My thanks to Grant B. Harris of Workframe, Inc.,
for bringing this list to my attention.
As a new member of the list, may I introduce myself. My Name is Bo
Newman. I am a project manager with over 27 years in knowledge management,
proposal development, quality assurance, computer systems management,
computer graphics, and electronic maintenance. I currently work for
Cogito Inc., of Richland, Washington. Cogito is a software development
firm that has developed what we refer to as sentient technology, Sentient
technology supports the computerized acquisition, storage, and utilization
of knowledge and breaks cycle of economic depravation caused by the
current dependency on hand-crafted linguistic records (i.e., documents).
For the last 8 to 10 years I have focused on the application of knowledge
management in various types of organizations. When I refer to knowledge
management I take the position that, knowledge management is the
collection of processes that govern the creation, retention,
dissemination, and utilization of knowledge within an organization. I
also take the position that these processes exist whether we acknowledge
them or not and they have a significant effect on the business decisions
we make, the actions we take, and the cost and quality of our efforts.
These decisions and actions in-turn have profound and long lasting effects
of their own.
Whether you are talking about business process engineering, TQM or BPR, or
what ever business management improvement methodology you choose, there
seems to be little argument that it makes good business sense to recognize
and understand the processes that effect our actions and decisions and,
where possible, take steps to improve the quality of these processes.
Some might argue that this is but the application of common, or good,
business sense, but if it is "common sense", then why don't we know
whether a given piece of data or information will be critical to the
creation of future knowledge that will enable future critical decisions.
Why is it that we save so much information? Why is it we throw away so
much information? Why is it we store information that can never be
retrieved? These questions are manifested in the data retention clauses
of numerous government laws and industry practices including the
manifestations of the ISO standards for everything from quality assurance
to purchasing and receiving to software development.
>From the view point of the learning organization, this translates to the
practices that allow an organization to remember and recall what it has
learned. I am currently working with (not for) a very large firm that is
coming face-to-face with that problem. This company has a long history
with TQM, BPR, and attempts of one fashion or another to become a learning
organization. They've spent millions, if not tens of millions of dollars
on such efforts and yet, based on their own internal estimates, their
latest staff eductions resulted in a 50 percent loss in their accumulated
engineering knowledge base. We are talking about a company that dominates
a major manufacturing market-place! Something is not right with this
In another case, the only designer and builder of passenger carrying ships
in the US had to call the gray-beard designers out of retirement to design
their next generation of ships because the current staff did not have the
experience to design one! Who will design their following generations of
If you or I were to suffer a permanent 50 percent memory loss over a 3
month period, The doctors would be looking for signs of brain damage. If
they found out that we had done it to ourselves intentionally, they would
say we were one or more bricks short of a full load, and I seriously doubt
if we would be considered for any position of responsibility, let alone
that of CEO !
The cases I mentioned are only two of far too many examples in companies
around the world. So the argument that it's all common sense doesn't hold
water. If we do not look at the larger picture of knowledge management,
then I feel we are at risk in the way we design, or redesign our business
processes. If we do not have a set of high level knowledge management
policies to use a foundation, if we do not have and understanding of
knowledge management process how can we make good decisions about the way
we manage our businesses.
So that's who I am, what I am about, and a bit or oratory from a-top my
I would like to ask the members of the list, what, if any, treatment do
you give these issues in your study and practice of implementing learning
organizations? What case histories have you discovered that illustrate
either good or poor knowledge management practices? What tools have you
found that allow processes to deal directly with knowledge?
-- Bo Newman Cogito, Inc. Richland, Washington - USA (509) 943-5500 firstname.lastname@example.org