29 January 2019

"When the only KM tool you have is a hammer..."

The biggest problem I have seem with KM isn't any particular approach, or system, but rather the idea that one approach is seen as a panacea across the breadth of corporate experience that we call knowledge.

Dr. Randhir Pushpa recently wrote a blog post about the role KM plays in the journey from art to science. It's a good article and includes a few useful tips and links. However it seems to suggest to me that the desired outcome is always to guide and develop every business process toward the science end of his scale.

This Journey turns up frequently in management discussions.
But there are times when the journey from complex/emergent practice (so called "Art") to highly ordered/systematized process ("Science") should find equilibrium based on local context.

What do I mean by that? Well, some processes (i.e. making french fries) should be hard system. ie: all the benefits of efficiency and standardization. In this case quality is seen as uniformity. However others (i.e. aspects of management consulting) may need to stay highly flexible at the more creative/emergent end of the spectrum because a customized and highly contextual solution is seen as high quality.  Others will settle in the middle, complicated area where the maintenance of a body of expertise is desired. Efficiency and effectiveness is blended and short-term economic value is always balanced by the medium term requirement to be adaptable to changing market forces.

If you are interested, the Creative Melbourne event on next month explores this journey in a radically hands-on way by bringing people from various industries together to co-create solutions to large community problems.

The new ISO 30401 standard makes this point by insisting we examine our organisational and stakeholder contexts first, before jumping to solutions, systems and process change. What is important to note is that all parts of the journey can be shared and stored as corporate memory, we just use different techniques. People who think we should "Write all knowledge down" may get a shock when they view the access rates of their online knowledge-bases. The question is "How do we connect people with knowledge" and then the concepts of collecting and capturing become useful tools rather than the soul objective of KM.  This has a secondary benefit of creating a demand for knowledge, meaning the knowledge holders aren't just recording what they know in the lame hope it might be used someday, but are actually helping people and the knowledge gets recorded in the process. (FYI Knowledge Centered Support does this really well).


Essentially, by insisting we take a double loop learning approach to KM, we should also be open to other parts of the organisation needing to be that way too, to achieve their best outcomes.