Knowledge Management in a Law Firm: Yes, It’s a Thing

giammarco-boscaro-380903-unsplash What does knowledge loss cost a law firm? If an attorney leaves a firm, usually knowledge loss is considered in the context of the loss of an individual attorney’s area of expertise and their relationships including the clients that might leave with them. The problem of knowledge management in a firm, however, transcends relationships and even the attorneys themselves.

In an article on legal knowledge management, the focus is on what has historically been called records management with an extended nod to efficiently managing electronic assets such as email. This addresses part of the problem of retaining expert knowledge in a traditional framework.

Forward-looking firms expand their definition of knowledge management to include the value of many types of knowledge – not all of which is legal or relational – and what might be lost to the firm if that information isn’t captured, preserved and able to be transferred as an asset.

Consider:

  • Automation: Begin to consider automating functions once considered human – think legal secretaries. One lawyer who lost the secretary upon whom he relied for support will be doing that job until a replacement is identified at a high cost of losing his billables while doing a job below his pay grade. What parts of that job can be automated or supported virtually to allow a bridge between the different humans who will be sitting in the desk thus retaining important functions beyond individual persons?
  • New tools for capturing, preserving and transferring knowledge: It’s not just what your employees know, it’s how they know it. If you wonder how your wunderkinds think, find out. Give them tools that capture their thought processes so you can replicate how they see the world. Those tools exist, and they allow younger associates to learn how their more experienced counterparts make decisions and craft arguments.
  • Corporate culture: A professional world is often a world of egos and personal value. No, an individual is not irreplaceable, but another valuable individual is different. It’s important to capture the essence of the value of a high-profile, charismatic person to replicate the style as well as the substance of that individual as part of the culture of the firm that you want to preserve to retain your competitive advantage with clients.

As in many other professions and industries, it is difficult to completely inoculate your organization from knowledge loss. Particularly in fields such as the legal profession where personal privacy and data security are acutely critical, capturing and retaining your expert knowledge has unique challenges. Yes, your departing employees will take relationships and tacit knowledge with them. You can’t prevent that. You probably already create barriers to prevent personnel of all types from taking digital assets with them. Beyond that, your employees are storehouses of value some of which may be captured and preserved to retain your edge in an increasingly competitive and cost-sensitive environment.

Is it time you do a thorough knowledge scan of your law firm to find out what you need to preserve and where you need to bolster your assets?

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

 

Use Your Subject Matter Experts as Part of Your Data Quality Initiatives

pankaj-patel-516482-unsplash  An article in the autumn issue of strategy+business  Digital Champions discussed the imperatives of linking all IT systems across the organization to be able to compete, excel and innovate. Certainly, as data is used for decision making, you need to link all pieces of your information architecture together in a way to create an intelligent organization. That means getting data quality right.

First, data quality requires essential tasks like making sure your inputs are accurate. And it goes even further than that. Getting data quality right means that your assessments of your data are also accurate. You’ve got to know what it means and how it is likely to impact you to truly experience the power of the information you are gathering.

For that, you need more than your IT team. Think strategic. Think long-term. And think about involving your experts from across the organization to make sure you are interpreting your information in a way that you truly have an intelligent system.

Here are a few ways to engage your experts in your cross-organization data efforts:

  1. Involve them in determining the parameters for quality inputs.

Your experts understand what defines accurate data in their own field. Involve physicians, chemists, engineers, human resource professionals and so on when you are creating parameters. The values you have been using may be outdated, or the ones set my standards organizations may not apply to your special case, for example.

  1. Ask them to help you rank projects and initiatives by importance

This is where your business teams are especially critical. Your executive team knows best the direction of your organization, so make sure to start there. Then drill down to find out the order in which things should roll out both from a practical perspective (you can’t implement B without making A operational) and which functions are most essential for running the business day-to-day so you don’t trip up your current operations.

  1. Make them part of your documentation teams

After you’ve built it, you need to capture what you’ve done so it can be maintained, built upon and improved over time. Documentation is essential to information management. People need to be able to use it, know where to find it and train others on it. For that, make sure your experts are involved in documenting your systems because they understand the logic behind them and can put the content in context. Sales managers need to be involved in documenting software used by their teams, and so on.

