Understanding 'The New Knowledge Management' LO30380

From: Jan Lelie (janlelie@wxs.nl)
Date: 07/15/03

Replying to LO30366 --

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your answer; altough i'm not a believer of KM (and therefore
also not of NKM), i do think that the subject is highly interesting and
worth discussing. I suppose we're developing the story behind KM - and
story telling is what matters.

Mark W. McElroy wrote:

>Thanks for your post. See comments below.
>Dear Mark, hello-list-eners,
>>My first idea about "the NKM" was: "these are the new clothes of the
>>emperor". Here in The Netherlands there was recently published a thesis -
>>that is being translated into English, i've heard - " On the
>>dekunstruction of KM". Were "kunst" in Dutch can be used as "const" or
>>"art". The de-artification of KM. As the article by Mark, his book
>>discusses knowledge in dept. It also gives insight on what can be known
>>and - what seems to be missing in the article - what the social qualities
>>of knowledge may be. Knowledge - in my view - is largely an artefact of
>>social interactions, knowledge is - or rather, are "enacted truths".
>>Knowledge consist of writing stories.
>Jan, I'm not sure why you think we disagree here. The 'Knowledge Life
>Cycle' framework depicted in the article (and repeatedly in my book) is
>nothing if not a view of precisely the social processes you speak of. I
>believe I'm quite clear about my commitment to that view.

I think that knowledge needs no life cycle when you're talking about
social processes. A life cycle is a kind of framing that - in my view -
stems from the assumption that knowlegde has to be managed. I assume that
with KM people think that knowledge - and perhaps all aspects of life -
have to be managed. To them it is problematic that this world is chaotic
and uncontrolled. Perhaps out of a feeling of fear, or threat or whatever,
we set out to prove that KM is needed and exists. I think that KM assumes
that this world needs management. When one frames the world in this view,
this is what you will see: a "Knowledge Life Cycle". In my view this KLC
is true, valid as an expression of that view. Personally i'm satisfied
with a world that needs no management. What interest me is why and how we
somehow need to convince others that this world needs management (a
leader, a God) and fail to prove that this works.

My personal cycle of knowledge in organisations is:

--+--> communicating <-- + --> trusting <-- + --> co-operating <-- + -->
committing <--+-- (+ = positively coupled: when communiacting improves,
trust grows but when communcating declines, trust gets les etc).

Knowledge would appear in four different shapes - or flavours - :
communicating or know who, trusting or know what, co-operating or know why
and committing or know how. The know how and know what can easilty be made
explicit; the know who and know why will develop over time.

Perhaps we should divide knowledge in two parts: the knowlegde we know and
the knowledge we do not know. The first part can be "managed", altough i
would prefer "shared". The latter - the largest part - is beyond
management but is already shared. I think it was Popper who wrote that we
differ in the bits we know, but that we're equal in amount of things we do
not know. Some knowledge can be made explicit - and this is always
knowledge we know, this is the know in knowledge. Some knowledge cannot be
made explicit - either because we're as yet unaware on how to make it
explicit or because it is inherently implicit. This is the knew in
knwewledge. As we gradually develop more and more knowledge we might think
that all knowledge can be made explicit.

The basic problem with knowledge management is not knowledge, but the
assumption that (more) kwowledge needs to be managed. We're a part of the
framing of knowledged and become trapped in our own knowledge management
system. You might assume that knowledge doesn't exist of when it does
exist that it cannot be shared, increased or managed.

>As for knowledge consisting of "writing stories," I guess I disagree with
>that. Knowledge consists of beliefs and claims about reality, the content
>of which we can communicate in stories, but knowledge is not the same as
>the act of creating stories. Knowledge is knowledge; writing stories is

;-). I like your response. I think that i wanted to say that the process
of knowing, of gaining insights, learning, of discovering, of developing
is much more interesting to me than the knowledge itself. The knowledge is
in the knowing. I've studied physics (experimental biophysics) and there
i discovered that knowledge - as in a scientific article - is presented as
"knowlegde", but is developed as storying, not searching, but researching
- and researching again. The cover - knowledge - IS a cover-up of the
content and meant to be judged by the cover. The real new knowledge
management would be about the cover up of the cover up. And that's a
different story.

The role of knowledge and its management can be followed in the Iraq
crisis: there we have KM of the highest degree. Any New Knowledge
Management that doesn't address the issues on knowledge raised there (-
for instance: "how can we know that something isn't there" - ) goes on a

>>However, the thesis and the article scarcely address the emperor, the
>>eM-part of KM. The M in KM suggests how one "must" or should enact
>>Knowledge: knowledge should, must, can be managed. But management is
>>hardly defined, described or dekunstructed. In fact, in my view,
>>management seems a largely arteficial, constructed or social concept.
>>Managers try to hide behind a position within the management, a
>>management that - and here i agree with Mark - has the monopoly on
>>justification. Management not only holds the justification of knowledge,
>>by the way. They're also the judge of peoples behaviour, results and
>>rewards. And - at a certain level - their own judges.
>My response here, and to the lengthier discussion of yours below re:
>'management,' is to call attention to what I believe is a helpful way of
>clarifying what KM is all about. Instead of KM, think KPM: Knowledge
>Process Management. What we should be focusing on in terms of management
>are 'knowledge processes,' the social processes you spoke of above. What
>we need and want is for individual and social learning processes to be the
>best they can be in organizations. Managing related outcomes is important
>too, but it's the least of our problems. This is why so many KM
>initiatives are limited to managing outcomes - it's the relatively easy
>thing to do. Managing the social processes (i.e., learning) that account
>for the production and integration of such outcomes, however, is
>considerably more challenging, and should include consideration of all
>that you say below. So I think we agree here.

IT IS THE MANAGEMENT, STUPID! Again and again people assumed that managing
(processes, organisations, people, knowledge) is "good", "better" or
"best". Perhaps management has some succesful applications in closed, goal
oriented processes and organisation, but the large part of our problems
have to do with "why" and "who" questions, open questions that have no
definitive answer, questions about belonging. The success of management in
an organisation in a competitive environment has solved a limited subset
of problems (making industrial products like ships, trains, cars, planes
and PC's). This may have generated a "success to the successful"-loop. We
might now be trying to manage everything, even processes of co-operation,
trust, commitment and communication that are inherently unmanageble. The
new Knowledge Management: managing the unmanageble. That's why i proposed
a definition of management that is applicable to all people, not just to
managers or management teams.

Thank you for your kind patience.

And Rick, thanks for moderating this list. I'm off for a short holiday of
about three weeks,


[Host's Note: You are very welcome, Jan! Have a nice vacation. ..Rick]


Drs J.C. Lelie (Jan, MSc MBA) facilitator mind@work

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