Change management and knowledge management holding each other’s hand

Jeanette Allom-Hill is the Change Leadership Director for the NSW State Treasury. She’ll be presenting Change Mangement—KM’s symbiotic partner or alter ego? at July’s KM Australia Congress. I spoke to her recently about her role in the NSW state government, and from our conversation, I’m sure she’ll have loads of fascinating stories about change management in the workplace.

1. As the change leadership director of the NSW Treasury, what are your day-to-day responsibilities and what sort of change projects do you oversee?
There is a change of leadership project which is about building a competency of our leaders and that’s an executive level project, which includes having done a change competency review on all of our leaders and looking at how we get them to be great change leaders, so we have road maps for each of them around, acting as visible leadership, communication, building a coalition, all the key components of being great leaders of change, but also great sponsors of change. So that’s like a one-on-one type of mentoring role.

The organisational design role is a role that talks about how do you manage change at an organisational level when you’re introducing a complete reorganisational design, so that’s everything from restructuring the organisation and then restructuring the processes but also supporting people through things like voluntary redundancies.

The last is managing the program of work, so the role in the whole of government financial management reform. I manage the program end-to-end that manages all of the components of stakeholder engagement, change communications and capability.

2. You’ve had experience in operational, service, and planning roles across the government and private sectors, (including Microsoft and Optus). Have you found that approaches or responses to change projects differ across those sectors?
Yes, generally speaking, private enterprises seem to really understand the concept of hiring people who have change as part of their DNA very early on, and then build change as a positive experience, because they think about how that benefits a person day-to-day. So, whenever they do change they think about building on the strategies of the person’s awareness of the change, their desire for the change, and how do we get them to realise that this is the best thing for them? Whereas, the public sector are just only starting to realise that that’s fundamental. So we’re starting to do a big piece of work around the fact that the people in the new Treasury need to adapt to change—and what does that look like? How do you measure that? How do you support that? How do you develop that?

I think its been a slower take up in government than it has in the private sector, because private has been thinking that way for a long time. The great thing is that governments are now starting to think that way but it’s more of, for Treasury, it’s after 185 years of an entrenched culture and way of being that we are having to change. I think having done operations roles, and customer service roles, and then a change role—everything in the operations world is fast-paced, compared in a change world to try to, first of all, build a belief that there needs to be someone who is managing change and that the people side of all change that we’re going through is just as important as the project side and the leadership side. It’s a harder piece of work to do than it is if you’re doing an operational role, or a role that is needed as part of the functional day-to-day operation of the business.

3. You’re also the Chair of the Community of Change Professionals for the NSW Public Sector. In what ways has the group improved the practice of change management in the NSW State Government?
We were established in December 2012, so we are half way through our first year. The core areas that we’re working on, and we had lots of really good small wins, but the big areas that we’re working on is obviously being able to build a network of Change people in the NSW Public Sector, so that junior people have access to senior people and resources and best practice information. They can also network with their colleagues, but they also have an ability for career development and opportunities, including a model that we’re put in, which is around mentoring specifically for change people.
Some of the runs we have on the board at the moment are obviously we’ve done some networking events to allow people to make connections at work together. We have a knowledge base where people can go and get information around change and pull resources from other people and colleagues across the NSW Public Sector, and that therefore drives that consistency in our approach. We try to strengthen best practice change leadership and change management capabilities, so what we’ve done is we’ve actually got all the senior people in Change, so directors and principal advisors, and we meet every month and talk about what we’re doing to try and strengthen our impact in the public sector—how we can work collaboratively, to work as a group, but also doing tactical things like developing the service offering section to the agencies, which is things like, if you want to hire a change professional, come to us and we will give you a selection of position descriptions, tell you what skills they need, we will help you interview them, we will put them in the mentoring program and we will also provide them with access to a knowledge base that gives them consistent information.

