Knowledge Tornado: Bridging the Corporate Knowledge Gap Second Edition (Revised) by Marcus Goncalves by Marcus Goncalves - Read Online

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Knowledge Tornado - Marcus Goncalves

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2011

Introduction

As corporate America strive to do more of what they already know they should be doing, but fail, knowledge management (KM) emerges to demonstrate that it is not the lack of smarts or strategies within the company that prevents its success, but rather, it is how business professionals utilize and apply their expertise. By bridging the gap between know-how and how-to, knowledge workers must stretch themselves beyond data-mining and knoware activities to help companies to do what they already know how.

In addition, knowledge workers must become proficient in knowledge technologies, and take advantage of it to extend the benefits of quasi-legacy data-mining approaches. The reality is that ordinary databases and full text queries, as well as simple profiles, do not provide the expected level of service in churning intelligent information that can be useful. Knowledge technologies can fuel intelligent searching, personalized feedback dialogs, and sophisticated knowledge navigation, allowing knowledge managers and knowledge workers the kind of access to data necessary to make sense of much needed information about business processes, supply chain and distribution channels, as well as customer relationship management for this new economy.

It is becoming evident that knowledge workers, the right breed of them that is, along with knowledge technologies, are becoming essential in empowering organizations in dealing with the new economy and bridging the gap between the knowledge necessary to adapt to the constant new market moves and new trends, and acting upon those new business and customer requirements.

Setting the stage, the table below provides a sample¹ of the challenges corporations face today in adapting and competing in the new economy, in Internet time:

This book is about a much-needed new breed of knowledge workers. Today’s knowledge worker, especially in the manufacturing industry, must be able to develop and deliver a rich set of action-oriented tools and procedures that help companies to transition from learning into action, so they can deal with the realities, and challenges, outlined on the table above. In the process, knowledge workers must be able to tap into not only their corporate employees’ fact and observations, but also their hopes, fears, dreams and feelings, so they can then use it to break the major obstacles to action that confront business professionals and organizations.

In addition, this book also provides a broad range of information about a much needed, revised and revamped new knowledge worker’s role in the organization, the need for a co-leadership with the CEO and co-partnership with the executive staff. It describes the vital role of knowledge workers in turning knowledge into action, developing and nurturing enterprise systems, capturing and transforming knowledge into corporate learning, fostering this learning into action, and becoming the corporate lead evangelist inside and out.

Ask a room full of IT-minded executives what a knowledge worker is and what defines its role and you will probably hear as many definitions as you see Blackberries, iPhones and Androids in the room. Those more in sync with the industry may venture to define a knowledge worker as the professional responsible for the practice of finding, organizing and managing people’s knowledge. But as other IT professionals, namely chief information officers (CIOs), venture their hands on KM, the definition of a knowledge worker, and therefore the expectations surrounding the role, can be very blurry and will vary according to the environment these pseudo knowledge workers are in, and the challenges they have ahead of them.

Chapter One, Knowledge Worker’s Challenges in the Fast-Paced Global Economy, addresses the challenges knowledge workers face, where their role is not often well defined and many times confused with those of a CTO with business and information systems skills, or from a different angle, as of a CIO with business and information technology expertise.

Chapter Two, The New Breed of Knowledge Workers, focuses on the importance of KM initiatives and how essential a new breed of knowledge workers are, given the increasing dependence of most companies on information and technologies within a business environment of radical, discontinuous change, often at global levels. This chapter shows that 21st century knowledge workers must extent their KM initiatives beyond simply setting up mailing lists between workers with specific interests, which can very well be executed under the CTO/IT’s umbrella, or even intricate ones such as building intranets empowered with collaboration tools. Although knowledge workers are, and will continue to be, very important in multibillion-dollar KM and customer relationship management (CRM) projects, as well as smaller ones directly targeted at the bottom line, such as sales force automation projects, these professionals should not let the technology dominate their attention.

