Thursday 30 April 2009

Knowledge Management and Training

We are doing a piece of work for a corporate client, looking at the link between Knowledge management and Training. On the face of it, there should be a strong link, as both are about learning, and about the development of capability through learning. In many companies, Training is focused on development of the individual, and KM is focused on learning and at team, project and community scale (or, sadly all to often, its focused at IT and document repositories).

Yet teams and projects and communities are made up of individuals. Traditional learning was classroom focused, but increasingly a wider view of L&OD is incorporating learning on the job – online learning, the use of learning blogs and wikis, and remote learning through webcasts and other tools. KM and Training converge under a heading of "Learning".

Our first thought is that, at a strategic level, KM and Training should be linked, and the strategic competencies of the organisation should be addressed by both disciplines. Consistent resources could be created, ensuring that new knowledge is provided consistently through training, through reference materials and through communities. KM can provide support and learning solutions outside the classroom, and personal development through interventions like site visits and learning visits can be linked with team learning as well. We have worked with one organisation where the corporate university is supported by a series of communities of practice, so that Training and KM are structurally connected through the university.

Training addresses the “Internalisation” box in the Nonaka and Takeuchi SECI model, which we have always found the hardest box to address through KM. This is the box where the individual or team interacts with the organisational knowledge base, and structures like simulations, role playing and games can provide a powerful way of transferring knowledge.

This message was passed on to us many years ago from Colonel Ed of the US Army, who have a very close link between KM and training. The Training budget is 15% of the Army’s budget, which is a proportion no business will come anywhere near matching, but which enables the soldier to fully internalise, through experience, the most up-to-date war-fighting "doctrine" (the Army's name of codified knowledge). However a proper linkage between training and knowledge sharing, between building the capability of the individual and that of the organisation, and between L&OD and KM, is likely to be the next step forward in consolidating Knowledge Management as a fully embedded support mechanism for performance.

In order to link the two, you need the following -

1. An integrated KM/L&OD strategy, focused around the critical reas of knowledge for the orgnisation
2. Structural linkage of the KM and Training functions
3. Structural linkage between the communities of practice and the course owners
4. A feed mechanism for new knowledge, case studies and lessons to enter training content
5. A feed mechanism for new lessons gained through training (especially through practical exercises and simulations) to be fed into business process

Photo - Training the trainers - from Flickr
Originally uploaded by and described as follows. A bonfire lit the sky of Babil Province, as noncommissioned officers
from the 172nd Infantry Brigade welcomed 22 graduates into the ranks of leadership at the first-ever Blackhawk Warrior Leader Course in theater.
The week-long accelerated training program has a focus on over 20 hands-on, performance-based skills ranging from Iraqi security
professionalization to fundamental lifesaving skills. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Bethany L. Little)

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