4. That sounds terrific! Is this sort of community a practice something that is rolling out in other parts of the government?
Yes, definitely. I go out and spruik it a lot. There’s currently a community of finance professionals that’s been going for 4 years and that’s chaired by as someone who actually works for me and we’ve actually, in the meantime, established a community practice for HR professionals, for IT professionals and we are just about to launch Legal. The model that we’ve used is now being used in different areas of the NSW Public Sector. I’ve gone to Victoria and Canberra to speak about this and the states are very, very interested in picking up the model and extending across their states as well, because the benefits are huge. It came from the Schott review. Kerry Schott did a big government review about a year ago now. A whole section of the Schott Review talks about communities of practice and the benefits that they can bring to the NSW Public Sector, and we really should work together to establish as many as possible to strive for those benefits.

5. Can a change manager make a great knowledge manager, and vice versa? Or do you think these are discrete skill-sets that complement each other?
It is my personal opinion—and I have had people who have done knowledge management for many years—I fundamentally believe that a change manager should have a really diverse mix of skills to really be effective in the business, and knowledge management is one of them. They have to be holding each other’s hand. It’s like saying you’re doing change without comms or you’re doing change without an HR understanding. You absolutely have to have an understanding of knowledge management and that the effect that it would have to not use a change management approach when you are doing knowledge management would be diabolical, as one could say. I think that they absolutely should be integrated. When you are talking about a skill set, you can’t say that one human being has a complete skill set, but I think what’s fundamental to Change people is they understand the role that they play in knowledge management and knowledge management people should understand the role that Change and change management has to play in knowledge management. One without the other is only 50% success.

6. Looking back on the work you’ve done internationally, have you found some cultures more adaptable to organisational change than others?
Absolutely! I spent pretty much six months living across Western Europe. I came with the perception that particular cultures were going to be more difficult than other cultures and that perception was 100% wrong. When I went into Germany, I found their level of structure, their level of discipline, their level of delivery that was so high, that it was one of the easiest implementations I’ve ever done. When I went to France, the culture, the lack of structure, it was the hardest migration I did. It wasn’t just language barrier, it was—and I don’t think people understand, and which I didn’t until I spent a lot of time overseas—is to absolutely understand that culture is so important to actually drive any type of change. You have to understand how that culture thinks and what they do and what their disciplines are and what they think works, and what their hot buttons are and desire points, and that’s even harder to do in a non-English speaking culture because you’ve got everything else on top of understanding the ways that people think. But there were definitely some cultures that far outweighed others when it came to delivery.

7. There’s no doubt that the introduction of a knowledge management program requires an amount of cultural and organisational change, if you could give one piece of advice what would it be?
I think when you look at what knowledge management is, the key words in the definition of knowledge management say “enable adoption of insights and experiences” and I just think of that word enable—that’s Change language. You absolutely have to understand that knowledge management is about people and if you are going to be successful in anything that you do, you need to take people along the journey. If you are going to get people to change what they do with the process, they way they think, what they do to get their information, what they are used to every day, and you’re asking them to do something differently, you absolutely have to embed and understand those people and build their desire to come along that journey with you. If you don’t apply fundamental change management principles to anything or knowledge management or anything else like that, people will not come on the journey and change will not be sustainable. For all of us, in every piece of work that we do, and knowledge management being one of them, we want that change to be sustainable and we want people to adapt their behaviour to use the system differently, to step up in things they are doing. In order to do that, we have to apply basic principles around people, which is what change is.

Thanks to Jeanette for taking the time to share some of her experiences in change and knowledge management. You can read more about the KM Congress on these two posts.

KM Australia Congress 2013 – An interview with Simon Cheng from Ernst & Young

Simon Cheng is the knowledge leader for Ernst & Young’s Transaction Advisory Services in the Asia-Pacific region. He’ll be giving his session, Why should your CEO care about knowledge management?, on the second day of the KM Australia congress. The programme brings together lots of interesting speakers and case studies from a range of industries and sectors. In this interview, Simon talks about knowledge management in a global accountancy firm.
1. You’ve been at Ernst &Young for many years and, in fact, started out as a Tax Manager there. How did you find yourself in a knowledge leadership role? Were you identified as having an affinity for KM or did you forge a path?
At the time, it certainly felt as if I was forging my own path as, arguably, I fell into a KM career by accident.  During my time in tax, I did not envisage myself leaving.