Focus on database and data mining systems, the time-honored technique for transferring knowledge, does not always work well and very seldom delivers to expectations. Such best practices techniques work very well for the discrete environment, but in my experience, for the most part, the quantifiable performance of these systems are very modest at best. Chapter two shows that traditional knowledge workers (can the profession be called traditional and yet still be so new!?) tend to be very single-minded in their efforts to derive competitive advantage from explicit knowledge, the kind of information one can capture, write about and distribute to anyone via brownbag, automated systems or a database. Today’s knowledge workers (or should I say yesterday’s?) don’t realize that more than ever before, knowledge is a living entity; it has always been, thus making information a lively thing. By capturing and making knowledge a structural capital, an intellectual property, we are actually killing it. Thus, in order to be effective, this practice must change; otherwise, the gap between knowledge and capital knowledge that directly translates into successful business actions at any corporation will be wider and wider!

Chapter Three, Identifying, Capturing and Transferring Learning into Action, focuses on transferring learning into action. Of course, KM databases and other sophisticated systems will continue to exist, but in order to bridge the knowledge gap, the gap between know-how and how-to, knowledge workers must be able to identify, capture and transfer learning into action, not only data or information. This is what chapter three focus on. Knowledge workers must be able to identify the knowledge to be captured by breaking up a great percentage of its processes. They should then be able to capture and transfer it to others. But a certain amount of any knowledge, about anything, always remains tacit, and cannot be read or taught. At this level, knowledge is transferred by learning, watching and trying to experience it. Tacit knowledge is always deeply embedded in the person who performs the task.

Chapter three also addresses the difficult task of transferring, not turning, learning into action. One of the main reasons first-generation KM software and systems are inadequate in this process is exactly because you cannot turn knowledge into action; it is not a two-step deal, an input and an output process. Tacit knowledge is already difficult to be disseminated and applied throughout the organization. In chapter four, the issues of acquiring and maintaining capital knowledge are discussed.

Chapter Four, Learning Organizations: Striving by Transferring Knowledge, draws upon learning to learn, and an effective element of such organizations is the transferring of the knowledge learned. Here, a wealthy perspective of a learning organization is placed in a coherent framework, which is brought to life by an array of engaging and practical examples. Organizations can only achieve performance by constant learning and refocusing of their business strategies and actions. This chapter shows how important it is for knowledge workers to help knowledge managers, and themselves, to dissociate the technology from KM. Technology and document management is only part of the knowledge-transferring program so necessary to extract capital knowledge.

Chapter four shows how knowledge should be seeing as socially constructed through the organization, and even its interacting partners. Knowledge workers must leave room for social aspects and make sure to organize knowledge and know-how in order to get expected results. Knowledge workers and knowledge managers must no longer rely on human resources methods, as they are anathema to knowledge. Instead of codifying tacit knowledge, they must concentrate their efforts in connecting the individuals who have the knowledge to others who need it.

Chapter Five, Organizing Knowledge and Know-How: Developing Enterprise Systems, recommends the development of an enterprise system, anchored on organizational information and knowledge technologies, as a platform for organizing knowledge, know-how and data sharing. This chapter not only discusses the benefits and advantages enterprise systems bring to knowledge management, but emphasizes the fact that such implementation should be a result of a business, rather than a technology decision; otherwise, it may be doomed for failure.

Further, this chapter shows how important it is for know-how to lead to action to how-to. It is here that the majority of organizations fail, even after spending millions of dollars with excellent and competent consultants telling them what needs to be done, as most often they fail to execute. It is here, between know-how and how-to, that the knowledge gap of so many organizations exists!

Chapter Six, The Idea of Cloud Computing is an Old Idea!, discusses cloud computing technology, which already existed a decade ago. We introduce the concept of dynamic transcoding proxies in the extraction, normalization and delivery of content across heterogeneous platforms, seamlessly and ubiquitously. The technologies developed at that time by the author and his team, dubbed FASTCloud and RAINBOW, provided the core architecture to cloud computing through the use of a knowledge technology, also developed by the author and his team, called FORCE, a framework for open redirecting of content exchange.

Chapter Seven, Fulfilling the Vision: From Know-How to How-to, provides an overview of how knowledge capital has become a valuable asset at organizations and addresses the importance of being able to measure and preserve such an asset. The chapter also addresses issues dealing with knowledge gap at organizations and how to turn knowledge into action.

