Power and Virtual Organizations LO30041

From: Philip Keogh (Philip.Keogh@leedsth.nhs.uk)
Date: 04/03/03

Replying to LO30036 --

Hi Fred

I read your piece with interest. It reminded me of the emperors new
clothes, and struck a chord with some of my own experiences.

I however do not feel that IT is entirely to blame. They may well be
perceived as the culprits as they are the ones who are asked to supply
(recommend, install, support) the hardware and applications. They hold
knowledge about a set of tools (IT) and they (usually) know and are
competent to use those tools( within their frame or working). However,
over many years managers have seen IT as "The Golden Bullet". A solution
to problems and not a tool to enable people to solve problems. They (the
managers) divorce the problem from the tools to solve it.

This has led to, what is in effect, a de-skilling of people. This
de-skilling takes the form of either placing an undue reliance on IT
without the skills to support it in the general workforce with a parallel
loss of skilled people in the "manual" way of doing things. It also
de-skills people in that little emphasis is placed on building up their
own IT skills and relating these skills directly to the job in hand.

>From the small amount of training I have done with people, I have found
>that people more readily learn and internalise the concepts involved, if
>the training is tailored to suit their work situation.

The paradox is that IT folk are seen to know about IT but little else, and
the "workers" know little about IT but much about the job in hand. Little
is done to bring the two together in a meaningful way. If ever their was a
case for bringing two communities of knowledge together to produce some
synergy - this is it. Two communities of practice that really do have one
common goal in mind.

Managers however have compartmentalised IT into a small discrete support
function (generally speaking) and its knowledge is not disseminated. And
vice versa the operations of the organisation are kept separate from IT.
It reminds me of Russels Antinomy. IT is the solution provider. Let IT
provide solutions for everyone except themselves.

I again refer to Checkland et al's book "Information, Systems and
Information Systems....". In it, he wonderfully sums up the role of IT (or
for that matter any other support function) in an organisation.

BUT, overlying all of this I am becoming increasingly convinced that one
cannot store knowledge. It cannot be stored on books, on computer systems,
in manuals and standard operation procedures. For me, knowledge is dynamic
and subject to constant change, and that change takes place within people.
People are the key. Don't concentrate on the tools (...by all means use
them) but concentrate on the people.

Trying to store knowledge on external systems (making it explicit) may
lead to the loss of meaning that is associated with information
(Information + Meaning = Knowledge ????). I could read Eco's book
"Foucaults pendulum" and gain some meaning from it. But what I gain may
(and probably will) be very different from someone else with a different
knowledge set and view of the world. In order to secure then the meaning
that is meant to go with information to allow the transfer of Knowledge,
it seems then that there must be a some personal interchange to confirm
that the meaning has been passed. KM systems (IT systems) may not be able
to do this.

In summary - for me, the learning organisation is one that has a high
regard for it people, higher than treating them as mere assets (see Arie
De Geus - the Living Company).

This thread is causing me to reconsider many things. I'll sign off now - I
have quite a bit of thinking to do!


Philip Keogh
Pathology Information Officer
(see our website at www.leedsteachinghospitals.com)


"Philip Keogh" <Philip.Keogh@leedsth.nhs.uk>

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