KM: Hit or Myth?


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For a very long time there has been a lot of debate whether KM is the "bright new thing" or whether is just overblown bumphf. Decide for yourself!

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  • Is KM complex? It is without doubt challenging if one wishes to design and build a comprehensive - enterprise-wide and customer related (and driven) initiative. But the fundamentals are not complex. One is how to develop and exploit business intelligence. This slide, whose origin is unknown, illustrates very well the problem of establishing coherent organizational positions based on sound analysis....without which, effective management and organizationally sustaining activity cannot occur.
  • Continuing on my theme of simplicity, here is an observation that puts KM as a management innovation into a common sense context. Focus on the essentials: what people need to do and have in order to deliver results.
  • Now here is another view of the work challenge......that illustrates quite clearly how knowledge has permeated the paradigm.
  • And yet another - the theme is clear and consistent.
  • But in spite of the appeals of many for clear, concise, business-applied structures and processes, there is a prevalence of jargon, complexity, obscurity and ambiguity. As we complicate our lives we put our initiatives in jeopardy by: 1. Establishing a soup-of-the-day stigma that can bring down both the project and the methodology 2.Re-directing effort to non-essentials - such as TQM's eventual focus on measurement that was ultimately to the detriment of quality directed activity and change.
  • In a similar vein, I continually ask what is "knowledge work", "what is a knowledge worker", and what is "globalization." Such fundamental understandings are necessary if we are going to intelligently discuss e-commerce, electronic service delivery and doing business on-line, whatever those terms mean exactly.
  • Things to watch for: Whether you can replace the word "Knowledge" in what you are seeing and hearing...with the word "Information." Watch for IM and KM "strategies" that define neither subject Watch for IM and KM definitions and initiatives that have the word "technology" in an precidential or overly important position. Watch for objectives that speak of "leveraging technology" instead of leveraging intellectual or human value within the enterprise.
  • NOT a useful model for the enterprising KMer. We need to be brave about challenging quite wide-spread notions, models and principles that have dubious origins. The so-called "wisdom pyramid" is a bit of flotsam that is more trouble than it is worth. The ideas it conveys about relationships, processes and values are misleading, if not imaginary.
  • KM is difficult to define - for just about everyone. It may help to define it the same way one sculpts a statue - carve off all the bits that are not essential.
  • But in defining information and knowledge in the enterprise, and in getting a handle on it, who do we turn to? Understand that there are very basic (yet profound) philosophical and pragmatic differences between those who "manage" information by storing it, and those who "manage" information by putting it to work.
  • KM and IM are something new, and radically different from "ordinary" business functions. KM initiators will be frustrated if they are too married to an Information or Knowledge "product" orientation (i.e. knowledge is something one manufactures, packages, sells and ships). New disciplines require new approaches - but of course one can borrow fom the tried and true.
  • Gartner Group has provided a clear situation assessment that bears looking at.
  • Here Gartner Group has captured the key element in both Information and Knowledge Management. IM and KM are management disciplines that MAY be supported, enhanced or even brought about with information technology. But they do not work without hard work. They demand care, diligence and control. They have to be business based....because after all, it is the management of business that is at stake. And when the management is defined - it is time to bring in the boxes and cables.
  • These definitions are drawn from a paper I did some time ago on Information Management. They illustrate three different perspectives on the key function of discipline and competence in dealing with intellectual capital, business intelligence, learning organizations, information and knowledge. Copies of the paper are available on request.
  • On the "How TO" side, there is much to be learned from colleagues, books, journals, magazine articles and from the Web. This is illustrative of the quality guidance that can be easily - and freely - obtained.
  • KM: Hit or Myth?

