A recent posting for a six-week knowledge management contract was posted by the UNDP. When it comes to requests for proposals, if you ask for something, you will definitely get offers to produce it. But is this what they need?
“Conduct initial research on industry standards for KM measurement to inform the design of UNDP’s KM performance measurement, and develop tailored metrics for monitoring and measuring UNDP performance;
Identify and recommend suitable tools and mechanisms to collect the data necessary for KM monitoring;
Formulate standard operating procedures for data collection and monitoring and analysis of KM metrics.” —UNDP
The RFP is for a measurement framework that reflects current industry standards. But what if those standards are useless cookie cutters? Is KM about collecting data or is it really about sense-making on an organizational level? The only way to enable the latter is to get everyone involved in knowledge sharing and then harvest what emerges. It is messier, and it is the opposite of what most of KM has been about.
Here is a simple guide on how to enable organizational sense-making, not the mere management of data and metrics.
1. Establish methods that enable tacit knowledge to flow. People need to have better and deeper conversations around issues that matter. Training on better communication and meeting techniques can be offered. Examples of knowledge-sharing need to be made by decision-makers. People need to select their own tools, develop their own PKM practices, and be allowed to experiment. This takes time and a safe place to share. Monitoring is done while immersed in this complex adaptive system of people learning and sharing knowledge in multiple ways.
2. Establish places for teams to work out loud. An enterprise social network is one such environment. However, these groups will only share their knowledge if individuals have the abilities and aptitudes to do so. You may have to go back to step one.
3. Finally, once people are conversing, sharing, learning, and experimenting in the open can the organization start to harvest insights from community managers and through good curation practice. This explicit knowledge becomes the stock on which to build the system of record, and such things as lessons recorded, and perhaps even learned. of course, there has to be something to curate, and that is only available when most people in the organization freely share.
The foundation for KM should be active sense-making and a solid practice of adding value through engaged learning, within a structure that encourages open sharing. I doubt that any of this will ever appear in an RFP in the near future, or that PKM, with an emphasis on personal methods, would be an acceptable framework for those obsessed with measurement. It’s just too simple.