  1. Leverage their experience to help you integrate your initiatives across units, divisions, etc.

No man is an island, and no data capture effort can stand on its own, either. If it is important enough to capture and analyze, it has impact beyond your own part of the organization. Involve people who understand impact upstream, downstream and who know where the bridges are that cross the stream. Cross-check your data gathering efforts with the people who will use it or will be impacted by it in all pockets of the organization and outside the organization – like your customers, suppliers and wholesalers.

  1. Include them in your long-term strategic planning process

We usually think of strategic planning as the province of the executive team and the board of directors. When you dig down into an organization, you have experts in pockets everywhere who may hold vital pieces of information who may contribute to altering your plans or even redirecting them completely. Your experts in different areas will see things in the data and trends that impact your direction.

The quality of your data is only as good as the parameters you set when you determine what to collect, the integrity of the inputs, the way it is organized and interfaced, and the way it is interpreted. Each one of those phases requires experts across the organization who “get it” when it comes to their corner of the world. Find them and ask them.

Photo by Pankaj Patel on Unsplash

 

 

Build Your Business Muscle with Targeted Knowledge Management

Chubby wrestler

If you throw a lot of training at a problem, you might be getting some results but they may not be the exact results you need. Too much training with too few results is a sign that your corporate learning might be top-heavy with learning programs built to solve ill-defined problems that don’t focus on clear business solutions.

You can tighten up your flabby programs when you clearly identify your knowledge gaps and define the exact behaviors that will close them. Then make sure those gaps align with your strategic plans.

In fact, LinkedIn Learning’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that executives want learning leaders to more closely align training programs with business objectives. Business leaders are overwhelmingly asking for learning to reflect business imperatives and make an impact on the business.

Leadership Craves Impact and ROI_LinkedIn

All of this begs the question: What is the best way to design your corporate knowledge management efforts to align with your business objectives?

The answer to this question is evolving because the technology to create a robust internal corporate knowledge management is improving all the time. While the tech exists now, you still need to have a clear vision of the knowledge you need to capture to get you where you are going.

Just to get started, here are a few overarching ideas to consider as you create your knowledge management plan.

  1. Be clear about where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. And yes, tomorrow means your 1-year, 3-year, 5-year and beyond strategic plans. These plans get fuzzier the farther out you go because a lot is changing on the ground but it is good to have some general ideas about where you would like to be.
  2. Figure out who your experts are that know how your business runs and thrives today. Some of them will be retiring and some of them will be the bright bulbs you just hired. Identify the things you need to know and the people who know it.
  3. Finally, begin to consider the best ways to capture the knowledge you need to know to secure your current position/customers/contracts/business and what you need to capture or acquire to meet your long-term strategic goals.

Yes, that’s a lot to think about. So over the next few months, we’ll start to dig into each of these areas in more detail. Stay tuned.

Succession Planting for Retiring Experts

This article is also posted at the International Federation on Aging website here.

As a newbie gardener, I subscribe to lots of gardening magazines and email lists to get up the learning curve as quickly as possible. This morning, I received an email about succession planting for a bountiful garden all season long. For those who have been cultivating a lifetime of knowledge, we also have waves of harvests. And it seems that the rules for succession planting in our gardens also make sense for succession planning for our lifetimes of contribution to the world around us.

Growing meals throughout the season means consistently looking forward, and reaping harvests from your education and experience means looking forward, too.

Let’s apply the 6 tips for choosing appropriate crops for succession planting to succession planning for your ongoing contribution to the world:

