Gordon from Inforvark has a piece on why KM didn’t work, due to it’s non-humanistic processes:
“Who was the guy we talked to about that thing?” Enterprise 1.0 tried to address this by mandating a central repository and hierarchical classification system. It forced employees to tell some computer system what they knew and how they knew it. Only after a lot of manual data entry would the system be able to tell them something in return.
This approach failed because knowledge workers couldn’t be bothered. There was too much up-front work to make the search results useful. Without useful search results, nobody wanted to use the system. It was a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Instead, knowledge workers would just ask someone who knew rather than working with a difficult computer and move on. You simply can’t turn your workforce into programmers, historians or archivists. There’s work to be done.”
The Diving Board blog in on the same plane:
“As we all know, collecting knowledge (if it happens at all) usually involves a person or organization monitoring knowledge as it is created, and then capturing and categorizing it after the fact. This could either be the knowledge worker as they create it or someone else charged with this mission. This process is both inefficient and inherently flawed. Typically, the expert or the users themselves know what the best knowledge is, not some third party who is one step removed from the actual work. However, the experts and users lack the tools, time and incentive to carry out this critical task.”
I’ve also got a quote along the same lines from Andrew Gent in an earlier blog post.
Gordon then goes on to ponder whether enterprise 2.0 will fix this. His idea of a contribution engine is, “a tool that automatically captures an employee’s output, indexes it for later retrieval, and shares it with others in the group”
I think we need to define 2 types of knowledge sharing
1. knowledge sharing can take place as it happens as a result of doing work (capturing information as it happens)
eg. making your work visible on a wiki, using a forum to get answers, using a blog for directed communications
- others get the benefit of your participation
- you are sharing by default of doing your work
2. you may discover something, have some insight, have an experience…but then you have to choose whether you will let others know
eg. found a solution to a problem you were having, and if you share it others may benefit
In a past post I have covered that the difference here is In-the-flow (Directed) vs Above-the-flow (Volunteered)
So perhaps Gordon is talking about this second aspect (Above-the-flow), as I believe an In-the-flow approach is submitting to the “contribution engine” as it’s happening…he says:
“When I was working in ECM, I used to joke about the “seven-second window.” That’s the period of time between a user finishing a piece of work and moving on to the next task. That window is the length of time users will devote to figuring out where to put content and how to share it. Do I send an email? What folder on the share drive do I use? If you can’t capture the necessary metadata within that seven seconds of “Hmmm. Where should I put this?” then you lose. The system won’t work. People are too busy.”
At work our support team use a support database where users log calls. You can see the progress trail of any given call, and the final solution…then you close the call, and it goes into the ether.
You may have closed a call before any other support worker knew it even existed. Being based in Perth, I only choose to look at calls in my location anyway, so I don’t see the calls from around the world.
At the moment if the call we just closed is unique we add it to our group blog….this is our “seven seconds”.
But this doesn’t always happen.
So an ultimate contribution engine would be if our written solution in the support database posted to the blog as we hit the close call button.
I really think blogs and the like need to be features of existing products.
(You would think our document management system would have an item comment stream (like Google Docs), instead for every document we have chosen to have a forum topic. This is one step better than using email, but the conversation is still separated from the actual document).
Blur the line of above and in the flow
The other day at a staff meeting our new Quality guy spoke about his new role and how his focus is on working with other teams to ensure workers adhere to processes, procedures, culture of working, etc…and that he is writing a plan and report.
If he wrote this report in a wiki, others with permissions, especially cross-unit leads could eavesdrop on this progress, and add insight that he doesn’t know about, because he cannot possibly know the politics, norms, and domestics of each business unit.
NOTE: Please don’t say a survey…the idea of KM 2.0 is no extra effort to share and mingle, it happens as part of doing work.
This report, I assume, would take months to write, why not blog about; progress, feedback, ideas, musings, snippets to showcase, as you go along. By doing this others are in the loop, and they may leave comments to give you ideas and answers. Especially for this type of report, other leads could leave comments on blog posts, or even a dedicated wikipage, on the blockages they have with their team using current procedures, etc..
I bet when the report is finished it would be more relevant, and not just another report about you must work like this for the sake of quality
Instead, the writing of the report has incorporated the existing attitudes, which has helped shape it, now the procedures and processes may work as we are accomodating for the reality of the culture of work.
In fact it would be more true to “quality” if the report was more realistic in its research, being flexible to how people naturally work rather than rigid…in fact it may be realised that the proceses and procedures themselves are the problem as they are not in tune with human behaviour.
Why do I think this blurs the line?
Using a blog to share your insights and musings along the way is “Above-the-flow”, but using the same blog for progress updates and communications could be “In-the-flow” (as you would use email for this anyway).
Whichever method it increases a chance for others to contribute their know how as comments. In a nutshell working in a visible way may encourage more “Above-the-flow” participation.
Using a wiki to draft your document is “In-the-flow” (I don’t really like the descriptor “knowledge sharing” here as it’s just doing work). The benefit of doing this in a visible way, is others can see your progress without you having to update them, and they can add value using the comments. So what is happening, depending on the nature of their comment, is they may be choosing to share some “Above-the-flow” (personal know-how) to your wiki.
The idea is that an “In-the-flow” approach using participative tools, will encourage “Above-the-flow” sharing. You would hope in the long run that people would not only share know-how in a reactionary way, like using comments, but would also initiate original content using blog posts, wiki pages, etc…
We know comments is where the conversation is, and this is where all the know-how exchanges happen, as people share what they know and they discuss to clarify, etc… The object is dynamic, perpetual, and as smart as a crowd.
The existence of comments itself is our first step in an “Above-the-flow” culture, as they are less effort than initiating original content, and they almost always share opinion…it’s an effective way to get people in the swing of working open (transparent) and socially.
The premise is to capture thoughts and interactions as they happen, email is good but closed, and physical conversations have all the know-how, but can only be documented after the fact (which loses all its richness). So the idea is to complement the offline world with online social tools that mimic how we work offline, but have the benefit of capturing (documenting) as we interact, and including others in the converation, that don’t have the privilege of being in the same location of a meeting or 1-to1 conversation.
Without blogs and wikis, this would be the approach:
- Meetings, emails, IM, phone, physical conversations.
The problem here is there is no sense of place, if I am a new comer, how do I catch up on the progress of this initiative and the progress of the report.
Meetings are essential, but you can only say so much in a alotted timeframe, social tools allow to extend the meeting discussions in an asynchronous way, and to lots more eyeballs, that is much more open and conversational than email…others not in the meeting may have something valuable to say.
The phone and physical conversations are also essential, but blogs and wikis allow others to interact without having to engage in 1-on-1 conversation.
Sometimes I don’t want to engage in a phone call, I may have an idea and quickly add it as a comment to someone’s blog. I could email my idea, but then this clogs up their inbox, and who do I put in the to: field so lots of people see it. Actually maybe I feel a bit “pushy” and shy disturbing everyone with an email about a flash of insight, so I won’t send it after all. Whereas a blog comment doesn’t feel “pushy” at all, and you have more confidence sharing your ideas as you haven’t pushed them into people faces, instead they choose to “pull” your comment to themselves (you’re not quite sure who is going to see it, but it’s there for all to see).
I could give a quick IM, which isn’t as committed as a phone call, but then that comment is not attached to the object and the receiver has to write it down somewhere so they don’t forget.
To extend this post it’s essential to organically permeate the right culture by creating conditions for knowledge sharing, such as socially connected and unstructured tools with low barriers to entry, trust circles, roles models, senior support, job evaluation, and facilitation.