HBR's Knowledge Management Book LO22585

Vana Prewitt (vana@praxislearning.org)
Tue, 07 Sep 1999 12:01:58 -0400

Hello all:

This is one of those times that I wish I had a room for of OD'ers down the
hall I could talk to. So -- hello in there -- anyone home?

Over the weekend, I picked up the Harvard Business Review on Knowledge
Management. The first chapter was by Drucker and was essentially a rehash
of old news, besides only peripherally about knowledge management. What
was worse, the illustrations he used to make a point were illogical and
flawed beyond belief. He tried to point out the value of a flat
organization by using an orchestra's conductor as the model -- no middle
management. But he failed to point out that the reason this model works
is because everyone on the team plays together simultaneously, interacts
directly with the CEO, and gets immediate feedback. According to him, the
reason this model works is because everyone has clear instructions (a
musical score), explaining the importance of giving everyone directions on
what to do. While I won't argue the value of clear directions, it is
pretty lame to miss the communications and performance management point

The second chapter, by contrast, is by Ikujiro Nonaka. It is very well
written, insightful, and a very thorough review of the Japanese models of
knowledge management...how their management models contribute to a
learning organization. This chapter brings into focus the importance of
holism, overlapping responsibilities for knowledge creation
(redundancies), and an organizational structure that supports, encourages,
and rewards exploration.

Now: this is my question. What influence is Nonaka having in MBA
programs? Is this reasonable and intelligent line of thinking being
promoted half as well as the flawed concepts presented by Drucker? Am I
the only person appalled by this glaring gaff? Has anyone else read the
book and have thoughts about the balance of various perspectives? I've
never been especially impressed by Drucker, and my opinion of him just
went down a notch.

kind regards,

Vana Prewitt
Praxis Learning Systems
Chapel Hill, NC



Vana Prewitt <vana@praxislearning.org>

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