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June 10, 2012

People centered or technology centered?

For me personally, figuring out how to implement KM in as aspect of a business was a very tough challenge.

One of the KM issues that i found interesting however, was the differing perspectives on how best to approach and implement knowledge management in organizations. The two major schools of thought; the technology oriented and the people oriented have what can be described as conflicting ideology on what KM should entail.

I became convinced, that a people centric perspective that views technology simply as a tool to achieve effective KM was the better approach. This is beacuse, I feel like this offers a clearer identity to KM as a discipline. The technological approach seems to offer the idea to simply throw technology at the problem, my problem with this is that it didnt appear to me to be knowledge management as much as it appeared to be information systems management. I feel like KM encompases more than that, and I believe that a people centric approach allows for the exploration of KM ideas and practices on a broader scale.

May 13, 2012

How exactly do you manage knowledge?

The hardest thing about managing knowledge, is managing knowledge.

The age long Knowledge management problem of how to accurately and concisely transfer tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is one that still raises a lot of debate and argument. The truth is that, it sounds easy enough in theory. But in reality, it's just not very easy to practice. There is no "10 easy steps to effectively capturing your organizations valuable knowledge" guide. Figuring out where valuable information lies, how to extract it and document it in a manner that allows employees and stakeholders easy access is a difficult and time consuming process. It can even be quite expensive.

This i think is what frustrates me about the knowledge management discipline i think. That there is little or no practical information available on exactly how to solve this problem. There is a lot of theory of what knowledge management should be, but no explicit directions on how it should be done or accomplished.

This is i believe one of the 21st century problems, having data and knowledge that is quite ambiguous, and having to make enough sense out of it that you can make sense of it, and apply it, and achieve results.

One of the many lessons I am learning at Warwick.....

April 27, 2012

Walking the Knowledge Talk

During the he discussion that followed our presentation today, a classmate made a remark about the difficulty of putting into practice what academia and research are able to identify so concisely concerning how to improve organizations.

It made me begin to wonder what some of the challenges of truly implementing knowledge management and encouraging organizational learning in a company may be. In other words, how can companies learn to walk the knowledge management talk?

I think one way might be to tailor it to your company’s specific needs. KM is not just about throwing technology at the KM challenge. It’s about discovering and implementing a solution that works for you. For a small company, KM may mean something as simple as having documents put safely in a location that is secure and can be easily accessed by employees, as well as ensuring that experiential knowledge from experienced workers is formally written down and documented. No fancy hi tech solutions may even be required; OL is a mindset that can be established in a company in order to benefit from good KM practices. If people can see it working and actually making a difference in the way they do their jobs, I am certain it would be far easier to embrace it. Which brings me to my third point about employee engagement, introducing KM in a company is a change effort and must be managed accordingly. It is important that staff understand KM and how it could benefit the organization in order to encourage them to have a sense of ownership towards the practice and to play their own part effectively towards ensuring its introduction becomes a success.

I don't pretend that the gap between academia/science and industry practices can be fully analyzed and resolved in one short blog post. But I would like to think that perhaps I have mentioned one or two areas that require further examination.

The goal of business based research and study after all is at the end of the day to improve businesses.

My assessment of KBAM presentations

Today, we gave our presentations which we have been working on for the past two weeks.

I think it went amazingly well and I genuinely enjoyed all the presentations in one way or the other.

It amazed me to think of how far we have come since our first presentations during the CBE module. It has been a thing of joy to watch my classmates transform, some from being people who could barely speak in front of an audience to becoming more comfortable with public speaking, and seeing others who had been anxious about making presentations in what was a second language to them have it become something they barely acknowledge anymore.

KBAM was tough. Initially, it did feel like we were running around in circles unsure of what we were doing. For me personally, the second i realized that there was no one correct answer to the questions and that it could be tackled in a number of different ways, I felt a freedom to play around with the knowledge I had been able to acquire and try to make sense of it and see how it could be applied meaningfully in an organization.

The hardest part was being able to establish and demonstrate a clear link between knowledge and asset management but i think we did a fair job of that.

It was interesting to me to see how each team approached the same question from slightly different angles. I felt like I was able to gain something new from each presentation as a result.

In all, it was a fun and useful exercise from a learning perspective. I am truly amazed by how much we had learnt in just two weeks like Paul highlighted. Many of us could have spoken comfortably about the topics without frequently referring to the slides. I think this is something that really in itself demonstrates that learning has taken place.

April 24, 2012

To Outsource, or not to Outsource?

My team and I had a very engaging discussion and somewhat heated debate about whether or not to outsource facilities management in the Waveriders Company. Some were for it, others against it and yet others supported outsourcing only certain aspects of it but not others.

The argument against outsourcing was based on two ideas; one that it was too expensive and secondly that the contract company would have access to private company information about the type, value and number of assets the firm possesses. There was concern expressed that this could potentially be risky for the company.

