Tuesday 20 May 2014

2 dimensions of Knowledge Stewardship

One of the key tenets - probably the foundational tenet - of Knowledge Management is that Knowledge is an asset to an organisation, and must be treated as such.

It follows on, therefore, that someone must "own" or "steward" the knowledge - someone must look after it, and be accountable for ensuring that the value of that asset is realised. Every critical or strategic knowledge topic needs such stewardship.

There are two dimensions to this role of Knowledge Owner or Knowledge Steward.
By addressing these two dimensions, they ensure that knowledge is built and applied in both tacit and explicit form.

Knowledge Stewards can take one of three approaches to stewardship, based on the maturity of the knowledge topic, the degree of experience of the community of practice, and the local culture in their organisation.
  1. The Knowledge Stewards can personally own the knowledge. They are the Knowers, they hold the expertise and write the guidance and the manuals, while the knowledge workers apply the knowledge.
  2. The Knowledge Stewards can quality-control the knowledge and validate it, while the knowledge workers both apply the knowledge and submit new knowledge to the Knowledge Steward for approval and incorporation.
  3. The Knowledge Stewards can build and manage the knowledge-creating and knowledge-validating system, while the knowledge is created, updated and validated by the members of the community of practice themselves.
The first model seems very old fashioned nowadays, and the third model seems much more attractive, and is becoming more common (see for example the use of Wikis to develop Army doctrine). However there may still be cases where the first model is appropriate, and the second case is still valid for mission-critical, safety-critical or strategic knowledge topics.

As always in Knowledge Management, you need to accept the principle (in this case, that each important knowledge topic needs stewardship) and then apply the principle in a way that suits your business context.

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