Group KM

PKMastery is an essential discipline, especially for knowledge artisans. However, practising PKMastery is not going to get work done. PKM is primarily a framework to facilitate learning in networks through cooperation. In order to collaborate, more structure is necessary, as well as agreed-upon rules for sharing knowledge. Group Knowledge Management (KM) takes PKMastery to the next level: getting things done.

collab-coop Group KM involves narrating your work, so that others in the group know what is happening, even when separated by time and space. Group KM focuses on teams and projects sharing their work to ensure as much common understanding as possible. One critical component of work narration is the capture of how exceptions are handled in order to get this information to anyone who may need it in the future. Unique problems should arise once and then be addressed. A description of how the problem was handled is recorded and made available for future reference, so that emergent practices are developed. This is how work is learning, and learning is the work. Group KM requires some type of social sharing platform, but many options are available (e.g. Jive, Socialcast, Yammer) and most companies today have a social tool in-house. It is the group’s responsibility to curate exceptions in a format that is accessible to all. Some exceptions can even become rules: in perpetual Beta, of course.

Capturing exceptions should be practiced by groups, and then the process can be shared through the enterprise. Establishing a decision memory practice – why we made a certain decision and not another – is a simple way to start. It does require some solid direction on capturing and sharing these decision processes though. Group KM promotes groups to make decisions given the knowledge they have at the time, but subsequently learning from each decision. In addition, by creating safe-to-fail experiments, they should try out new ways of working, with minimal investment or risk.

A safe-to-fail approach enables continuous learning in complex environments

A safe-to-fail approach enables continuous learning in complex environments

Group KM practices ensure that what is learned is shared and codified as much as possible. Leveraging what individuals learn through their own practices of PKMastery, and combined with groups sharing their work and learning, organizational KM is then a matter of curating what is happening in the enterprise. This is a bottom-up model, ensuring knowledge flow, not a directed top-down approach wrongly assuming that existing stocks of knowledge are unchanging and immutable.

Group KM does not require that everyone work in the same way though. There are many roles that can be done. For example, Patrick Lambe  identified six knowledge management roles: Consumers, Communicators, Collectors, Connectors, Critics, and Creators. Looking at these from my PKM sharing & sense-making quadrant, one can see how an effective team would have people engaged in all of these roles.


The organization should also provide some load-sharing for creation and criticism, both of which take significant effort. Groups could appoint a few people as Creators, while others are nominated as Critics. Those not as knowledgeable in a field can still play a role as a Connector, Collector, or Communicator.

Enabling Group KM is difficult, as it changes how work is done. Openly questioning, and learning from these questions, subverts traditional work hierarchies. But the alternative means not learning from our work. Group KM connects personal knowledge mastery with the more traditional enterprise knowledge management.


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