KM Singapore 2013: Operationalising Knowledge Management for Productivity

KM Singapore 2013: Operationalising Knowledge Management for Productivity

by Madanmohan Rao
Editor, The KM Chronicles
Singapore; October 2-4, 2013

The tenth KM Singapore conference, one of my favourite annual KM events, kicked off this October with the theme “Operationalising Knowledge Management for Productivity” ( (See my earlier articles from KM Singapore 2011, 2010 and 2009: The event is organised by the Information & Knowledge Management Society (

I. Karuna Ramanathan, IKMS president

We are raising the KM discussion from beyond best practices to innovation, productivity, sustainability
IKMS began as a KM study group in 1998, formalised in 2001. Now – annual conference, publications, reports, awards
A new research report has been released on foundations and state of the art of knowledge management

II. Keynote address: Singapore’s Acting Minister for Manpower, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin

Chuan-Jin cites Kofi Annan: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
Human Capital Index (WEF): Singapore ranks world No.3 for making the most of its workers (quality, education, work environment)
RT @michellelamb embracing KM practices helps organisations to innovate and increase productivity, this is achieved when people feel they are learning
Chuan-Jin stresses that culture is as important as processes and tools for knowledge sharing
Tap the wealth of ideas and experience of your team
Make sure you spend time to think and reflect – step back before you jump into action

III. Tom Stewart, Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer, Booz & Company: The Right to Win, the Right to Grow: Using knowledge to drive productivity, growth, strategy

I began reporting on intellectual capital 21 years ago!
Productivity is about input/output ratios. Fun is in the growth part of the business
If you are not managing your organisation’s knowledge, you are not managing its business
The business climate: extreme. The state of strategy: confused. The role of knowledge: essential
Companies and economies continue to face strong headwinds. Competitive landscape has become broader and more complex
The geography of capitalism expanded by 3 billion in one generation.
Hot industries are now cooling off (over a decade)
Traditional organisations are ill-equipped for this 24/7/365 world – making big decisions in realtime in an uncertain world
You almost need to go from a 5-year plan to a 5-hour plan!
Only a small percentage of companies is both lean *and* ready to grow
Categories of strategy: Strategically adrift, distracted, capability constrained, organisationally hampered, ready for growth
4 categories of strategies: new high ground; core competencies; quick adaptation; execution
Core of strategy should be on identity and capability, not marginal issues like short-term competition
How do we create value, based on what distinctive competencies
Apple is best at bringing the user experience to its customers
Zara – unique business model, based on market insights, innovation, flexibility, rapidity and manufacturing
Categories of offerings: not required, basic capabilities, competitive necessities, differentiation
KM should derive from and shape strategy. Building capabilities, monetising the knowledge
KM has to make life easier and business better. Essence of competition is knowledge. How will you swim in the Blue Ocean?
Bi-directional KM can help resolve tension between growth and productivity. Pyramid: processes/tools, capabilities/content, strategy
Strategy: what knowledge makes us different (create barriers, makes us the best)
My Q to Tom: Most CKOs are from IT, HR, info backgrounds. How can they take on a more strategic role?
They should think of themselves as a Chief Capability Officer, building capabilities across the organisation, aligned with strategy
If KM becomes more strategic, the next 20 years of the discipline will be even better than the last 20 years
The 21st century knowledge leader must mobilise to respond to these crucial strategic questions: What 3-6 capabilities are essential for you to win? What are the KM requirements? How will you build these and deliver value?
Always a delight to hear Tom Stewart, his book “Intellectual Capital” is a landmark in the KM field!

IV. Deputy CEO, Workforce Development Authority. Singapore, Winston Toh: Operationalising KM: WDA’s KM Journey”

I will keep it informal lah! I didn’t attend KM courses, so I hired a CKO to implement KM in the organisation!
WDA – focus on employability and competitiveness of Singapore’s workforce. Lifelong learning
Winston: There are 33 Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) frameworks
Business management has 9 functional areas – organisational management includes KM, innovation, change management
KM Competencies – knowledge/info strategies, KM systems, documentation/processes, collate workplace information
WOW! WDA will cover 70% of costs of building KM capabilities in Singapore’s workforce via IKMS
WDA itself has its own KM journey. KM is a key enabler in its dozens of initiatives
Change has to be sustainable, so the first person I appointed was a KM head! Staff engagement important for KM success
Knowledge mapping took us 9 months. Dozens/hundreds of business processes, objects, initiatives, teams, tools
In 2011 we did a knowledge and culture audit. 104 stories, about org comm., sharing, documentation, process logic
KM archetypes at WDA: Tanya Rules, Busy Bee, Brains, Young and Restless, Sharing Susan
Aims of digital workplace – task completion, centralised communications, brand & engagement
WDA KM milestones: Research (interviews, roadshows, consultant), Communications (audit, public gallery), Plan+Do (validate, communicate, implement)
KM quick wins: remove red tape, induction knowledge for newbies, info accessibility, retention, sharing exchanges
WDA KM examples – one-stop search portal; First 30 Days Onboarding Guide (newbies, buddies, reporting officer); taxonomy; contact list; glossary
WDA KM examples – identification/profiling of knowledge champions (change agents); social media CoP; team leads CoP. Content-writing workshops
Critical success factors – communications, senior management visibility and support, staff conviction (short term + long term wins), KM supports business, centralised KM

