Rick Dove, Paradigm Shift International, www.parshift.com,
discussion began the design of a core-competency
knowledge management system, and developed the primary
design requirements. We also introduced a design
architecture that fulfills those requirements - which we
will explore here. The context of our design is a GM
Metal Fabrication plant with exceptional competency at
creating high-variety, low-volume production processes,
and their desire for training both new employees and a
broader base of existing employees in this competency.
Any knowledge management system must deal with rapid change in knowledge value, and provide means for evolving the knowledge base under management. Even leadership core competency becomes irrelevant in the churning competitive environment. The design requirements (Dec '97) focus on the dynamic nature of knowledge capture, dissemination, renewal, and creation; and recognize the need for transparent training which does not interfere with daily employee productivity.
To start - we need to build one process to capture knowledge and insight that a few people possess, and another process to plant that knowledge and insight effectively in other minds. Since the value of knowledge and the nature of its application changes constantly, these processes must be change proficient. Consider the alternative: if we succeed in capturing and packaging the insights of a few people today, and also succeed in feeding this boxed wisdom to everyone else, there is both a risk that the contents are incomplete and a time when they become stale - better to let things compete for acceptance than to institutionalize rigor mortise.
Leading management sage Tom Peters says it well: "I'm totally opposed to the learning organization idea. I argue for the forgetting organization. You get droids when you have too much training and too many people thinking and learning in the same way" (Wired magazine, Dec 97).
So we need a process that captures wisdom from those who have it, even if they can't articulate what it is; that seeks wisdom wherever it may be at the moment; that actively renews (improves, upgrades) its content; that creates and accepts new knowledge when it is appropriate.
With this reasoning our knowledge capture process has grown into a capture, renewal, and creation process - the activities that identify and package the right stuff. But we're still going to have problems if this stuff is simply put in a box and handed over to a separate and dedicated "training" process: for one it'll go stale, for another the trainers will not be quick to change what they teach.
A little more reasoning is needed. New employees come in the door and existing employees change job functions constantly throughout the year - frequent events that trigger a need for training. Meanwhile, deliberate knowledge generation typically relies on the slow-to-admit failure of existing knowledge as its triggering event. This tells us that the knowledge generation activities are better tied to the training triggers - and leads us to the conclusion that we don't want separate generation and dissemination processes but rather one integrated system - one that generates and reaffirms knowledge in the process of teaching it. The implication here is that the people being trained will be the agents of knowledge generation as well as the triggers.
We don't want off-the-shelf knowledge to feed to people - but rather a training process for discovering and reinterpreting appropriate knowledge and its application.
OK - we've addressed the stale knowledge problem and the stuck-in-a-rut teacher problem. Now reality bites: performance pressures preempt time-off for training and postpone dollar commitments for training resources.
Actually these are blessings in disguise. We don't want dedicated training resources - they institutionalize the rigor mortise. Instead, we want a rotating mentor-student relationship that exposes the wisdom of real workers, and challenges them to explain their insights explicitly. And we don't want time-off for training - that encourages the wrong knowledge focus. Instead, we want training to occur during the process of solving real problems - with solutions that provide real value in real time to the organization. We've called this employment of real people solving real problems in real time Realsearch in prior essays. Details can be read in "Realsearch: A Framework for Knowledge Management and Continuing Education" available on the web site at www.parshift.com.
So we know that we need a highly change proficient process. The cases analyzed here in the last four essays show that we can gain this with a framework/module architecture based on RRS (Reusable, Reconfigurable, Scalable) principles (Sep/Oct '97).
We define the architecture's framework as a set of evolving standards that both constrain and enable the interactions of compatible system modules; and note that there is both an implicit and an explicit framework.
The implicit framework is present whether we design it or not: the local corporate culture, global corporate policies and strategic plan, regulatory
union contract and work rules, communication
infrastructure (e.g., electronic distance learning
technology), and skill sets and workforce capabilities.
Though these are all real parts of the framework,
practically speaking we can have no immediately effective
hand in their redesign - they are the "givens"
of the framework, and for the most part are the
constraining portion - they limit what is possible.
We will focus our framework design effort on the enabling portion - that part which provides the adaptability to changing knowledge values and application requirements as well as changing personnel priorities and profiles.
We design the framework after we establish the change issues it must accommodate (Dec '97). The reasoning process above coalesces these issues around six strategic themes that emerge as our key framework elements.
The accompanying diagram shows these strategic theme elements as dark/red bubbles connected to each other as well as to functional activities (light/yellow bubbles) that support these themes. The connecting lines convey a strong support relationship which is generally neither uni-directional nor strictly hierarchical - thus we have themes supporting themes as well as activities supporting themes. More connectivity indicates a tighter weave of mutual support, leading to a more consistent, more compatible, and higher leveraged set of elements.
A Quick Look At The Framework
1) Change Issue/Value Focus:
Change proficient production process design is the core
competency knowledge of interest here. A strong focus is
therefore put on identifying the change issues addressed
by a design. Knowing how to analyze or develop a highly
adaptable process is not necessarily good if no value
accrues to the company. To this end all process analysis
and design work is accompanied with a performance value
analysis (a subject for the future).
©1998 RKDove - Attributed Copies Permitted
Essay #037 - Originally Published 1/98 in Automotive Manufacturing & Production, Gardner Publications