JIT and Knowledge Building LO16449

Thu, 08 Jan 1998 13:40:25 -0500

A little over a year ago I came up with an analogy which I have found
useful in understanding "knowledge building systems". As a Certified
Quality Engineer (CQE), I've worked with "just-in-time" (JIT) concepts as
they apply to inventory and process control. I've found that these same
JIT principles have some interesting analogues when applied to "knowledge
building" (as opposed to "widgit building").

For example, JIT emphasizes small lot processing as opposed to large batch
processing. This in turn has a significant impact on the number of
"inventory turns", improves efficiency and offers considerably greater
flexibility to effectively meet changing competitive environments. In the
world of "knowledge building", the old paradigm emphasized batch
processing of ideas -- at least I think of committee meetings, staff
meetings and conferences as a kind of "batch processing" of ideas. In
fact, can't we think of meetings in general as a form of batch processing
along the road to building knowledge (i.e. performing value-added work on
information to turn it into something useful in the context of the
organizational needs)? The "feast/famine" or "hills and valleys"
dysfunctional processing flow in manufacturing that is characteristic of
batch processing has some equally dysfunctional impacts on knowledge
processing. Shouldn't a key principle of the LO be to minimize the batch
processing of knowledge and to maximize the use of JIT in building
knowledge? In other words, move knowledge/information around the
organization in small chunks, rapidly, freely, easily, to just about
anybody and everybody. The batch processing of knowledge/information in
face-to-face meetings will not (should not) ever go away; but it can be,
and is, being powerfully supplemented by JIT knowledge processing via
virtual teams interacting more or less continuously across networks.

The benefits of JIT in the manufacturing arena are well known; but, what
about in the knowledge building arena? I throw this question out to the
LO list in the hopes of generating some discussion. We could all wait
to meet and discuss this at some future "batch processing" conference;
however, I would prefer your JIT response.


Doug Jones <djones@asheville.cc.nc.us>

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