Friday 27 November 2015

Does knowledge look different, looking back to looking forward?

I am recently returned from a busy few days with a manufacturing client, which has given me some food for thought.

We conducted a number of KM activities, including a Retrospect to identify and capture lessons from the last version of the product, and some knowledge gap analysis (KM planning) of future work. And it was only afterwards that I realised that all the backward looking conversation had been about Process, and all the forward looking conversation had been about Product.

Any manufacturing client looks at knowledge of product and of process - the ternary diagram from our 2014 KM Survey shows Manufacturing as half-way up the left hand side of the picture, midway between the Process and Product corners.

However the conversations we have about these two knowledge focus areas are different.

Looking back, the standard processes of Retrospect and After Action Review tend to identify the successes and failures in Process - the processes of design, manufacture, testing, technical decision making, and so on. If we want to review a Product, we need to specifically address this, maybe using something like the A3 process, or the Knowledge Briefs. 

Looking forward, the Knowledge Gap Analysis (part of the KM Planning methodology) tends to look at gaps in Product knowledge, rather than gaps in Process knowledge, unless we were deliberately to focus the conversation on process.

Both Knowledge Management methodologies come up with a list of improvement actions, and the combined list covers Product and Process, so all learning areas were eventually covered, but the reflection on this experience leaves me with a clear lesson.

When an organisation needs knowledge of more than one type (eg knowledge of Product and Process, or Product and Customer) we need to deliberately incorporate discussion of both of these knowledge types in our KM processes.

If we don't, then our knowledge focus may seem different depending on the KM processes we use, either looking backwards in a Retrospect, or forwards in a KM plan.

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