However, in 2005, our knowledge team in Hong Kong started to expand its operations and actively recruit within the organisation for people interested in a rotation to a knowledge role.  At that time, I had a very limited understanding of KM but was loathe to turn down an opportunity to learn something new.  During my initial talks with our CKO, he was able to paint a vivid picture of what the knowledge team was trying to do and the value that they were trying to bring to the business.

I was sold.

Our vision of bringing together our people’s shared knowledge and experience, of enabling them with the right content, tools and experience so that they could be responsive to our clients; of empowering them with the insights that make a difference in the market – all of these combined to open my eyes to a world that I had never previously imagined.  It was this vision which prompted my move away from tax and into knowledge.

With a bit of hindsight, I believe I was probably destined for a KM role eventually.  Even during my time in tax, I had been involved in non-client facing projects related to improving our workflows and transfer of knowledge.   I didn’t recognise them as KM projects then but they would lay the foundation for my eventual journey into KM.

2. What sort of issues does knowledge management inside a large accounting firm address?
On a broad level, some of the issues faced are:

Diverse service lines (audit, tax, transaction advisory services and advisory) – Our service lines are very different from each other. Then, within each service line, we have numerous different service offerings. The issue is that each of these service offerings has very differing knowledge needs. As you can imagine, trying to manage these diverse knowledge needs so that we can share across the organisation using a common language and common tools requires an approach with high flexibility.

Hundreds of communities (geographic areas, industries, sectors, service lines, account teams) – One of the biggest benefits of a community with a shared interest is the ability of members of that community to connect with each other with a shared culture and language. However, when communities overlap, we have to look out for any issues around sharing cross-community in terms of culture, language as well as convenience.

Constant change and growth in the market – It is widely acknowledged that the one constant in our current market is change. From a KM point of view, this means that our KM approach, tools and processes must also be constantly reviewed to ensure that they are still relevant and providing the right information and insight to our practitioners to enable their service delivery.

Staff who are highly mobile and remote and who collaborate across the above communities – It goes without saying that all of the systems and tools that we set up are worthless if our people don’t have access to them. The nature of our work means that our people need to be able to access our repositories, our communities and our working papers even while on the road. This is particularly problematic given the stringent security requirements resulting from our handling of sensitive information. Then factor in other concerns such as legal and privacy issues which vary from country to country and you very soon find yourself dealing with very pragmatic issues beyond the realm of “pure” KM.

A significant proportion of our population is recent graduates, who are accustomed to new technologies such as social networking techniques – The explosion in popularity and influence of social networking has been amazing to see. Naturally, we need to cater to the requirements of our users in terms of how they share knowledge. However, while social networking has opened up new avenues to drive knowledge sharing, the challenge is in finding the right balance between the push-pull strategy given the new tools available to us.

3. KM is often touted as a way of gaining a competitive edge. Is this part of the pitch to a CEO, and do you think the message needs to be different across the government, NFP and private sectors?
KM as a competitive edge is always included in the pitch although we may not always specifically label it as such. Instead, we try to focus on the strategic goals the business is trying to achieve and identify how KM can be used to help the organisation achieve those goals. In this sense, it is not KM itself which is the competitive advantage but KM matched with the right organisational strategy (although it is worth mentioning that KM can also be used to help define the right organisational strategy).

I believe it is this practical approach to demonstrating the value of KM which makes KM equally relevant regardless of whether you are working in government, NFP or the private sector.

4. Often there’s a groundswell for knowledge management at the lower, operational levels of the organisation, but that group hits a wall where they may need more budget, resources, or even just an emphasis on strategic importance from higher up. What’s been your experience and do you think KM initiatives can be grown from the bottom-up in this way?
Leadership support is a key requirement for any KM initiative to succeed.

This is based on my own experience in implementing KM initiatives as well as being echoed by our people who, in their feedback to us, indicate that visible leadership support of the KM initiative is important to their own adoption. From a practical point of view, the challenge becomes one of placing ideas generated by the lower, operational levels of the organisation in front of leadership.

