Tuesday 17 December 2019

Embedding KM in the heartbeat of work

Work has its own rhythms; its own heartbeat. Make KM part of that heartbeat. 

Image from wikimedia commons
Work has cycles and rhythms; an organisational heartbeat if you will. Embedding Knowledge Management means making it part of that heartbeat, so that it becomes a natural component of the operation cycle and not an add-on or an after-thought. That way the organisational heartbeat can be used to pump knowledge through the KM circulatory system. 

You can align KM with the organizational heartbeat in a number of ways, depending on your own context.

KM in projects

In a project context, the heartbeat is a project cycle - start-up, reviews, shutdown. Embedding KM into this cycle is quite simple- you embed the processes for Learning before, during and after into your project KM framework.

  • Learning before activities such as Peer Assist, KM planning or reviewing lessons learned as early activities for each project, each project stage, or (for mega-projects) each stage of each workstream.
  • Learning During activities such as After Action review linked to milestones, iterations, or built into regular project review meetings.
  • Learning After activities such as Lessons Capture, knowledge handover or learning histories, as late activities at the end of each project, each project stage, or (for mega-projects) each stage of each workstream.

KM in services and operations

In a service or operational context, the heartbeat is related to the review cycle.

  • You can link KM to the Deming cycle. Variously described as "Plan-Do-Check-Act", or "Plan-Do-Measure-Learn" (the latter being a common oil-sector variant), it is a cycle of action, or a cycle of mindfulness, that drives learning and continuous improvement. KM can be embedded within this cycle.
  • You can link KM to the performance cycle. Performance measurement and benchmarking, target setting and knowledge management can be closely linked in an operation, production, service or manufacturing environment, as part of a performance management system. Benchmarking identifies the areas where a unit needs to improve and/or the business units from which it can learn, Target setting allows it to focus on areas for improvement, and Knowledge management allows it to acquire or develop the knowledge it needs in order to meet its targets. KM can therefore be embedded within the performance management and reporting cycle.
Embedding KM in this way builds it into the cycles and rhythms by which people already work, and go a long way to developing Knowledge Management as a habit. In many ways, the heartbeat is aligned to the cycles of review; the points at which people pause, take stock, and ask "What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? What have we learned? What do we need to share? What do we still need to learn from others?

Align KM with the natural heartbeat of work - that way the flow of knowledge through the organisation will be strong and regular.

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