Understanding 'The New Knowledge Management' LO30373

From: chris macrae (wcbn007@easynet.co.uk)
Date: 07/14/03

Replying to LO30369 --

I realise there's something I have forgotten to ask about KM which is also
linked to conversation below. Where does any particular organisational
system get its context, unique purpose. I assume that any organisation
needs to make its context transparent. For example, research shows that
all who do knowledge work face a doubling of information passing across
them every 2.5 years so they will drown in this unless their selectivity
is very well tuned and that can only come as far as I can see from
pursposefully transparent context.

If you follow my question so far, then here's the controversial bit. I
tend to assume that the one primary job of the top (of leadership) is to
clarify the purpose, context for everyone. After all we are never going to
get away from the fact that any organisation has to make big investment
decisions etc and directly or indirectly that goes with leaders and with
transparency that should be justified by the consensus purpose our
organisation uniquely stands or falls on.

This goes to mark's question : are some faces more intrinsically valuable
than others? Yes some faces are most valuable - ie those who contexualise
the purpose. This is what founders of great organisations used to do - so
if we took Akio Morita at Sony for most of his active organisational life
his face was the knowledge purpose/gravity of Sony; he was the magnet of
the chief learning unique to Sony; that was beyond paternalistic it was
almost Sony's religious right to what we be.

For me the problem is not the idea that an organisation should be led by
its contextually most purposeful face but that many leadership teams have
abrogated the huge/unique system transparency/gravity job for navigating
sustainable system growth which that entails.

(there's also a misunderstanding about consensus as it used to be chaired
by Japanese leaders. Great consensus lead are strong on inspiring purpose
and guarding it but have huge humility in making sure that the purpose
isn't getting polluted by their ego. I guess in the West the nearest we
come to the extreme responsibility feedback loop of leadership is in work
on "servant leadership".

Perhaps its worth reinstating a primary process of such leadership as it
used to be done in Japan as it is real Km in my view.

Hoshin Planning:
Quarterly (or at every audit cycle), the leader writes to every person
in the company or every group unit; our next challenge concomitant with
our purpose is this , what are you personally going to do about it?
Everyone is expected to respond. If someone says politely nothing and
the leader (secretariat) agrees, that's fine. But if they say nothing
and the leader disagrees, this isn't seen as an issue to punish but a
learning gap that must be closed. Etc

I hope it is clear that what leadership means and does and patterns in a
Hoshin Planning culture is systemically totally different than a typical
western culture. And I believe that might be why its difficult to
translate Nonaka's full gist. I am sure his KM was never much ado with IT
at all and its mutuality of leadership respect certainly was in full flow
back in the 1980s in Japanese companies I worked with.

Chris Macrae, wcbn007@easynet.co.uk

>3) Back in Japan - you say this: The issue, then, becomes the extent to
>which an organization welcomes and encourages judgement or continuous
>criticism of its policies, versus denying and discouraging them. Ouch! I
>believe that the kind of KM theory and practice recommended by Nonaka and
>Takeuchi falls into the latter category, and for that reason it is
>dangerous and irresponsible. Again I just caution about context. I may be
>wrong but my implicit translation of Japanese leadership identity is
> - There is a bond. The top of a Japanese organisation is expected to
>behave as its chief learner; to listen to much younger people , to keep
>questioning everyone's views through such down-up communications
>processes as hoshin planning; because of this bond where people see that
>the top person misunderstands something they are expected to raise it
>privately not to let that person lose face by raising it publicly in
>front of the whole organisation. In the best Japanese firms reverse
>mentoring and 360 degree learning were natural long before the west
>rediscovered them.
Well Chris, I guess I don't have to tell you how I feel about this 'chief
learner' business - not that you're advocating for it, I understand. To
me, it's infantizing, paternalistic, and insulting. What about the
employee's "face" and the importance of not losing IT? Or are some faces
more intrinsically valuable than others? As I said in my article, I
believe this kind of epistemology is "dangerous and irresponsible."


"chris macrae" <wcbn007@easynet.co.uk>

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