Innovation is important to Ernst & Young and we have adopted various programs and tools to drive the generation of ideas from our people. For example, within Transactions Advisory Services, we use a global online innovation platform to capture ideas from all levels of the organisation with people having the power to vote for those ideas which resonate with them. These ideas are monitored by the Innovation Advisory Board, which has the authority to take the best ideas and turn them into real projects (with an invite to the original idea submitter to take part in developing that idea to fruition).

5. Do you think some industries, more than others, have a propensity for good knowledge management practices, and why do you think that might be?
I don’t think that any particular industry is better suited for good KM practices and in fact, am constantly amazed at where good KM practices spring from. Even if we were to only restrict ourselves to looking at award winners, you can see a wide range of different industries represented in the annual global and regional MAKE awards where, for example, previous winners have come from consultancy firms to consumer product companies and from both the private and public sector.

6. What do you think are the important qualities for a knowledge leader to have?
Team building – In many ways, this is a critical skill and applicable from the very start of the KM journey all the way through to the end. At the start of the KM journey, it is important for the knowledge leader to build a good rapport with the business leaders so that the business issues can be understood. Even after the KM project is approved, actual implementation invariably requires support from different functions within the organisation (for example, even something simple like building a central repository for stored knowledge would require IT support). Lastly, building rapport with end users is important to enable the adoption of the new tools or processes and, potentially, corresponding culture change.

Communications – While linked to team-building in some ways, this skill is important enough to warrant separate inclusion and covers many aspects. Firstly, active listening is important so that you are addressing the actual needs and issues faced by the business. In addition, the knowledge leader needs to be able to communicate the vision that KM is trying to achieve and drive the messaging around new tools and processes. As you would expect, good presentation skills are invaluable.

Project Management – Ultimately, it is the ability of the knowledge leader to deliver actual results which will determine whether KM is adding value to the organisation. And when it comes to implementation and delivery, project management skills are critical. While it’s naive to pretend that every project will end on time and within budget, good project management skills will give advance warning of potential pitfalls and surprises while giving leadership confidence that you are able to keep things on track.

7. Can you share your best tip for anyone who may be about to pitch a KM strategy to an unsuspecting manager?
Don’t sell KM – sell a solution to a problem the manager is dealing with.


Thanks so much for your time, Simon. Find out more about this year’s KM Australia congress.

KM Australia 2013

Coming next month is the KM Australia congress. Held at Luna Park’s Crystal Palace function rooms on July 23-25, the congress will be featuring some great international speakers and interesting workshops. In fact, if you’re interested in learning more about Knowledge Centred Support, Simone Moore and I will be conducting a workshops in the afternoon session on the 25th. If you’re a knowledge manager, KCS is a methodology you can apply to any support situation to speed up resolution, bolster self-service, trim costs, and keep knowledge flowing between customers and operational staff.

It promises to be another great few days of learning and networking with other passionate KMers. This year’s Chair is Cory Banks, and I asked him what he expects the hot topics for 2013 to be.

“There are two sides to this. There is what I believe people want to know and what people need to know. I think people will want to know more about how to use social technologies to enhance knowledge sharing in organisations. I think in the current economic climate, people need to know how to communicate the value proposition of KM in their organisations context, focus on how it relates to business performance (bottom line) and how to get closer to the business through good stakeholder engagement and knowledge brokering.”

The format of the KM Australia Congress is conversational. The speaker presents for 20-odd minutes, and delegates at each of the round tables have an opportunity to discuss the content and how it applies to themselves. The presentation closes with each table presenting their feedback and then some Q&A with the speaker.

“The KM Australia Congress is a great opportunity to practice what we preach regarding learning and transferring knowledge. You only get so much from a ‘talking head’ standing up the front of the room and telling a story.
Far too often, a person with responsibility for KM in an organisation ends up in a team of one, without any peers or colleagues to collaborate with, bounce ideas off or learn from. The Congress is the biggest annual gathering of KM practitioners in Australia from across industry and around the world. It is a fantastic opportunity to hear from the speakers, but also tap into the experiences of fellow practitioners through conversations. The format allows for this conversation to take place and hear a number of different perspectives, rather than just the view from the podium.”

