K Street Newsletter :: Directions

November 2020    |    VOLUME 18, ISSUE 11

Inbox Zero

The term Inbox Zero was coined by productivity expert Merlin Mann, and is used to describe a rigorous approach to email management that seeks to keep one's inbox empty, or close to it, at all times. It's been the inspiration for all kinds of apps and process tips, but Mann's original idea was not about a literal zero. It was more about reclaiming your life -- not about how many messages are in the inbox but about how much of your attention is on the inbox. Some studies have shown that the average business email is answered within minutes of receipt. That's a little disturbing when you think about it. All those random messages popping in, with almost immediate answers going out. Think of the productivity cost!  (You can watch a video of Mann's Inbox Zero Google Tech Talk, if you have an hour to spare.)

The true Inbox Zero state is really a state of mind. As described in this article, stop checking your email more than twice a day. Turn off the audio alerts and the little teaser windows. And when you do get around to processing your email, don't just clear it out. Really process it. It's worth the effort it takes to unsubscribe from things you don't actually read. It may seem faster to delete than to scroll down looking for the unsub link. But it only saves a few seconds once. It catches up on you.

 

Who Are Your 20-Percenters?

There's an old adage in Knowledge Management that says 20% of a given workforce holds 80% of its collective knowledge. They are a company's Subject Matter Experts, the folks who've worked long and hard at their respective careers. Very little surprises them. If something goes wrong, the odds are they've seen it before. And they can either recall a solution based on direct experience, or mine that experience for a new, creative approach. The bad news is, they are moving steadily toward retirement, leaving a dangerous skills gap. It's not a new problem, but as the Baby Boomers move into their golden years, it's going to get worse.

This article suggests that business leaders need to take this problem seriously. The first step is to identify the SMEs in your organization, then find ways to leverage their experience for training other workers. Some of that happens organically, as the experts mentor younger employees. But mentoring relationships are often informal and have no particular learning objectives. SMEs don't necessarily know anything about training, and can be more effective if they're empowered with the right kind of train-the-trainer programs. It's not just an HR concern anymore. Making it easy for your experts to share their expertise is a strategic imperative.
 

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Street Smarts 204: Build a personal brand.

The idea of establishing a personal brand -- something that goes beyond the traditional  bio and resume -- has been around longer than Facebook. It was first recognized by Tom Peters, who pointed out that we are all the CEOs of our own brand identities. It's even more important to have ways to stand out given the popularity of social media, but it's also important not to come off as tone deaf or ignorant of current events.

This article presents some tips for serving as the curator of your personal brand. The classic approach is to focus on the ways you provide value to others, either within your job or within your community. Things like teaching, mentoring or doing volunteer work. It's also a good idea to use social media to offer free content that's relevant to the challenges people are facing today. There are probably hundreds of people who have career histories like yours. The better your brand, the more likely that you'll be the one people want to meet.
 

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The Knowledge Manager's Handbook

We don't usually feature book reviews in Directions, but this one caught our fancy. Even though we're well into the 21st century, we still get the question we were answering 25 years ago: "What is this Knowledge Management thing all about?" So it's nice to have a broad and deep reference volume at hand. This one was co-written by Patrick Lambe, a fellow member of Stan Garfield's KM discussion group, and the review itself comes from Madanmohan Rao. He was the editor for an early collection of KM Best Practices that featured a chapter on Fujitsu Consulting, co-written by Knowledge Street's own Chris Riemer and our old colleague Alan Brompton.

The Knowledge Manager's Handbook includes strategic information about setting up KM programs, frameworks for considering things like people, processes and technology, recommended implementation programs and the primary roles that are needed to support KM. If you're new to the field, or if you want to level-set  your understanding, this would be a good volume to have on the shelf.
 

Crisis Management Advice from Joe Biden

This article offers some tips on crisis management communications, based on President-elect Joe Biden's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It considers the response plan at Biden's website, speeches made during the campaign and the victory speech he delivered on November 7. The author thinks Biden's messaging could be a role model for any leaders who need to respond effectively and efficiently when a crisis hits their organization.

First of all, you need to be clear. Have specific goals and include objectives that must be met to achieve them. Establish priorities and assign responsibilities, then identify the resources you'll need to succeed. Explain how the plan will be implemented, and finally, put real experts in charge. Crisis management communications is only part of the COVID-19 solution, but it can go a long way toward leading the country out of this terrible situation. That means the Biden plan may be one of the most important crisis management efforts in US history.
 

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