Thursday 3 September 2015

knowledge mismanagement

There is a school of thought that every organisation does knowledge management. This is not correct - many organisations practice knowledge mismanagement.

I think the idea that "every organisation does knowledge management - they just don't recognise it/call it something different/haven't formalised it" comes from the recognition that all organisations work with knowledge.

Knowledge is certainly a resource, or a potential resource, for all organisations, but that it not to say that they manage the resource. Common symptoms of knowledge mismanagement are as follows:

  • Crucial knowledge left in the heads of people, and lost when the people retire
  • Critical knowledge stored in databases to which the rest of the organisation has no access
  • No time spent to capture knowledge gained on projects
  • No time spent to seek knowledge to help inform plans and decisions
  • No maintenance of exiting knowledge assets or knowledge stores
  • No consistent taxonomy for stored knowledge
  • No effective search technology
  • Incentives for internal competition, which hinders or blocks knowledge sharing
  • Incentives (formal or otherwise) for knowledge reinvention
  • Rewards for "personal knowing" - promotion and job security for the experts who hoard knowledge
  • No messages from senior management about the importance of knowledge
  • Inappropriate rules on internal information security

If you managed any other resource in this way, it would be termed mismanagement, and a breach of good company practice. 

Financial mismanagement is defined by Wikipedia as

"management that, deliberately or not, is handled in a way that can be characterized as wrong, bad, careless, inefficient or incompetent and that will reflect negatively upon the financial standing of a business or individual".

We could similarly define Knowledge mismanagement as

"management that, deliberately or not, is handled in a way that can be characterized as wrong, bad, careless, inefficient or incompetent and that will reflect negatively upon the knowledge-related performance of a business or individual".
Note that the mismanagement does not have to be deliberate - just careless or inefficient

Instead, lets take care of knowledge, in an efficient and competent way. 


Jonathan Gordon-Till said...

Excellent summary Nick. I wonder, did you consciously put any ranking on the bullet points (to indicate more or less significance)?

Nick Milton said...

There is no ranking on these Jonathan. Instead they follow more of a train of thought - storage of knowledge, knowledge capture and re-use, knowledge organisation, governance.

There may be many more ways in which knowledge can be mismanaged!

Hendri Ma'ruf said...

"Mis-management" has been there for ages. But, "Knowledge Mismanagement" is surely something new for many people. Thank you, Nick, for bringing this up.

Lisandro Gaertner said...

The great question here is purely ideological. Do you believe knowledge belongs to a group of people formally in power or it is a creative force that shapes human collectives?Enterprises don't have wants or needs. They are juridical fictions. Most of the time when we say business objectives we are saying stockholders or higher ups objectives. Knowledge management can serve the people that create or are fed by these collectives or the few people that largely benefit from it. Formal power vs Ad Hoc Power. From that point of view there is nos MIS-Management. Only lack of control from the higher hierarchy. Holocracies, hacks and corporate revolutions are a way to manage knowledge to benefit the underdog. Sometimes Knowledge Management can be a way of stripping people from the power they have. The power of knowing better. Knowledge Management probably will be the arena of the future revolutions. To whom are you are managing knowledge for? The question here is: in which side are you? I know where I stand. Thanks for provoking this discussion.

Unknown said...

The common symptoms of knowledge mismanagement are a Mis-KM not knowledge mismanagement.

Nick Milton said...

I am not sure I follow you Sahat

Unknown said...

I like the concept Nick. It leans nicely toward benchmarking a company's KM Maturity.

My Masters thesis was on KM in small to medium enterprises. On the back of that, I noticed there was a progressive breakdown of what I termed natural knowledge sharing within a business. As gateways like ~40x staff, multiple sites, etc are passed, the level of additional management required increases.

There was a correlation between success and the companies that recognised this extra need early in their growth.

The fact that mis-management can be defined as unintentional helps sell this message, but how do we help managers realise they are mismanaging without triggering an egotistical defence and shutting down the conversation?

Nick Milton said...

An aid to doing this, Stuart, will be the ISO 9001 revision this month, which defines knowledge as a resource and gives some pointers towards its management. It is difficult to be defensive in the face of a recognised standard such as this.

see here for more details

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