Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…
I’ve set out my stall when it comes to KM and by now it should be pretty clear that I believe that successful KM outputs are reliant on people. I also strongly believe that the key to successful KM requires us to consider the following in its operational activities:
The needs of the individual, framed by the strategic and operational drivers of the organisation and enabled by the processes that bind the two together.
Accepting people as the locus of our KM activities leads to their development. No, this is not a pitch to relocate KM to the HR (Management or Development) function; this is about the need for KMers to acknowledge that the development of knowledge as a resource that contributes to adaptive capacity and improved decision-making. This leads to knowledge as the foundation to our learning and outputs of knowledge application, extension and subsequent development. Subscribe to this and you will find yourself in the field of andragogy.
An organisation’s approach to the development of people will give away a lot about their approach to the development of knowledge resources. There is a distinct difference between dynamic ‘learning’ led organisations and static ‘training’ led organisations. As someone once said to me, “training is something that is done to me, learning is something that I do”.
Is this a concern? Yes, it probably is. It has been suggested that training is a form of programming, driven by a needs such as compliance. A training-led approach to adult development has links to Mc Gregor’s ‘Theory X’ approach to management, where people are seen as lacking in self-motivation and ultimately contributes to the development of ‘static’ organisations. Learning, on the other hand, has links to Mc Gregor’s ‘Theory Y’, where people are motivated participants in active problem solving activities and ultimately contribute to ‘dynamic’ organisations.
Training is generally accepted to be a reductionist approach to development; a mechanism by which components of a process are broken down and explained; it has suggested that this places training within the realms of explicit knowledge transfer. The process of training is also seen as being subjected to quantitative evaluation processes and therefore, if training is deployed as the dominant part of a knowledge strategy, it could be seen as being aligned with the Resource-Based View of the organisation and the treatment of knowledge as an object.
What does this potentially tell us about an organisation’s approach to the development of knowledge resources?
Learning, on the other hand, is summed up by Spender (1996) – yes, there are many others, but, for me, he captures what I believe learning to be about:
“learning is the process of experiencing and analysing, or the process of communicating, the knowledge previously generated by others”
Learning is based in the act of knowing, the activation of knowledge, that sense of experience that sees knowledge applied, tested and revised.
This blog is about asking the right questions to enable this process. The following table is taken from ‘The Adult Learner’ by Knowles, Holton and Swanson and I highly recommend it for anybody interested in progressing this area of thought in relation to KM. The questions in this table, for me, provide a stable platform for high quality high impact KM activity:
|Organizational Level||Process Level||Individual Level|
|Mission/Goal||Does the organisation’s mission/goal fit the reality of the economic, political and cultural forces?||Do the process goals enable the organization to meet organizational and individual missions/goals||Are the professional and personal mission/goals of individual congruent with the organisation’s?|
|System Design||Does the organizational system provide structure and policies supporting the desired performance?||Are processes designed in such a way to work as a system||Do individuals face obstacles that impede their performance?|
|Capacity||Does the organization have the leadership, capital, and infrastructure to achieve its mission/goals||Does the process have the capacity to perform (quantity, quality and timeliness)?||Does the individual have the mental, physical, and emotional capacity to perform?|
|Motivation||Do the policies, culture, and reward systems support the desired performance?||Does the process provide the information and human factors required to maintain it?||Does the individual want to perform no matter what?|
|Expertise||Does the organization establish and maintain selection and training [learning and development] policies and resources?||Does the process of developing expertise meet the changing demands of changing processes?||Does the individual have the knowledge, skills and experience to perform?|
My challenge, if you think that this concept is divorced from the purview of the Knowledge Manager, is to compare and contrast these questions to those being suggested on the multitude of bulletin board threads on KM as a response to operational KM challenges. In my opinion, KMers need to explore the realms of adult learning further as a part of their wider toolkit.