(Not) Posting on Public Service work

August 25, 2007

Last post, Patrick Lambe commented if I could “work towards getting Australian public servants permission to talk about the work they do (so far as it does not affect national security)? We need to learn so fast as a profession, that this disabling of shared experience is crippling us.” 

Now I am all for breaking rules – except on the occasions when they would cost me my job!  In the Victorian Public Sector, we have an updated code of conduct that commenced in July this year.  Within our code of conduct is the following section (section 3.5 pg 11):

“Public sector employees only make public comment when specifically authorised to do so in relation to their duties, a public sector body, or government policies and programs. Such comment is restricted to factual information and avoids the expression of personal opinion. Public comment includes providing information or comment to any media (electronic and print), the internet and speaking engagements.

When making a comment in a private capacity, public sector employees ensure their comments are not related to any government activity that they are involved in or connected with as a public sector employee and make it clear they are expressing their own view. They ensure personal comments do not compromise their capacity to perform their public sector role in an unbiased manner, and that their comments are not seen or perceived to be an official comment.”

Now that clearly limits my capacity to post on the work that I do.  I could say that I am commenting in my personal capacity but even then, I am not able to publish on any work that I am involved in or connected with on the Internet, particularly my blog site.  So as much as I would like to post about the really interesting work that I am doing (like executive conferences, designing service strategies, linking strategy with data analysis, innovation and ideas management, critical assessments of performance, foresight workshops, etc), I find that my ability to do so is severley limited, if not totally constrained.  And I think that I have probably overstepped the line even saying that!

Despite that, I will test the boundaries where I can, and comment to the limits prescribed.  To respond to Patrick’s challenge, I’ll try and get permission where needed and look into challenging this wider system so that we can comment on how things happen internally.  Our new Premier has stated that he wants Government to be more open and accountable and I’ll try to help that along – to the best of my limited capacity!


Happy 1st Birthday Knowledge Futures Blog

August 22, 2007

Well it is one year today (22 August) since I published the first post on the Knowledge Futures blog. 

I had no real plans when I set out to have a set number of posts per week or any other goals.  Simply, I wanted to enter the blogosphere world, test the medium personally, self-publish some little snippets that I thought were interesting, and engage with others in the virtual world.  The kick up the bum to get me started was the KM Australia conference last year when I talked about infoluenza and people wanted to find out more about it (that paper still has not been written and is not going to be for a while yet!).  I’m happy to say that the word infoluenza is now in the web lexicon from which it has gone from zero (only misspellings) to 30 or so sites on a google search where you can find a reference to it. 

For those who are interested, in the past year, there have been 88 blog posts of which about two thirds were in the first six months.  I think I am just a bit busier these days – I certainly feel it! There have been about 10,000 page views.   I’ve had more comments (excluding spam) than posts which I’ll take as a good sign.  My technorati ranking is 15.  And I’m constantly amazed at the search results that people use to track down this site.

Enough of the history – what of the plans for the second year of the knowledgefutures blog.  I’m not sure what is in store. One of my main struggles is the tension that I have in blogging on work-related matters.  As a public servant, I am unable to publish many of the things that I do at work which otherwise go unreported (and there are some really interesting things there!).    There are as far as I know no blogs by public servants in Victoria apart from VPSCIN.

So I have only one goal for the next year and that is there will be at least 100 posts in the next year (that’s two per week and I feel comfortable that this is achievable).

Do any of the readers out there have any other goals that I should strive for?  Happy for them to be stretch goals but I do have other priorities in my life!


Is Knowledge Management Transdisciplinary?

August 19, 2007

Below is an updated version of a post which I made yesterday on the actKM listserv.  It surrounds a discussion on the definition of KM in the Australian KM Standard.

I was involved in the tortuous KM Standard committee discussions that changed the definition of KM from that of a multidisciplinary approach (interim standard definition) to that of a transdisciplinary approach (final standard/guide version).  I agree in many respects with Joe Firestone about whether KM is an approach or a discipline and also Kim Sbarcea’s view that the real benefits of the standard are not in its definition but in the ecosystem model and its practical guidance approach.

But I would like to comment specifically about the multi-inter-trans-meta prefix for KM.  
I totally agree in the change away from multi-disciplinary.  KM is an integrative discipline – taking bits and pieces from a range of management disciplines and combining them in interesting ways (rather than just keeping them in their native form).   It is also more than interdisciplinary as it positively seeks to overcome many of the communication and interaction problems that arise in interdisciplinary teams.  Its transdisciplinary nature occurs as it crosses and recrosses disciplinary boundaries (some would say it rides  roughshod over these boundaries!), promotes interdependence and learning, and supports all involved to maximise the benefit to the whole, the individual and the client. 

