January 24, 2013

Knowledge Gate

My colleague, Nick Milton, shared these thoughts with me about the use of knowledge management in product development.  He had attended a talk by a CEO of a product company that had bought into KM in a big way. 
Traditionally products are designed by engineers who assume that they have all the knowledge that they need to design the product.  They assume that they have;
·         technical knowledge
·         knowledge about the customer and their needs
·         knowledge about the intended market
·         knowledge of how the product will be used
·         etc, etc

Work begins and frequently delays are encountered while bugs are resolved and features are reworked.

The main messages were;
·         gain customer knowledge by having the engineers meet with the customer and identify the really customer need or problem rather than assuming that you know what it is
·         create a list of all the knowledge that is needed to create the product
·         generate the knowledge that is on your list
·         use a ‘knowledge gate’ to ensure that there are no knowledge gaps
·         if you can pass the ‘knowledge gate’ proceed to design the product

Being an engineer I can relate to both parts of this but I have to say that I have never seen the later approach being used anywhere.  Perhaps it is time for us engineers to start using the ‘knowledge gate’ concept when we are designing?

January 10, 2013

The Need For Governance

We are all in agreement that technology plays a pivotal role in successful networks but providing the technology on its own without clearly thinking through how it can be and should be used can lead to disappointing results.

Let me try to illustrate this with an example.  Company A decided that networks would be good and that they would facilitate the sharing and re-use of knowledge within the company.  A collaboration tool was installed and staff encouraged to use it.  Anyone could with the press of a button set up a network and very quickly over 300 networks were established in the company.  However a closer look would reveal multiple versions of the same network, for example there were 8 networks, all on the same technology topic.  There was no taxonomy, no knowledge structure, the networks weren't aligned to strategic knowledge areas.  This meant that if someone in the company wanted to ask a question or share knowledge on that technology topic, they had to decide which of 8 different networks (all supposedly on the same topic) to ask.  As a result, questions weren't asked, knowledge wasn't shared.  A year later, there were still over 300 networks but essentially zero knowledge being shared or re-used.  Governance and structure are essential to networks that provide business value.