  1. Rotate plants in season. After you have harvested the value of your education and experience in one career, use that bed of knowledge to prepare for your next adventure – be it volunteerism, consulting or starting an enterprise of your own. Your prior experience will help lessen the chance for failure.
  2. Sow or transplant a small amount of seeds at one time at regular intervals. Make sure you have several little projects and interests in play for a well-rounded life. Your new business doesn’t mean giving up your volunteering. One thing may always lead to another.
  3. When planting late in the season, choose plants that can be enjoyed young. When you embark on an adventure completely new to you, choose one that you can enjoy immediately, like learning a few chords on the piano that allow you to play a simple three-chord song for immediate gratification.
  4. Switch varieties for switching weather. As your life changes, or as your mind, body and emotions change, be prepared to try a new hobby, interest or career path more in tune with who you are becoming.
  5. Consider how two plants share a space and interplant complimentary varieties. Think about the people around you, how you can build teams and community, and how you can serve others. Life is more fun lived with and for others.
  6. Transplant and sow directly. Sometimes you want to take skills and abilities from other parts of your life and earlier career paths, and use them in your current pursuits. Some other things can be started from scratch so you can always be learning something new.

Life is, indeed, our garden to nourish, grow and enjoy. With some care, you can reap harvests throughout all its seasons as you continue to mature, contribute and participate while sharing your unique gifts, talents and experiences to leave everything better than the way you found it.

Imagining Knowledge in the Age of AI

K35621_cvr  Artificial intelligence, data, analytics, neural net, computer-human interface…these aren’t the future. They are now. For those of us with a foot in the age of human intelligence and a foot in the age of artificial intelligence, it makes us wonder: so what do we make of what we know, if we (as humans) may become irrelevant?

It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.

This blog will be brief because the idea is huge, and I want to give us all time and space to ponder this one thought.

Humans are finite, at least for now. We have a limited lifespan. For generosity’s sake, let’s call it 100 years. And then we take what we know with us when we go.

Some of us have preserved our thoughts, ideas and creativity for future generations, but let me venture to guess that most of us have not.

For millennia, without that knowledge capture, preservation and transfer, we kept starting all over.

All that changed with the printing press, and accelerated rapidly with video and audio capture. Look at the rapid proliferation of knowledge, now doubling about every one or two years because we are able to continue to build on what came before.

So what is the threat of AI to human intelligence? Here it is…

Computers don’t die. Teach them to think, and they will keep thinking and growing and learning and eventually…well, their intelligence surpasses that of any human simply because their learning curve is theoretically infinite.

This is what all the fuss is about.

I leave you with that.

And encourage your thoughts and debate in the comment section or send an email at workingwithsmes@gmail.com.

Oh, by the way, my latest book, Retaining Expert Knoweldge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload, was published in hard cover on May 10 and you can buy it here. I just noticed that a Kindle version has been added. Thank you for your continued interest!

 

Working with Retiree-Experts and an Encounter with a Growing Business Niche

raul-varzar-405846-unsplash

Experts who know home construction or music production are not usually experts in how to package and sell their services. So when they are facing retirement – whether or not by choice – the desire to continue to serve often burns within them. If you are that retiring expert, how do you offer your services outside the structure that your old job provided?

A 2013 survey by AARP showed that 23.6% of new businesses were started by entrepreneurs 55 to 64 years of age expecting another 15 to 20 productive years. I have personally worked with several vital octogenarians in the past few years who were still actively contributing while taking steps – such as writing books and building training programs – to preserve their legacy.

Some retiring experts find a way to offer their services ad hoc to friends and former colleagues. But others get more deliberate about creating a business of their own. In fact, retiring experts have created a boon in a niche market teaching business skills to people trying their hand at entrepreneurship in their second career. Experts retiring from one field seek other experts who know modern marketing, sales and revenue-generating techniques to handle the business details for them. Last week, I attended a conference of about 200 experts – many of whom were building retiree or second-life businesses – sponsored by a company based in Montreal that teaches experts how to handle the business end for themselves.

Combining Expertise and Business Acumen

Often, successful enterprises are based on the subject matter expertise of person and the business acumen of another, and that combination can make a big difference in the world.

Think Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. We know one name so well and the other…not so much. Jobs and Wozniak are the dream team responsible for the first personal computer and the company that came to be Apple. Jobs knew computers but he really understood business, marketing and his customer. Their dynamic pairing demonstrates that many great businesses are built on an expert who joins forces with an entrepreneur who can envision the possibilities.

