Monday 21 May 2012

4 classes of knowledge for an organisation in transition

In a recent white paper, we described the role of Knowledge Management in helping public sector organisations to get through the major transitions associated with the public sector cuts.

We described the need to focus on a knowledge-based view of the future, and the need to move to a networked model, but we also talked about the four types of knowledge, or the four types of competency, which a public sector sector body should consider.

These four types, as shown in the matrix here, are generic, and should be considered by any organisation going through major changes, major downsizing, or other big changes in direction or strategy driven by recession.

Basically, the organization needs to take a competency-based and knowledge-based view of the future, centred around the services and products it will deal with in the new future. Currently it has the knowledge and competence to deliver the old services, but it needs to move to a set of competencies needed to deliver the new, focused services.

We can think about this competence transition in terms of four areas of knowledge, as shown above, and described below.

Things we need to know in future, but don’t know now. This is the future competence which will need to be developed to operate in the new world. Those organisations which come out of recession as leaders tend to be those who invest in new competence. Knowledge Management can help develop new competence through processes such as Action Learning and Communities of Purpose.  In the early days of delivering the new service, the organization will need to learn rapidly, with close attention to the lessons learned process; acting on the lessons from the past and capturing their own lessons, both to develop their own performance, and to share with followers.

Things we need to know in future, and already know now. This is current core competence which will be also needed in the future. Here the focus is on improving and streamlining the current competence, reducing inefficiency and waste, and controlling cost. Knowledge Management can help improve efficiencies through processes such as Lessons learned, After Action Review, and Communities of Practice, and through technologies such as Wikis, Portals and networking tools. Any staff reduction in these areas will need to be done very carefully. An excellent example of public-sector Knowledge Management and Lessons Learning can be seen within the Military sector, where considerable attention is paid to delivering the most effective result through learning from all activity. 

Things we know now, but will no longer need. These are the competences associated with the peripheral areas of business which we will cut, and may be transferred to other bodies. The knowledge associated with these areas should be either archived, or packaged and transferred. Knowledge Management can help retain and transfer this knowledge through processes such as Interview, Knowledge Exchange, and through technologies such as Wikis and Portals. These technologies can host knowledge assets for informing future service providers. The approach to knowledgeretention and knowledge capture needs to start as early as possible, so that a measured strategy and process is set in place from the beginning. A model can be taken from NASA, where the strategy to capture and document the knowledge from the Constellation program (cancelled by the Obama administration) has started a year in advance of the program closure.

Things we don’t know, and won’t need to in future. These are areas of non-core competence, delivered by others. These areas are outside the scope of work of the organisation, both now and in the future, but still may impact delivery.  . Knowledge Management can help address these areas through the creation of communities of interest along the supply chain, or across government agencies.

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