    1. 1. KM - Hit or Myth?A KM Conference Presentation made in Toronto, Ontario
    2. 2. An Opening Word• “For (years) business leaders have taught bureaucracy-busting, teamwork coaching, etc. Here’s all you really need to know: provide safe places where people can share ideas about work without getting shut down by bosses and bureaucrats”. – Thomas Stewart: Intellectual Capital, The New Wealth of Organizations
    3. 3. “The Work of New Age Managers” is: •Conceive and Execute Complex Strategies •Share and Protect Intellectual Property •Manage the Public-private Interface •Provide Intellectual and Administrative Leadership C.K. Prahalad in The Organization of the Future by the Drucker Foundation
    4. 4. Project success depends on (besidesstrict ROI), “impacts on customerrelationships, intellectual capitalgrowth, and organizationallearning and process improvement.”Howard Rubin
    5. 5. Management theory, according to the case against it, has fourdefects: it is constitutionally incapable of self-criticism; itsterminology usually confuses rather than educates; it rarely risesabove basic common sense; and it is faddish and bedevilled bycontradictions that would not be allowed in more rigorousdisciplines.The implications of all four charges is that managementgurus are con artists, the witch doctors of our age, playing onbusiness people’s anxieties in order to sell snake oil.The gurus, many of whom have sprung suspiciously from “the greatuniversity of life” rather than any orthodox academic discipline,exist largely because people let them get away with it. Modernmanagement theory is no more reliable than tribal medicine. Witchdoctors, after all, often got it right - by luck, by instinct, or by trialand error.(Micklethwait and Wooldridge, 1996)
    6. 6. Knowledge Management: Fact or fluff?
    7. 7. Finding a start point•Define the nature of the enterprise and what itis doing, and why•Define the resource requirements….includingboth information and knowledge•Imagine how you might do what you are doingbetter•Consider the notion of “enterprisemanagement”
    8. 8. What “KM” is not• IT asset planning• Intellectual asset marketing• Data warehousing or “Business Intelligence”• Information repositories• The Internet and / or a corporate web site• A “killer ap”• A stovepipe solution
    9. 9. The Issue of Utility• In Records Management: know the context within which information was created (source)• In Knowledge Management: to know in order to act intelligently (application)
    10. 10. Operationalization• Be careful about process models (much of IM and KM is concerned with intangibles that do not respond well to normal asset and logistical management practices.• Valuation is really, really problematic.• Organizational structures can be troublesome• Business and work rules may be way out of step.. …(e.g. empowerment).
    11. 11. The Gartner Group KM Process Framework (1)• The meaning of "knowledge management" remains elusive, is difficult for sponsors to advocate and explain, and is easily abused by vendors and service providers.
    12. 12. The Gartner Group KM Process Framework (2)• A revised definition of KM: • "Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes a collaborative and integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of an enterprises information assets. This includes databases, documents and, most importantly, the uncaptured, tacit expertise and experience of individual workers."
    13. 13. The Key Work in KM is…..Discipline: "branch of instruction" (the field)Discipline: "methods or rules for conduct" (therules)Discipline: "training of the mind" (the self)
    14. 14. Building a KM Model•Augment activities that surround learning•Relate KM aims to process to technology•Make the process practice-driven - “KM is a collection of practices that support learning and knowledge creation as an auxiliary process running parallel to the value chain”. - “This requires cultural support, incentives and training in the principles of the discipline of learning.”
    15. 15. The myth and the hit• The KM myth is that: – information is a product / resource that just needs to be “managed” - as a transport problem – there are generic package solutions to unique problems and challenges – IT is a necessary but not sufficient pre- condition to KM (and IM) – KM can be “rolled out”
    16. 16. What is the hit?• Building the spirit and fact of “enterprise”• Linking input to output; action to mission• Identifying and deploying resources (human et al)• Defining the base event requirements• Supporting knowledgeable management and knowledgeable workers
    17. 17. What is the hit? (2)• Diffusing expertise centres (watch out for “communities of practice”)• Distributing professional / “managerial” functions (watch out for “webmasters”)• Enhancing mobile capability (internal and marketplace)• Enabling effective work systematization and IT architecting
    18. 18. KM Presents an OpportunityTo bring together what we have learnedabout work, management andinformation technology in a way thatwill profit all the players.
    19. 19. Co-ordinates David G. 2300 year old roots of KM are here: