Saturday, September 01, 2007

A tale of two organizations

I’ve decided that anyone who thinks that knowledge sharing (aka knowledge management) is easy, or worse, who “doesn’t get it” at all woefully underestimates the complexity of the situation. This came to me recently as I’ve been working completely heads down with two organizations (you’ve been wondering what happened to me, haven’t you?), both which desire to improve their operations. While I won’t name them (for obvious reasons), their characteristics read like a dichotomy of what organizations can be. Just off the top of my head, here are some:

Organization A

Organization B

Have robust business processes defined

Only starting to identify and document them

Methodology is fully developed although its application is variable

Have supporting technology for content and collaboration

Content is provided one-way; technology enabled collaboration doesn’t exist

More collaboration sites than you can shake a stick at

Have well defined knowledge sharing processes in place

Highly developed structure with roles, responsibilities, communication plans, and business rules in use

Ad hoc sharing is encouraged, but no known processes developed to enforce rigorous sharing

Have business and knowledge sharing measures in place

Still developing

Use of scorecards, RYG dashboards, etc. in wide use

Have sufficient content to share among users

No real content management strategy developed yet

More content than you can shake a stick at

Have a documented vision for what knowledge sharing can do for the organization

Their mantra includes the value of knowledge sharing

A consistent idea of what knowledge sharing means hasn’t even been socialized throughout the organization yet.

Have a culture of knowledge sharing in place

Processes in place ensure that the culture is reinforced

Only ad hoc among colleagues

Have mechanisms for identifying, vetting, publicizing, and reusing best practices

Mechanisms in place, but number of best practices is low

By definition, best practices are rolled into methodologies

So—if we can all agree that the purpose (at least one important one that is) for institutional knowledge sharing is to improve processes—then which organization do you think is better at it? Using the traditional measures of time, cost, quality, which organization performs better? Or, maybe they both excel? Or neither?

Of course, I could tell you now, but then I’d have to think of something for my next post, wouldn’t I? I’ll leave this question unanswered for a comment period and get back to you.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting, thought-provoking post. Could you please clarify how the B organization "encourages ad-hoc sharing", yet the concept has not been socialized yet. It sounds like the concept is in fact being widely socialized at an implicit level.

Smew said...

Sounds like org B would be better off long-term.

Anonymous said...

Jim.. good to see you back, even though you've asked somewhat rhetorical questions.. ;-) I think managers who recognize that their organizations are complex adaptave systems, not highly structured, prdictable, mechanical ones, will win in the long run. "B" seems to have recognized organizational complexity than "A".

Azzurra said...

This blog is really interesting!I'm a management grad student and I bumped into it while searching for material about communities of practice..just one tip: use tags for your posts!it would be much easier to look up specific topics, especially in such a content-rich blog!keep up the good work

Jim Lee, PMP said...

Well thank you to azzu for your kind words and improvement suggestion. I have learned something based upon your post. While I'm familiar with taggging content, within this blog architecture (google blogs), I must admit that I didn't know I could tag. Based upon your profile and your own google based blog, perhaps you can provide an online lesson for me. At least that way others can see activity here!

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