Monday 31 March 2014

Knowledge of What?

We all know by now that there is no "one-size fits all" Knowledge Management framework, and that every organisation needs to tailor their own solution. However KM does come in different flavours, and if we understand those flavours, then we have a bit more guidance for that tailoring job.

Here is one way to decide on the flavour of KM that fits your organisational needs, and that is to consider the question ...

What Type of Knowledge will be your focus? Knowledge of what?

There are four main types of knowledge, which each requires a different KM approach, as follows;

  • Knowledge of the Practices you employ
  • Knowledge of the Products you create and sell
  • Knowledge of your Customers and Markets
  • Knowledge of the Equipment you use

Knowledge of Practice is classic KM, involving Communities of Practice, Best Practice, After Action Review, and most of the common elements of industrial KM. You see this type of KM in the the project-based industries such as construction, engineering, telecoms and IT systems, the emergency services and the Aid and Development sector.

Knowledge of Products verges into Knowledge Based Engineering, and uses approaches such as Best Design (or best module design), design rationale capture, Communities of Product, and the use of A3s. You see this type of KM in the the manufacturing industries such as automobiles, aerospace, software design.

Knowledge of customers and markets verges into CRM. Here the communities are built around markets, and although processes like After Action review mean that Customer-centred KM is similar to Practice-centred KM, there is also a focus on re-use of work products ("knowledge objects"). You see this type of KM in the sales, marketing and service industries such as consulting, legal and consumer goods. A subset of customer-focused KM is built around the provision of knowledge to customers, through call centres or online publication.

Knowledge of Equipment is a fairly narrow field and is a blend of other approaches. At one level it is aligned with Knowledge of Practice, in that it needs to cover the practices of Equipment operation, and at another level it is aligned with Product Knowledge, as it needs to cover the details of equipment design. You see this type of KM in operational industries such as Nuclear, and in the Air Force.

Of course no organisation has a single focus - even a practice based organisation has customers, and even a product based organisation has practices. However the primary organisational model determines the primary type of knowledge to address through KM, and therefore determines the flavour of the resulting Knowledge Management Framework.

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