A great comment by Anthony McL. Collins on my post on K(star) pointed to this paper on The nonsense of ‘knowledge management’ by T.D. Wilson. I do not often post a paper without providing a review it but this is worth reading it all.
Relevant to the K* discussion is his conclusion to the section related to use of the term by consultancies:
The conclusion to this brief exploration of consultancy Web sites is that ‘knowledge management’ means different things to different companies and that one or two of them that have previously dabbled with the idea have moved on to other things.
Here is Anthony’s comment:
I really like your comment “the proponents of K* have created more jargon”. In fact KM is indeed a jargon-ridden field. For a not at all new but still true and provocative view of KM, this very serious and detailed paper of 2002 by an eminent University of Sheffield professor is a must to read: “The nonsense of ´knowledge management´” : http://informationr.net/ir/8-1/paper144.html
The religious proponents of KM will be very upset, but the simple truth is that the “K” letter is really a fundamental misnomer. Knowledge is something elusive within the minds of people, while INFORMATION is what we actually manage. But it´s not nearly so engaging as a term to pontificate on and amplify as K* variants. Actually, when I first read this paper, I nearly collapsed laughing, as the frank description of what passes for KM in the world of consultants is hysterically funny, but also revealing of a sadly pseudo-scientific activity.
For a thoughtful comment on the Wilson paper “Knowledge Management in the Real World” is also worth reading: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/knowledge_manag.php
As an aside, I am aware of a large global organization that initiated a KM program some years ago, then finally evolved the name into a KS ( =K Sharing) program, so that blogging, twittering and diverse other Web 2 social activities could be racked up as major global “KS” achievements within the program that barely achieved any KM. The fact that school children everywhere routinely do these … no further comment needed !
The Richard MacManus articule to which he refers summarises Professor Wilson’s findings of the study of KM journal articles:
- A concern with information technology.
- A tendency to elide the distinction between ‘knowledge’ (what I know) and ‘information’ (what I am able to convey about what I know).
- Confusion of the management of work practices in the organization with the management of knowledge.
Anyone who has worked in the sector will certainly have to agree with this first conclusion. The obsession with IT is palpable. Even the K* conference appears to have been covered by an army of bloggers and twitters.
Do read Professor Wilson’s paper -if anything for a good background on knowledge management- whether you believe it is nonsense or not.
(And, for the record, I accept the frequent misuse of the term: will do my best to avoid it in the future.)
This event might help to address a concern of many think tanks: how to deal with an ageing workforce and support the development of a new generation of experts?
If you go or participate on-line, please let e know how it goes.
Knowledge Transfer & Peer Mentoring: A Conversation with Steve Trautman
How do institutions effectively deal with an aging workforce and staff turn-over? What approaches can be used to facilitate the transition of valuable knowledge and skills to a new generation of workers? Join the SID-Washington KM Working group for a presentation and Q&A by knowledge management expert Steve Trautman.
Steve’s expertise in the issue of knowledge transfer was born from his years at Microsoft in the early 1990s where he started out as a project manager on the early versions of Word. He pioneered the field of Knowledge Transfer using Peer Mentoring as a solution to the immediate needs of the team he led. Steve later founded one of the earliest training departments at Microsoft (supporting the one-third of the company shipping software) and continued to hone the Knowledge Transfer tools there. That work was the foundation for the program that Steve has since delivered for companies like Electronic Arts (EA), Boeing, Nike, Intel, U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, and other blue chip companies. More information about the Steve Trautman Company can be found here.
Founder and Principal, The Steve Trautman Company
Senior Knowledge Management Advisor at USAID and Co-chair of the SID-W KM Workgroup
Tony Pryor Training Advisor, Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning, USAID and Co-chair of the SID-W KM Workgroup
Date: Wednesday August 17, 2011
Location: 1211 Connecticut Ave NW
RSVP for In-Person Event: Click here to RSVP for this event
Register for Webinar: http://irgltd.adobeconnect.com/sidkm_workinggroup/event/registration.html
There are two ways to participate:
In-Person: Join us in person for the event in the International Resources Group (IRG) at 1211 Connecticut Avenue NW; 4th Floor; Washington, DC. Click here to RSVP for this event or visit www.sidw.org and navigate to the August 17, 2011 KM workgroup event page listed in the event calendar.
On-Line: Registration for this webinar is free but you must sign up here: http://irgltd.adobeconnect.com/sidkm_workinggroup/event/registration.html
A while ago I used this tool in a needs assessment exercise with organisations in a couple of programmes I was working in. Then last month I was asked by another programme about a tool to decide what areas to develop capacity of among a group of organisations.
The River Diagram, described here by Chris Collison is a very useful tool that can save you expensive consultants inputs -why bring in external help if you have the skills you need right there among your own?
There are other things you will need, though. First, you will have to develop a competencies framework (a set of competency areas that you consider crucial to assess and then compare across your organisation or network). Here is a good general guide. When I was in RAPID we used this competency framework drawn from the Knowledge Management field.
Competency frameworks can be used for different aspects of the organisation. For example, you could have one for Human Resources purposes: in ODI the HR team uses a competency framework to monitor staff performance (and this is then linked to pay); the RAPID example above focuses on the KM competencies of the organisation; but we have used it to address policy influencing competencies as well; and obviously you could develop a research competency framework, too.
You use this framework to assess the current competency level as well as the desired future level. When I have used them, I tend to stress that basic levels suggest that people do things in an ad-hoc manner, always something different, never what has been proven to work best. The higher the level, then the more evidence and experience based and the more systematic the behaviours observed. To use the framework, you can, for example, highlight the statements that best describe the behaviour of your staff or other organisations more accurately. In the diagram below, yellow denotes current behaviour and blue the ideal future one. Please note that not all competencies aim to the highest level (in this case 5).
These assessments are sometimes done as self-assessments. In my experience this rarely ever works. People tend to lie. If you are doing a self-assessment then demand evidence for every statement. And if you see lots of 4s and 5s then you should take that as a sign that the information you have is not very accurate. Why would an organisation of 4s and 5s need any help?
Once you have done this for all the parties in your group you can move on to develop the river diagram as described by Chris. A flipchart will do.
Four syndromes that prevent the development of a marketplace for ideas in an organisation -only 5 minutes!
On the supply-side:
- Tall poppy syndrome: the tallest poppy is the first to be cut off
- Shirking violet syndrome: I am not sure I’ve got a good idea, let’s leave it to the central services people, to the experts
On the demand-side:
- Not invented here syndrome: corporate antibodies that try to resist new ideas that come from outside the team or the organisation
- Real men don’t ask directions: this is self-explanatory (although this also applies to women)
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A manual from CIPPEC: Learners, practitioners and teachers Handbook on monitoring, evaluating and managing knowledge for policy influence (I’ve already provided the link but I think it was not working then).
Evidence based policy influence is a topic of growing interest to researchers, social organizations, experts, government officials, policy research institutes and universities. However, they all admit that the path from the production of a piece or body of research until a public policy is sinuous, fuzzy, forked. In this context, it is not surprising that the practice of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the policy influence in Latin America is limited. And, indeed, a limited development of knowledge management (KM) on the experiences of advocacy organizations in the region is also observed.
Incorporating monitoring, evaluating, and managing of knowledge between the daily practices of policy research institutes is well worth it. On the one hand, the use of these tools can be a smart strategy to enhance the impact of their research in public policy. On the other hand, can help them strengthen their reputation and visibility attracting more and better support by donors. In turn, the design of a system of M&E and the beginning of a KM culture, if approached with a genuine interest in learning, can become a valuable knowledge that bridges motivation for members of the organization.
In short, these practices can improve targeting activities, better decide where and how to invest resources, and formulate more realistic and accurate strategic plans.
As usual a very useful resource from the Asian Development Bank.
The competency approach befits knowledge management and learning. Knowledge Solutions are handy, quick reference guides to tools, methods, and approaches that propel development forward and enhance its effects. They fit in five comprehensive areas: (i) strategy development, (ii) management techniques, (iii) collaboration mechanisms, (iv) knowledge sharing and learning, and (v) knowledge capture and storage. In general, raising organizational performance is contingent on progress in all five areas; however, the Five Competencies Framework can also help determine priorities for immediate action by selecting the area that will yield the greatest benefits if improved. Knowledge Solutions will appeal to the development community and people interested in knowledge management and learning.