Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Do better by being informed

'Knowledge Management' is a hateful phrase, despised for failing to deliver or failing to define itself. This is a shame, because the original idea - do better by being informed - is a good one. What happened?

Do better - waste less, spend less, sell more, charge more, make a greater margin - by making good decisions. Your decisions are more likely to deliver results if you are well informed. Knowledge management was meant to support such decisions by delivering answers to the right people at the right time and place. It was to do this by recording, measuring, instrumenting, institutionalising journalism, creating searchable archives of electronic data and promoting knowledge sharing between people.

The technical difficulty is the first hurdle. Assuming you can capture all this information, to make a difference you need to use it to build a landscape and plot a profitable course through that landscape. The scientific method of recording data, hypothesizing and inferring correct causal relationships is not easy. But then, try doing it without the data in the first place.

The second hurdle is that at a management level the big picture is easily missed and it loses priority. People latch on to a component - a search engine, a web page, the idea of having meetings - and equate knowledge management to just that. It's then easy to reduce its priority. Other things take over, such as the urgent need to make a decision, and the knowledge management effort is lost while everyone scrabbles around for the information needed to make that decision.

If the phrase 'knowledge management' isn't working in your environment, drop it. But don't lose sight of the value of being informed when you need to make a decision.

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