Thursday, 1 May 2014


Management by conversation




Originally uploaded to Flickr by iwona_kellie
Steven Denning, at the Ottowa Knowledge Management summit a few years ago, said that the learning capacity of an organisation is directly related to it's ability to hold conversations, and I truly believe he was right.

When dealing with the management of intangibles such as knowledge, much of the process of management will be through conversation (conversation leading to action).

For example, Safety Management is driven by conversations about safety, in order to drive awareness of safety issues and identify mitigating actions. Similarly Risk Management is driven by conversations about safety, in order to drive awareness of risks to projects and to identify mitigating actions.


Similarly knowledge management is driven by conversations about knowledge.

All of the most powerful knowledge management processes are driven by conversation - especially dialogue.

  • Knowledge management planning is a dialogue about "what knowledge do we need", in order to identify learning actions. 
  • Peer Assist is a dialogue to exchange and acquire knowledge at the start of a project, in order to identify improvement actions for the project. 
  • After Action Review is a ongoing, regular learning-based dialogue within a working team, to identify improvement actions for the team. 
  • Retrospect is a detailed dialogue at the end of the project to identify and clarify the team learnings, and the improvement actions for the organisation. 
  • Knowledge exchange is a multi-person dialogue within a community or between two teams, in order to collectively make sense of experience, identify the learnings, and determine the process improvement actions.


As Steve Denning might have said, the learning capacity of an organisation is directly related to it's ability to hold conversations about learning.

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