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KM should just be

KM should just be

UPDATE – I’ve added some more thoughts. I couldn’t help myself.

There’s a really interesting discussion on KM and 2.0 tools going on over at the FASTForward blog. I’ve managed to get myself involved and am probably preaching a little KM heresy. I personally think KM need not be an identified, explicit practice in organisations. It should just be.

Now, I’m a realist. I know that many organisations don’t yet operate this way. But they should.

Here’s my latest input to the thread.

“I absolutely agree with you that anything 2.0 is not about the technology. Technology is and always has been an enabler. Tools and approaches with 2.0 labels should be such that we can use them to do our jobs better – Government 2.0 connects government to the constituency, Library/Enterprise/Web 2.0 connects the source and their services to the users. It’s all about enablement and people.

KM also should be about people. Often it’s not as it’s seen as a widget and not a practice or cultural thing. KM should be about sharing, openness, exposure of as much tacit knowledge as possible, mentoring, succession planning, engagement, knowing where to turn for information. Tools can enable and enhance those practices, but if 3×5 index cards can do it for you, go crazy.

I think too often, organisations feel they need a KM practice because they don’t actually do the things that embed KM practices into corporate DNA. I know I’m preaching a little heresy to the KM purists, but it’s not different to what people like Patrick Lambe and David Gurteen have been saying for ages.

KM shouldn’t need to be “done” as a particular thing belonging to a particular part of the organisation. It should just be. Be a part of what you do every day. Be a part of how your organisation operates.”

John Husband, who wrote the original post, also said in comments:

HR and line management and needing to bring “work design” up to date, into the modern world, so to speak…

In terms of John’s HR thinking, I agree. My wife, Alli, is an HR manager for a large Federal department in Australia. She is also a good strategic thinker on HR (see her missives at ShiftedHR). Something she identifies very often is that like KM, HR is treated as widget-based. Do an HR thing here and another there. But what happens is that context vanishes. One part of the organization or process is deeply divorced from another so the silos and isolation and non-strategic view perpetuate.

It’s this sort of thinking and practice, whether it’s around HR, KM or management thinking in general that causes the schisms and turf wars we see on 2.0, KM and everything else recycled almost ad nauseam. Further, it means that on-the-ground practitioners are isolated from management thinking, from each other and from an understanding of what they do generally.

Without context, without the 40000′ view of what you do, without rich intra- and inter-organizational communication about what you do, without contact with peers and colleagues around the world, without a clear picture about how you do what you do and why, I firmly believe there’s no way you can do what you do really well. You end up missing critical pieces of the puzzle.

So yes, KM managers and practitioners, HR and business line management (who should be leaders as well as managers) and the rest of us need to take a bigger view of what we do so that we see where the blocks are, where the holes are and progress (as rapidly as possible) toward an understanding of where we should be addressing information, knowledge and leadership needs in our organizations.

Your thoughts? I’d be interested to hear.

No Comments
  • Ben Winter-Giles
    Posted at 10:45h, 14 April Reply

    Hi Stephen,

    I take your point, and actually agree quite honestly.

    I think however the problem with “organisations” is that organisations are by definition, organisations of people. It’s the people inside that “make KM happen”. I’d hazard to suggest that the more serious problem is that despite the technology being available to passively handle a wide variety of KM issues, the cultural and / or behavioural practices of the individuals within the organisation is where the sweet spot lies.

    More often than not, I see through out the various large organisations I’ve been involved with, the concepts of knowledge sharing, management, codification and all that other good stuff, is typically viewed as someone else’s problem.

    And I think that stems from the end users, not having genuinely been exposed to the values of solid KM practices.

    Of course, you could argue that many people do in fact (as end users) partake in the value provided of world wide KM in the form of “I don’t know XXXXX so I’ll just Google it”.

    And from that point I see yet another cultural problem, that DOES stem from the organisation. Primarily from the leadership. I find that many people actually fear saying formally (in the form of a public exposure of ones thoughts on blogs, pages, bulletin boards and so on) and thus, they are not empowered or supported by “the organisation” to do so, and therefore, you get that knowledge wastage effect.

    *end 2 bits worth.

  • Gavin Heaton
    Posted at 11:22h, 14 April Reply

    I think one of the interesting things about web 2.0 is that is allows us to give knowledge management a social dimension. Rather than treating knowledge as codified, discrete elements, a social perspective gives knowledge life and context. It also takes KM out of a “you must” framework and places it into a value/social currency framework where participation is its own reward.

    Great topic!

  • Ric
    Posted at 11:34h, 14 April Reply

    KM, Innovation, Collaboration – all concepts generally misunderstood and mishandled in organisations. Having an innovation/KM/collaboration department or manager is almost certainly counterproductive because it becomes “that person’s” job, not mine/everybody’s.

    The issue seems to be a desire to ‘tick boxes’ rather than take a deep dive into what is really required to make an organisation more effective.

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