Tuesday 21 December 2010

Changing KM strategies as knowledge evolves

Here's another look at the issues of knowledge maturity, and how your KM strategies evolve as knowledge matures (previously dealt with in this post).

Here we combine the ideas from that post, with the concept of a learning curve.

At point A on the learning curve, there is little knowledge, and the knowledge management strategy at this point must be on lessons identification and re-use - on retrospects and after action reviews - on learning very quickly through a deliberate focus on the knowledge that is being gained. There is no point in looking for any best practice at this stage, as the knowledge is still exploratory (see for example the story about learning in the battlefields of Normandy).

As learning slows, then you can begin to take stock of all the lessons and all of the experiences, and can begin to bring them all together in crafting a collective view of successful strategies, which we can call best practice. This best practice is continuously evolving and continuously improving. It is not static and its not a required standard; its the current version of the best approach, which people are free to improve on. The knowledge management strategy at point B is one of harnessing the power of the community to drive continuous improvement around a common practice concept.

As learning slows to a standstill, at Point C, then any further search for improvement becomes a waste of energy, and any attempts at further incremental innovation turn into tinkering. Here the knowledge management strategy becomes one of standardisation, and embedding of knowledge into organisational design and standardised process.  At the bottom of the learning curve, knowledge is as mature as it can get; until there is a change in context, such as a change in technology, a change in the market, or a change in the industry. So even though further incremental innovation is pointless, there may be step-out innovation as soon as the context changes. This is Point D, so the knowledge management strategy of standardisation at point C must be matched by a watchfulness, and the constant question of "has anything changed that means we could do this in a radically different way ?" If something has changed, then you kick off down a new learning curve.

Failures or inefficiencies in KM come from using the wrong strategies in the wrong parts of the curve - applying best praxctice at point A, applying standardisation at point B, trying to innovate at point C, or blindly ignoring point D and applying a stadard approach where step-out innovation is needed.

Get your KM strategy aligned with the correct state of knowledge maturity, and you will succeed.

(Also, an organisation working in many different knowledge areas of different maturity levels may need different strategies for different areas).

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