Knowledge Management In Action

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Scarce resources drive in-house counsel to do more with less. Technological innovations assist in maximizing legal operation management, which includes efficient knowledge management.

Here at our organization, we use Office 365 as part of our overall IT platform. This includes Microsoft Teams and the mind mapping application, Mindmeister. We found that using mind maps greatly enhances the capture of tacit knowledge and disseminates this knowledge throughout the organization.

As we know, KM helps organizations identify, select, organize and disseminate important information and expertise. KM forms an integral part of overall legal operations management at three various levels, strategic, management and front line staff. Having efficient KM systems at these levels then allows counsel to focus more on high value strategic legal issues.

Small legal departments work with the resources provided by the organization. The existing IT systems can be carefully torqued to provide that additional legal value for which all departments search. Using the existing Microsoft Teams forms a critical part of the overall change management of the organization. We incorporated the mind maps as a part of Microsoft Teams in order to allow staff to interact and chat about the various legal issues they face.

Mind maps explain how ideas interrelate. Essentially a single idea placed in the center of the map allows various sub-concepts to be drawn.  The mind mapping application easily allows drafting and refining various mind maps. The user easily moves around new ideas and sub-concepts.

Using a mind map application allows the viewer to see how various ideas interact with one another. Each idea provides context for other ideas. Providing context for information allows the viewer to move from information, to knowledge, and hopefully, to wisdom. Simply using a search mechanism for text loses context.

Legal departments incorporate legal operations into their overall function and processes to innovate further and change with the times. Lawyers and law firms sometimes resist change and hold on to the more traditional way of doing things. However, innovation requires trying numerous things to see what potentially works for that particular organization.

Knowledge management assists in getting legal information to front line staff quickly. If staff can find the answer to some basic legal questions, then this frees up legal time for other work. We see this as a form of demand management as overall legal supply can be limited.

The difficulty in bringing in KM shows knowledge’s messiness and how it can be found in all areas of the organization. Trying to get someone to write this down in a systematic way can be problematic. We needed a way to move tacit knowledge, bound up in people, into explicit knowledge, people talking to other people, who would the incorporate this new knowledge as their own tacit knowledge. Gaining wisdom from this knowledge requires the dual vectors of context and overall understanding.

The new corporate structures impose another difficulty and hamper KM. A central office allowed a person the opportunity to wander down the hall to a mentor and ask questions about a certain situation. Having one’s office offsite reduces this potential interaction. I moved out of the office this past August and telecommute from home most days. We can hotel and reserve an office when necessary to attend face-to-face meetings. Since necessity is the gender-neutral parent of invention, I found it necessary to interact with staff on another level. This suggested the need for an ethereal coffee room. Microsoft teams provided the necessary ethereal coffee chat room to interact with staff.

Finally, most of a corporation’s information can be bound up in precedents and procedural manuals. This type of information lacks the important concept of context. A mind map can provide that necessary context.

We initially started using a cloud based Microsoft Office 365 environment. Microsoft teams then became the collaborative platform for staff to interact. Teams uses a number of apps including Mindmeister to facilitate anyone in drafting their own mind maps.

The benefits became immediately apparent when we started working with a long-time partner on a particular water supply and quality project. The partnership has lasted for a couple of decades. However, owing to staff turnover, no one remained that was around when the project started except for this counsel. When the project renewal came up recently, the difficulty in trying to get everyone on the same page became apparent. This particular project required a cross-functional team of water biologists, engineers, conservation professionals, marketing, management, and legal.

This project illustrated how tacit knowledge locked with various staff leaves once the staff leaves. This knowledge loss, and my impending retirement in another year, or more, gave me the impetus to start collecting as much of this tacit knowledge as possible.

Using a mind map allowed us to arrange all the various tasks and previous history together on one easy to read summary. The additional benefit of the program allowed us to link relevant files directly to a particular idea. Spreading all of the necessary tasks and issues on one page allowed everyone to obtain the necessary context to move the project forward.

In addition, mind maps helped design the new legal help portal. Although anyone could search and find a particular document, the context would be lost. Using a legal help mind map allows staff to search out issues based on particular need if they were not quite aware for what they might be searching. So for example, instead of laying out documents for the various departments, we laid out opinions and documents based on user need. For example, the portal includes discussions about the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation. Staff can click on the link and download an easy to follow algorithm that explains when the need for CASL consent arises.

The initial legal portal handles the most common series of questions we receive. The benefit of using teams allows staff to ask questions and this thread can then remain with the particular topic being discussed. This builds upon the knowledge transfer from implicit to explicit. Staff can then internalize this new knowledge.

Part of change management includes enticing people to use the portal on a regular and continual basis. For the time being, once we receive a question that could have either national or continual importance; we post this as part of the portal. Part of the chat process allows us to attach a name to a response and this pushes a notification out to the intended recipient. So instead of an email that can get lost in the system, this push notification forms part of the chat which then becomes part of the tacit knowledge being collected for follow-up questions. Staff can also add their own experiences in order to provide even great context.