The experts at the Montreal conference each paid close to $20,000 for business support over the next 12 months from this team of business building experts. Obviously, this company found a lucrative niche by filling in that business knowledge gap helping experts to monetize the value of their specialty, and for both parties I imagine it is a good deal.

Not all experts want or need to monetize their expertise commercially. Sometimes the satisfaction of passing on your hard-earned knowledge in front of a college class or in journal articles is more than enough reward.

But for experts who are looking to build a business on a lifetime of knowledge, there are people building businesses to help you. AARP can’t be wrong. With nearly a quarter of new businesses started by entrepreneurs of retirement age, any expert with a passion can live the entrepreneurial dream in the second half of life.

Perhaps we can start a club: E. R. A. Experts of Retirement Age.

Are you in a corporation losing its expertise to retirement? Your expert may thrive in retirement. Let me help you review your knowledge management plan so your company can thrive after they leave, too. Contact us at workingwithsmes@gmail.com

 

Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

 

 

The Online Course Opportunity and Your Expertise

jazmin-quaynor-392995The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is typically one that is slow or completely non-existent for business. Traditionally, I use that week to do a lot of offline activities to plan for the upcoming year. This year I took two great online courses, and decided to build one of my own in 2018.

First, the plan.

The last few years, I went through Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever online course and found it very helpful in the way it structures your planning process, challenges your assumptions, pressure tests your goals and is full of logical advice. He has captured the course in a book that launches today, Tuesday January 2, and if you grab it now it comes with some bonuses available until the end of the week, Friday January 5. His bonuses are terrific  and will help you apply what you learn in the book. If you are still in your planning stage for 2018, I recommend it. Here’s a link that will get you the book and bonuses.

As part of my 2018 goals, I am going to build an online course to accompany the launch of my next book due out later this year. The book, Retaining Expert Knowledge: What to Keep in an Age of Information Overload, takes the Working with SMEs series into some new territory. Writing this book met one of my 2017 goals to write a book with a major publisher, and I am very happy about meeting that goal. (More about the upcoming book in later blog posts.) Writing a book is just the first step, however, because it is getting the book and ideas out to the public that is the most important part of the process.

As part of that effort, I am going to build an online course to help readers apply the content of Retaining Expert Knowledge to their areas of expertise and their companies. Which leads me to the second course I took last week.

Executing the Plan

Big plans are accomplished one small step at a time. As Michael Hyatt says in his course (paraphrased), you only need to take the next small step to attain big goals. If your goal is big, hairy and audacious enough, you won’t know exactly how to get there. Hyatt advises that you set goals outside your comfort zone and take the very next small step that you can see, and it will usually appear in the form of resources or some kind of help that you need. That is exactly what happened. I had signed up with an elearning hosting platform, and they offered a course to make the most of your investment.

For three days, I delved into how to use this particular online platform and now I am very excited about building and presenting an online course for Retaining Expert Knowledge.

The course reminded us:

  1. Online learning is mainstream.
  2. Education is now lifelong.
  3. People want bite-sized information.
  4. Information wants to be free.
  5. The size of the online opportunity is about to explode.

Learning from Experts

For those experts who read this blog and the trainers who work with them, that list tells us that we’ve only just begun. As knowledge and information explodes, we have so much to share and people have less time to absorb it. It is a great time to share what you know and do it in a way that you can reach a lot of people.

Massive amounts of information are free or very inexpensive. Because information is free, you have to earn the space you take up in someone’s brain. Keep it short. Keep it relevant. And provide value. Blogs are one of the new “free information” sources, as well as endless streams of webinars, podcasts and more.

That is why when building a course for sale, experts need to build premium courses.  Your Expertise 101 is free, and Your Expertise 301 premium course has some price attached to it as well as support that helps your learners apply the information.

Today is the first workday of 2018. It is exciting to do what we love. And it is equally exciting to share what we love. If you are an expert in some area and have something to share or teach, think about the fact that adult learning is all-the-time, online, bite-sized and much of it is free.

You don’t have to wait to be asked. Get out there and share what you’ve got. People want to know. You can be part of the knowledge explosion.

 

Make 2018 Your Best Year Ever!