I enjoyed the format last year, and I think I retained more because of the discussions. When you’re there to participate, you’re less inclined to zone out and play with your smartphone. And you’ll be able to do something new at this year’s Congress, while you’re hovering around drinking coffee and scoffing pastries. I asked Cory to tell us what will happen in the KM Conversations.

“This year we are looking to focus some of the background conversations that would normally take place during the morning tea break. This is being done by assigning an experienced facilitator to a table to take the conversation down the rabbit hole around a topic.”

Over  the coming weeks, I’ll be bringing you interviews with some of the Australian speakers who are involved with knowledge and change management in a variety of sectors.

Book Review: The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project - a business novelLate last year I was lucky enough to get an early preview of The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win. Written by what seems to be the holy trinity of the DevOps movement—Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford—the book has only recently been released and is already #1 in Amazon’s Information Management category. I can see why.

The business novel genre is not somewhere I’d normally find myself. Comedic autobiographies and Clancyesque action-fiction is where you’ll generally find me. But when the manuscript landed in my inbox, I started reading straight away. The Phoenix Project tells the story of an IT manager, Bill Palmer, being assigned the hapless task of fixing a chaotic and messy IT environment within 90 days.

When I met with Gene last October, we talked about our past experiences, we talked about our hopes and dreams, and we talked a lot about IT and the similarities between it and manufacturing. Indeed, The Phoenix Project is inspired by well-known predecessor of the genre, The Goal, by Eli Goldratt. And that’s why I’m late to the party with my book review, because I wanted to read The Goal, too. Well, I’ve read it now, so where’s my honorary MBA?

All kidding aside, The Phoenix Project absolutely succeeds in what it was set out to do—teach us good business and IT practices through storytelling. In fact, I’ve already had occasion to draw on scenarios from the book to help my own decision making in the workplace.

Even ignoring the DevOps angle to this story, so much of this book will feel familiar. You’ll feel like you’re reading about your own organisation. Every one of Bill’s colleagues are so amazingly representative of my own past IT colleagues, it’s a little discomfiting. Clearly, we are all just archetypes copied and pasted from one IT department to another across time and space. In terms of the characters, I came away from the reading with one small criticism. At one point in the book obstructive Chief InfoSec Officer, John Pesce, goes off the rails and is uncontactable, but then resurfaces a few days later, clean-shaven and helpful. We aren’t given an explanation and I closed the book still wondering what made him change his ways. Sequel? Nonetheless, my one gripe doesn’t impact the central plot.

The Phoenix Project is a compelling case study in failing fast and continuous improvement in IT operations. Experienced managers will love this; CIOs need to read this.

Snippets from the KM Australia Congress 2012

KM Aus 2012 at Luna Park


KM Australia, held over 2 days last week, proved to be a great event for a first timer, like myself. The venue is terrific, even on a quiet, wet day. The people were friendly and welcoming, and though we are all in similar roles, the vibe was certainly one of building new networks and reaffirming old ones. As an event, it seemed to succeed in making knowledge management look as boring as it sounds. Knowledge management really needs some dynamics to capture attention and draw inspiration, otherwise it all just sounds like stuff we’ve heard before. And I guess we really have heard a lot of this stuff before, but thanks to a number of experienced knowledge workers and speakers, there were more than a few a-ha moments in the audience.

Here are a few of the gems that I picked up on.

Shell Oil have created role in an increasingly digital landscape for those experienced staff members who are close to retirement. They have been inserted as moderators on Shell’s internal forums to answer questions, connect the dots, and surface the good stuff. – From a delegate in Richard McDermott‘s keynote “Free yourself and your staff to think”.

In the military, the high stakes mean every point of view is important to lessons learned after a battle. In a debriefing, hierarchy goes out the window and everyone involved gives their full account. Those lessons are then analysed and formalised for structured dissemination. (I think the commercial environment could certainly learn from this approach, instead of getting caught up in the blame culture.) – Lt. Col. Malcolm Conway Staff Officer Grade 1 – Learning, Department of Defence, Australia.

