Friday 12 June 2020

Why facilitation is a core skill in KM

Tacit knowledge is shared and captured through the interaction of people and teams, and facilitation is key to effective interaction.

Facilitation is one of the Key skills of the Knowledge Manager. The vast majority of organisational knowledge is carried in people's heads, and the most effective way to transfer knowledge is through human interaction.

But not just interaction. Knowledge sharing and transfer requires:

  • open behaviours (listening, exploring, not criticising);
  • dialogue rather than argument or debate;
  • balanced input from many people - not a few people talking, and the others listening;
  • effective process to be followed, within a given time frame.

Without facilitation, none of these are easy to achieve!

So what exactly is facilitation, and how does it work?

A good illustration of facilitation, and how it differs from teaching and coaching,  is the "facilitraining rainbow".  I am not sure who first drew this diagram, but I include my version here.  It shows different types of interaction between and individual and a group, with teaching-style interactions on the right, and facilitator-style interactions on the left. Basically:

  • A teacher "owns the content" of the interaction. They provide the knowledge content, and pass it on to someone else;
  • A facilitator, in contrast, owns the process, and the participants in the interaction own the knowledge content. The facilitator provides the structure and behaviours to allow content transfer or capture to happen. 

To facilitate is therefore to impartially support the interaction between the participants in order to optimise knowledge discovery, creation or transfer. To facilitate is to serve the group by encouraging, aiding, and leading the dialogue.

The zone of the Knowledge Management facilitator is therefore definitely on the left hand side of the rainbow.  The KM facilitator has low ownership of the knowledge content, and a variable level of interaction with the group in question, depending on the process being followed.

However in all of these processes, good facilitation is very important, and facilitation should be a core skill for the KM team, and a core service that the team provides. 

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