Some say that transdisciplinary approaches extend to where they dissolve the boundaries between disciplines.  Despite repeated attempts, it would be hard for KM to say that this has happened.  I think that this transcendent quality is actually more that of a metadisciplinary approach which does not just integrate but actually forms a new single systems-based discipline.  Perhaps beyond this we can get into meta-meta-disciplinary approaches like futures studies (particuarly those that employ Integral thinking).

And just to throw a complete spanner in the works (or a nice juicy piece of bait on the fishing line) – perhaps KM takes a non-disciplinary approach – a conscious disregard that one should remain bounded by the subject matter or methodology of a defined discipline (a bit too postmodern for some?).  Perhaps it is more like Karl Weick’s use of the term bricolage which has the following characteristics (intimate knowledge of resources, careful observation and listening, trusting one’s ideas, self-correcting structures with feedback).

Personally, I quite like the concept of a non-discipinary approach, but that is perhaps my anarchic nature.  Transdisciplinary suits me fine for KM with the meaning of trans more around crossing boundaries and supporting others in the process rather than that of transformational or transcendent. 


Commonwealth Ombudsman’s 10 Lessons for Public Administration

August 12, 2007

The Commonwealth Ombusdman gave a presentation at an IPAA seminar earlier this month where he reported on the government review of 247 immigration cases and outlined some lessons for public administration as a result.  The lessons are clear and concise.  Following them will go a long way to reduce errors that are the consequence of systemic administrative problems. His 10 lessons were:

  1. Maintain accurate, comprehensive and accessible records.
  2. Place adequate controls on the exercise of coercive powers.
  3. Actively manage unresolved and difficult cases.
  4. Heed the limitations of information technology systems.

  5. Guard against erroneous assumptions.

  6. Control administrative drift.

  7. Remove obstacles to prudent information exchange with other agencies and bodies.

  8. Promote effective communication in your own agency.

  9. Manage complexity in decision making.

  10. Check for warning signs of bigger problems.

He mentioned that the last lesson is probably the most important.  The Rau, Alvarez and Solon immigration cases showed that flaws in an individual decision can highlight a much larger problem.  Agencies should not wait for a crisis to eventuate but internally monitor and have good quality control and complaint handling procedures. Warning signs can then be picked up more easily and change initiated early.   

Lessons learned from these exercises are particularly important to share where problems lie, how they can be rectified and to build a culture of learning and improvement.


Seeing the Bigger Picture

August 7, 2007

I’m putting together a conference for some people and want to demonstrate them the importance of seeing the bigger picture and how we often miss signals that are quite obvious.  Some classic examples include the video of people playing basketball missing the gorilla in their midst and another is that of the wonderful videos at quirkology by Richard Wiseman, especially the colour changing card trick, my favourite.

Now to all those (yes both of you) out there in blogosphere land, are there other cool examples that I could use to demonstrate to these senior people that their own cognitive biases can limit them seeing the bigger picture that prevents them from identifying weak signals of emerging change? 


Michel Bauwens on Peer to Peer Production

August 6, 2007

Went to a great talk over the weekend by Michel Bauwens from the Peer to Peer Foundation.  It was great to re-engage with many of the debates and discussions from my old information economy days again and to discuss these important topics with learned and interesting futures people.  Thanks Chris Stewart for organising it.  Some key points for me were:

  • Citing Edelman Trust survey information that shows that insitutional trust is being supplanted by trusting in our peers and the need to move away from top-down messages to fostering P2P dialogue between consumers and employees.
  • That we are moving from individuality to relationality
  • That P2P production is not about incentives but of eliminating obstacles, that it is distributed and not decentralised, that it is transparent where all can see everything, and where communal validation is fundamentally anti-bureaucratic.
  • That P2P production is post-capitalist and not anti-capitalist
  • That new Web 2.0 technologies are reducing the demand for venture capital
  • That for-profit organisations will always lost out against a non-profit P2P due to the volunteer approach of P2P and the intrinsic positive nature.

I loved his line that there are two aspects to the problems facing the world.  One is that we see the real world as infinite when it really is finite (and hence we get resource depletion, etc).  The other is that we see the immaterial world as finite when it really is infinite (by creating artificial scarcity over digital products). 

Michel is coming out to Australia again in April 2008.