V. Zaid Hamzah, Intellectual Capital Strategist; Director, Intellectual Futures “Emergence of the Intellectual Capital Economy: Perspectives of a Small Nation”

Singapore is like a yacht, not aircraft carrier
Metaphors for Singapore in Asia – like Boston, New York, Silicon Valley. Monetisation of KM key for success
China has many knowledge workers; world’s largest patent filing nation (though many are “junk”!)
Singapore has allocated S$16 billion for 2011-2015 for research, innovation and enterprise. Creating a Global IP Exchange
Need to understand the geography of complexity. Singapore is small, but IC & strategic knowledge can liberate it
Singapore’s assets – financial, country brand, operating assets (airport, port), trust assets (political stability, IP protection)
Japan, Korea, China together file 20% of the world’s patents, more than US and Germany
Economic transformation – from factor-driven economy to efficiency-driven and then innovation-driven economy
Market value of S&P top 500 companies – component of IP etc has gone up from 17% in 1975 to 80% in 2010
It has been a challenge for startups to get paid for their IP; banks don’t listen to them! That will change in Singapore in 2014
PDF: Singapore’s IP Hub Master Plan (IPOS)
Next challenge for Singapore – exporting its brand, not just importing brands (eg. educational brands like MIT, Yale)
Have you heard of world-class software products from Korea, Japan?
Creation of IPR as an asset class will be a new addition in Singapore next year (beyond stocks, cash, etc)
In Silicon Valley, Indians and Chinese have added IP/value in greater proportion than their population base
My Q to Zaid: How does Singapore fit in ‘creativity’ into its master plan for IP?
Singapore must ‘loosen’ up a little. Our education system is too rigid.

VI. Madanmohan Rao, Editor, The KM Chronicles (me!) on KM Metrics

Frameworks, examples, impacts, evolution, maturity models
Categories of KM metrics: Activity, Process, Knowledge, People, Organisational/business metrics
Key ingredients of successful KM: Connectivity, Content, Community, Culture, Capacity, Cooperation, Commerce, Capital
Reporting KM metrics: quantitative, qualitative, semi-quantitative
Metrics governance: assessment, revision, communication, response, cost
Examples: Wipro, Unisys, Accenture

VII. Thomas Thomas, Executive Director, Singapore Compact: “Leveraging on KM for Corporate Social Responsibility”

We aim to increase CSR adoption in Singapore companies. KM helped us harness and develop stories of our case studies
See our Website for CSR case studies, leadership profiles:
CSR is the way ahead for society, especially Singapore. KM is the way we enable the takeup of CSR in Singapore
Superb presentation by Thomas Thomas on the importance of CSR in the 21st century, and how KM methods have helped increase awareness/participation!
Singapore is experiencing growing inequity, CSR is important eg. paying living wages, caring for elders

VIII. Yong Wui Chiang, KM Architect & CKO, Singapore Army; Head, Doctrine Development Group: “My Journey as a KM Practitioner”

Half the Singaporean audience in has served in the national service (defense)!
Army KM: transferring KM across successive generations, updating military knowledge, validating efforts
Tacit knowledge – SMEs (subject matter experts). Explicit knowledge – Doctrine. Learnt/transferred via experience
Measuring km impact is like asking why you invest in your child’s education.
Need to convert doctrine into ‘accessible small chunks,’ adjust to the way people want to learn today
videos are important for knowledge transfer for the younger generation; customised training and e-learning
Need to teach employees facilitation, coaching, collaboration
Army Learning System: 1. Self-directed learning (accessible small chunks). 2. KM (insights, collective experience). 3. Learning networks (facilitation, coaching, collaboration)
Key for KM success – skills, teamwork, leadership. We have created an ‘active learning network.’
LEARNet Vision 2020:
Singapore Army’s action learning process: BAR (before activity review), DAR (during activity review), PAR (post activity review)
“I do” (Chinese proverb from Madan’s book on Singapore Proverbs) – is the hard part for the army.
KM should become second habit for our soldiers
Q: Can KM work in a top-down environment also like the military, and not just in democratic environments?
Not a problem, because the knowledge is focused on key skills like battlefield survival. Knowledge is seen as critical

