Monday 31 January 2022

Why conversations are so important in KM.

All forms of Management involve conversation, and Knowledge Management is no different.

The management of intangibles is driven by conversations. Those conversations are focused on the particular intangible in question, and serve to set direction, raise awareness, and lead to action.

  • Risk management is driven by conversations about risk; conversations to identify risks, conversations to map and characterise risk, and then actions to ensure the risks are well managed;
  • Safety management is driven by conversations about safety; Hazops to identify safety issues, conversations about safety mitigation, and then actions to ensure personal and process safety;
  • Talent management is driven by conversations; from conversations to identify talent requirements and strategy, through conversations to identify job requirements, to conversations with talented individuals.
Knowledge management is also driven by conversations, or by dialogue, about knowledge.   Steve Denning said at the Ottowa KM summit in 2006 that the learning capacity of an organisation is directly related to it's ability to hold conversations, but we need to go beyond this, and say that these conversations need to be conversations about knowledge. Not normal conversations such as project meetings or status updates, but deliberate conversations with knowledge as the focus.

Conversations about knowledge. 

We can probably divide these into two types of conversations;

  1. strategic conversations about knowledge strategies, knowledge needs, knowledge frameworks and knowledge flow, and 
  2. conversations designed to identify, build, synthesise and transfer knowledge. As I said on this blog, KM is as much about conversation management as it is about content management.

Actually, when it comes to the second type of conversation, the operative word is probably not "conversations" but "Dialogue". Dialogue is probably the single most important component of effective knowledge management.

All my favourite, most powerful knowledge management processes are dialogue-driven. It's the dialogue that allows people to reach a shared understanding of "what have we learned".

  • Peer Assist is a dialogue to exchange and acquire knowledge at the start of a project. 
  • After Action Review is a ongoing, regular learning-based dialogue within a working team. 
  • Retrospect is a detailed dialogue at the end of the project to identity and clarify the team learnings. 
  • Knowledge exchange is a multi-person dialogue within a community or between two teams.

Make sure that your KM program involves all the right conversations about knowledge, as this is the way that intangibles get managed.

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