KM deadly sins revisited
Dave Snowden dredged up a ten-year old article by Fahey and Prusak, The Eleven Deadliest Sins of Knowledge Management, California Management Review, Vol 40, No 3, Spring 1998, pp 265-276 (abstract below). Dave focuses on the sins themselves and provides his perspective on whether they make sense ten years later, 1998 and all that, a return to sin
Back in 1998 Fahey & Prusak produced a list 11 Deadly sins in knowledge management.... It was interesting to go back the best part of a decade and think about the changes which had happened and apply a little bit of retrospective coherence with a dusting of polemic ...
I've added my comments by extending his table structure. You can read his full comments in his original. As I read my comments, it sounds like one of my favorite topics of context comes up over and over. I also note that Kaye Vivian wrote about this last year: The 11 Deadliest Sins of KM (revisited) and The 11 Axioms of Knowledge Management.
|Not developing a working definition of knowledge||No.||While I agree that defining knowledge is not a key need, I do like to have a definition of knowledge and KM handy when the inevitable question arises.|
|Emphasizing knowledge stock to the detriment of knowledge flow||Yes.||Knowledge arises in the flow of work, and it is interesting to note how much the technology ten years ago was so focused on collecting knowledge rather than highlighting the work and helping the knowledge flow. There is also the nature of one-to-one connections where the necessary knowledge surfaces as needed. This is one of the reasons that social network analysis has been aligned with knowledge management.|
|Viewing knowledge as existing predominantly outside the heads of individuals||Mostly.||Dave's comment suggests the idea of social knowledge - that it's neither all in books nor all in the heads of individuals. Again, knowledge can be articulated and recorded, but many times what is really needed is a way to make the connection from the recorded knowledge to the person or people who know more than I about the context or the content.|
|Not understanding that a fundamental intermediate purpose of managing knowledge is to create shared context||Yes.||It's hard to disagree with this one. Good knowledge exchange requires a common context and understanding between the parties. Narrative is a great way to get at context, whether that is via audio recordings or blogs or discussion fora. Tagging and monitoring over time provides a view into context too.|
|Paying little heed to the role and importance of tacit knowledge||Yes.||I'm becoming convinced that the distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge isn't nearly so critical as it seemed when I first learned about it. I see context as being a more hidden aspect that needs to be understood within KM.|
|Disentangling knowledge from its uses||Yes.||Once again, context. Dave highlights that this isn't necessarily easy to do. Knowledge is messy.|
|Downplaying thinking and reasoning||Yes.||This one is interesting, since it is a deeper issue than strictly knowledge management. But if KM has to do with people understanding one another and testing ideas, then thinking and reasoning are key skills that need to be emphasized. I don't see so much anti-intellectualism as Dave, but more an unfamiliarity with using logic and reason to walk through questions and problems.|
|Focusing on the past and the present and not on the future||Yes.||Dave reminds that "hindsight does not lead to foresight," but look at all the KM initiatives that have focused on collecting everything just in case it might be needed at some point in the future. On the other hand, experience is an excellent teacher, particularly on how what I know applies to what happens in the world.|
|Failing to recognize the importance of experimentation||Yes.||This is another of those topics that expand beyond strictly knowledge management. I've been a student of innovation and experimentation for a while. The authors and the practices of some of the winning companies all point to trying as many options as possible and failing early, rather than picking only a few and having it blow up after years of work.|
|Substituting technological contact for human interface||50-50.||Dave comments that newer technologies are enabling social connections that weren't possible ten years ago. But there is still a strong sense that technology isn't enough in a knowledge management initiative. At some points, people want a direct connection to brainstorm or solve problems. I'm interested in how the tech can help facilitate the connections.|
|Seeking to develop direct measures of knowledge||Yes.||Measuring knowledge is an internal measure that might be interesting. But the real thing to measure is the result that you're trying to impact in the organization. Why do you "need" knowledge management? What will be better with KM? What pain goes away? What new capability arises?|
FYI, Here is the abstract of the original article by Fahey and Prusak:
This article draws attention to a number of errors that could potentially cripple the efforts of any organization attempting to generate and leverage knowledge. Many of these errors are associated with the concept of knowledge itself-how knowledge is understood in organizational settings. The article notes the sources of each error as well as some key implications for managing knowledge. It concludes with some brief suggestions on how to avoid, or at least ameliorate these errors.
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