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Notes Towards a Theory of

Sustainable Knowledge Management

Andrew Gent August 2009

Copyright 2009 by Andrew Gent

About This resentation

The !on!epts presented here are the !ulmination of twenty"fi#e years of learning and pra!ti!e $not all in the field of KM%& ' began wor(ing on a theory of sustainable (nowledge management o#er two years ago) when ' be!ame !on!erned that our efforts are parti!ularly sus!eptible to the foibles and flu!tuations of business strategy and budget planning& The ideas and opinions presented here are solely those of the author and do not ne!essarily represent the #iews of any !urrent or past employers&

,efining Sustainable Knowledge Management + rin!iples of Sustainability + Sustainability in ra!ti!e + -inal Thoughts

,efining Sustainable Knowledge Management

0Sustainable ar!hite!ture is foremost about reimagining the relationship between human beings and li#ing systems&&& 1ow do we build now that there are si2 billion of us) now that our supply of natural !apital 3 water) wood) energy) land 3 must be far more effe!ti#ely used4 1ow do we ma(e 5ero"emission houses4 1ow do we design stru!tures that !an be rein!orporated into earth harmlessly and endlessly4 1ow do we metaboli5e energy and water so that the s(y and land impro#e rather than erode46
3 aul 1aw(en) Sustainable Architecture) 2000 /

8ethin(ing Knowledge Management

9e need a similar reimagining of KM pra!ti!es& + :ut rather than thin(ing in terms of e!ologi!al footprint;) we need to thin( of how to redu!e our impa!t in terms of human resour!es&
* Green computing is an admirable goal in#ol#ing a set of e!ologi!ally sound 'T pra!ti!es& :ut green !omputing is not spe!ifi! to KM& 't applies e<ually to all uses of !omputers 7

,efining Sustainable KM
Sustainable Knowledge Management is the design of KM initiati#es with a smaller >footprint> in terms of? + Cost + ,edi!ated head!ount + @earning !ur#e + Ani<ue time away from peopleBs >real> wor(

:usiness Conte2t

9e are all familiar with the issues?

Too few resour!es :udget !uts @a!( of attention or a!ti#e parti!ipation @a!( of support $0'f we !ould only get someone from upper management as a sponsor) we !ould&&&6%

9hat if) rather than fighting these limitations) we a!!ept them as reality and wor( to redu!e KMBs relian!e on these diminishing resour!es4

Current 'ssues
+ +

+ +

KM has a reputation for large) e2pensi#e programs& D#en small KM initiati#es re<uire a signifi!ant initial >push> in terms of !ost) head!ount) and e2e!uti#e attention& There is no belie#able way to Eustify most KM programs $e&g& 8F'% 9ithout dire!t bottom"line impa!t) KM is a !onstant target for budget !uts) fire drills) and downsi5ing&

rin!iples of Sustainable KM


rin!iples of Sustainable KM
,o not ma(e KM e2tra wor(& Dmbed it in e2isting business pro!esses& + A#oid >Change Management>& @et !hange manage itself& + ,esign for humans) not data& + ay attention to the people) not the poli!ies& + Dliminate the opposition&

Sustainability in ra!ti!e
Dmbedded KM + ,esign to Hero + $8e%Ase 9hat D2ists + ,o 't Iourself KM


Dmbedded KM

Dmbed KM pra!ti!es in e2isting business pro!esses

@oo( for milestones and (nowledge 0hotspots6

8apid adoption Tied to business metri!s

Trying to 0impro#e6 $i&e& !hange% pro!esses to ma(e KM wor( better& -o!using on (nowledge !apture rather than how (nowledge is be used&

,esign to Hero

Traditional :usiness lanning

:udget plans for initial 0push6) but assumes ongoing maintenan!e& ,anger? if budget is !ut) the program stops&

,esign to Hero
lan to rea!h 5ero e2pense some delta after laun!h?
+ Transfer e2penses to other departments $1J9 to 'T) management to teams% + ,e#elop 0self"managed6 pro!esses $e&g& wi(is) bar !amps% + Dmbed in e2isting a!ti#ities $annual !onferen!es) et!&%

Traditional Design to Zero


$8e%Ase 9hat D2ists


@oo( for untapped (nowledge in?

:usiness systems $proEe!t data) people) wor( history% 8epositories $samples) best pra!ti!es) lessons learned% D#ents $ roEe!t re#iews) sales gatherings) team training%

'n#ite others to e#ents) open up systems& Fften information is most useful to people who arenBt in#ited or donBt (now a resour!e e2ists&


,o"'t"Iourself KM

9hen no KM pra!ti!e e2ists) how do businesses sol#e the KM problem4

:ottom"up? Grassroots KM $wi(is) forums) so!ial networ(s% Top down? KM ser#i!es rather than programs $<ui!( setup) one day e#ents) self"help guides% Guide to ,'I KM

8ein#enting the wheel ,o!ument"!entri! solutions @o!al solutions) global blindness

-inal Thoughts
Ne2t Steps + 9hat About the 9eb 2&0 8e#olution4


Ne2t Steps
+ +

Not Eust another KM paradigm& Sustainability is appli!able to all e2isting KM approa!hes $(nowledge har#esting) !ommunities of pra!ti!e) storytelling) et!&% This is a wor( in progress& 1a#ing identified potential solutions) how do we help others mo#e forward4
Commitment to Sustainability4 $!f& the ,esigners A!!ord% ,o"'t"Iourself Guide to KM4 Sustainable Consulting4 GC

-inal Thoughts

9hat about Dnterprise 2&04

,oesnBt the 9eb 2&0 re#olution sol#e this problem4 No& 9hat is 0free6 on the internet is not free inside the firewall& $'n!luding ser#ers) freedom of e2pression) and room to fail&% Same issues as ,'I KM


-or More 'nformation?
http?JJ in!rediblydull&blogspot&!omJ 2009J0*J notes"towards" theory"of"sustainable&html

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