When brainstorming as a group, encourage even the bad ideas, because from those will come feedback that uncover the good ideas. – Signe Lønholdt, Online Community Editor, LEGO.

Give naysayers the role of beta testing new social enterprise or intranet tools, and listen to their feedback. This will make them feel privileged and get them on board. – Susan Camarena, Chief Knowledge Officer, Federal Transit Administration (USA).

Erin Ilgen from Toyota’s Global Knowledge Center, talked about Genchi Genbutsu—the Japanese art of learning transfer. It means go to the source to find facts and make connections for the right answers. She also showed a custom Salesforce Chatter solution that is used within Toyota and between Toyota and its partners to enable knowledge transfer across the world.

Jason Sharpe closed day 2 of the event with his case studies from Telstra. Tapping into the big data at their disposal, Telstra plans to predict the kind of knowledge they’ll need to provide before it’s asked for.


For a thorough look over the content of the event, Nicky Hayward-Wright has put together a number of Storify collections.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Explained

Gartner’s IT Service and Support Magic Quadrant is due for release soon, and in the words of Gartner’s Jarod Greene, “the players haven’t changed, but the game has”. I’ve talked about tool selection before, but that was before I’d even heard of the Magic Quadrant, let alone understood its purpose. Jarod demystifies it in an interview with me over at The ITSM Review.

You can hear more of Jarod Greene’s thoughts on the MQ on this ITSM Weekly podcast from March.

KM Australia Congress 2012—An interview with LEGO’s Signe Lønholdt

Signe Lønholdt is the Online Community Editor for LEGO. She’s making the long-haul journey out for KM Australia Congress in a few weeks. I can appreciate what an epic trip that is. We took a family holiday to Europe last year, and LEGOland in Billund, Denmark, was on our itinerary. Perhaps that means I’ve saved the best interview till last, but Chandi Kapur’s and Felicity McNish’s were just as interesting and I look forward to meeting each of them at Congress in Sydney. Signe will be presenting on day one, as well, with “Building Social Value in LEGO, Brick by Brick”.

KM Australia Congress 2012—an interview with Felicity McNish

Last year, Australian firm Woods Bagot won the Asian Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise (MAKE) Award from a shortlist on which they were the only architectural practice. According to this article from Architecture & Design magazine, Woods Bagot commit two percent of their business revenue to research and knowledge management; and much of that material is made accessible to anyone around the world.

Felicity McNish is the Global Knowledge Manager for Woods Bagot and she’ll be presenting “Mobile knowledge management: dealing with tools in the wild” on day one of the KM Australia Congress. She’s kindly given her time to provide comprehensive responses to my questions in the following interview.

KM Australia Congress 2012—an interview with Chandni Kapur

An annual event since 2004, the KM Australia Congress will be on again this July 24-26, in Sydney. With a focus on social media and collaboration, change management and culture, learning and performance, and communication and leadership, this year’s congress has a terrific lineup of speakers. There’ll be representation from the Federal Transit and Aviation Administrations from the US, the Australian Department of Defence, Telstra, KPMG, Toyota (US) and lots more. One of the highlights is bound to be the debate on capturing tacit knowledge using social technologies, but the one I’m really looking forward to is seeing Signe Lønholdt from LEGO, Denmark, talk about her experience as Online Community Editor.

For those interested in knowledge management, it will be a great event packed with case studies and real life strategies. I’m pleased to be sharing a few brief interviews over the next week with LEGO’s Signe Lønholdt, Woods Bagot’s Felicity McNish and today, Rio Tinto’s Chandni Kapur.

NSW KM Forum — 28 Feb

I came up to Sydney on Tuesday to attend my first NSW KM Forum evening. These events are held on the last Tuesday of each month, only go for around two hours and have been running for about six years. If you’re a knowledge wonk, it’s a great little networking opportunity. If you’re interested in knowledge management and are trying to improve it in your organisation, it’s well worth attending. The forum members are from a wide range of industries and all willing to share with and learn from others.

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