. Lost305656_YourBestYearEverHyatt_posts12  No matter how good your life is, isn’t there one thing you want to  achieve that has exceeded your grasp until now? Time to saddle up. With two more weeks to 2017 on the calendar, it’s time to come up with a plan to reach your next highest level.

Let me recommend Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever online course and the new Your Best Year Ever book for goal-setting and goal-achieving.

Many of my readers are experts, executives and people who like to excel. Because I know that you like to make the most of life, that is why I call this to your attention to this program.

Last December, I jumped into the Best Year Ever online course through one of the Best Year Ever affiliate partners, Ray Edwards, top-drawer copywriter for people like Tony Robbins, Jeff Walker and Hyatt. Those of us who took the online course with Ray benefitted from his support, wisdom and humor all year with online support groups in real time. It was fun and provided a level of interaction with others that was truly helpful in moving some of the mountains in my life and getting me unstuck when things got tough.

[To take the course with Ray, here’s a link that will get you support through Ray Edwards International.]

Working through the online Best Year Ever course over five days for an hour each morning between last Christmas and New Year’s Day, I looked at all areas of my life, saw where I was already living large and places where I wasn’t living very well at all. I made some adjustments, I worked hard during 2017 and had a lot of support from Ray’s team. I moved a few mountains…well, at least, got a few scoops of dirt in my shovel…in some important areas.

The 20 pounds I wanted to lose? They went to the Lost and Found. I lost some and most of them found me again.

The book I wanted to write? Check. My first professionally published book combining much of my work is slated to come out early in 2018. More on that as we get closer.

My finances? Meh.

I learned a few things. One is that you can really make massive progress in a few areas of your life and check off a few important boxes. In other areas, you can continue to plan, line things up, course correct and continue.

That’s what I am doing for 2018. Because I took the journey in 2017, I can recommend enthusiastically that if you still have a few mountains to move, this is a great way to do it. You’ll go through a self-assessment and goal-setting process that will reveal some things to you and show you the way forward. And you’ll get year ’round support from people who have done it before. The course has a few options, some with online support and some with a live conference option.

Your Best Year Ever program has been a bright light in 2017 for me. Therefore, it has  been an honor to be part of Michael Hyatt’s launch team of 500 believers who are promoting the book version of Your Best Year Ever. No, I don’t get paid to say this. I do, however, get the satisfaction of being part of something valuable and being an evangelist for something worthwhile.

For those of you who don’t know about Michael…

Michael Hyatt is the grand-daddy of online leadership mentors and a role model for entrepreneurs. Among the recent proliferation of online businesses owners and self-published book authors, Hyatt stands out as the one who cut the trail, the one who went first and showed others the way. He built a very successful online business with a lot of self-discipline, planning and focus. He has broken down his methods in a series of online courses, books and live programs.

Hyatt first came to my attention as the CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing, the company I knew as the publishers of John Maxwell’s leadership books. Maxwell is iconic in the leadership industry. If Hyatt led that company, I figured he is the real deal. He is.

To get started making 2018 Your Best Year Ever, click here to take the Best Year Ever online LifeScore survey find out where you stand now in all domains of your life. Then decide which mountains you will move in 2018.

For those who would rather read the book, it will be available January 2, 2018. Here’s a link to pre-order Your Best Year Ever the book.

NOTE: There are several different links that will lead you to the Best Year Ever online course directly through Michael Hyatt, one that will lead you to the online course with support from Ray Edwards International, one that will take you to a page to pre-order the book and one that leads you to a free online LifeScore to get you started.

 

 

Can Experts Teach? Well, Sometimes…

aaron-ang-61849   Yesterday I met for coffee with an expert in operational efficiency. He runs workshops, and he observed that the experts he has met have trouble teaching what they know. He said the best teachers are people who are middling performers – people he described as performing at 60 to 80 percent of someone who is excellent.

Because middling performers have had to work so hard to be good enough, they understand how to acquire their craft, skill or knowledge. They know the steps so well because they figured them out so they could attempt to replicate greatness.

Greatness, on the other hand, just is. And people who are great, just are. They can’t tell you how they do what they do because it is instinctual and innate. Therefore, my coffee companion concluded, it is pretty hard to get a great person to teach a class or teach anyone anything effectively.

