Tag Archives: knowledge

Knowledge, Performance and the Opposable Thumb

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

Last month’s article, where we interviewed Knowledge, and gained many new insights about her and her family, must have been an interesting one. It received even more “hits” than normal, and not just from spammers… The time viewers spent on the page was also higher than most, a good indicator of perceived value—or maybe they were trying to figure out that strange anthropomorphism of Knowledge. But let us tie up a few loose ends on the themes we covered, and then finish with the importance of the Opposable Thumb.

Discoveries at the NASA Knowledge Forum
I had taken a copy of last months’s article along with me to the Knowledge Forum; I reported on that event in last month’s IPMA-USA newsletter. I shared the article with Larry Prusak, one of the key people in Knowledge Management (KM) practice. When he got around to reading the article, he sent a polite email that suggested that the data to information to knowledge relationships are more complex than my simple assertions. I agree, and will leave it at that. After all, that was a 30+ year-old story.

At that NASA event, I figured out that there is quite some difference between my own naive interpretations, and those of a bunch of really bright people in the KM practice. And, there were some striking parallels. For example:

  • My perspective about Knowledge is mostly on the individual side: How individuals grow, develop, and improve their performance. My realization at the event is that the KM discipline is much more oriented to the organizational accumulation and sharing of knowledge.
  • They view Knowledge very much along the lines of a complete Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, where at the higher levels, you are dealing with synthesis. In other words, they are speaking of “Big K” Knowledge, not drill-and-test memorization—“little k” knowledge. That was a big aha for me.
  • My former KM biases were based on this: Far too much of my time spent in helping project teams (and their organizations) succeed has been spent overcoming the flaws of “little k”knowledge. This is often manifested by people who merely memorize enough to pass an exam, rather than to really understand how to apply the topic in a project.
  • In the NASA event final exercise, where all participants worked in teams to identify ways to improve the success of organizational Knowledge Management, I had another aha! moment. We were all identifying exactly the same Change Agent actions I have coached executives, project management offices and functional managers in for years. In what context? To help organizations adopt and adapt project management methodologies—to improve organizational PM performance.

The take-away: Project Management and Knowledge Management have many strong parallels. And, success in improving one in your area will also help in improving the other—for those who are so inclined. We saw exactly the same pattern with the successful Quality movements of the 1980s. Here is an example of the mutual reinforcement of KM and PM: Lessons Learned are one of the greatest opportunities for sharing knowledge in any organization. And yet, in too many cases, they are merely recorded—and then the same “learnings” are repeated in project after project, over again. That shows nobody learned anything. With a KM approach that actually institutionalizes applied prior knowledge, all projects will benefit, and performance will soar.

This is one reason why every one of our dozens of PM methodologies, both those we developed, and those we tuned for others for over 25 years, has a unique project kick-off action: Review the Lessons Learned from similar projects, including those with this team, this technology, and this customer. This might be a good KM policy for you to implement in your organization, if you do not already follow this savvy practice. Continue reading

Does Knowledge Want To Be Managed?

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

This posting was inspired during a trans-Atlantic air travel dialogue with a young lady whose job responsibilities include Knowledge Management in an alternative energy company. We explored, and brought together, a range of the relevant terms and disciplines involved with knowledge acquisition, assimilation, retention and application. Upon my return, and reflecting on the unresolved parts of our discussion, I scheduled an interview with Knowledge. This was more difficult than I thought, even though I had long-ago attributed traits of anthropomorphism to her. Finding Knowledge was easy. Getting dedicated time to interview her was the difficult part. Her? Of course, Knowledge is feminine in gender. Few men really understand more than Facts, the younger brother of Knowledge.

Our Interview with Knowledge
My first question was the title of this posting. She asserted that “No one ever asked me!” She expressed concerns that many of those purporting to “manage knowledge” do have some insights, but most do not understand the entire story. She pointed out that Knowledge is only one member of her large family of Intelligence, and some of her senior siblings are even less-understood than she. And, she asserted her deep concern that there are whole industries, educational systems, software support, and even certifications based on just her part of her family. While some, such as Peter Senge, come close to deep understanding, many of his followers only grasp the obvious parts. And, especially disconcerting to Knowledge was her belief that man has had few new insights about her for several thousand years, since the illuminations in China, India, Greece and Egypt. The interview, while wide-ranging and deep in content, was a firehose blast of perspective, all absorbed in a 15 second interview. Ms. Knowledge had other pressing commitments elsewhere.

The Taxonomy of Data
The interview led me to reflect on my own journey toward Knowledge and the rest of her family many years ago. In the late 1970s I performed presentations to various professional groups. One of my favorite presentations, especially for groups involving data and information systems, was The Taxonomy of Data. I did not invent the concept; undoubtedly I had read something in the mid ’70s that inspired me. Continue reading

Understanding the Competence Difference

PM Commentary, by Stacy Goff

Some people don’t know what we mean when we say at IPMA-USA, “Discover the Competence Difference.” And yet, would you want incompetent performance (or more politely, “not yet competent) in your organization, your government, or even in your yard service (for those who can still afford it)?

So while most people clearly understand incompetence, too many still fail to understand the competence difference when it comes to Project Management. From one of our presentations, and repeated in a June article, Closing the Gap, the Competence Difference is clear from the following scenarios:

  • Would you fly as a passenger in a plane piloted by two “Air Academy” graduates who passed their final exam, but have never taken off or landed a plane (not even in a simulator)?
  • Would you consider “going under the knife” for brain surgery by a Surgeon who has attended all the classes, read all the books, passed the exams, but has never wielded a scalpel?
  • Would you allow a Lawyer to represent you in a criminal case, who, while having passed the bar exam, has never practiced before a jury?

Continue reading