negative side, you can end up sucked into everyone else’s projects, causing you to struggle with your own work and strategic goals (see previous post about our KN-UK event by Clare Davis for some help with this).

On the positive side, you can gain great job satisfaction from being the expert and being able to help people with your expertise, and, of course, you will gain more opportunities for career advancement at your existing firm or elsewhere.

Expert is in

If you have decided you would like to be a go-to expert, I recommend you approach it as if you were a sole practitioner trying to build a reputation in his/her practice area. Don’t treat it less seriously just because it is your internal business reputation.

 

Six ideas to try:

  1. Have a strategy to gain expertise status – it needn’t be too complex, just to act as a focus when you are wondering what to try next.
  2. Identify your “personal credibility toolkit” – what qualifications do you have, how long have you practised, have you won any prizes/honours, what articles have you written, what events have you spoken at, what do external and internal clients say about you.
  3. Identify any gaps in your personal credibility toolkit and write a plan to fill them in.
  4. Then go one step deeper. Been published in your in-house newsletter? Get published in a specialist external journal. Spoken at internal or client events? Get a slot to speak at a conference. Got your LLB, LPC etc? Take a KM or business course.
  5. Arrange a series of short talks within your firm, perhaps a short slot at regular team meetings, to explain what you do and how you can help and give concrete examples of how you have helped others.
  6. Try an online course, such as that run by Heather and Jon, to give you a broader understanding.

 

And, of course, if you’d like to expand your expertise in KM, I run regular open training events in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester and have 2 textbooks available.

 

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Process Management for law firms

Last Tuesday we at KN-UK met to hear from Duncan Ogilvy of 3Kites and talk about process and project management in law firms.

Having been a Head of Knowledge, Managing Partner, teacher on the Nottingham MBA and now Consultant at 3Kites, Duncan is excellently placed to teach and share his experiences of process management in law firms and the management of the projects he ran.

It was a packed session, where Duncan took us through the basic theory and some process-based projects that he has run in the past, highlighting lessons from those that worked well and those that didn’t work as well as expected.

Process management

Obviously way too much to cover here, but I think my main learning points were:

  • Consider joint working with clients where possible in relation to revamping processes. You may not realise what is really important to them and why it is important. Without their input, you may miss a valuable opportunity to focus efforts and pricing differently for better profitability.
  • Try to think about the whole matter as a series of tasks. Whilst responsibility for a whole matter and client liaison may need to remain with a senior lawyer, do all the tasks need to be done by him or her? Always ask “Who did that? Did it need to be them?“.
  • Make maximum use of paralegals, but keep in mind that, without growth to occupy the freed-up senior lawyers, this may lead to hard decisions regarding staffing.
  • Work from the centre. A central view can help to spot similarities across traditional departmental lines. This is where PSLs and KMers can add significant value, having both an in-depth understanding of matter management and a broader understanding of the stocks and flows of knowledge within the business.
  • Talk to all clients in depth about potential changes. Whilst some clients may always have been keen on bespoke treatment and their own house-style reports or documents, they should still be approached about the process-based, standardised alternative, as they may be keen on the improved pricing that follows from it.
  • Try to be imaginative about processes and pricing. If you are struggling, try to think of ridiculous ideas as well as more practical ones, as these can spark new imaginative workable ideas.

Great places to start:

  • Any regulatory frameworks or court requirements. The process is usually outlined and is mandatory, so fee earners will be used to working with it.
  • Gain a couple of quick wins with easier processes and measure the improvements, particularly financial, in order to persuade other fee earners of the value.
  • Look out for areas where there are competitive pressures. These are more ripe for change than those where the clients and lawyers are settled comfortably (although these can always be disrupted later).
  • Use workshops of mixed staff to map processes. Swim lane diagrams are very useful as a visual aid. They often make inefficiencies obvious. swim lanesRemember that partners and paralegals have different knowledge to offer, but both are valuable in describing the usual process. Maps will show you what can be automated, delegated, out-sourced or done at a low cost in-house location.
  • Be wary of what is said to be the “usual process” and reasons given for anomalies. Look at the files to understand what is actually happening. Fee earners may think “X” is usual and “Y” is an anomaly, but if Y happens on 4/10 files, X on 4/10 files and Z on the other 2 files, you need to understand what is happening and why. You also need to get to the true reason for Y and Z. Don’t accept “surface” reasons such as “poor communication” or “lack of time”. Dig for the real operational reason.

