Sensemaking KM and CoPs (Just-in-time vs Just-in-case), engaging and embedded KM, and a competitive vs collaborative culture
Thought I’d share a few slides from a presentation I’m giving at work on Communities of Practice (CoP) from a knowledge management perspective.
My aim was to contrast traditional KM of conscripting best practices, with a new approach based on sensemaking pkm and networks…more appropriate tools, design for emergence and ambient awareness, and amplifying how we get things done offline…basically a more cognitive science approach over management science.
A great deal of my visual concept is based on the work of Dave Snowden, who looks at KM from a more anthropological, human behaviour perspective…a lot of his work deals with the notion of “context”, and I guess this is coupled with “intrinsic” motivation or engagement.
I also borrowed from a model by Shell on the concept of a Global Network (CoP), shown to me by Mark Bennett from Learning Collaboration.
Basically, from another perspective, I’m trying to do in 2 slides what T Systems did in 26 out of the 51 slides of their brilliant slidedeck, The revolution of knowledge part1
KM as blood bank
I also really like Mark Bennett’s symbolic way of thinking about it like a blood bank (taking and giving blood)
- Sense-making and asking questions (taking blood)
- Blogging/Sharing/Peer Assist and reflective KM like AAR, Lessons (giving blood)
Sense-making KM and CoPs - Just-in-time vs Just-in-case
The following slides are a contrast to supply-side KM, or just-in-case KM.
Also note this is KM from a Community of Practice perspective, as that’s what’s relevant to my day job. I guess one day I can alter them to include other KM activities and a more network perspective.
Different ways of engaging knowledge
Related to this sense-making concept of people and context in the just-in-time KM model is Nancy Dixon’s model on the different types of knowledge needs or interactions, in relation to: the level of cognitive diversity required, the degree of relationship (tie/trust) with others to source that information, facilitation/support, and the social computing tools that can create conditions for sense-making.
Another related post is on Embedded KM by Andrew Gent.
I think knowledge sharing can be done as it happens (blogs, wikis, etc..) but also as a reflection (anecdote circles, AAR, etc..), and it’s the latter that Andrew is thinking about…how best to share lessons and good practices from one project to the next. Since the project is over, people don’t put great emphasis or care on reviewing it, as they are busy moving on to the next project, so Andrew talks about embedding this so it doesn’t seem a chore.
But he also makes a very relevant point to the heart of KM and motivation. When capturing information it has to become usable, and this takes effort on the contributor to make it findable, otherwise it’s up to the user to find the content and make it relevant to them. To make it usable and relevant takes too much effort for return, it has low intrinsic motivation for the contributors.
The challenge is a sweetspot where it’s usable enough, and contributing is simple enough…and what do you know, this works best as conversation, as we get sharing and context. And Andrew has an embedded way to trigger this reflective conversation as a part of an organisational process.
“Rather than trying to make all project knowledge available to anyone, what if we simply try to expand the current knowledge base incrementally over time? Rather than collecting the review documents, why not include at least one reviewer from an unrelated project to each review? This could be an architect, implementer, or project manager as long as that person can provide an objective, outside view of the project progress.”
“…the outside reviewer helps to keep the project team “honest”. It is easy for internal reviews to become formulaic rubber stamp events if those involved are all working on the project.They do not have enough distance to see hidden pitfalls and will resist calling foul on people they have to work with on a daily basis.”
“…including outsiders gives at least one person a much more indepth and personal knowledge than could ever be gained by reading a set of historical documents with no one to explain them. Another value from a KM perspective is the opportunity the reviewer and the project team have to exchange knowledge, hints, and tips on the fly and in context of the discussion.”
“…the program then becomes essentially self-managing from a KM perspective. The project management teams are responsible for ensuring outside reviewers are included and with each review, little by little, knowledge is shared across the organization.”
