Geert Willems

Geert Willems

woensdag 29 januari 2014

KM: silo's versus interactive networks: why this dependency is just wrong!

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Organisations come in all kinds of forms. Large, small. Hierarchical, networked. Functional
structured, divisional structured, multiple matrix structured. A pool of silo's, flexible communities.

If the goal of knowledge management is an optimal use of knowledge throughout the organisation, is the best knowledge management solution depending on the current organisation?

To create common ground: knowledge is in my approach not only what resides in the head, but what is also present in the body - and transfered to 'the organisation'.

In the end, in whatever company you work for, the task needs to be done.
If I take for example the job of a technical writer, creating customer documentation.
His goal is to deliver quality documentation (nowadays I should call this quality information because it's very easy to create a mix of different media today) in the most productive way.

From knowledge point of view, should the tasks to be done differ whether or not the technical writer is working in a silo organisation or in a variant networked team with no strict hierachy?

The answer is: no.

Practical objections (most of the time starting with "yes, but") could be:
"in a silo organisation the processes are different than in a networked organisation"
and my answer is (also starting with "yes, but"):
"Should it be different. And why is it different?"

The answer I could get here ("yes, but")
"And then you move one level-up in the organisation, because, what about the technical writer teamleader which needs to report to his superiors in the hierarchy. It's very clear that the way he reports is depending on the organisational structure - silo's or network".

And I could get an answer ("yes, but")
"Why? If the reporting is partially the job of the technical writers themselves, and everybody can see the figures immediately on line? What's the difference?"

...there the answer could be ("Aha, now I've got you")
"There it is, you live in an ideal world where people can report themselves, have and take responsibility.".

Where the answer is ("Aha, now I got you").
"That does not come down to the organisational structure. That comes down to the people - and their culture. When you have staff which is not responsible and not willing to share, they will not feel comfortable in a networked variable team. But they will feel safe in their fixed position in a silo. The funny thing is that the way around can also be true."

And than for the first time a question as reply: "So the best way to share knowledge is depending on the people? And not on the company structure?".

Where the answer is (Confirmation of "I really got you - thanks for the sparring"). Yes. And it is the job of knowledge management to help the company increase in knowledge maturity. The challenge is to create an environment where knowledge sharing is that obvious that people feel comfortable in whatever organisation they work in, be it the silo-dependants ànd the network junkies.

---ps: this conversation was in my head - no people were harmed during the interview-- comments welcome.

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