Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…
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I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated by the semantics that we obsess over in this field. Take, for example, the question of whether we can actually ‘do’ KM? Can we ‘do’ KM, of course we can!
Some say that you can’t ‘do’ KM, that it is a naturally occurring organic organisational process that will happen with little intervention and a bit of technology magic. Quite why we have Knowledge Managers, or quite why I am working in this field is therefore beyond me.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree that people will socialise, that people will naturally store information that is important to them, that they will re-use what they learn and that they will find new ways to solve problems if they do not already have the answer. I have no argument with any of this – all good so far. I also agree that technology can enable this process, expediting the flow of information to the end-user, thereby speeding up the process – still looking good. Then there’s the argument that we don’t ‘do’ KM. The implication being that an organisation should not look at KM as something that is manufactured; it needs to be more organic, more naturally embedded – I start to go a little off the rails here.
Do you want to leave your competitive advantage in the hands of a naturally occurring organic process? Or do you want to manipulate that process to your advantage? If you fall into the second category then, like me, you believe that you can ‘do’ KM. Don’t get me wrong, you have to know why you are doing it, something I have covered extensively in previous blogs, but once you understand the rationale for engagement then you can ‘do’ KM.
The need for knowledge is persistent. I have been lucky enough to work on KM projects with top global organisations and these organisations knew that their future was dependent on the capabilities of their people. They knew that they need to become more agile, more dynamic and their strategy called for the development of their people-based resources. All good, except for the fact that they didn’t ‘do’ KM.
So, what do I mean…?
KM is such a complex concept. KM managed correctly aligns concepts such as organisational learning and the learning organisation under one umbrella. KM managed correctly takes into account the strategic needs of the firm, the needs of the people within its boundaries, and the processes that bind the two together. KM is the glue that binds. These organisations that I have worked with, they had identified the need, they understood the needs of their people, they were just leaving it to nature’s chance when it came to managing the processes. This, for me, is where you can ‘do’ KM. If you know the variables you can manipulate the environment, you can manage the process and optimise it to create the best environment for success.
Similarly, I have been involved with KM projects where processes have been created to specifically bring about alignment between the organisation’s people and it’s environment where strategic direction was lacking. It worked and is still working after five years, does that constitute ‘doing’ KM?
The key is knowing the right variables. What variables do you tweak to optimise your knowledge climate? How do you know what they are? What evidence do you rely on? How do you know it works?
I’ll set those out in another blog…
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