The 3 minute KM plan

I still follow The Thesis Whisperer blog from my days doing my MBA and recently they hosted a guest blog from Mary Woessner who described her involvement in the “three minute thesis” competition (3MT). In the 3MT competition, PhD candidates must give a presentation overview of their PhD thesis to external judges who score it on comprehension, content, engagement and communication. Perhaps sounds easy, but actually extremely difficult.

It sounded like Mary found the process of taking stopwatchpart in the competition extremely helpful in teaching her how to share her research with a general audience in a manner that was both factual and engaging.


This got me thinking.


How often do you need to share your KM plans with those who don’t yet “get KM”?

The theory behind successful KM can seem (is) quite complex, but we all need to describe workable solutions within our organisations to non-experts.

It isn’t the same thing as the 3MT, but we do need to distil complex theory into workable solutions and then persuade non-experts that they are the right solution based on the right theory and data.

Do you think you could present your KM plans or strategy in three minutes and be persuasive, engaging and comprehensive?

Even if you never actually make that presentation, I think the activity would be a fantastic learning opportunity.

If you give it a try, let me know in the comments how you get eye


If you are struggling, maybe this download on creating your Knowledge Vision may help.


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And if you are looking for KM training within your firm, I run open training sessions in London and also in-house sessions (standard or bespoke), as well as annual subscriptions to UK regional learning groups.

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Together we are an ocean

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A new session on innovation

After our successful session in Birmingham, I have persuaded Dr Sheffield to run another innovation workshop in Bristol after the summer.

Come along if you are interested in

  • how to encourage innovative thought (in yourself, in your teams, in your firm)
  • how to create balanced teams that not only create innovative ideas, but can also evaluate them and deliver business benefits
  • how not to stifle existing innovative thinkers, but support and encourage them

If you are an existing annual subscriber to KN-UK Bristol, this is included in your membership. If you aren’t, but would like to come along anyway, you can buy tickets via Eventbrite. There are limited numbers (KN-UK events are always small, friendly and interactive), so if this is of interest, book asap.

For those of you who can’t get to Bristol, keep an eye on the blog (you can follow it using the top right button) or sign up for the busy person’s monthly summary, and read about the session afterwards.

And if you have any great experiences to share about innovation in your firm, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

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Heads of Knowledge Q&A (7) Richard Gaston

For our next Head of Knowledge interview, we meet Richard Gaston who is Head of Knowledge and Research at Addleshaw Goddard LLP.


1) How did you end up as Head of Knowledge?  Was there a key factor / turning point in your ending up in this role?

I joined Addleshaw Goddard with a background in business information, research and richardgastonanalysis, and came to help build out this capability in what was then the Information Services team.  I was subsequently fortunate to be given, and to be able to find, a number of opportunities to expand the scope of my role.  In early 2016 I presented a paper written with the help of our PSL team to our Exec – we sought (and were given) Exec sponsorship for KM, as well as recognition that effective KM was essential for successful delivery of the Firm’s strategy.

2) What job did you envision having when you were young?

A marine archaeologist!  I was inspired by watching Blue Peter and seeing the dives on, and recovery of, the Mary Rose.

3) If you could have any job in the world, with no limitations (salary, location, hours etc)  what would you do?

I still have a lingering hankering to be an academic – if I could combine that with 6 months of the year spent in Florence, and 6 months of the year in the UK…that might be my ideal job.

4) Describe your organisation in three words

Collaborative.  Innovative.  Growing.

5) What is the hardest thing about your role?

Raising and maintaining the profile of our KM work alongside the many competing priorities facing our fee-earning and business services colleagues.

6) What is the best thing about your role?

People!  I have a great team, and the opportunity to work with lots of people in lots of different roles across the business, as well as with our clients.

7)  What is the biggest change that you’ve witnessed during your career in Knowledge?

As with almost every other profession, the impact of technology.  I started my career learning how to search print indices, and run command-line searches on elementary online databases.  Technology has revolutionised our ability to manage and find accurate information.

8) What three things are you focusing on for the next three years?

Development of our KM people.  Document automation.  Search.

9) What do you think is the most exciting new development coming in Knowledge work / KM?

Developing technologies mean a greater focus and more time available to spend on what I think are the more important (and human) factors in KM – developing knowledge-sharing cultures and KM people, adding value and insight to the information we manage.

10) What advice do you have for aspiring Heads of Knowledge

Be opportunistic.  Volunteer for projects (even the apparently boring ones) – this helps to build trust and credibility with senior people and will open doors to more interesting work in future.

Be pragmatic.  You probably have the tools and resources to solve many of your organisations KM challenges already (without buying lots of new technology) you just have to think laterally about how to apply what you have to the problems you face.


Thanks Richard, great to hear your story, and great advice – be pragmatic and opportunistic and think laterally.

If you’ve enjoyed this series of interviews, don’t forget to share the post using the buttons below.

And if you would like to read the next in our series of Heads of Knowledge interviews, don’t forget to follow the blog using the button at the top right, or sign up for the busy person’s monthly summary here.

Are you a Head of Knowledge? Can you share your story? Or perhaps you could nominate your boss? Get in touch! Contact details here, or write me a comment below.

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Heads of Knowledge Q&A (6) Fiona Parkinson

For our sixth interview we meet Fiona Parkinson who is Head of Knowledge Management at BLM.


  1. How did you end up as Head of Knowledge? Was there a key factor/turning point in your ending up in this role?

It was more of a gradual evolution.  My career has been focused on information and knowledge management, FionaPphotoalways with an emphasis on ensuring people have access to the knowledge they need to do their jobs successfully.  I’ve worked in energy, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, accountancy and professional services as well as in the legal sector.

The biggest change was in the 1990s when the emphasis on Knowledge Management as a business imperative allowed us the opportunity to take a more central role, making a difference across the whole organisation.

  1. What job did you envision having when you were young?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to run a cats’ home!

  1. If you could have any job in the world, with no limitations (salary, location, hours etc) what would you do?

I like the motivation and behavioural side of KM – what makes people collaborate and how can we build on that?  If I could combine that with more time travelling and experiencing different people and cultures, that would be perfect!

  1. Describe your firm in three words.

Expert, professional, customer-focused.

  1. What is the hardest thing about your role?

I suspect it’s the same in every KM role, especially when people are recording time by the hour; the lack of time people have to step out of their day to day work to contribute to seeking and sharing knowledge, to improve what we do.

  1. What is the best thing about your role?

The people in my team and in BLM generally.  They are some of most friendly, supportive and professional colleagues I’ve ever worked with.

  1. What is the biggest change that you’ve witnessed during your career in Knowledge?

The ability for end users to be able to access so much for themselves now whenever and wherever they are.  But along with that the expectation that we should have access to trusted, managed information automatically via a “google” type search.

  1. What three things are you focusing on for the next three years?

Ensuring our lawyers remain technically competent, innovation, better KM technology.

  1. What do you think is the most exciting new development coming in Knowledge work/KM?

The big area we are all watching is artificial intelligence.  We will see how this develops in 2017!

  1. What advice do you have for aspiring Heads of Knowledge?

Your role is so important!  In a law firm, knowledge is your product and you are at the forefront of maximising the benefits from it.  Keep continuing to focus on this and to communicate the value your lawyers and customers will see from the firm’s commitment to KM.


Thanks Fiona – and you are so right – KM is such an important support to fee earning and has great potential to maximise benefits.

If you want to read the next interview, follow the blog using the button at the top right or sign up for the busy-person’s summary.

If you are a Head of Knowledge, get in touch to share your story (or nominate your boss!).

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5 questions to get your experts database working

With so much information generally available, it is increasingly important to know who is an expert in what knowledge within your organisation.

Most law firms have had some form of “White Pages” (an internal address book, adapted to an organisation’s individual needs) for a while now, but how well is yours working? Are you getting the most from the knowledge that already exists within your organisation?


5 questions to ask to start improving your internal experts database.


  1. Is it actually an internal experts database? Does it help you discover “who is truly an expert in what?” or is it just teams, phone numbers and email addresses? If you needed a friendly colleague to help you with a complex technical problem, could you find the right person? If you needed to give a client a contact number of an expert on a Tuesday night at 9pm, could you find the right one? What about the different languages that people speak or the skills they have, but aren’t utilised in their current role? If you needed to pull together a team with unusual skills for a very technical project, could you find just the right people? If not, what needs to change in your database? Linked to that …
  2. Do you have a clear idea of all the different aspects of knowledge that you want to access? One great way to analyse what knowledge gets utilised in teams is to map out the common processes: when a commercial lease is negotiated and completed, what steps do your lawyers take; similarly when a clinical negligence claim is defended, what stages does it commonly pass through? Who is an expert in each of those stages? Another great way to understand the knowledge you need to access is knowledge mapping. Knowledge maps make great expertise finders for smaller teams with deep specialised knowledge. You could also analyse the knowledge used in a common transaction in terms of function (declarative/know about, procedural/know how, causal/know why, conditional/know when, and relational/know with) to help you identify what knowledge exists in the teams.
  3. Is the quality right? Who decides who counts as an expert? What is the process? You need a robust process for determining experts, or you will end up with a preponderance of confident and ambitious people  and miss all the quiet thoughtful experts. Also, is it updated? What is the process for keeping the data clean?
  4. Does it work for *your* organisation? Most businesses have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. If you can make the database work for how you do things in your organisation, rather than try to fit your people to the available technology, it’ll be a lot more effective. Would a map-style database be better than a rolodex-style database? How often do your staff turnover? How agile does this database need to be? In practical terms, if you value your people via their chargeable hours and this is a non-chargeable task, are they likely to spend sufficient time on it? If not, how else could you approach the data gathering and input?
  5. Is it value for money? How are you going to measure the value that it offers your business and when will you know that it needs more investment? Simple quantitative measurements can help you keep an eye on usage, and leading measurements will give you early warning of potential problems, but a survey will give you rich data and stories about how clients were (or weren’t) well-served by getting access to the right expert, and will be a valuable source of ideas for continuous improvement.

How have you approached this challenge? I’d love to hear in the comments how you have approached creating a great experts database, or if you’ve enjoyed the post, please share.

What now?

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