What is KM? A snippet tip.

There are so many definitions of KM …

But what do KMers actually do?


Create/support connections

Encourage conversations and learning

Collect content

Improve processes

Do this strategically for successful organisations


Previous snippet tips – “Information & knowledge” and “Innovation”


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It’s planning time :-)

Each Autumn I plan the various programmes for next year’s Knowledge Network UK (KN-UK). It is one of my favourite times of year – thinking about all the interesting new stuff to learn and looking ahead to a shiny new year without any of the disappointments and problems of the current one.

I realise that not all of you can all come along to KN-UK (it is, as the name suggests, entirely UK-based), but I would still really like to know what KMers, particularly those in the legal sector and professional services, would like to learn about next year. Are you interested in AI, GDPR, reflective learning? Or perhaps intranets, conversations/networks or client knowledge?

If you can help, complete the survey, or if you’ve not got the time (or the survey crashes – I hate it when that happens), perhaps comment below and write down the top 3 topics you’d like to learn about in 2018.

Here it is – the survey!

And if you’d like to learn more about KN-UK, click here.

And if you’d like to have a KN-UK in your city, contact me or comment below.

And (lastly, honestly) if you’d like to keep up with what is happening in KN-UK whilst you decide whether to join or not, or just to hear what we’re up to, sign up here for occasional emails.



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Blue Oceans: the basics

I’m reading Blue Ocean Shift at the moment – the practical guide to the more theoretical Blue Ocean Strategy.

I teach strategy as part of my KM foundation course and separately in afternoon workshops and I’ve found that the red ocean/blue ocean imagery works well. People intuitively “get” these ideas, even if they initially feel at a loss as to how to implement them and find their own blue water.

So this is a short series of posts all about Blue Ocean Strategy and how it could apply to law firms.

The basics

What is “blue ocean strategy” thinking?

Red oceans exist where organisations compete with each other (like sharks in the ocean) in an existing market.

Blue oceans exist where new markets are created, offering different value, where there are fewer/no competitors.

In red oceans the primary focus becomes value-cost trade offs (you can be Asda or Waitrose, not both).

In blue oceans, there is a step change in the kind and degree of value which is offered and a new market is created.

A blue ocean strategy is a strategy that shifts you (if you are already in business) from your existing red ocean to a blue ocean where the existing productivity curve is no longer relevant and a brand new problem is solved, or (if you are an entrepreneur) identifies and takes you to new blue-ocean opportunities.

Is blue ocean strategy the same as creative disruption?

There is a lot of talk in legal circles about “disruption” at the moment. How does blue ocean thinking fit with “disruption”?

Disruptive creation occurs when an innovation displaces an earlier technology or existing service. It occurs in two main situations – disruptive innovation and creative destruction.

“Disruptive innovation” begins with the arrival of an inferior technology/service/product which then becomes a market leader (e.g. digital photography, transistor radios, mp3 players). Disruptive innovation is often ignored by the mainstream players because it does not appear to threaten them initially.

“Creative destruction” occurs when a superior technology/service/product destroys the old market.

In contrast, a blue ocean service/product can coexist with existing products/services (e.g. microloan companies serve new types of customers with microfinance and co-exist with conventional banks serving conventional customers).

Blue ocean strategy thinking is about capturing and serving new customers rather than fighting over existing ones.


Interested in innovation?

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Online courses – 4 questions

I’ve been thinking about developing some online courses for a while.

I get a lot of emails from KMers outside the UK who’d like to take a course of mine, but can’t get to London when they’re on.

I’d like to develop something special: something that balances the convenience of online training with the network-building, connection and accountability that you get with face-to-face training.

I’m going to tackle KM measurement for my first online course. If this topic interests you (or you’ve some great feedback for me) please complete a short 4 question anonymous survey.

Complete the survey here.

If you get to the end 🙂 you can choose to add your email for a discount code for the course when it is up & running (in return for feedback whilst you take the course).


