What do fighter pilots and accountants have in common?

I know this may sound like the leader to a joke but surprisingly, fighter pilots and accountants will have convergent work and training requirements into the future. Let me explain…

To gen Xers like me, it would seem there is a growing urban myth about our progeny – the “gen Y.” I must admit to being loathed to even make reference to our children in such a manner! However, there is cause to consider how the requirements of our workforce will change with the passing of the old and the entry of the new. The interesting thing is that in the large, these same requirements of our younger sisters and brothers will be required in all professions and walks of life. That is, from fighter pilot to graduate accountant, new graduates and early career professionals will have different expectations, beliefs, and capabilities.

I was reading a United States Air Force (USAF) document entitled “Air Space Cyberspace On Learning: The Future of Air Force Education and Training” the other day and it really made an impression on me. Here’s a description on the global environment the USAF is flying into:

  1. Greater competition for skilled labour will make it difficult for the USAF to maintain its current deployment. Therefore, The USAF will have to do more with less personnel.
  2. There is an “explosion of knowledge” unrivalled in human history, which puts pressure on the USAF to maintain its strategic advantage.
  3. Adaptation to new circumstances must be incorporated quickly into the USAF’s operational systems because there is little strategic advantage to be gained from technology itself – agressors will have access to similar resources and the difference between victory and defeat will become associated more with human capability rather than superior firepower.

Here’s a heads-up on a couple of ideas the authors had regarding training and managing career airmen and women in that environment:

  1. Collaboration tools will be critical to success. “Net Natives” (gen Y) have different views on sharing and privacy and social media environments will be an essential place for knowledge sharing. “Loose ties” and group accomplishment are defined preferences of these new workers and systems must be oriented to provide this functionality.
  2. Net natives have been raised in an environment where simulation gaming is ubiquitous. Therefore, tranining and working environments should be oriented to provide highly interactive experiences with clear learning objectives. “Serious gaming” will be a regular part of training, education and on the job experience.
  3. New “bottom-up” demands will be focussed on the provision of digital over traditional forms of work-related media. This will require the adoption of richer media and more complex learning management systems that can be accessed on any electronic device at any time. Mobile technologies will become an increasingly important educational tool.
  4. The USAF will need to invest in their personnel “to hedge against the vagaries of an uncertain and rapidly changing future threat environment. The USAF needs to dramatically improve its ability to operate in a cognitive domain and increasing the intellectual capital of Airmen and women will be critical to this effort.”

The similarities between the USAF and civilian organisations are profound.

These snippets should make us pause to reflect on our own management of employees and the parallels between USAF HR requirements and activities and those of the new millenium enterprise. Finally, these sentiments force me to realise just how much things have changed since the turn of the 21st century and I believe truly the best and most profound changes are yet to come. In the end, organisations who can retain their employees and manage their knowledge assets honestly and openly will be the victors.

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15 September, 2008 at 9:08 pm 3 comments

CPA Good Practice Guide and Forrester’s Groundswell Awards

Earlier in this blog, we discussed the benefits of wikis for knowledge management, using our Good Practice Guide as an example.

Since launching the guide in its new collaborative format as a wiki, we’ve had a great response from the members of CPA Australia in using it as a tool to access good practices. It’s also a good example of how we’re encouraging members to participate and share their collective knowledge and experience. And so we’ve entered it in the Groundswell Awards.

The Groundswell Awards are run by Forrester Research, and recognise excellent and effective use of social technologies to advance an organisational goal. Entrants are required to select from seven categories:

  • Listening
  • Talking
  • Energising
  • Supporting
  • Embracing
  • Managing
  • Social Impact

Each of the categories represent the types of change social technologies – such as blogs, wikis, social networks and social bookmarking – can be used to bring about (read more on the Groundswell Awards FAQ).

CPA Australia has nominated the Good Practice Guide in the ‘supporting’ category.

The supporting category is for initiatives that aim to ‘Help customers support each other to solve each other’s problems’ – and in the case of the Good Practice Guide you simply need to swap the word customer with member and you have the reason for the guide’s existence.

We believe the new Good Practice Guide is a great step in achieving our goal of helping members to connect and exchange. You can read our full entry here and vote for the Good Practice Guide on the Groundswell page. So do tell us what you think about it!

Also have a look in the managing category where our software vendor SocialText’s entry is listed.

Helen Mitchell
Manager Knowledge Exchange
CPA Australia

15 September, 2008 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

Web 2.0 Uncovered – Blogs

You are reading a blog right now, potentially if you read this blog you may read many other blogs, but do you have a blog of your own? Over on our CPA Congress blog, my colleague Alex Dalidakis discussed how blogging about your CPA Congress experience could prove to be a valuable exercise. I’d like to talk about a few other reasons to consider creating your own blog.

The blog is an incredibly powerful and flexible tool, it can be used in many different ways to achieve many different outcomes, below are a few of my favourites.

News feed / marketing tool

A blog provides you with a simple means of providing news to your clients and colleagues. The CPA Congress blog is an example of a blog being used as a news feed. Throughout the life of CPA Congress 2008 the blog will provide delegates with the latest information about CPA Congress and related events and activities. Providing news of your latest accomplishments and projects can also become a valuable marketing tool.

