Friday, 30 April 2010

The four roles in KM

This blog post arises from a conversation I have been having with Mary Abrahams over the roles of knowledge manager and content manager and content catalyst, following the "turf war" post below. She asked me about my definition of content, in the context of roles and role descriptions, and we agree that content is recorded material (documents, videos, photographs etc). As the conversation moved into the field of Roles, then I realised that it was becoming too big for a comment on a blog post, and becoming a blog post in its own right.

In a managed KM system, I see four main facilitative roles, which we can link to the four squares of the Nonaka and Takeuchi SECI model, the four squares being

Socialisation - the transfer of knowledge between people,
Externalisation - where tacit knowledge is extrnalised, and then can be recorded (thus creating content)
Combination - where externalised knowledge or content is combined
and refined
Internalisation - where externalised knowledge or content is
internalised or "learnt" by the user

(I just want to say at this point that not all content, in fact only a small proportion, is externalised knowledge. There is a huge amount of content which is information or data. Also not all externalised knowledge, by the N&T definition, is content, but for the purpose of looking at roles, I will assume that we can equate the two. Please feel free to question this assumption, but that would lead us into different territory).

So what are the roles?

Socialisation - the role of the contact broker, for example the facilitator of a community of practice, or the subject matter expert who puts people in touch with people, arranging knowledge visits, conferences, round tables, knowledge exchanges, mentoring, demonstrations, conversations etc.

Externalisation - the role of the facilitator, who facilitates peer assists, AARs, Retrospects, Knowledge handovers, who conducts interviews, and who creates learning histories. This could be close to Mary's "content catalyst" role.

Combination - the role of the knowledge owner, or content owner. There will be a content manager role as well, who manages the repository of the content.

Internalisation - this is a fuzzier area, and this is an area of weakness for many KM programs. The role here is the broker for the internalisation of other people's knowledge. It may be the facilitator of the Business Driven Action Learning exercise, or the facilitator or trainer of other exercises(trainings, briefings, role plays, scenario planning) where people can internalise explicit knowledge.

These roles are in addition to the basic roles of knowledge provider and knowledge receiver/user. They facilitate the flow of knowledge, rather than contribute to it. Also they are not neccessarily roles on the KM team.

These need not be separate people - the knowledge owner or content manager could act as the contact broker, the externalisation facilitator can act as the internalisation facilitator. Or it could very well be more than four people. There may be many communities, each with a facilitator. There may be many facilitators of knowledge capture and knowledge internalisation.

But if knowledge transfer is to work well, these roles are needed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this post! it gives me better understandings of SECI in practice; Where externalization happens with AAR, retrospect etc activities. Indeed a blog comes from practice! Lessons well identified with thanks;)
Martin Chen

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