Friday, 5 August 2016

Knowledge inputs and knowledge outputs in project activity.

Knowledge is both and input to, and an output from, project activity. This gives us a handle by which that knowledge can be managed. 

Projects consume and create resources. They consume money, time and equipment, and they create products and income streams. They also consume (or, rather, apply) and create knowledge. 

Each project needs an input of knowledge. This is knowledge that the team will need in order to deliver the project; knowledge of the practices to be used, the technology to be applied, the client and how they operate, and other insights and guidance.

Much of that knowledge enters the project in the heads of the project team, but there can be other knowledge inputs as well, particularly if the project team are facing factors which are unknown to them. Maybe they need to hold a peer assist with another project, maybe they need to look in the knowledge base for useful guidance, or maybe they have to ask the relevant communities of practice for help or advice.  All of these are mechanisms for knowledge input.

A project team can map out the required knowledge inputs in a knowledge gap analysis meeting, for example, where the team will identify the crucial topics where knowledge is needed. It can also then be useful to plot these topics on the Boston Square above, based on the importance of the topic to the project outcome and the availability of knowledge on the topic.  This gives you some idea of the actions to take for each of the topics. 

Projects also generate knowledge. Not only will the project create monetary value, it can also create knowledge value, so long as that knowledge is captured. This is particularly true when the project is covering a new area, where a considerable amount of new knowledge could be created for the organisation. Knowledge outputs may include guidance, procedures, lessons learned, templates, checksheets and other artefacts that might be of use to future projects, and which capture .

You therefore need to discuss with the project team not only what knowledge the project needs, but what knowledge the project will create. You may want to rank these knowledge outputs in order of importance for the rest of the organisation, although the project team may not be the best placed people to comment on this.

The conversation about knowledge inputs and outputs, and any actions that should be assigned to gather the inputs and plan to create the outputs, should be recorded in a project Knowledge Management plan which will act as the governance document for KM in the project. 

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