Knowledge management - the basic ingredients


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A presentation by Judy Payne and Martin Fisher for APM South Wales & West of England branch on 3rd July 2013

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  • This might seem like an odd way to start a presentation, but…What it meansWhat’s your organisation’s position on IP in presentations?
  • Shout out. Write on flip chart. Delegates give each one marks out of 10 for effectiveness.Come back to these later and see whether your ideas have changed.
  • Session loosely structured around the Eleven deadliest sins of KM, an article published in 1998. The scary thing is that a lot of the errors described in the article are still made. Not going to cover all of them. Get through as many as we can. Probably three of them.
  • The most important error, and the cause of all the others.
  • What is knowledge? How does it differ from information? What is information? What is data? What is the relationship between them? Not a trick question. More of a philosophical one. There is no right answer. Which is why it’s important to have a working definition of knowledge.One of the reasons for the confusion between information and knowledge is that there are different types of knowledge.
  • The most common (and useful) way of classifying knowledge.Once explicit knowledge has been codified, it isn’t really knowledge any more – it is a representation of the author’s knowledge, but it is information. If someone writes a book, the reader has to apply their own knowledge to make sense of it. And different readers will probably interpret it in different ways. Tacit knowledge – how do you recognise a known face in a crowd?
  • If you manage only explicit knowledge, you’re managing information. And missing out on the valuable tacit knowledge.
  • If you don’t have a working definition of knowledge? Shout out.Answer: you tend to do the easy stuff – managing explicit knowledge by writing it down. Which turns into information management.Suggestions: you invest all of your effort in capturing lessons learned and then find they are not being re-used; you choose the wrong intervention - for example issuing a user-guide when a seminar or on the floor coaching would have been more effective, you miss the opportunity to innovate
  • Before we move on to the next ‘error’ – a slightly more subtle point about knowledge.Knowledge isn’t purely individual. Groups of people can have shared understandings.Which type of knowledge is the most important?Four types of knowledge are of equal importance. We often think that individual knowledge is better than group knowledge, and that explicit knowledge is better than tacit knowledge. Think about our education system and about the way performance is measured.There’s an important aspect of what people know that isn’t captured in the four types, e.g riding a bicycle – the actual act (practice) of riding it has to be added. Knowledge is in the head, knowing is part of practice.
  • If knowledge is treated as information, no surprise that it is treated as objects that can be captured and stored – usually in databases. Organisations need to manage data and information in this way – but it isn’t managing knowledge. It’s managing representations of explicit knowledge, the tip of the knowledge iceberg. And missing out much of the valuable part of the iceberg.
  • If knowledge can be managed then it must be a ‘thing’ – something you can get hold of. If that was true then you could put knowledge in a wheelbarrow. Of course you can’t do this. You could put some brains in a wheelbarrow but that wouldn’t be the same thing (and you would probably attract the attention of the authorities!) You could put some people into a wheelbarrow but you would still not have knowledge – unless of course they started talking to each other.If you think you can put your organisational knowledge in a wheelbarrow, you’re focusing on knowledge stocks and actually managing information.
  • An imaginary conversation I had with you while I was preparing this presentation.The point here is that transmitting knowledge isn’t enough. Me telling you about KM doesn’t mean knowledge is flowing. For knowledge to flow, you have to understand what I mean, make sense of it, make sense of it using your existing knowledge about KM and your project, your organisation, whatever... And then you have to use it, otherwise it is of little value to you.Also, none of what I’m saying is new...(which is, incidentally, why this presentation is licensed under Creative Commons)(and, also incidentally, this is the difference between teaching and learning)So how do we make knowledge flow?
  • The working environment is just as important (if not more important) than the tools and techniques you use.
  • Knowledge initiatives and KM programmes often become ends in themselves. Their whole point – which is to make better decisions and do things more effectively and efficiently – gets lost. You can end up wasting a lot of time on things that don’t actually contribute anything.
  • Most people new to KM go straight to the methods and tools question – and often end up managing information rather than knowledge.
  • Knowledge management - the basic ingredients

    1. 1. Knowledge management – the basic ingredients Judy Payne – Hemdean Consulting Martin Fisher – WRAP
    2. 2. APM Knowledge SIG team
    3. 3. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.
    4. 4. Key messages • Knowledge is not the same as information. • Knowledge can never be captured completely. • KM has to connect people to people, not just to information. • The environment is more important than the techniques you use. • Be clear about your KM purpose.
    5. 5. Your experiences of KM What tools and techniques do you use for managing knowledge?
    7. 7. Data, information and knowledge
    8. 8. Explicit and tacit knowledge Explicit: knowledge that can readily be codified into words and numbers. Easy to share. Difficult to protect. Tacit: knowledge that is personal and difficult to express. What we don’t know we know. Difficult to share. The most valuable kind of knowledge.
    9. 9. Why does this matter? Managing explicit knowledge Capture and codify as much as you can. Share. Quite easy to do – and easy to copy. Document management, case studies, lessons learned databases. Managing tacit knowledge Encourage people to connect, communicate and collaborate. More difficult to do – and more difficult to copy. Communities of practice, conversations, apprenticeships.
    10. 10. What happens if you don’t have a working definition of knowledge?
    11. 11. DIKW data information knowledge wisdom Data does not create information; information does not create knowledge and knowledge does not create wisdom. People use their knowledge to make sense of data and information. People create information that represents their knowledge, which can then be more widely shared. Harold Jarche
    12. 12. A working definition of knowledge Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organisations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organisational routines, processes, practices and norms. Davenport and Prusak, 1998
    13. 13. Knowledge and knowing Things an individual can express Things a group can express Individual skills, intuition, judgement Shared understanding Knowing (as action) Explicit Tacit Individual Group Cook and Brown, 1999
    15. 15. The Wheelbarrow Test
    16. 16. Knowledge flows Right, I’m going to tell you everything I know about KM Actually, I’ve already told you a lot. You got it yet? Erm, yes. Of course. We’re not stupid, you know. Good, off you go then and be good at KM. Thank you. No idea what she’s talking about....
    17. 17. Knowledge flows
    18. 18. More knowledge flows...
    19. 19. What helps knowledge to flow? • Time, trust and territory (Miles, Snow and Miles) • Hire smart people and let them talk to one another (Davenport and Prusak) • Shared language • Strong business relationships It’s the environment, stupid!
    20. 20. Hierarchies ....and networks • Relationships mandated • Top-down control • Good for sharing information and managing explicit knowledge • Tend to be formal • Managed ‘traditionally’ • Relationships voluntary • Emergent, bottom-up • Good for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, learning and managing tacit knowledge • Tend to be informal • Managed by letting go
    21. 21. KM isn’t an exercise in collecting... With thanks to Chris Collison for the butterflies metaphor Neither is it an IT project!
    23. 23. Some basic questions... What are we trying to achieve? What knowledge processes are needed? What’s needed to make the knowledge processes work? What methods and tools does this suggest?
    24. 24. Back to your KM techniques... 1. Are they based on knowledge or information? 2. Do they focus on knowledge stocks or knowledge flows? 3. Do they achieve their purpose?
    25. 25. @judypayne @fishmart