Tuesday 26 January 2010

The self aware organisation

I have been having a series of very interesting discussions lately about the link between KM and Organisational Agility. There is a close link, and KM can be seen as one of the key enablers of the agile organisation. However there is another link, and this is the link to Awareness.

The difference between an organisation that applies KM and one that doesn’t, may well go further than the ability to learn. Certainly KM drives learning – certainly an organisation which has embedded the behaviours and culture of KM is a far better learning-machine than one that hasn’t – but there seems to be something else that happens as well.

As an organisation develops KM habits of reflection and analysis, as work activity is constantly reviewed against strategic goals and any misfits identified, and as lessons and improvements are identified and escalated to a level that can deal with them, the organisation begins to become conscious and aware of how it works. The learning networks that KM provides, and the dialogue that takes place at all levels, allows a level of self-awareness to be developed that comes close to a sort of emergent organisational intelligence. It’s like the organisation “comes awake”.

Now a fully self-aware organisation, and an organisation that is fully aware of its surroundings, may need more than KM. It may need a combination of KM, business intelligence, and scenario planning. It will need to work along the supply chain, and it will need excellent customer intelligence and market research. But KM is also a key factor, and when you tie all these activities together, you get an organisation that is

• Aware of the market
• Aware of competitors
• Aware of how well it is operating, and what needs to improve
• Aware of its options for response, for growth and for change
• Aware of what it needs to learn, and how to learn it

In short, you get an organisation that is alert, agile, responsive, intelligent. The slow-thinking, slow-reacting unaware dinosaur organisations need to watch out – there is a new predator on the block.

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