j u s t - i n - t i m e k n o w l e d g e
Why have so few knowledge man-agement (KM) systems met orexceeded expectations?Simply put, customers of KM sys-tems are not getting what they want, need, or expect. In fact, theidea of having a formal customerfor a KM system is pretty rare inKM/IT circles. Yet, as with all prod-ucts, services, and systems, effec-tiveness at meeting expectations isdetermined solely by the customer. What do customers expect fromKM? Most KM customers expect aKM system to enable them to adoptmore productive and efficientbehaviors, which in turn shouldimprove an organization’s financialperformance. In the customer’s view, better knowledge drives bet-ter behaviors, which drive betterresults. It is an obvious cause-and-effect relationship. Managementofthe knowledge is only importantto the degree that the knowledgebeing managed contributes to aperformance improvement.Unfortunately, most KM systemsfocus more on the managing com-ponent than on behavioral change. As a result, customers of KM sys-tems only occasionally changebehavior, and thus KM systemsonlyoccasionally produce theexpected results.This article examines the role of KMsystems in behavioral change. Morespecifically, it presents an analysisof the underlying “warehousemodel” of most KM systems, con-trasts the warehouse model withacustomer-focused model of KM,and presents guidelines for howtomake a KM system drive newand more productive behaviors.Companies using this behavioralapproach have shown significantfinancial results, including:
A $2 million per week per facil-ity savings for a semiconductormanufacturing company
A $2,000 per week per restau-rant increase in sales at a fastfood company
A 66% reduction in trainingtime in a federal agency These results certainly exceed mostcustomer expectations for a KMsystem!
WAREHOUSE MODELS OF KM
Where have KM systems gone wrong?Most KM systems are welldesigned, implemented, andsupported. However, most KMsystems are also based on a deeply flawed “warehouse” model of knowledge management (seeFigure 1). By reexamining thisunderlying premise, we can directly and significantly enhance the over-all effectiveness of KM.In a warehouse model of knowl-edge management, there are a setof knowledge inputs, a storage andtransportation capability, and a setof knowledge outputs. Based onthis underlying model, the over- whelming emphasis of knowledgemanagement has been on the stor-age and transportation portion(inthe form of databases, portals,and search engines), with relatively
Vol. 17, No. 12
Periodic accessto documentsor people
• Documentsearch engines• Personnelsearch engines• Report writers• Documentsappear• Personnelprofiles arecreatedWhere is theknowledge?Where isthe appliedknowledge?
Figure 1 — The warehouse model of knowledge management.
A Behavioral Approach to KnowledgeManagement
by William Seidman and Michael McCauley