Chapter Eight, Helping to Move the Cheese: Closing the Circle of Innovation, provides information on how to deal with change and use it for business advantage. In a business world characterized by constant change, knowledge workers must be prepared to deal with changes and take advantage of them to promote innovation instead of despair.

This chapter also discusses the concept of pushing when business forces or new trends pull, the so-called judo strategy. It provides practical examples on leveraging knowledge, about the competition, about the market, about untapped new trends, for competitive advantage instead of exit strategies.

Chapter Nine, The Need for Gaps: Trusting the Corporate Instinct, increases the healthy tension created by previous chapters. Paradoxically, if there was a need to create knowledge gaps so that an organization could develop disruptive knowledge and promote innovations for competitive advantage, once an organization becomes more of an instinctive one, there is even a greater need for new knowledge gaps. The reason is that these new and more frequent knowledge gaps help to validate the corporate instinct. This chapter aids upper management in helping their corporation to live and operate by their wits.

Chapter Ten, The Science of Bridging the Gap: the Leader’s Dilemma, is a step forward from chapter eight. Once knowledge workers are able to create a disruptive knowledge that promotes innovation and prepare the organization to deal with it, the next step is to be able to bridge that gap. As this chapter shows, such a task invariably generates a leader’s dilemma. This is because once strategy simulations are successfully done, the experience of introducing a new knowledge gap becomes much simpler for the organization, easier to be re-created by groups and subgroups within the organization through brainstorms, as means to innovation or generation of new ideas. The science of bridging the knowledge gap becomes, therefore, more intensified.

Such strategy simulations, at the realm of KM, should be seen as the business equivalent of practice sessions for sports teams or rehearsals for music, dance or drama companies. They are not necessary when people are doing the same work year in, year out. However, assuming knowledge workers did their job well and the organization becomes more comfortable with disruptive knowledge, we then move into a world in which organizational change is common, radical and integrated with very high levels of performance. At this point, KM tools are likely to become very critical, as the organization enters a level or instinctive knowledge generation, not so much structured as it was at first. The phenomenon is very similar to creative writing, and knowledge workers must be prepared to handle it, otherwise, the risk for chaos is great!

Chapter Eleven, Knowledge Management in Government, shows that knowledge management initiatives are on the upswing as managers at all government levels face mounting pressure to work smarter and faster while wrestling with the demands of electronic government and a shrinking workforce. Practices developed when governmental agencies had more workers and fewer and far-less-demanding constituents do not cut it in today’s fast-paced environment, where nearly every worker has access to rapid-fire e-mail, the workforce is more transient and the inflow of information is almost uncontrolled. The Internet revolution has brought with it the mandate of speed, service and global competitiveness. Government agencies at national, state and local levels are rising to the challenge by leveraging KM techniques and modern thinking.

In summary, this book is about managing knowledge with a cloud. As the industry raves about cloud computing and technologies, the first edition of this book (2002) was already addressing the concept and patented technologies (acquired by Symantec at the time). It is not new that knowledge workers need to set the bottom line. But now comes the hard part: to learn how they can build better relationships to boost their influence and support for new projects. When doing so, they must think out-of-the-box of traditional knowledge management best practices, so their projects can succeed and effectively impact the organization, its people, its business and ultimately, the bottom line. This is what this book is all about.

¹ Sources: Ernst & Young, Forrester Research, Boston Consulting Group, IDC, Bank of America, Meta Group 2009, 2010

Chapter 1

Knowledge Worker’s Challenges in the Fast-Paced Global Economy

As corporations continue to migrate to a knowledge-centric structure, planning, leadership, board and executive management support becomes crucial. However, most often, knowledge management (KM) is not easily plugged into a return of investment (ROI) equation. In addition, the past few years, since 2008, characterized by an economic downturn never seen since the information-driven economy emerged in the early 1990s, have shown that a knowledge worker’s performance should no longer be measured by results only, but by goals as well.

Until recently, the business-critical value of knowledge management investment was all but assumed, and experts on the subject all realized that their assumptions were wrong. Many predicted, and are still predicting, that knowledge management and its derived career paths are doomed to extinction. In fact, ten years ago, during the spring of 2001, CIO magazine commented that knowledge management systems didn’t work, in particular due to the fact that no one in the organization would use or support such systems, beginning with upper management. And they were right!

