Friday 10 February 2017

When does Learning and Development take over from KM?

Knowledge Management and L&D are both part of the spectrum for Organisational Learning. But where does one take over from the other?

This topic has been a point of discussion ever since KM began.  Where does KM end, and Learning and Development take over?

We can look at this through the lens of 70:20:10, with KM facilitating the 70%, L&D the 10%, and both facilitating the 20%  in the middle. Or we can look at it through the lens of Push and Pull and knowledge flow. L&D is primarily a Push model of one-way flow of knowledge to the user, while in KM everyone is a teacher (or a supplier of content, if you prefer) as well as a learner. 

Another way to look at the question is to consider the characteristics of the knowledge topics themselves. 

You can use the matrix above to characterise knowledge topics using two dimensions; the maturity of the topic (see here for an explanation of knowledge maturity) and the number of people who need the knowledge.  L&D requires corporate investment in creating eLearning and training courses, and is best suited for knowledge which is mature and so not likely to change on a monthly basis, and which has a large enough user-base to merit the investment.  You can develop some marvellous on-line material to distribute this knowledge, and if the topic is mature, you don't need to worry that the flow of knowledge is one-way. 

If on the other hand the Knowledge is evolving, changing and developing, you need the multi-way flow processes of KM, using knowledge from the users to continually improve the reference material. If there are many users of the knowledge, you are in Community of Practice territory. Knowledge can be shared between the CoP members, who can both use the knowledge and add knowledge of their own. The reference resources can be co-created on the community wiki and continuously updated with new experience. Creating an eLearning syllabur would be a waste of money, as it would be out of date in the first month.

Where there are few users of the evolving knowledge, a CoP solution may be too large-scale. Perhaps we need action learning, or a small group of interconnected experts acting as a global practice group. The focus here will be on knowledge creation as much as knowledge distribution.

The quadrant which is less clear is the bottom left quadrant above, where knowledge is mature (and thus we can focus on one-way knowledge flow) but there are too few users to merit investment in eLearning or formal training. Perhaps the answer here, of the knowledge topic is important enough, is to build the knowledge assets which will act as reference material, and maybe here KM and L&D can work together.

Of course the real world does not divide into simple quadrants, and knowledge topics are often on the boundaries between one quadrant an another. This is why L&D and KM need to cooperate - the corporate universities and the knowledge management teams working together to map out the landscape of knowledge topics, and deciding between them how best to keep that knowledge fresh, current, accurate, accessible and easy to assimilate and use. 

But in general terms, we can say that L&D takes over from KM when the knowledge topic is mature enough to be stable, and when the user population is large enough to merit the investment.

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