Learning space

There are two main ways a blog can be used as a learning tool, to learn from yourself and to learn from others. I believe the most powerful learning occurs when the two come together. I have a blog which I use to record my thoughts, challenges and things I find interesting about my work. Simply going through the process of thinking through an issue and constructing a post often leads me to inspiration I may not have found. I’m fortunate enough that there are a few very smart people who occasionally read my blog, the insight they provide through their comments and suggestions have provided ideas and resources which regularly help me to be more effective in my work.

Work log

How often have you got to the end of the month and felt like you have been incredibly busy but could not describe what you were actually doing? Taking ten minutes a couple of times a week to jot down what you have been up to can provide you with a couple of benefits. Firstly, you have a record of work that you have been doing that you can refer back to, and secondly you have a record of your work that your colleagues, staff or clients can refer back to. In this post CPA Congress presenter Keith De La Rue talks about the importance of capturing stories. Capturing and publishing stories of work, challenges, problems and solutions may open doors for collaboration that may have otherwise gone unopened.

These are just three reasons to blog, my main advice is give it a try. Start by recording a few thoughts, if you are keen to build a network around your blog comment on blogs about topics similar to yours (Google Blog Search is a good place to start looking for blogs). I started blogging after hearing several people talk about how much they had learned from the discussions they had participated in through their blogs. After blogging for 6 months I couldn’t agree more, the trick is to give it a try, be persistent and experiment. You may not realise the benefit in the first week but after 3 months you may well look at blogging in a completely different light.

Mick Leyden
CPA Australia

25 August, 2008 at 11:01 am 2 comments

Creating adaptive organisational designs

Organisational structure is a fascinating topic that has been the focus of much academic and practical research over the past century. The first metaphor I was taught as a representation of how a firm is organised was the “pyramid” where the workers at the base undertook operational activities that were coordinated by the next layer of management, who were guided by business strategy developed at “pointy end” of the pyramid of executive/senior management.

There were a lot of assumptions in this design:

  1. The knowledge and expertise was at the top of the pyramid
  2. The information flow was upward – management needed information to control operations and executives needed information to control the business.
  3. The more knowledge an employee had, the more likely they would be able to move upwards.
  4. Knowledge was trapped by systems (e.g. production lines, machines, etc.) and operational workers were employed as a component that undertook defined tasks within these systems. These tasks were “isolated” from each other and therefore workers became masterful at one part of the process, with little conversion between tasks.

The next step in organisational design was based on the advent of information and communication technologies that were seen to be able to “replace” line workers and provide better quality control through “business process re-engineering.” Furthermore, less workers meant less managers and considerable downsizing and flattening occurred to create sparse organisational designs where remaining managers had larger jurisdictions of control and authority and remaining workers were closer to strategy and executive. The results of this approach were mixed. While automation provided release to workers from mundane and dull tasks, much of the innovation potential and know-how of the firm was retired early, redeployed, resigned, or retrenched. While the bureaucracy of middle management had been slashed and operations were closer to strategy, most of the managers who had traditionally operationalised strategy were mid-career unemployed, struggling to find work, or taking up home maintenance franchise opportunities!

The flat organisation is still a major design artefact in many businesses today. However, more and more organisations are starting to obtain value through a network view of the organisation. The network view builds on the benefits of the flat organisation through providing “information and knowledge marketspaces” for stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, regulators, shareholders, etc.).  The networked organisation focuses on connectivity over control, enablement over isolation, and accountability over authority. The networked organisation creates a complex sense-making network where new ideas, information, and knowledge can be readily obtained because knowledge and information is dispersed across the organisation and beyond. The organisational boundary becomes very difficult to plot in these business environments and often “customer value” is obtained through the combined capabilities and outputs of multiple business partners or service providers. Furthermore, knowledge from these new alliances filters back to the organisation through interactions and “cross-fertilisation” of ideas between companies with shared interests, but different capabilities.

All characteristics of the networked organisational design point to a far more adaptive environment where people are central to processes because collaborative relationships are central to the business objective of sustained competitive advantage in existing markets and first-mover advantage in emergent markets.

Of course, there are many trade-offs with networked organisational designs and you should consider your business environment carefully before moving towards implementing these structures. Some of these trade-offs are:

1. Greater transparency – while this may sound good, careful preparation and management needs to be undertaken to ensure stakeholder support.

2. Spill-overs – opening up the boundaries means that security policies need to be invoked to ensure information and knowledge that is proprietary or secret is retained safely.

3. Head-hunting – employees often interact more with people outside of their organisation than inside at times and “going native” is more likely.

4. Reduced management control – information asymmetries are eased and therefore workers are more knowledgeable and more capable of finding “work-arounds” in the system. Enhanced ability to communicate gives workers a greater voice in the company and its operations. While the democratisation of the workplace can be a positive aspect of networked design, there are obvious negative repercussions if these liberties are abused.