This observation is the basis for the Working with SMEs book in which I describe the innately great person as an unconscious competent, they don’t even know what they know, so they have trouble telling others. The book explains why the conscious competent –  the person who knows what they know and how they learned it – is the best teacher of a craft, skill or knowledge. In their struggles, the conscious competent has put the building blocks in place to acquire something valuable.

We can probably all think of exceptions to this situation, but for the most part, he was correct.

Mel Torme – arguably one of the greatest jazz singers of all time – recorded a master class for PBS in the early 1960s where he described some of his technique. On the other hand, when you observe his face and mouth, and listen to his tone, you know how much of what he did was purely instinctive and based somewhere in his soul.

Imagine Picasso teaching someone how to paint. Then look at Guernica and imagine the mind that conceived those images. That greatness came deep from within his soul, and went far beyond paint, brush and canvas to the very meaning of existence.

For a genius in the world of science, read Ray Kurzweil who imagined artificial intelligence and leads humanity to the next level of possibility through technology.

Hard to teach that kind of inspiration.

To find a teacher, look for someone who has broken down the components of a piece of greatness into replicable chunks.

To find your own greatness, look deep inside yourself and find your truth. Everyone is a great something, and your soul knows what that is.

Photo by Aaron Ang on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Vantage Point of the Expert Takes You Out of the Instructional Design Box

ben-white-197668  Twice this week, experts around me reminded me about the unique way they see the world and how it impacts the way their knowledge gets passed on.

In fact, twice this week I faced experts with important lifetimes of knowledge within them who had thought deeply about how best to package and move that information beyond them to others who can benefit from it. In both cases, their solutions are unique and complex but necessary to the tasks they have set forth.

Touchy-Feely

One communications expert is searching for ways to teach his very unique skill set to the several generations behind him. Like any skill, acquiring and mastering it takes physical practice. The value of his method has been proven over decades and he is recognized for his system by world-class organizations. But beyond the one-on-one practice sessions where he teaches his system, the long view requires setting up a practice pattern among participants until the habit is engrained in the students and the system is part of a culture.

In a world where we communicate mostly via smartphones and computers, it is increasingly difficult to engage people for extended periods of time in face-to-face human interaction. Yet in a time of increased human-to-device interface, the human interaction required for interpersonal skill practice has never been more important.

The basic skill set requires two humans –  not a human and a computer-based role play or a human and a disembodied AI voice. While those two options were my first thoughts, this expert makes it clear that the lessons to be taught and the skills to be learned require human beings involved in the process over time.

This expert’s dilemma highlights that learning technologies won’t fit all needs, and we are faced with the limitations of moving this type of skill to an online platform.  Only the expert understands his system well enough to transfer it, and he has come to realize that he will need something akin to 12 disciples who can carry the practice forward by geometrically dispersing the interpersonal skill practice required.

By the Book

The second expert is a process genius. Quite simply, he sees patterns in numbers and relationships where others only see isolated data. He has a lifetime of imposing order on what others perceive to be random information, and doing it in a way that saved and makes corporations many times over his value as a consultant.

Today, as he considers retirement, he is assembling his lifetime of knowledge into a searchable database of information. Each individual business insight is broken down into steps. The project will involve 100 or more related experts before it is through.

This challenge is more about organization than content, as the actual content is straightforward. However, each bit of information relates to the whole in several ways which creates an interwoven matrix of content that must be easily cross-referenced.

The Expert Knows Best

Two experts. Two radically different areas of expertise. And two completely different approaches to capturing, storing and transferring knowledge.

Proving once again, working with experts is as individual as their knowledge, their backgrounds, and the unique characteristics of what they have to offer. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when you are working with true experts with a lifetime of knowledge, skills and attitudes that led to great success. They have put a lot of thought into developing their areas of expertise, many hours teaching others, they know what works, and it pays to follow their instincts when you are capturing it for posterity.

Sometimes your expert is the best source for how to transfer what they know. Best not to try to squeeze them into an instructional design box because their expertise just won’t fit.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash