Saturday, December 29, 2007


A week ago, in the middle of the week, I went on vacation with my husband to a ski-school. Do not misunderstand me; I did not travel to Switzerland or some other pastoral place you may imagine, just to a big hall, with some big simulators, near Tel Aviv, in Hertzelia, Israel. To those interested in the idea, this is probably a useful way to exercise ski skills for those who are not skiers, leaving the trip to ski sites enjoyable as possible. However, this is not the topic I wish to share today on my post. I will only add, before continuing, that I am not big sport and when I tried once to ski (really, in Switzerland), it was not as easy I would wish. Well, this time I found myself, twenty minutes from the beginning of the lesson, holding the trainer with both my hands, begging her not to let go. This young woman was someone that half an hour before I did not even know her name. And here I find myself putting my faith in her, and trusting her more than I trust people whom I know months and years.
Trust. Trust is something that usually is built up after a long period; after some acquaintance. It is true that in extreme cases (and fear) this period may be shortened. This is a usual technique performed in various workshops. However, we are speaking about a process. A process in which, step by step, we open to others and enable them reach us, starting the trust.
Trust is a significant component helping the knowledge workers performing their job. All Knowledge Management philosophers have spoke on trust and its influence on our readiness to share knowledge. I have written, in one of the first posts, on the importance of knowledge sharing to the success of the job of knowledge workers. Trust, of course, is an important component aiding the performance of all workers, also those who stand in the manufacturing line and feed in materials. Nevertheless, the significance of trust grows in the case of knowledge workers. For them, the motivation and the integration with other employees are key factors for success.
As we understand building trust, or more precisely nurturing it, is not that simple. We are speaking about a composed process, very sensitive one, hard to build, but too easy to destroy. The process turns even more complicated as the manager has to nurture three separate zones of trust, to do with the knowledge workers they are in charge of.
First, a trust feeling has to be built so that employees believe and trust the manager and the organization. Nurturing values as authentication, honesty and organizational transparency can be practical ways to built up trust. Bringing to minimum, the times in which we speak and act differently, being honest not only to employees but also to customers and competitors, aid and may bring the employee to trust the manager and the organization. I believe that the best way to bring employees to trust me is to trust them.
However, trust should not only be aimed to the manager and organization. The manager has to nurture an atmosphere of trust between the employees. Tools that can help here are diverse: Encouraging shared activities after work hours, or activities not related to the job (trips, eating together, etc.); building cellular billing programs so that conversations between employees do not cost them. Informing employees when their colleagues are missing from work, wherever possible, bringing them to take an interest one in another; reminding birthdays; publicity of professional successes; running events with families etc. The trust is built in enlarging circles, where the most important circles are the close one, those where frequent interfaces take place. It must be noted, that this is the easiest circle of trust to nurture as people hold face-to-face meetings.
The last zone of trust is with the customers. As has already been written above, when elaborating on trust toward managers, reciprocity is critical. In order to have a customer trust us, I should be authentic and honest with him or her. To really want their benefit. To trust them. There is no place here for fakes. If I do not dignify the customer, if I do not open to him or her personally, if I do not treat them as a person and not only as a professional, it will be hard to buy in their trust. Unless, of course, I find a way to bring them to some extreme situation, as the ski story in the beginning of this post. This strategy is not recommended!
The journey to trust is long, but the results are very satisfactory. The effort is worthwhile! Not only for the knowledge worker. For me.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Working from home

Working from home. This is a capability born thanks to technology, but not less, thanks to many of us being knowledge workers. Production workers, having all wonderful technologies of Internet, laptops, Emails and cellular telephones will never be able to work from home. Also some knowledge workers cannot work at all, or at least, part of the time, from work. Appointments with customers, meetings in the office are still part of the tasks, better performed out of home. Yet, it is obvious, that we have advanced regarding to ten years ago or more.
I’ll state in advance, that I’m not speaking about full time working from home. This is possible sometimes, it is more common in some places in the world, but this is not the subject of this post. Here I write about working out, in the office and/or with customers, but combining working from home from time to time.

Why to enable working from home?
For many reasons. First of all, it saves the worker or the organization travel costs. But more important than that, time is saved. For most of us, that do not live near to work, time saved can sum to two or three hours. Indeed, very significant regarding our free non-sleeping hours. We live in an era where life and work are mixed and almost blended. We receive private calls on work time. We get and send SMS’s during meeting, trying to see what’s happening back at home, or why the Pizza did not arrive on time. At home, we continue to receive calls from work, and mainly, to write and receive Emails, many times, until the late hours of night. Those of you who dream to cut these relations and imitate the way our parents used to work, will probably be disappointed. Work-life-balance experts say that the levels could lower; It is recommended to turn off the phone and computer when having guests, going to parties or to the movies. But true reverse is probably impossible. What can be done, is to compensate; to enable technology that brought all these, to work in our favor as well: To encourage our employees to work in more flexible hours, so they can take the kids out from the kindergarten or school and continue working later out; to enable our employees to arrive a bit later, after rush time and start the first hour from home; to enable them to work, one day a week, from home.
Working from home gives us much more than time savings. The organization benefits, in some level, by operational savings. In most cases work is more effective, comparing to the same work done in the office. But the main benefit is in the change of spirit and the good feeling for the employee. I personally, from time to time, take a day off, and work from home. When I see that the day I planned is near, and was not yet cancelled by some urgent meeting added in the last moment, I admit to feel happy. On regular days I wear suits to the office. On days I work at home, I always wear jeans; deliberately. It is part of the making the right atmosphere. For some employees, the ability to work at home enables them to accomplish arrangements and fixing at home without taking a vacation day.

When is work from hope applicable?
The first condition, of course, for working from home, is that there is a back office work that can be performed at home with no specific software unreachable from home, no tight work with colleagues or meetings everyday with customers. It is not wise to work at home and speak all day on phone with the office or the customer.
Not less important, is the ability of the employee to be responsible to work from home. Not to stay in pyjamas; not to peek on TV; not to go in and out of the kitchen 20 times a day; to know to say no to the children who do not understand how is it that Mom or Dad are working and unavailable, even though they are home.
Knowledge workers are highly independent employees. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that they will have work to be done at work. Therefore, it will also be assumed that they have the responsibility required for working from home.

What is the manager’s job?
The manager should not enable, automatically, working from home, to all employees, in all conditions. The manager has first to clarify the responsibility required and check if each employee indeed can work from home, effectively.
The manager’s responsibility (or this can be defined organizationally) is to decide how frequent to enable work from home (once a week, once in two weeks, or once a month).
The manager’s job is to supervise the work from home and see that the employee does not postpone important tasks, just to be at home, and to see that the employee indeed knows how to work from home effectively.

By enabling working from home, we tell our employees, in one more way: We trust you!

Working from home is beneficial for the employee, and not less, for the organizations.

Your opinions are welcomed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thoughts regarding Knowledge Management

For those who don't know me, I work, live and breathe Knowledge Management, for the past nine years. Knowledge management is not the same as managing knowledge workers. It deals with preserving, sharing and creating the organizational knowledge, using well defined methodologies and focusing on organizational business needs.
A week ago I met a colleague that was in the KM industry for many years and left. He is busy nowadays in some totally different area- the entertainment e-business. The truth is that I was surprised. The person was one of the first people in Israel that dealt with knowledge Management, and he ran a successful company in this area. His PhD. was about knowledge maps. I was even more surprised from the speech I was to hear within a few minutes:
You are brave, so he said; Knowledge Management will fail as a discipline. On the one hand, he flattered me having the strength / the will / the innocence to continue on with Knowledge Management; he was very happy to hear that I am working nowadays on my PhD. in Knowledge Management. On the other hand, he recommended me to leave and find something else to earn my living on.
Why leave? I asked. The Knowledge Management discipline, he explained, is against human nature. People do not will to share; Organizations are afraid, especially from the power that comes with managing KM. Most organizations that started large projects of Knowledge Management, he added, stopped after two or three years and in many cases even fired the CKO's who led the process. I started running scenes from the past years in my head. Yes, there were several organizations that did not continue on; and yes, there were CKO's that have left their job, not always in best circumstances.
There was something in what he said. Too many times I remembered Knowledge Management projects ending because of problems and struggles between people. The more I thought, KM was in all cases the victim, not the trigger for these struggles. One time, there was this CEO who believed in KM (and some other great ideas) but did not believe that he had to communicate any of his ideas to the managers who were supposed to actually share. The day he left, and one of these managers took his place, all the good ideas, including KM, were cancelled. In a different case the CEO worked directly with the KM activities manager, although there was a manager in between (the boss of the latter). The intermediate manager was not part of the process. At the first chance he had, after the CEO was replaced, he cut the budget off. Sorry to say, but there are more examples, and at least in both organizations I spoke about, there were already success stories and benefits yielding from the Knowledge Management activities.
Isn't knowledge an important asset, critical for organizations' success? I asked this colleague. Very important, he answered. That is why there are so many struggles around the issue. So why stay?
I left the place worried and troubled. Am I just stubborn as it is hard to recognize truth, bring so deep involved?
I find myself thinking about the issue a lot since. I do believe in people; I want to believe in them. I believe in organizations, and I believe that if Knowledge is an important asset, even critical, organizations will manage it, and even positively. It must happen, as it is the right thing to happen. It is not enough to find ways to manage the knowledge workers. Knowledge itself must be managed. The two are interconnected, and of course there are even overlaps. But these are two defined disciplines: Management and Knowledge Management.
I learn a lesson here regarding management of knowledge workers. Many of the ideas these workers will come up with, will not be trivial. Precisely these innovative non trivial ideas will be the ones most difficult for the organization to accept. There will be people in favor, but probably more not. People and organizations are afraid from exchanging the existing with the new. People are terrified when a good idea comes from someone else and try to object, many times until the idea is proven, and even sometimes even later. Our job, as managers, is to enable. Not only to enable the idea itself and help its progress in the practical level, but also to enable it's acceptance by people. And that is not easy.
I hope I did not leave you with a melancholy impression. I promise to some happy and smiley posts in the future. I promise, for those that wondered that I am not leaving Knowledge Management. Not now. Too much yet has to be done.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Employment absorption

Recently, one of my employees has left. The hiring process was successful. He fit. He contributed the company and the company contributed him. He left as he received a better opportunity elsewhere, managing a staff.

I am sorry and a bit sad. He could have developed and achieve professional success in our company. Life continues on. We will continue developing with the others.
I could have let go and say that always there will be better opportunities, no matter what we give or do. That is correct. But one must not stop there. That is an easy way out. Every process of changing place of work includes two sub-parts: Part of leaving the existing and part of entering something new.

No doubt, that leaving us, in this situation, was a result of not good enough absorption. You may ask how long did this employee work in the company? Indeed, this is a fair question. He was with us nine months. So long? How much does it take to take someone new in and teach him or her the job?

That is the topic I wanted to discuss and share: Employee absorption.
Hiring a knowledge worker and teaching the job takes a year, at least.

Because nowadays, most jobs differ from organization to organization. Think about the knowledge workers in your organization, or even better, think about yourself. Try to remember what you did before, and before, and how different it is from your current position. This is the era of knowledge: Processes of work are roughly defined; the knowledge toolbox, with professional, organizational and market defined aspects, are those who make the job what it is. And these change rapidly.
That is why employment absorption takes time. That is why employment absorption is not a trivial process.

The best way to learn, as researches have discovered, is by experience. But this process is expensive, risky and not satisfactory by itself. Expensive- because if performed in a radical way, it does not take existing knowledge into consideration; risky- because of the performance results, in the apprenticeship period; and not satisfactory by itself, as different people learn differently. Every person needs a different mix of: learning from ideas and concepts, learning from case studies, learning from seeing others (reflection) and learning from doing (See Kolb- "Experience as the source of Learning and Development").

The way a new employee has to be taught includes training; both general unified training, with which we start, combined with personal training, catching a more significant role later on. The general training gives the essential foundations of knowledge, necessary for better understanding of the job. The personal training fills in the specific absences, but more important than that, it is tailored to the learning style of the person to be trained.

Some points to emphasis on:
  1. Expectations of the new employee have to be adjusted, so he or she understand that it takes at least a year until the job is understood thoroughly, and one can step forward.
  2. The manager's responsibility is to analyze what the worker does not know that he does not know (that is the tricky type of knowledge). This is not a one time analysis, rather a routine. Practically, it is recommended to set training meetings in which, through open conversation, professional topics are revealed and dealt with.
  3. Stepwise loading of tasks. The sooner we appoint diverse tasks, the more time it will take to adjust. Tasks? Yes; loading? All right; but diverse? Stepwise. Otherwise, the absorption process will turn out to be longer. This may sound trivial, but if we rethink the issue, and remember it as a 1 year process, it is less trivial.

And the last tip, maybe, the most important: There are no shortcuts. I knew about all the points above, and usually, that is the way I manage. Yet, I made a mistake. I forgot (or chose to forget) that there are no exceptions and no shortcuts.

I paid the price.



Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hiring people to work

Hiring people, like any other management process, is not new, whatsoever. Today we read many articles discussing the matter, as we are again in a growing environment and companies are hiring a lot. I personally, as much as I hate bureaucracy and always look for the short and practical way to do things, feel that I myself am part of turning the hiring process in my company to being complicated and not so simple at all. Why? As everyone else, I am afraid of a hiring process that is not successful enough. First of all, I see the employee that may be asked to leave. Setting off an employee is always a very unpleasant situation. Companies should not hold people who do not fit in; but we always have to do everything we can to avoid taking people and replacing them. Every time we fire someone, I believe, we leave a scar in his or her heart. I admit that I have fired several people in the past years. When I do so, I try doing it while leaving the employee with their dignity and I try learning a lesson from each episode, in order to make the chances of the next time I'll have to stand in a similar situation, smaller.
Beside the personal sadness, firing people in order to replace them with others is a business loss. It also is a personal loss for the people left in the organization. We encourage our employees to develop an informal relationship one with another. Some of us (like me) call it "family value"; others use different superlatives. Good inter relations develop into good working environments and trust. Trust enables sharing and knowledge development, besides it giving each one of us as a worker a good feeling when we enter the office every morning.
The bottom line- We hire not to fire. Indeed simple. So why to write on it? And what is new looking in a knowledge perspective?
Looking in a knowledge perspective can give us some points to emphasis on:
In an era of knowledge, a worker has to learn a lot during his or her stay in the organization along the years. Sometime, the amount of learning exceeds the practice with which the employee arrived. The ability and desire of the candidates to learn are not less important than their professional experience.
In an era of knowledge it is important not only to know, but to be able to teach others and learn from them. It is not enough to learn from books and from the Internet. The ability to work with others, teach them and learn from them is essential to choosing the right people.
In an era of knowledge the workers choose the place they work in, not less than the organization chooses them. Adequacy between the organization's values (the real ones, not those on the office walls) and the personal values of the worker, will aid contribution of the worker to company's goals in the future. We have to remember that people do not stay for money only. There always will be someone somewhere else that will offer more. Employees want to feel that they are achieving their goals and working the "right" way; Organizations have to have the same feeling regarding the employees working for them: The managers have to have the feeling that each employee is part of the progress of the whole. A personal conversation with the candidate can be the way to test the adequacy. A conversation about goals and wishes; a conversation about what the employee likes to do in his or her free time and what make them happy. Such a conversation should not be held by the HR department. Organizations are built from smaller groups, each with its sub-values and ways of doing things. A conversation held with HR, seems too theoretical. It is better that the manager of the group will hold such a conversation and personally take such a decision.
Yes, there are other points that can help, but I tried to put down in this list the major ones: Learning ability, sharing ability and value adequacy.

Did I fall when hiring people? I sure did. But, I improved. And I'm still working on it.
I would appreciate hearing from your experience too, especially from the knowledge perspective.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Who is the worker that we manage?

Twenty years ago, while in the army. I managed a group of ten employees. I wasn’t trained, I hadn't learnt how to manage, yet I believe I did a fair job. Today I manage people and I feel as if it is an altogether different job; a different type of management. I especially identify with the saying that managing ten people is not 1 times managing 10 but 10 times managing 1 person. Every person has to be managed differently, every employee needs to be spoken to and heard in a unique way. It took me several years to understand that the way I manage my employees is no less important than developing the KM dogma (my profession). What has changed?

At first I thought it was me. Over years I have matured, some would say I grew older. This is true. I look today differently on life and what is important. But I don’t think that explains it all. Workers in the 21st century are not the workers we had 20 years ago. Industry is changing. These workers, that Druker called knowledge workers, act and develop differently from the manufacture workers that were so typical in the 20th century. In this post I shall try to define the profile of the knowledge workers. How did I learn who they are and how to work with them? Partly from experience, partly intuition, a lot of reading (especially in this context from Druker's books) and some things I still do not know. Like many others I also make mistakes. I err and try to improve myself; sometimes with success, sometimes with less.

The knowledge worker is an independent worker. He makes most of his decisions by himself and first of all he decides every day whether to continue to work in the same place. If in the past people came to earn their living and were dependent on the organization, today we stand in a totally different situation. Salary is not enough for the knowledge worker. Don't misunderstand me they indeed get a nice salary. But the knowledge worker is seeking for more: professional satisfaction, a nurturing environment and possibilities for the future (see Herzberg's theory on hygiene conditions for work). Druker states that we have to treat our knowledge workers as volunteers. We have to convince them, almost on a daily basis, to continue and work voluntary with us. This is definitely not an easy task and one that we would be happy to reject but probably that choice is not ours.

What else can be said about knowledge workers?
A knowledge worker needs a lot information and knowledge in order to perform his job. This of course is no surprise since he is named "knowledge worker". Yet it should be clarified that the information and knowledge are not static. What characterizes the knowledge worker is that his knowledge is developing constantly and not just from doing his job. We must leave time for the knowledge worker to read and learn: to learn from professional magazines, from reading books, from wandering in the internet and from conferences and inter-organizational meetings. A knowledge worker who does not develop his or her knowledge will eventually experience difficulties in achieving success. I must confess that even 5-6 years ago i tried to maximize the business working hours for all of my employees. LAter on, I learned to include professional training on a monthly basis. Today I know that this also is not enough. I encourage my people to write articles. Working on an article includes in addition to the writing itself also reading, analyzing, arranging thoughts and materials, and building a concept. I doubled the training hours; I include other types of learning in addition to lectures and probably all of this is still inadequate. Is this only because I deal with an innovative developing profession (Knowledge Management)? This is partly correct. Around me I see my customers all of whom are dealing with developing professions and innovative aspects: Hardware engineers are dealing more and more with software and integration; pharmaceutical researchers are constantly developing chemistry expertise knowledge and also knowledge from biology, genetics etc. Insurance agents, who used to offer me exactly what was told them from their Insurance companies, work today with many insurance companies. They offer different types of life insurances, loans, health insurances and other financial products; all, working with various companies and offering me the best suit (for me or for them). One of my customers, dealing with child fostering, spends important time learning the models of fostering that work best in other countries. I can continue and give many more examples from various content worlds. The picture is clear: Workers are knowledge workers and those that do not constantly develop, no matter how experienced they are, will find it hard to continue progressing. Without relying on existing wide knowledge future success is not guaranteed.

An interesting fact, deriving from the above, is that the knowledge worker knows, for his or her specific tasks, more than the manager in charge. Even if managers have grown in the same area, they cannot be experts on all of the sub-areas within their responsibility. Always there are some in which they have no experience, always the knowledge they have was correct at the time it was learnt, but is not necessary enough today. As is well known, the world is developing fast. This indeed is a challenging situation. Most of us managers, up till today, have our managing authority based on professional authority. For myself, I can say that I learn from experience and actually know knowledge management methodologies (my professional expertise). I have learned at university math and computers. I always lack the knowledge of my employees who learned industrial engineering or organizational behavior. I always lack the knowledge that my employees developed yesterday and the day before while I was busy managing the company.
The knowledge worker is autonomous. Even though surrounded by teams, each one has to specialize in specific tasks, collecting, filtering, analyzing and deciding according to the information and knowledge gathered. But the knowledge worker has to know how to share. Not only share decisions but to share information and knowledge that can help others perform their job better. Sharing, and even teaching, is part of the knowledge working job. It helps others and it also helps the knowledge worker who understands better his or her knowledge after discussing it with those who were taught.

Knowledge workers manage their own time; they make their own decisions; they multi task much more than in the past.
In more than one manner we, the managers, manage managers. This of course changes the way we ought to manage.

Is this good? I believe it is. Not because we don't have any other choice but to adjust. I believe that we, as managers, develop personally from this challenge of managing knowledge workers. I can say for myself that I do.
And I know that when I succeed the satisfaction is enormous. And so I also benefit.
Tired but satisfied (and now you know why).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why Blogging? Why me?


I would like to introduce myself. My name is Moria Levy, my age is 43, and I am the founder and manager of ROM Knowledgeware, an Israeli firm focused in Knowledge Management. I founded the company nine years ago. I also have a husband (Ran), four children (Or, Sapir, Tomer and Kfir), a dog and a parrot.

I write a lot, mostly in the Hebrew KM magazine 2know. I write many years (nearly a decade). I write on what I do- Knowledge Management. Up till now I wrote as I was educated in the university. My writing focused on Knowledge Management methodologies and was aimed mainly to people in organizations that deal with KM. As I wrote in Hebrew, this meant a unique group of a few thousands of people. My writing never spoke about me. I kept a distance leaving "Moria", the person, behind. So I was taught to be honorable. The person is of no interest; what is interesting is what he or she are writing.

The last year I'm feeling a change. One can find a lot of personal writing on the net. This trend started before, but on 2007 it has expanded rapidly. Like in other disciplines, we assimilate the understanding that connection between the rational and the emotional has a special potential. It enables synergy. Writing in a personal style gives every person the ability to better express him or herself and therefore better purify thoughts and ideas in this style of writing. The bottom line: This out-of-the-heart style writing triggers good quality writing.

This blog will be focused on management; Management in an era of knowledge. The 21st century is characterized as a knowledge century and we are knowledge workers. In other words, knowledge is a central component in workers occupation and success. The first to develop this perception of knowledge workers and knowledge workers management was Peter Druker. I will not broaden here on his ideas, as there is much to be said and it justifies a list of its own.

We, as managers, should act differently than as we did a world where knowledge was less central. The knowledge is so important nowadays, for proper work, that it affects all aspects of work and management: We must take it into consideration when we hire people (how do we choose appropriate employees when existing knowledge is so important, sharing it into the organization and expanding it is critical); We must take it into consideration when we think how to develop and cultivate worker and we deal with employees retention. We must take it into consideration when we analyze our core competences (yes, we are one small global village); We must take it into consideration when we think about our relations with our customers (think about the sick person coming to the Doctor with a list of medicines recommended in the Internet and specific knowledge that even the Doctor didn't know about); We must take think differently when we analyze our competitors (understanding that it is so easy for them to know what we know and what guides us in our activities); etc.

When I blog, I bring with me three dimensions of myself:

  • Me as a manager, dealing we all of these issues like each one of you, every day, every hour;

  • Me dealing with Knowledge Management and therefore very aware to the needs, the possible solutions, but also aware to how hard it is to really implement them into the organization;

  • And me, being a person, with values I was brought up to and over years crystallized me to whom I am today.

I do hope this blog interests you the readers and helps you thinking and dealing with management in the era of knowledge.

I hope to receive your comments and learn from them, as the talk backs do give us an additional dimension and enrich the readers and the writer.

I will be happy to hear from you ideas and issues concerning managing in the ear of knowledge that you wish I blog on in these lists.

It takes time for a good blog to materialize and find its place. I thank you in advance for your trust and patience.