Tuesday, March 10, 2009

People are canny

They will appear to conform. (Larry Prusak).

The fifth rule of thumb for Knowledge Management is from Larry Prusak, coauthor of "Working Knowledge" (with Tom Davenport). "Working Knowledge" came out in 1998 and is one of the foundational textbooks of Knowledge Management.

This rule of thumb is about change and it is not unique to knowledge management. But because knowledge sharing is part of change processes, you do have to be conscious that people will be canny; they will appear to conform.

So watch the crowd.

This is particularly true with communities of practice. If they operate long enough, they start to be agents of change acting horizontally across the organization. And the inevitable question will arrive: "What the !!*%#@?? are those people doing?"

Which is why communities of practice need to look ahead and be ready to make their case with a Term of Reference that describes how they add value to the organization as well as the fundamental value they bring to individual members and the community of practice.

While change management is very useful in describing the specific project management steps and processes of a change process, coaching knowledge sharing processes and tools is more free form.

So if you are supporting knowledge sharing in an organization, particularly communities of practice, be canny. Managers will appear to be supportive (some, at heart, are not). Some CoP members will seize the opportunity to advance their own causes under the banner of the CoP. The two in combination set the scene for the accusation that "the inmates are running the asylum".

Your role is to sift through the players and determine whether
truly they are "willing". If not, be canny yourself and recognize that all appearances aside, they are not partners in knowledge sharing.

Partners meet two criteria:
  1. They are willing
  2. They are able.

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