The measurement of success for such a KM system can be immediately apparent in the feedback provided by staff able to find the information they want or having it presented in such a way that it is easy to understand. We can also calculate the financial benefits. We count all of the legal time saved and all of the staff time saved once they had the answer they were looking for and were able to implement the knowledge into their workflow quickly and easily. You take any particular issue and determine how often this same question comes up on a annual basis multiplied by the hourly rate for the lawyers and staff multiplied by the hours spent. You take the net present value of that figure for as long as you feel that a particular issue would continue to have relevance. Perhaps even a decade or more when it comes to questions of occupier’s liability for example.

This type of approach shows a dollar saved figure in the thousands for each issue made available for staff. Savings provided by legal knowledge management illustrates the further value of in-house counsel using this approach.

 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything: You don’t have to have everything, just be one with everything

People pursue three things during their time on earth: Life, Liberty and basically everything else. I have written a narrative nonfiction book which provides a humorous view of society’s desire to pursue happiness and well-being. The book bursts with big ideas on happiness, ethics, thinking, nature, exercise, mindfulness and life. All of this and more can be found within its 81,000 words and no pictures. The footnotes are strictly for fun.

This view includes some common, not so common and sometimes completely random problems facing everyone today. Some people have gone so far as to say the writing reflects brilliance, but they have gone so far away that no one really knows what they meant and where they really are now.

I have a broad educational background including a BSc, LLB, MBA and lastly a LLM emphasizing International Economic Regulation. Truly. I am quite capable of writing on a range of topics with a humorous bent. I have even made NAFTA funny.Some of big questions look like this: Can you fit the meaning of life into a Tattoo?

 

Avaiable on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646062868/ref=cm_sw_r_em_tai_uR6-CbBE2NRC1

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

My new book is now available on Amazon Kindle.

People pursue three things during their time on earth: Life, Liberty and basically everything else.  This narrative nonfiction book provides a humorous view of society’s desire to pursue happiness and well-being. The book bursts with big ideas on happiness, ethics, thinking, nature, exercise, mindfulness and life. All of this and more can be found within its 81,000 words and no pictures. The footnotes are strictly for fun.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by [Goodwin, Gary]

 

 

Waiting for Peace, Order and Good Government



Estragon: Charming spot. Inspiring prospects. Let's go.
Vladimir: We can't.
Estragon: Why not?
Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal found the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act constitutional. The court also proclaimed that climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is one of the great existential issues of our time.

Perhaps Becket’s play on existentialism may not be the first reference that pops to mind for some people, but it certainly seems to apply here. As existence proceeds essence, the play asserts that the individual must discover the meaning of life through personal experience. Everyone talks, but our actions define what we are.

The federal government created the GGPP Act to ensure a minimum national price on GHG emissions to encourage their mitigation. This did not sit well with some of the provinces that attempted to show the act as being unconstitutional. The main players included the attorney general for Canada and the attorneys general for Saskatchewan, Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick. However, the court stated that the pressing importance of limiting such emissions was accepted by all of the participants.

Significantly, the court stated that the act operates as a backstop and applies only in provinces where GHG emissions are not priced at an appropriate level. The general character of the GHG phenomenon and the basic science of climate change were not contested by any of the interveners. So, the lawyers appear to be on side that there is an issue to be dealt with here.

The decision included substantial quotes from the affidavit of Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada John Moffet. He included parts from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change 2014 report. Part of the report concluded: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. . . . Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. . . . Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. . . .Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. . . . Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

The court stated that none of these conclusions was challenged by the participants.

The federal government attempted to justify the act on numerous grounds, including taxation. Interestingly, where the Constitution Act of 1867 empowers Parliament to raise money “by any mode or system of taxation,” the court held that the applicable parts of the act do not impose taxes in the constitutional sense of the term. This finding does not appear to be changing the anti-carbon tax rhetoric from the various opposition parties.

The federal government also argued that the act was a valid exercise under the national concern branch of peace, order and good government, as allowed under the Constitution Act. One would suppose that GHGs would then be a matter national concern. The provinces tried to suggest that the federal government could then regulate all aspects of life within the province right down to cattle feed. Cattle burps come to mind. (This is actually a front-end, not a back-end emissions problem.) The court did find that trying to regulate GHG emissions was too much of an overreach.

The province of B.C. helped save the day and perhaps all of the ones in the future. As the Attorney General of British Columbia suggested, the act could instead provide “the establishment of minimum national standards of price stringency for GHG emissions.” Stringency includes the scope of application to the fuels, operations and activities to which the charge applies and the necessary regulatory regimes. The court thought that there was a good deal to recommend this approach. Cow burps could continue unabated.

No one argued to the court that the general question of GHG emissions and of climate change were not issues of superordinate consequence. The court also noted that no one challenged Moffet’s affidavit that “There is widespread international consensus that carbon pricing is a necessary measure, though not a sufficient measure, to achieve the global reductions in GHG emissions necessary to meet the Paris Agreement targets.” The court then stated that minimum national standards of price stringency for GHG emissions are matters of sufficient consequence for inclusion under the national concern branch of POGG.

The reach of the act appears to be reconcilable with the federal and provincial distribution of power. Apparently, establishing minimum national standards of price stringency still allows individuals and businesses the freedom to choose based on market signals.