IX. Terry Smagh, Vice-President, QlikView Asia: “Productivity in Analytics: Big Data and the Data Scientist”

Information workers are today’s hunter gatherers. Follow the information scent; use mobile and social networks
FYI: Terry’s articles:
Gartner – kinds of skills: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive (moving from recording to differentiation and innovation)
Big Data requires a specialized skill set and level of technological sophistication that ordinary business users don’t have
Complex data still has to be presented to business users in a way that is easy to understand, and which enables them to ask questions and to explore their answers
Maturity of data analytics adoption: record, differentiation, innovation, optimisation
Challenges – dynamic data (getting data into warehouse fast enough for analysis), immediate analytics
Use big data to close the social business loop – listen (big data), engage (community management), guide (strategy)
Terry presents how QlikView helped (Candy Crush game) analyse number of players, games played, time/duration of plays

X. Nick Milton @nickknoco: “Learning from Lessons Learned”

90% of organisations have made an attempt at lessons learning, but 60% to 70% were not fully satisfied
Organisational memory can be shallower than individual human memory
Experience is inevitable, learning is not.
Nick is author of “Lessons Learned Handbook” (7 years of KM @ BP)
Basic premise of lessons learnt – learn from performance, apply new knowledge, improve performance
Nick shows Kepco chart of nuclear plant construction – costs came down from 1995-2005. Value of lessons learnt can be huge
Problems with lessons learned:
1. Lessons identified, but not learned (root cause analysis, generalisation, documentation, validation, distribution, follow lesson). Teams involved: Project team, Investigation team, Senior management team)
2. Lessons database is seen only as repository, not a management system
3. Lack of quality control
4. Lack of governance around lesson-learning process
5. New learning not reviewed/discussed (no ‘learning before’)
6. Human factors
7. Learning at the wrong scale
Metrics – What percentage of lessons lead to closure? Aspiration – 100% of our lessons should be applied and lead to improved performance
The lessons database is where lessons often go to die! You need a management system for it: workflow with notification alerts to push lessons (not just waiting to be found), and metrics to track usage
Quality ensures that a lesson can be taught. Stories in context, with specific recommendations and references
Metrics – was this a $5 lesson or a $5 million lesson?
A good facilitator gets to the heart of the matter in capturing lessons. Moves from observations to underlying causation, with specific explanations and no ambiguity, and then updates procedural manuals accordingly
Many orgs do ‘learning after’ but not ‘learning before’ – new knowledge is not incorporated into plans
It is very rare to find a project framework which begins with ‘pull out lessons learned from previous projects’
Peer assist is the most powerful KM tool you can use, the silver bullet of KM
Governance – accountability for closing lessons; metrics for tracking lessons used; expectations of lesson application; high level sponsorship
RT @michellelamb RT @mikaela_iras: having a neutral party facilitate “lessons learnt” may be useful, esp if it turns into a finger-pointing exercise
Governance elements for lessons learned: Expectations, Support (training, facilitation), Performance measurement (metrics, KPIs)
Role of the lessons team: coach, process champion, process manager, usage monitor; added value: look for trends, weak signals
Human factors – culture. Wishful thinking, overconfidence in our memory, unwillingness to analyse (success: showing off; failure: weakness), habituation (normalisation of deviance – it’s ok if things go slightly wrong all the time)
Chinese saying: The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory.
NASA lived with its space shuttle problem and didn’t fix it; led to disaster down the road
Lessons learned are often only about tactics and not strategy
US Army is great at learning from tactics, but not from/about strategy. Learnt about avoiding roadside bombs, but what about national agenda?
Lessons learnt can be done. Metrics – less time taken to finish projects can lead to huge savings and productivity increases
Q: Many managers focus on doing things right, not doing the right thing. How can this be derived from lessons learnt?
KM is not just for employees, it is for managers and leaders too. They need to apply lessons learnt in their own domain also, eg. strategy

XI. Michelle Lambert “Shifting from Social Media to a Social Productivity Dividend” (internal social media)

70% of extra profit can be made through social technologies within the company (HBR)
20-25% productivity increase can be achieved through internal social media
A lot of time is spent on searching for things you know exist (30% of knowledge workers’ time)
The average ‘interaction worker’ spends 28% of time managing emails. Messages are also a form of content
Social productivity dividend = Change management + social technology + content strategy
Even successful change management can lead to some level of confusion and frustration
Survey – larger Australian public service organisations have less effective communication than smaller ones
RT @straitsknow @michellelamb shares case study of org who failed in info mgmt 3 times due to lack of change mgmt
You can post messages about change in lobbies, canteens, foyers and even the back of toilet doors!
Michelle showcasing data on content explosion, citing ‘InfoWhelm and Information Fluency’ video (
Change management components: Purpose, Pathway, Planning, People, Persistence
My Q to Michelle: What are the issues to overcome inter-generational differences in social media usage?
Use reverse mentoring to get youth to train elder digital dinosaurs in the company! But don’t generalise too much or make assumptions based on age, some managers are also good in social media
I am of the age when I remember email was introduced, and companies were worried about giving their employees email access!
Learn how to use social media within your firewall so your employees learn techniques and ethics; then you can turn it on outside as well
Q: What are the ownership, privacy and security issues of information with respect to internal social media?
Q: How to ensure social tools are not used in some companies for deviance and procrastination