The theory that a knowledge management system was only as good as its information technology has been nearly unquestionable. But I believe the thinking behind this theory is murky. You see, just like the first generation of MIS professionals grew up from accounting and financial departments, as those professionals attempted to enhance their accounting and financial practices, the first breed of knowledge officers grew up from information technology, information systems and management. Thus, the first generation of knowledge management professionals and practices has been heavily focused on systems and technology. That is precisely why most knowledge management problems occur.

As companies focus on building knowledge database repositories and data mining techniques, the majority of them ignored their people and their cultural issues. In addition, I believe the massive investments in knowledge management projects in the first decade of the 21st century were thought to underlie the historical globalization, merger and acquisition (M&A) activities across the globe that characterized the 90s. Technology is again becoming one of the most active M&A sector during the past couple years, much as in the late 1990s, as figure 1.1 shows². Consequently, the need for information sharing among disparate systems and knowledge base ones were too great, even though the objective evidence for such a claim is controversial at best, but nevertheless, knowledge management has had a free ride for at least the last three or four years.

Figure 1.1 - Technology is the most active M&A sector since 2010.

The Era of Knowledge Management Accountability

Well, the ride is over. The era of knowledge management accountability has come, and corporate knowledge management systems will be judged on the basis of their ability to deliver quantifiable competitive advantage, capable of making your business smarter, faster and more profitable. In the process, the need to sell the knowledge management concept to employees shouldn’t be underestimated. In a fast-paced global economy, knowledge workers should strive to promote an environment where an individual’s knowledge is valued and rewarded, establishing a culture that recognizes tacit knowledge and encourages everyone to share it. How we go about it is the challenge.

The old practice of employees being asked to surrender their knowledge, and experience the very traits that makes them valuable as individuals must change. Knowledge cannot be captured; if so, it dies. Thus, motivating employees to contribute to KM activities through implementation of incentive programs is frequently ineffective. Often, employees tend to participate in such programs solely to earn incentives, without regard to the quality or relevance of the information they contribute.

The main challenge here is that KM is overwhelmingly a cultural undertaking. Before setting the course for a KM project and deciding on KM technologies, you will have to know what kinds of knowledge your organization’s employees need to share and what techniques and practices should be implemented to get them to share. Thus, you will need a knowledge strategy that reflects and serves as business’ goals and attributes. A dispersed, global organization, for example, is probably not well served by a highly centralized knowledge strategy.

To be successful, knowledge workers must be able to implement a very transparent knowledge management activity, one that is focused on simplicity, common sense, and at no time, imposed. Whatever is imposed will always be opposed, which immediately compromises the value and integrity of the knowledge being gathered or shared. Ideally, every employee should desire participation in KM efforts. It should come from within, and its participation should be its own reward. After all, the goal of such initiatives should be to make life easier for employees, therefore positively affecting the bottom line. Otherwise, such effort has failed.

Unfortunately, to date, the majority of KM projects have not achieved the level of success expected. The lack of transparent integration between IT, KM tools, and the users, often have them thinking knowledge workers and KM managers don’t know what they are doing. Thus, today’s knowledge workers must be able to successfully leverage the promise of KM, its peril, and, in many instances, eye-popping costs in infrastructure, deployment, implementation and use of the system.

No doubt KM can revolutionize corporation’s capital knowledge and sharing. But it won’t be easy, and is not likely to be cheap, as the challenges are many, and breaking down user’s resistance is one of the major challenges knowledge workers face. You just don’t get moving just by buying and installing one of the many KM applications already available on the market. My advice is for you to spend quality time planning your KM strategy, and be forewarned that the initiative may be expensive, not only in terms of capital investments but also in terms of human resource and organizational investments. With that in mind, you will be able to better plan for it. You should begin with the challenges discussed here. Then, you should focus on the many strategies outlined throughout this book, which affect, not only IT support, but also cultural and business issues, and ultimately the role of the knowledge worker as catalyst and flagship of the whole process.

Defining Success in KM Implementations: Vision in Action