This finally brings us back to the existential question of Waiting for Godot or, in this case, Waiting for POGG. Everyone has the freedom of choice, and your essence is determined by the choices you make. Or in the more familiar words generally attributed to Mark Twain, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. “ The courts have now allowed someone to do something about the changing weather.

The Shape of Water Research

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Imagine yourself immersed in a snow globe. Not a happy winter scene, but rather a black-flaked London in the 1800s during the soot-filled industrial revolution. This occurs when you scuba dive and settle into the bottom of a highly productive lake.

 

Water fascinates me. Perhaps not so much its composition, but what it can hold, foretell and create. Water holds an almost mythological attraction for Canadians. What lies beneath the waters surface provides the greatest research opportunity. And potential for misadventure.

 

The desire to explore beneath the water’s surface led to my obtaining a scuba diving certificate. Carrying a thin walled aluminum tank containing 3000 psi of compressed air provides great opportunity for hijinks. I took most of my lessons at West Hawk Lake where a meteor impact created the deepest lake in Manitoba. Within its 377 foot depth, one can find old style beer bottles, cans and other bits of litter. Visualize diving in a large well.

 

 

I majored in marine biology at the University of Victoria and spent five field seasons working with the Freshwater Institute located on the University of Manitoba Campus. My favorite season involved diving in Ontario’s Experimental Lakes Area. These people at the ELA did the initial work on impact of phosphorous on algae growth. These people also pointed out the irony of my having a degree in Marine Biology and my not being able to get any further from any coast line.

 

The ELA scientists wanted to track the phosphorous cycle in a natural environment. As team diver, I arranged for the project implementation. My task involved inserting a number of plastic bottom sample collectors into the sediment of this poor lake subtly numbered 227. Probably one of the more researched lakes in Canada based on size. This meant there could all types of research projects hidden away in the murky depths of the lake.

 

Breaking all safety protocols, I dove alone while one of the research scientists in the aluminum Lund above me watched my progress. All of the added nutrients increased the lake’s productivity and reduced visibility to about 2 feet. I swam to the bottom of this 35 foot deep lake and settled into the flocculent. Normally, when you get to the bottom of a lake, you stop there. But in this lake, I manage to sink another half foot into the muck. Technically flocculent muck.

 

I experience not a serene surrendering to the muck, but a sense of mild panic as I sink even further. Any movement raises more flocculent and reduces visibility. Using a flashlight becomes pointless as the light merely reflects back on all of the floating material in front of my face mask.

 

Regardless, I press on and press a plastic sampler into the muck. A string and float attached to the sampler allows us to collect it by boat later. Unfortunately, all of the samplers come with a 34 foot 6 inch string. Just ever so short of the 35 feet I needed. This prevents me from inserting the sampler, so the boat followed the coke bottle float to where I found 34 foot 6 inch deep water. Eventually, I plunge all of the samplers into the sediment.

 

Earlier, the science team arranged for delivery of a substantial amount of radioactive phosphorous. Not surprisingly, Canadian customs did not care for this small box marked RADIOACTIVE arriving at their centre. Every known warning covered the triangle shaped loaf of bread sized box. Everything else seemed superfluous. They had me at radioactive.

 

When the little box of radioactivity finally arrives, the head scientist dons his hazmat suit. Not something from Chernobyl or even the Andromeda Strain, but rather sheets of clear plastic held together with duct tape. He intends to break the glass vial containing the radioactive phosphorus into a plastic tub with a clever mechanism at the end of a long pipe. This clever mechanism, too clever by far, does not work and he resorts to using the rod to smash the vial in the tub along with some of the lake water. He drives around the lake while a pump sprays the liquid along the surface. Wave and wind action will do the balance of distribution.

 

The other research scientist and I intend to shield ourselves in the lead lined room. Of course, if intentions were horses, we would all gallop away. Instead, we both cower behind a boulder. Mostly Canadian shield granite. Little way in lead content, I suspect. We watch the distribution process since no horses appear to cart us away.

 

By the next day, no mutant crayfish appear. My next task involves retrieving water samples from the center of the lake. Our little Lund rests on the shore. The funny thing about this nutrient filled lake would be the amount of algae attached to the logs acting as a submerged dock. Stepping on the dock, I immediately slip and fall into the water. Only one leg. Mid thigh, thank you very much. None of my three children express any mutant superpowers. Except in their ability to boomerang home.

 

The team remains calm. They calmly express my need to sprint to the nearest non-radioactive lake and wash off. Any algae there would be happy to absorb any excess phosphorous. Even radioactive phosphorous. I carry out this additional task with a bit more zeal and urgency and swish around in the nearby lake.

 

Ultimately, the experiment provides greater insight into the phosphorous cycle. Canada’s lake form part of our heritage, so we should be doing all that we can to protect them.  Although research scientists appear to be lab-coated people in spectacles, most of them have extensive field experience collecting data. My data collection experience taught me I would make an excellent lawyer protecting Canada’s heritage from the safety of the shore.

 

 

Gary Goodwin

2042323916

Garywgoodwin@gmail.com