In the end, I believe that diversity leads to adaptation, therefore,  the best organisational designs represent a fluid mix of pyramid, flat, and networked structures, which are knowingly invoked to satisfy particular strategic requirements.

18 August, 2008 at 2:04 pm 2 comments

Enterprise 2.0 Uncovered – Wikis

What’s in a wiki? Why wiki?

The wiki is a simple concept – it is a website that contains an edit option on each page. A visitor to the website can click on the edit button, change the content on the page, or link to another page on the web or within the wiki.

The wiki is a core tool in the growing suite of applications described as ‘Enterprise 2.0’: a phrase coined by Professor Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School in March of 2006. It describes the use of social media tools by organisations as part of their work practice.

Earlier this year blogger Toby Ward, posted this item that discusses some Enterprise 2.0 success stories. He does use the term ‘Intranet 2.0’ rather than Enterprise 2.0 but in this context they are interchangeable (Thanks to Melbourne KM’er Andrew Mitchell for the link).

CPA Australia recently re-launched CPA Good Practice Guide – in a wiki platform.  Here is the official description:

“The CPA Good Practice Guide is a collaborative initiative between CPA Australia and its members. The online guide provides members with a comprehensive collection of tools, procedures, templates and checklists that can be used in day-to-day business situations.”

The Good Practice Guide itself is a useful KM tool. But, you may now be wondering, why have you put it into a wiki?

The main reason is the flexibility it offers. CPA Australia has adopted an enterprise wiki. That is, a wiki which along with the standard wiki features such as simple editing, tagging and cross-referencing, also integrates with the CPA Australia website and provides us with detailed access control options.

As a result of this flexibility we are able to rapidly add new content and enhance existing content. We are also now able to encourage contribution from users. The CPA Good Practice Guide has always been created and driven by members, it seems a natural extension to encourage direct contribution.

Currently the CPA Good Practice Guide is private and in ‘Comment Only’ mode, meaning only CPA Australia members or GPG contributors can view the guide and provide feedback using the comment function.

At this stage the Good Practice Guide resources themselves cannot be edited. The access control settings allow us to start out with a locked down version of the guide and over time create new areas where contribution is encouraged. The beauty of this system is that formally reviewed content and member generated content can be separated and clearly identified within the same website.

The wiki is a simple tool that opens up many new possibilities, the example I have outlined above is just one possibility. We are experimenting with a range of smaller scale ‘behind the firewall’ projects within CPA Australia, I’ll write more about the challenges and benefits of some of these over the coming months.

Have you implemented a wiki project? Tell us your stories about how it went.

Also please don’t forget to complete our 5 minute Survey.

15 August, 2008 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

Tell us what you think!

The Business of KM has been a bit quiet for the last week or so but that does not mean we are stopping! We are always looking for ways to improve our blog.

Please take a couple of minutes to complete a short survey by clicking on the link below and tell us how you think we are going.

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Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Mick Leyden
Project Executive – Knowledge Exchange
CPA Australia

24 July, 2008 at 11:26 am Leave a comment

Service-Dominant Logic – Exposing CPA Australia’s K-Strategy

Service-Dominant (S-D) Logic is an important new mindset in business. The fundamental premise of S-D Logic is that organisations, markets, and society are fundamentally concerned with exchange of service where a service is the application of competencies (knowledge and skills) for the benefit of a party. Thus, service is exchanged for service and all firms, markets and societies are service-based.

The fundamental difference between the more traditional Goods-Dominant logic and S-D logic is that S-D logic embraces value-in-use and co-creation of value and rather than value-in exchange and embedded-value concepts of G-D logic.

S-D logic advocates that rather than firms marketing to customers, customers are co-creators of value and the nature of that value can only be judged by the customer. Firms therefore can only make value propositions and these are either supported (translated) or rejected by the customer. Furthermore, firms must leverage the co-creation of value with alliance partners within their value network.

Let’s turn our attention to Tony’s post – CPA Australia and the Smart Enterprise. With a little analysis, we can see the strong threads of S-D logic and its innovativeness in CPA Australia’s knowledge strategy:

Co-creation of value with members:
• “Leveraging the IP of our members for the benefit of our members” (Connecting & Exchange)
Co-creation of value with alliance partners:
• “Provide a wider range of technical and non-technical knowledge largely sourced from high-quality education providers under alliance/partnership arrangements” (Relevance & Reach)
Value propositions:
• “Provide knowledge through innovative media” (Anytime, Anywhere)
• “Provide a compelling and market responsive CPA Program & flexible entry pathways for global career advantage” (Market Responsive CPA Program)

The strong ties with S-D logic and the CPA Australia knowledge strategy shows foresight by CPA Australia in making it’s services at one with membership needs. The key to it’s success will be how you as members will embrace the strategy and assist CPA Australia and your fellow members through adding your own value through participation in the program.

I strongly recommend you spend some time reviewing: http://www.sdlogic.net if you are unfamiliar with S-D logic. I believe this “mindset” will be at the centre of future organisational success. Particularly in a world that is Web 2.0 enabled (see Mick’s post below) for customers to take part actively in co-creation.

14 July, 2008 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

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