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I have a space left …

Just a quick one …

I have a couple of spaces left in my last 3 training events of the year. If you want one, click for more info & to book:


KM: The Works – a day-long foundation course in London on law firm/professional services KM, suitable for PSLs, LIS and KMers on 28th Sept 2017 10-4pm

“jam-packed” “practical and useful” “I would highly recommend Helene”


KM: The Scores – an afternoon workshop in London on KM project measurement on 12th October, 2-5pm

“really useful” “so useful for me … I’ll definitely be putting it into practice”


Innovation in law firms – a long-lunch workshop in Bristol, 12.30-2.30pm


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What is your key competency?

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6 steps to getting Lessons *Learned*

Lesson learning, retrospectives, look-backs, AALs, AARs, whatever you call it, it makes sense to learn what works and doesn’t within your own organisation – stops you reinventing the wheel, shares expertise around, keeps clients happy etc etc.

So why don’t more law firms have more success in learning lessons?

One of the problems is that lessons are often documented, but not *learned*.

So how can you change this in your organisation and get your lessons learned by your workforce (and steal a march on your competition)?




6 steps to learning your lessons

  1. Get your learning process right – Don’t just focus on the *end* of a project, matter or process
    1. Lessons are there to be learned throughout the project/matter/process and for a while afterwards as well. A review of multiple projects/matters/lessons can create valuable insights.
    2. Make it part of the process – are there any way-points in your case management system which could guide fee earners to learning lessons or sharing experiences? Can you add notes to practice notes or precedents? If not, how can you change processes (without creating extra unnecessary work) so that continuous learning becomes a natural part of working?
    3. Are identified lessons being *learned*, or are the same mistakes cropping up? Have a process to identify whether or not similar problems are recurring, that becomes an important point to investigate – why are the lessons not transferring into practice?
  2. Get your culture right – a culture which avoids blame and focuses on learning is key – keep working on this.
    1. An independent leader/facilitator for the review meetings can help keep everyone in a neutral learning-mode, rather than a blame-mode. Get an outsider in, or train up some independent people within your organisation.
    2. Read up on how the military create a learning culture in their AARs. If they can break out of their strict hierarchy to learn lessons, surely your lawyers/ your organisation can too?
    3. You need to get/keep your leadership team on board with the learning culture. They may need additional training if they don’t entirely see the benefit now. Make sure when mistakes are made, the focus is on how to understand the root cause of the problem and then share the learning (anonymised if appropriate).
  3. Get your technology right – a separate database full of “lessons” documents is usually unwieldy unless you have plenty of links to elsewhere in your case management system to keep signposting people back to them at the right point in their work process i.e. when they need that lesson. A sophisticated tagging/labelling system is also useful, as there are often many different lessons to be learned from one project and you will get different lessons drawn by different professionals from the same project – if they can all tag using their own natural language, then they are more likely to be able to find the lesson/document again at the right time.
  4. Get to the root cause – When thinking about what went wrong or right and what lesson can be drawn, it can be easy to put causes down to individuals, time management or communication skills, but you need to go deeper. Imagine a court date is missed by an individual. Why did that individual not meet that deadline? Did they know that a deadline existed? Did they understand the consequences of missing the deadline? Was it clear whose responsibility meeting that deadline was? Why did they prioritise their time differently? Is the technology they used fit for purpose? Are there sufficient staffing levels for that case load? Is there a process for catching deadlines when individuals are ill or on holiday? It isn’t enough to exhort an individual to “work harder/better”. The organisation will need to question its staffing levels, technology, processes, learning and knowledge sharing processes and understand how to engineer out these potential issues for the future.
  5. Keep it simple and human – although technology can assist with sharing the lessons widely, sometimes meetings, with the to-and-fro of conversations and discussions, are more effective ways to share the lessons.
  6. Measure your results – people care about processes which add value to their organisation. If you can demonstrate, with a mix of qualitative stories and quantitative data, the value of your lessons learned process, you can keep leadership teams on-side and persuade everyone that any effort which is required, is more than worthwhile.

If you want to find out more, there are plenty of other articles on after action learning here on the blog, or look out for my new article coming soon to Legal Information Management.

If you need help in running your AARs or training your staff in how to run then, get in touch. There is also an AAR project in my KM projects book, available here.

And if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it on social media and within your firm, sign up for the blog (using the button at the top right) and sign up for the monthly busy-person’s summary.

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