Micro-Processes in Learning and KM for the Agile Knowledge Worker

Last summer #PKMChat explored some Learning and Knowledge Management practices in the form of a Periodical Table. If we dive into each of those practices with an electronic microscope as we dive into atoms we can find smaller processes. I called them KM MicroProcesses.

At the other end of the scale, we have frameworks like the Seek-Sense-Share. Frameworks will cover a complete set of activities to cover a vast objective like Managing one’s personal knowledge, pursuing Profesional development, innovation or organizational Knowledge Management.

Examples of Micro-processes

  • Check the mail
  • Write a comment on a friend’s blog
  • Checking a Twitter list
  • Taking this last look to a cheat sheet before doing the work
  • Gather the ideas for an evergreen post
  • Taking a micro-learning
  • Read a newsletter
  • Edit a post for enhancing the style
  • Search a topic to support a post
  • Curate a list of links on a topic for a chat
  • Build a twitter list to share it
  • Collect a list of tweets for an event
  • Curate a list of tweet
  • Skim a page to decide if fits in a search or not
  • Skimming a page to decide if it’s worth taking the time to read it
  • Add a page on Diigo
  • Reading a page in detail
  • Checking a topic of a Twitter chat to decide to join or not

How small shall we dive?

  • A micro-process has a short duration. It’s often assimilable to a task on an agenda or part of a habit. It usually the work of one person. If several persons are involved, it’s concurrently like a meeting or Blab session.
  • A micro-process should be repeated or be part of a larger practice which is repeated regularly. When it is repeated it is largely similar.
  • It shouldn’t be interrupted. It as a clear start and a clear end. Between end and start it’s suspended and not comfortable. It’s best when it is executed in one stretch.

Microprocesses have a context, an intent and extra know-how on top of the generic task. Micro-processes are more than the task name and the skills required. Writing a post is different from writing a curated list of links and different from sharing an idea during a work out loud experience.

Micro-Processes help us optimize our work

All micro-processes start as manual processes. The fight against information overload and the continuous demand for more involvement motivate us to be more organized. The more we can optimize the better.

All tasks don’t require advanced cognitive functions from end to end. We can chunk them in parts that can be executed at different times of the day, with more or less concentration, focus, and energy. Processes that makes sense initially became split into pieces for best use of our time and attention.

It takes motivation to keep on doing boring tasks. We can take advantage of devices and tools evolution to delegate some preprocessing to software. A process may not become fully automated but a part will be and a simple quick verification can follow. The process becomes two processes: one automated, one manual. We split to delegate.

A simple IFFT rule could do the trick for some, a tool, a feature could do for others. If we take a longer perspective, imagine technology is available what would we like to automate in our Learning and Knowledge processes?

Another perspective

I started a discussion with Jeannette in January 2015 on this topics when she shared her experience to automate tweet collection using precisely IFFT: her tweets, the tweets she favorited.

That’s where named them Micro Knowledge Processes

Jeannette shared some links on some work done before on a parallel with SSS by HJarche and curation tasks as describe by Robin Good. It’s not really my domain of expertise and I was glad to have another example.


I extracted a subset of the tasks described. As you can see it’s very short in range and very limited in time. You can be interrupted between each task or choose a different moment in the day for each.

  • Optimizes titles
  • Edits / rewrites titles, descriptions
  • Formats curated content
  • Selects and adds relevant images, photos, illustrations

If you go to the original post you will see that each task is detailed with a context and an intent as I explained above

“Optimizes titles as to make them relevant to his/her audience. Titles are often still badly written … The curator’s task should be the one of make titles relevant to his specific audience-tribe, by making the title highlight and explain what the content is truly about.

Micro-processes combine into larger processes

Now how this relates to a larger process as we see them in the periodical table or in Frameworks, or central of a #PKMChat Topic?

Bett Kanter studied this starting with the above post of Robin Good. What we get on top of grouping activity is a perspective of where she place it in her day

NTEN Webinar Reflections and Resources: The Unanticipated Benefits of Content Curation

Next Harold did the exercise as well. I’m just considering the reconciliation of processes. There are other aspects regarding the overlap or pertinence of curation to SSS which is not in my topic today.

PKM as pre-curation

OK you got the idea of what is a Micro Knowledge Process

Where to find micro-processes

Take a close look at your day. Identify some micro-processes. Apply the criteria to split what appears as monobloc into smaller pieces.

Micro-processes are often hidden into habits. We think “I check Twitter” but what are we really doing? Skimming our timeline? Checking a list for getting news of the world? Searching what we will read during the day?

Micro-processes can be embedded in automated tasks or apps. if something has been prepared for us that is part of our workflow it’s a micro-process. An easy way to disambiguate is to ask ourselves “what will I do it this service stops”. Will I loose some information? Will I return to a manual routine?

Micro-process can be done as a background task while doing something else. Listen to a podcast while cleaning the house. Doing edits while waiting for the main task to be ready. take courses in the public transportation.

A complex routine may be a succession of micro-processes. At first sight, we see just a succession of steps but a closer look may reveal steps that could be done out of sequence or at other times.

Benefits of studying micro-processes?

They are comparable from one person to another

We differ from the way we combine them, from the choices we do to engage in one or another activity but I make the assumption that at a micro-process level we operate in very similar ways because the conditions don’t give many options. Micro-processes are also rather simple and short to explain. By diminishing the scale, we simplify and reach a level where more practical experience can be shared. More good practices can be discussed while retaining agility and creativity at the combinatory level.

They can be planned with more agility

Instead of a 4 hours task, you now have 8 Micro-processes to deal with. Some are clearly identified as low energy, low attention so you can place them in part of the day where you are often interrupted.

Some micro-processes fits well into habits

Habits are like containers of actions. Once in a habit, the action will be repeated without the need of willpower or decision taking. Habits are also fragile and hard to get. The way the task is prepared, easy to start. the duration, the ease to interrupt it will allow influence adoption. Any friction in the execution of a task makes the habit hard to adopt. I noticed this again during the tiny-habits course I took early this year.

They are agile

Becoming agile to split larger tasks into automated parts, habits and low energy parts opens possibilities of development

They can be automated

Because they are rather similar and easy to explain it is also easy to find those which are the easiest to automate or assist. It will still leave a lot of tasks that can’t be automated.


Micro-Processes could be a good lens to make some progress in the field of knowledge management. They can help release the pressure of being constantly on and updated.