Tuesday 16 August 2016

The KM transition from Connecting to Collecting - RTFM

Connecting and Collecting are the "two halves" of Knowledge Management. Starting KM with Connection almost inevitably leads to Collection as well, once Connection reaches the "RTFM" moment.

Connection and Collection are two approaches to Knowledge Management which, in any mature KM framework, should both be balanced. However if you want to start with only one of these, then the approach that delivers Quick Wins is the Connection approach.

This is faster, more efficient, easier, and delivers better results that the common alternative of starting with knowledge push through collection of documented knowledge.  With pull-based connection, an individual with a need for knowledge can ask a community of practice, and receive an answer very quickly, without the need to populate a massive knowledge base first.

The RTFM transition point

Communities of practice are very generous with their time, and have no problems with answering a question, however simple and basic.  However there is one point at which a community of practice begins to lose patience, and that is when the question gets asked again. And again. And again. And again. I was reminded of this today, when yet another thread appeared in linked-in asking whether we should rename KM, and if so, what should we call it? This is a question that seems to be asked every second month, and you can get tired of answering it.

You see the same effect in communities in the workplace. People are happy to answer a basic question once. They get tired of answering it 50 times. So what they commonly do at this point, is being to codify some of their answers. They begin to move, of their own accord, from Connection to Collection.

The first thing they tend to do is write an FAQ, to answer the frequently asked questions in an efficient manner. This often comes about a year into the life of the community, when the frequently asked questions have been identified (by their frequency of asking), and the answers have been kicked around and pretty well worked-up, and it becomes more efficient to answer them once and for all, rather than repeating the answers afresh every time.

This is the RTFM moment (for "Read The Flipping Manual" - the exasperated response a community gives to a question which could have been answered by reading the manual). This is the point where a community moves from Connection to Collection. They do it of their own accord, they write the manual, and they do it for efficiency reasons; in areas where Collection actually works better than Collection. They see the value of collecting their own knowledge themselves; you don't have to persuade them to do it.

There is a lot to be said for letting a Community reach their own RTFM moment, rather than requiring them to Collect from the start; for letting this step evolve, rather than imposing it.

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