Plumbing and painting

You own a house and you have some repair work to do.  One job requires plumbing (the toilet is leaking) and another is painting the scuffed up paint in the bedroom that is a nagging, but seemingly minor issue.  Which gets priority? - the thing that keeps the house from being useful.  At least until you need to sell the house and the painting becomes a question of higher profit.

I had to smile when someone on the ActKM mailing list suggested that KM was like painting - it is seen as important, but there are always plumbing emergencies that get the urgent dollars instead.  I've discovered the KM team in my new company, and I get the sense that they are fighting the uphill battle of awareness and capability.  In my brief conversation with them, they were thrilled to have another person who understands.

This seems to be the prevailing attitude about knowledge management and a raft of other business ideas and concepts.  I suspect one piece of this puzzle has to do with placing a value (dollars) on the activity.  Busted plumbing costs the company uptime dollars.  Broken KM?  Aficionados know that it costs the company synergy dollars, but those are harder to drop to a bottom line.  (I'm not sure anyone actually believes the "knowledge workers spend 30% of their time searching" claim as a reason to pursue KM.)

The ActKM discussion has taken the analogy a bit further, picking up different aspects of the trades to use to describe what knowledge managers do.  Of course, as with any analogy, it can get a little painful if you go too far with it.

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