Have you ever started a journey? You type in the final destination in your navigation system, and then you check roughly the route. Hardly ever you start cruising: “let’s see where we end”.
However, if I speak about Knowledge Management that seems the default approach: We put the cart before the horse. And then later we discuss, why KM has failed.
And for Knowledge Management this means knowledge does not happen by accident, it shall be managed. First things first! You organize for re-use.
No, that doesn’t mean that you can plan knowledge to the very last detail. Isn’t that the essence of Learning? We define an expectation, a hypothesis, and then verify / falsify it. I alluded to this, when discussing Facilitated Learning. And don't trust the human memory: Mind the invisible gorilla and friend Alzheimer.
Okay, flesh to the bones, what does it mean to organize for re-use? Three ingredients: The re-use potential, modularization and the definition of what knowledge is creating value.
The re-use potential
I am aware that I am arguing against the long tail, but – believe me – not many managers sponsor your long tail! If there is no re-use potential, why should you bother to invest, respectively waste money? There is no prize for best KM, only for sustainable business. Do not produce what some KM guideline tells you to produce, but do create Knowledge Assets that create value. In order to do this not only for yourself, we are talking ‘sharing’, it needs mutual understanding and common context (see work patterns: learning, big picture)
But these are not to be comprised, neither by time pressure and nor by budget concerns, because you have got the ROI, the Re-use potential Of Investment backing you. Just on the contrary the re-use potential should drive meaningful creation of Knowledge Assets.
So in order to evaluate the re-use potential you need the mutual understanding and common context. Then you quickly come across people who in a second scrutinize the re-use potential to be zero, because the situation has been soooooooo unique, it never will fit. And they are right:
When you look in retrospective on Knowledge Assets, which have been produced for one, and one very specific purpose: Spagehtti. Hardly re-usable!
On the other hand, if you think in modules and create in modules, all of a sudden the re-use potential grows tremendously. Our business is most of the time too complex to re-use in a simple copy-paste manner, therefor it is vital to fillet modules to secure re-use. Which perspective to chose of course depends on the business, but a modularization in terms of commercial, fulfillment and solution e.g. is widely applicable.
Defined Knowledge Asset creation
So having got a re-use potential based on modularization, and with the ROI comes logically a budget, then define what Knowledge Assets to produce.
Well, from here it is downhill, you just look what you already have, what would create value (and is affordable according to the re-use potential) and you define and fill the gap: Value-creating Knowledge Asset production. Knowledge Assets created to serve a re-use potential have a much higher quality as those you find usually in knowledge bases (especially when “supported” by activity-based KM KPI), because the re-use potential does give meaning. Do you want to deliver crap under the eager eyes of your potential re-user. It’s already in the pipe; you can’t get away with poor quality – that is not the knowledge base black whole that you are cheating, that’s your peer.
Well that’s it, from here on you “just” need to manage: Some potential will not realize. On the way you realize you need some other Knowledge Assets. You document your Learnings. You might run After Action Reviews easily. And you write down your lessons learnt like icecream in summer.