Tuesday, 7 October 2008

LtF Chapter 2: What is Knowledge Management?

A chapter with a big agenda.

The authors emphasise the cultural aspects of knowledge sharing and present a continuum (devised by Larry Prusak) ranging from Capture (codification of knowledge - documenting) throught to Connectivity (softer cultural and collaboration aspects).

1st Reflection point - where is the largest prize for my organization and where should we invest our effort?

I think it may be that the big reward will come from improving the connectivity type aspects. An enormous amount of capture and documentation is generated both within my organization and in the wider NHS / research settings. Often people do not know where to start with all this, how to cope with the flows of information or locate things they are dimly aware of. I definitely think there would be a benefit to the organisation of my team working to map and make more visible a lot of this stuff. Part of this would have to be about developing peoples skills in coping with information flows.

A definition of tacit versus explicit knowledge follows. Placed in the context of the Wilson article (I think I may refer to this regularly) this seems broadly OK. Explicit Knowledge can be written down (Information). Tacit cannot - it is what we have in our heads.

The importance of maintaining up to date information through the application and testing of knowledge is held up and that a network is a good way to do this (possibly a facilitated one). This is interesting as it points to a potential role for us - for example we can help seed a review of a local policy by supplying relevant new evidence to the relevant person. It might also tie into how we might use the Team Knowledge Officers proposed by the Hill Review?

I think we could safely put librarianship in the People AND Process AND Technology diagram but then you could put most modern work in that overlap. I am not sure how multimedia and videoconferencing would make tacit knowledge more widely available however since the whole problem is that this cannot be readily expressed.

The next section touches on the variety of KM 'solutions' on the market place. A holistic view is suggested with what looks like the Learning by Doing cycle I spend my life handing to student nurses (5 minutes later someone asks for that very book - spooky). The suggestion is that any documentation of this learning should be very brief - sounds reasonable. The learning also needs to be easy to reapply if it is to be used.

More discussion around defining knowledge which perhaps falls foul of Wilson - the example uses some information from frequent flyers - it is hardly knowledge. A barrage of definitions follows Know-how, Know-why, Know-what, Know-who, Know-where and Know when. I am not entirely sure about what to make of this - I guess it provides a set of categories to work with.

Four conditions are suggested as being required to create an environment where KM can flourish (given that the authors acknowledge Knowledge cannot be Managed!). They seem like quite a big agenda from where I am sitting.

The final major chunk relates to how we move from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. This is quite a widely circulated model and is suggested as a means to embed KM. Later in the book we should meet some tools to help with this.

That will do for today - maybe some fresh thoughts tomorrow. Comments welcome.

(C) Image Creative Commons


Caroline De BrĂșn said...

Dear Alan,

I am enjoying your blog very much. Often blogs can be disappointing but yours is very informative and I am learning from it. Thank you, from,

Caroline De Brun

Alan said...

Hi Caroline,

Glad you have enjoyed it so far. Hopefully there will be some useful discussion.

I have had one comment direct to me thus far - I am hoping they will publish it here somewhere!



Paul LSW said...

Actually, I think that you are wrong about the connectivity vs capture issue. We, in common with lots of London NHS organisations, have a high level of staff turnover and it is important that what they do is recorded (anywhere). It then, in classic librarian fashion, needs to be sensibly stored somewhere so that it is accessable. The model in the book seems to be based, in part, on BP and Japanese companies where staff stay on for ages.
Also, and this goes back to my undergraduate degree in pedantry, it is not organisations that learn, its the people within them. If you get your levels muddled up well, all sorts of things happen

alan said...

Hi Paul,

High levels of staff turnover are an issue in lots of NHS organisations. A lot of work does go into preparing policies and procedures and then on testing competencies against these. For most roles the Job Description should broadly describe what they do and for whom.

What would be the extra stuff you would want to work to capture?

alan said...

ooh - and on the people versus organisations learning.

I guess that given the focus in the text on creating an environment / culture for KM they are talking about how individuals are helped to learn by a particular environment / culture?

paul lsw said...

I think that competencies define staff' skill levels (part of tacit knowledge) but they do not measure what they should do, nor do they describe what staff from a department have done, nor why they did it.
MapofMedicine should cover some of this for clinical purposes (the red pills are in this box, this is the phone number for A & E) but hospitals have a complicated bureaucracy whose actions are frequently unrecorded, especially when they try to work across Trusts, departments or with X.gov.uk. The internal documentation for departments can be patchy, and the working processes and local history are frequently lost when staff move on.
You can capture some of these with effective exit interviews, or with staff diaries but this information needs to be collated, archived, organised and managed.

As for the pedantry and language, I will think about what I mean to write.

alan said...

Hi Paul,

I agree with you about competencies. JDs are also notorious for not reflecting peoples full roles.

Internal documentation - hum must update the procedures manual!

Feel free to be pedantic - I am very partial to a bit of it myself.



paul lsw said...

About the pedantry. I found this quote on the net, at the reference for the review of Nonaka and Takeuchi at http://xp123.com/xplor/xp0402/index.shtml.


"There are two key dimensions in a theory of organizational knowledge creation: an epistemological dimension--whether the knowledge is tacit or explicit-- and an ontological dimension--whether it is known at the individual, group, organization, or inter-organization level."

Harold Trammel said...

I personally found the know(s) helpful as it breaks the "type" of knowledge into facets I can understand. Know-how and know-what is the most common knowledge that I see captured. Know-why and know-when begins to move into "wisdom", i.e. knowledgeable decision making. Know-who is how to get to the tacit knowledge that is not able to be captured. In our organization, the know-who is perhaps the most important knowledge repository at this point. It is the most difficult to "manage". :-)