Using Mentoring and Coaching for Knowledge Management LO29966

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 03/05/03

Replying to LO29961 --

Dear Organlearners,

Das Sujatha <Sujatha.Das@Siemens.Com> writes:

>Below is an excerpt which I read from some articles on the
>net (forgot the site address). The first para was on Mentoring
>and Coaching. It read thus:
>"Mentoring and Coaching have become very popular methods
>of training and knowledge transfer in recent years. By matching
>new or inexperienced employees with more experienced senior
>personnel, the intangible, tacit knowledge of your industry or
>organization can be passed on effectively. It allows the newer
>employees to grow without learning the hard way and creates a
>bond between Mentor/Coach and Protégé.

Greetings dear Das,

Mentoring is a practice which goes beyond human behaviour. It is a
practice among many species of animals too for effective hunting or to
establish sound social behaviour.

Mentoring is also not a modern practice. It was practised commonly in
ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, Indian and even African civilisations. In
medieval times it was made the cornerstone of many a university's
educational program.

South Africa was at the beginning of the twentieth century under-
developed according to western standards like most other colonial
countries. However, within fifty years vast developments took place in
farming, industry, commerce, transport, administration, education and
research. Mentoring played a major role in this development.

I wonder why the phrase says that mentoring "have[s] become very popular".
Here in South Africa since the sixties (i do not know whether it is the
case for other countries and when the demise in each began) mentoring
began to diminish. It still have to become popular again here. What caused
this demise? I would like a LO dialogue on this issue.

I think that mentoring is one of the several kinds of Team Learning (one
of the five disciplines of a LO). In this case the team is led by a well
experienced person who is wise to most of the possible pitfalls. I cannot
accept that mentoring is a method for "knowledge transfer". I think that
mentoring is rather a guidance in gaining knowledge by way of experiences
in the praxis.

You also wrote and quote:
>Soon after I came across this information in an article on
>Knowledge Management:
>"...When a pattern relation exists amidst the data and information,
>the pattern has the potential to represent knowledge. It only
>becomes knowledge, however, when one is able to realize and
>understand the patterns and their implications. ....
>.....Patterns which represent knowledge have a completeness to
>them that information simply does not contain."

This second quote has more to do with Information vs Knowledge that with
mentoring per se. Nevertheless, i think that the phrase "pattern has the
potential to represent knowledge" has profound implications. Information
may represent knowledge, but can never be actual knowledge. It is with a
certain knowledge that a person "is able to realize and understand the
patterns and their implications" in some information. During this
realisation and understanding the person may very well increase in
knowledge. But information with patterns intended in it cannot become
itself knowledge. It can only become food for knowledge.

>Anyone will like to share their experiences of using Mentoring
>and Coaching techniques to develop knowledge assets? Any
>thoughts / ideas / opinions? Just for understanding different

In my more than thirty years of teaching, first in a school, then a
college and finally a university, i tried to make use of mentoring
whenever possible. I had been extremely fortunate in having had a mentor
in my first year of teaching who guided me in learning how to act as
mentor self. Mentoring helped pupils and students to increase their
learning in several dimensions remarkedly.

I think that in terms of my own experiences -- and as a rule of thumb
since it will differ from person to person -- the mentor should not try to
guide more than ten "proteges" simultaneously. It is crucial that the
mentor should know exactly where each "protege" moves in his/her journey
of personal mastery otherwise the guidance may fail or even become

I think that the worst obstacles which i have experienced in mentoring are
in organisational structure such as its administrative, financial and
managerial facets. The obstacles which the "proteges" themselves cause are
minor and part of the process of mentoring to overcome. Should an
organisation want to employ mentoring, it will first have to become
"mentoring friendly".

Last, but not the least, a mentor who cannot set a superior example when
needed, is in for big trouble. When the proteges lose their confidence in
the mentor, it is almost impossible to restore it.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.