Project management

Although not all law firms can afford project managers, and not all clients will pay for a project manager (although why pay for a lawyer to manage a project when a project manager is better at it?), lots of law firms can benefit from using project management techniques.

Think in particular about dependencies, time scales and cost, and change control.

  • What activities outside the lawyer’s control that often mess up matters?
  • Have an idea what you will do when X happens to derail your perfect plans.
  • Although not all matters require a gantt chart or PID (project initiation document), many will benefit from a quick review at the outset thinking along those principles.

 

What now?

How can Duncan help your firm?

If you need training in process management, I offer in-house training to law firms or come along to my day-long KM foundation course, where we cover it too.

Or get a copy of my Projects book (project 3 is a process project).

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To whom do you owe your knowledge?

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My first RCT

Last week I had my first ever personal skype RCT meeting…

An “RCT” is a programme which connects people randomly for coffee and a chat (with no expectations around content of the conversation), the aim being to improving trusting networks within an organisation, which can improve knowledge sharing and cross-selling.

(If you’d like to know more about RCTs, have a look here).

I often meet with peers for coffee and a chat. I often talk/skype with law firm KMers to help them out and share experiences. I often meet with other small business owners to talk about business stuff and share ideas.

But I haven’t actually ever skyped with someone for no reason other than to make a connection and chat, with no agenda on either side.

As some of you may be thinking about starting an RCT programme within your organisations, I thought it might be helpful to hear my experience as a participant.

 

 

My RCT programme was organised by a LinkedIn KM group. The group organiser offered to pair us up (it was an opt-in, voluntary programme), then left us to make our own arrangements for meeting.

It was very simple to arrange: a couple of emails to arrange dates and work out time zones, then we swapped skype IDs, put it in the diary, and that was it.

Overall, our discussion was

  • pros – interesting, stimulating and thought-provoking (meeting someone new in a related but different field of work, from a different country); and
  • cons – mildly weird (meeting someone entirely new, not even a friend of a friend, for no reason other than chat), but in a good way.

The pros definitely outweighed the cons and I would definitely do it again.

It took about 5-10 mins to arrange and we spent about 45mins chatting, so not at all onerous and now I have a new contact whom I feel I know quite well.

Have you thought of starting an RCT programme within your organisation? It can be a very simple, cost-effective way to improve trusting networks for knowledge sharing and cross-selling.

A free e-book about it here.

Or come along to a lunchtime training event in Manchester (email me or comment below for details).

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When you are finished changing …

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Keep learning, keep changing – the 2017 KM training programme.

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Nice interface

I am usually more interested in the human, conversational, networking, learning side of KM than the technology (I’ve seen too many people think the answer to their lack of knowledge sharing culture is a new bit of tech) but I do recognise the importance of well-built tools for information and knowledge storage and retrieval, and collaboration/conversation when people can’t meet in person.

After all, what is the point of identifying and capturing lots of lessons learned, new knowledge and sleek processes and checklists, if the interface of your Knowledge database makes your people want to weep (and not with joy…)?

And what is the point of saving time through efficiencies in work processes and standardised procedures, if your people then just waste that time in grappling with your platforms?

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I realise that you are unlikely, as a law firm KMer, to be designing these systems yourself, but these articles on how to improve those interfaces (whatever technology you use) and make them more user-friendly, will hopefully help you when interacting with your tech-savvy colleagues.

Maybe you could have a look at your various Knowledge interfaces with fresh eyes and see if they could be improved?

 


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