Thursday, 11 July 2019

If you think KM is only about managing documents, you are missing a lot!

The organisation, findability and access to documents is part of KM, but by no means all.


There is a strong tradition of document management within the KM field, and this is a very good thing. Some of an organisation's knowledge will be held within documents (although some would argue this point) and those knowledge-holding documents need to be managed, organised findable and usable; just like any other document.

However if document management or content management is all that your KM program is working on, you are missing out on many things. Here are a few of them.

  1. Identifying and externalising knowledge. This represents helping experts and teams to express what they know, so that others can hear it, or so that the knowledge can be recorded in video or documented form. This is the area of where interviewing processes are very important. Much of an expert's knowledge is uncionsiocus - too deep for them to recognise - and this deep knowledge is not only where the really valuable knowledge lies, it is also the knowledge that otherwise would never end up in a document.  KM should include processes and roles to aid in identifying and externalising this knowledge.

     
  2. Connecting people in communities of practice. This represents a focus on creating knowledge-sharing networks which act as reservoirs of tacit knowledge, which can be shared, combined and built collectively. This tacit knowledge may never be codified, and much of the knowledge transfer happens through conversation rather than content. A series of posts on this blog, and the Knoco website CoP page, provide a whole set of guidance on communities of practice, which remains knowledge management's Number 1 core tool, at least for larger organisations. CoPs are not an information management discipline.

     
  3. Transfer of knowledge from team to team, or from person to person. This represents a focus on knowledge transfer through conversation (particularly dialogue).  Transfer of lessons can be through conversations in contexts such as Peer Assist and Knowledge Handover.  There are more posts on this blog about the use of dialogue in knowledge transfer. These techniques have nothing to do with documents, and the conversations may never be documented.

     
  4. Learning from Experience. This represents a focus on discussing and assimilating knowledge from activity and from projects. It focuses as much on the creation and application/embedding of the lessons as on their management as content. This is a combination of identifying and externalising knowledge through processes such as After Action review and Retrospect, and then the management of the lessons so identified.  A series of posts on this blog, and the Knoco website Lesson Learned page, provide a whole set of guidance on effective lesson learning, which remains knowledge management's Number 2 core tool, at least for project based organisations. This is not a document management discipline either.

     
  5. Knowledge retention. This represents a focus on retaining, and transferring to others, tacit knowledge from experts which might otherwise be at risk of loss. The tacit knowledge may be documented, although much of the knowledge transfer may happen through conversational processes such as mentoring and coaching. Several posts on this blog, and the Knoco website Retention page, provide a whole set of guidance on knowledge retention, which remains a core tool for knowledge management, at least for organisations with mature workforces. Knowledge Retention is also not an information management discipline.

     
  6. Combination of knowledge from multiple sources. This represents a focus on comparing knowledge from many sources (people and documents), and synthesising the best possible knowledge for given contexts, which can then be standardised across the organisation. This may be a best practice approach to a task, or a best design for a product component. Think of the Pilot's Checklist - in use in all airlines - as an example of such "Best Practice". This blog, and the Knoco website Knowledge Asset page, provides a whole set of guidance on knowledge synthesis and best practices, which remain core tools for KM. Although knowledge can be combined from multiple documents, this is not a document management discipline as it apples to the contents of the documents, and not the documents themselves.

     
  7. Innovation. This focuses on the creation of new knowledge, when old knowledge is not longer sufficient. This blog contains guidance on Innovation, which is a KM tool and not an IM tool.

So there is much more to KM than the organisation and retrieval of documents. If documents are your current KM focus, then try adding some or all of the approaches above. Your KM program will be all the richer for it. 

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