XII. Carla Sapsford Newman: “Capturing Critical Knowledge in Organisations”

Fickle management winds can kill KM programs; defend/embed KM
Carla resorts to Grimm’s Fairy Tales as metaphor for KM journey! Grim turns but happy ending at the end :-)
KM is about marriage, not dating – need long term commitment
Need to allow for safe and (in some cases) anonymous feedback for knowledge sharing in organisations
KM is more than checklists, that won’t get you to the critical knowledge. KM is not the flavour of the month, and not a silver bullet to performance problems either
Top management should allow employees to talk past line managers and flag potential problems
Companies are averse to discussing failures, but should embrace it as a source of learning. Communicate failure in a culturally relevant way, not always necessary to write it down
Need to sustain KM, people’s expectations and trust rise after you launch it.
Challenges – KM results not seen as sexy enough.
Word of mouth is best ad/promotion of KM and tools
Common Sense isn’t common.
RT @mikaela_iras Common misconceptions about KM execs: IT helpdesk, bothersome change advocates, all play no work, profit parasites
Metrics – calculate also risks/costs of not doing KM, eg knowledge loss, what can’t be avoided, etc. eg. KM can improve safety and therefore protect brand (Chevron: $2B savings a year in 7 years from 1992-1999, 30% productivity gain, 50% improvement in safety)
Fear can be a fantastic motivator! Never let a crisis go to waste, show how KM could have helped. Every organisation has its internalised fears.
For long-term success, benchmark with other KM initiatives. Steer KM towards 5-10 year goals of the company. Build strong evangelists
KM should become buddies with HR and IT. Reward behaviour which improves employee + organisation.
My Q: How to harness fear as KM driver? A: Numbers can be numbing, need to show how can address manager fears, eg. market valuation

XIII. Vincent Ribière: KM, Innovation and Productivity: Combined approach of both disciplines

Globalisation: hearing a French accent describe KM in Thailand to an audience in Singapore!
iKlub (Info and KM Club) in Thailand has partnerships with France, Hong Kong, Singapore
Institute for Knowledge and Innovation, Southeast Asia: Bangkok University iKlub – The Innovation and Knowledge Management Club
Vincent reeling off beautiful quotes about innovation, creativity, initiative!
Need to connect operational cycle (routines, procedures) to innovation cycle (unlearning, speculation)
Learning forms in an organisation: intuiting, interpreting, integrating, institionalisation
Innovation does not happen in a vacuum, some of it includes recombination/extension of existing things/models (‘path dependence’)
Benchmarking – Great Ormond St Hospital, London, learnt from Ferrari F1 Pit Team about speedy handovers!
The hospital also learnt from dance choreographers how to help team members stay out of the way of others! ‘Discipline of quietness and calm!’
Best practices are like Western classical music; innovation is like jazz!
Me: Best practices are like the Bible, innovation is like the Kama Sutra?
Need different ways of looking, learning, leading. Cites Arthur Koestler “Learning from the Yogi and the Commissar”
“Innovation is also about being outrageous”
Visualising knowledge can be a source of creativity

XIV. Arief Amron Ariffin, MayBank: Nurturing a CoP for KM practitioners (Malaysia experience): Aspirations, forums, successes/failures

Malaysia started its KM initiative in 2000. “I am a student and will always be!” blog started in 2004; KM Association of Malaysia set up in 2005. 2011: KM Talk on FB. 2012: KM conference by BNM
Arief @ariefamron: Misperceptions of KM in Malaysia – it is about tech, it is a learning system, it is a variation of social media
KM should not become a silo, it should be connected to all departments. Should not be mis-sold as IT/portal solution and a temporary solution
Some people attended a 5-day certification programme and consider themselves KM experts!
KM CoP helps as a resource, sounding board, sharing platform
KMTalk CoP for KM in Malaysia has 155 members, largely Klang Valley based
How not to form local KM communities – formalise too early, politics, kill ideas, not communicating, giving up!
My suggestion to Arief: Get an academic partner (venue, faculty, student attendees), find a food/beverage sponsor!

RT @mikaela_iras A collage of the scribbles by the talented infographics people
Done with three roundtables on KM strategy! Other roundtables: social media, Intranets, etc.
Thanks to all speakers, attendees, organisers, sponsors, volunteers at #KMsg – see you all in 2014!


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