The argument for outsourcing however, was based on the opinion that not outsourcing would imply that the current staff would be responsible for facilities and asset management. The concern was that this would bring in additional job responsibilities to the staff that was outside their job specifications, and would put them under extra pressure having to juggle their normal tasks alongside something as complicated and time consuming as facility and asset management. In this light, outsourcing would be the better option.

Upon further study and reflection, I am beginning to form the opinion that outsourcing in this context, as in every other is something that depends of a number of variables. We would need to examine what exactly we want to outsource and compare the costs and benefits of doing the job in house versus outsourcing it. Issues such as: expertise and technical know -how of Waverider's employees in certain areas comes into consideration. As well as the resources available at present, in this light it may make sense to outsource certain functions but not others.

Eventually, though, we will have to come to an agreement as a group on this issue.

So for now, the big question remains, to outsource, or not to outsource?

April 23, 2012

Knowledge Workers and Everyone Else

Evan Rosen in an article for Bloomberg Businessweek entitled " Every worker is a Knowledge Worker" gives the opinion that the separation of employees into knowledge workers and those who are not knowledge workers (or as he puts it everyone else) is unhealthy for an organizations dynamic.

He argues that this sort of differentiation leads to discrimination not only in terms of pay structures, but also prevents organizations from tapping into the [tacit] knowledge possessed by manual and front line workers. The idea is that floor staff are often overlooked by managers when searching for ideas and opinions from employees about the company's performance and how to improve.

While I do understand where Rosen is coming from, I do disagree about his suggestion that manual staff are overlooked as a result of the differentiation between knowledge workers and other employees.

It can easily be argued that this sort of differentiation has existed in organizations even before the term 'knowledge workers' was introduced by Peter Drucker in 1969. Managers tend to seek strategic input from highly skilled staff, the assumption being that they are better educated and thus are more likely to have more comprehensive insight and understanding of the company's business process, the dynamics and interactions between processes and their overall implications for the company. In other words, the big picture.

Whether or not this assumption is always accurate or even true is debatable, but, I see the phenomenon Rosen describes as an issue of differentiating between highly skilled workers, who are more likely to be in managerial level and low skilled workers who are more often than not not in positions of management, although exceptions apply in some cases. Rather than an issue that was created by the distinction between 'knowledge workers' from other employees as Rosen appears to imply.

Article Link:

April 20, 2012

Manage Knowledge, Save Costs

Upon first inspection, the fields of knowledge and asset management appear unconnected, or at least not directly so. One for many years has been viewed only in terms of records and archives and the other about managing tangible company property and equipment’s.

However, the rise of the knowledge economy has led to the realization that knowledge, just like finance, employees and property is also an asset that is just as valuable as any other.

A 2011 article in Business Finance by Nicole Stempak linked knowledge and records management with asset, risk and costs management.

In essence, the idea is that in managing a company's records effectively, i.e. data and information collection, categorization, protection and provision of access can help to manage business risks, for example, the risk of valuable company information being leaked to competitors. In terms of costs management, I would imagine that for manufacturing and engineering organizations for example, the ability to capture lessons learnt from previous processes and make that knowledge available to future work efforts will save time spent looking for relevant data and ultimately, costs for the company.

I'm linking this up with what I learnt during the PEUSS PMA writing process about the importance of being able to manage knowledge effectively in the engineering process as company's tend to spend money carrying out for example experiments that had been done in the past again because the knowledge generated from the previous one had been lost. I can only imagine the financial and time implications of this unhealthy practice.

It is one that could be ended by the adoption of good knowledge management practices.

Article Link:

April 18, 2012

The Challenge of Managing Knowledge

The terms knowledge economy and knowledge workers seem on first impression to be one of those ambiguous managerial phrases that get thrown around. But, upon closer inspection, they actually describe the reality of business in the 21st century.

The best jobs today (in terms of highest pay, greatest prestige and arguably highest levels of job satisfaction) are those that require people with highly specialised knowledge about the field.

In a nutshell, knowledge workers are in. This has led to the explosion of the knowledge management (KM) discipline. Capturing organizational knowledge in order to ensure it's availability for accessibility has been one of the challenges for businesses in the last few decades.

There is a wealth of knowledge out there describing the importance of knowledge management. Most of it is fairly ambiguous, it did not take me long to realise that there is no one correct way to approach knowledge management. Every company will need to develop it's own unique KM solution as there is no one size fits all. Knowledge created is something that is specific and unique to each company which means each has to identify it's knowledge areas, knowledge needs and figure out how best to meet them.

KM is one of those things that sounds fairly easy and straight forward in theory, but is application is far more complex. Developing a KM information system for example for a company requires a lot of work in order to ensure the design of a software that will meet the company's needs. Capturing tacit knowledge (that which exists in the mind of the workers) is another challenge altogether.

As a discipline though, it is clear that KM is still evolving and growing. it will be interesting to see how it will develop and change over the next few years.

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