Competitive vs Collaborative culture
The micro intentions or local behaviour involved in the the Just-in-time vs Just-in-case concept actually emerge a macro picture…and that’s a change in the internal dynamics of an organisation from a competitive to collaborative organisation…perhaps from teams to crews.
We create the conditions for engagement, transparency, agility, trust and awareness…where knowledge sharing becomes a magical by-product….not creating a knowledge sharing culture, rather creating conditions for one to emerge.
I know it’s about the people, not the tools, but it’s important to understand the design thinking involved…these new tools are designed for the people, where we can now achieve the original aims of KM. The use of these tools can be a catalyst for change. For more on this see my posts, Has KM died, and resurrected as social computing?, Knowledge and its facilitators.
You could say social computing is a bottom-up strategy (and is has total effect when enterprise-wide), but I think we can also have a top-down strategy, because no matter how enabled workers can be to express and converse in the open, they will be hesitant, feel unsafe, uncomfortable and not confident if this new type of enterprise interaction is not promoted or pushed from the top.
NOTE: social computing is not just bottom-up, managers can seed crowdsourcing/opinion/reviews
In this post I contrasted a picture where people are influenced to share or hoard depending on how their performance is viewed from senior management.
If you are appraised on your personal output, then you will hoard and not collaborate as much as you have an incentive to own all the output, forgoing a more quality or optimum deliverable, than if you were to leverage the talent of the organisation.
On the other hand if you are appraised on a group output (how much you collaborate, your effectiveness in networking with the optimum people for your tasks) then this will instill a less competitive culture due to more knowledge sharing and collaboration. This is a cleverly designed strategy as the the workers themselves will be pushing quality from others as they all hold each other accountable…a culture of interdependency.
I really like how Stewart put it:
“People are used to thinking of their workday activities as indirectly affecting the bottom-line because the competition model essentially keeps the average employee in the dark about how things really work, or how healthy the organization is. The sharing model makes it much clearer, so the average employee can see the impact of her or his work.”
Betrand Duperrin also parallels these thoughts:
“They would be more efficient if they helped each other? But in order to get a good evaluation and the related rewards and bonuses they have, in the best case, to ignore each other, in the worse case to play the one against another.”
Beyond performance appraisals, what about a top-down message about the importance of connection and collaboration, just like the way organisations drill the message of quality and safety.
When I attended Mark Bennett’s masterclass on CoPs, he mentioned that safety is a learned behaviour (people are irrational and do unsafe things like drink driving, etc), and quality is a learned behaviour (people take shortcuts and ignore procedures and processes like emailing a document to a client for review, rather than sending through a formal transmittal via document control), and so to, collaboration can be a learned behaviour.
But I don’t think the result of this would be as effective in a fundamental way.
- If you are unsafe, you risk getting sued, bad accidents cause a bad reputation with clients, contractors and workers.
- If you are of low quality, you cut corners for short term gain, long term loss, and perhaps risk litigation.
- If you have low collaboration, you risk a less optimum job, low awareness and transparency and communication leads to low cooperation and cohesiveness, and you are less agile to adapt to change.
All three have bad consequences if ignored
- The first two is a risk in reputation, but also a benchmark risk, and more importantly the consequences are very meaty-litigation, death.
- The last one also is a risk in reputation (losing or not winning deals because of bad information flow does effect reputation/attractiveness), the industry benchmark is still a young thing in relation to collaboration, BUT unlike the others the consequences are not as meaty, no-one dies, we don’t get sued.
So I think because the consequences of not being collaborative don’t show explicitly like someone being hurt, and losing face (as this is seen as a quality process issue rather than collaboration/information flow), then we tend to be more reactive, or it takes a back seat in our attention. You still get work done not being collaborative (you do suffer later in frustration as you can’t find stuff or you aren’t aware of something you should be aware of), it’s just all these micro interactions, lead to a big picture of not being agile, and attractive to a client…if they can’t get their s*!t together, how are they gonna service us.
[ADDED 13/01/10: KM in context : sense-making and connectedness]