Knowledge Management Meets Analysis

Article excerpt

When it comes to needs analysis, knowledge management brings a lot to the table.

I could tell that this training manager liked knowledge management. She grinned when I talked about capitalizing on untapped resources and sharing lessons regardless of turf and geography. A long-time warrior in the battle against hoarding knowledge, she nodded when I emphasized the importance of a trusting, generous culture, dedicated staffing, technology, and access to information. And she jotted notes as we discussed Thomas Stewart's use of the metaphor of an iceberg to describe organizational knowledge, focusing on the wisdom beneath the surface, only hinted at in course catalogues.

At the conclusion of my presentation, she greeted me with a smile and a question: "I'm convinced. But what do I do now? I'm working on a technology rollout project. I think knowledge management could help me approach this task, but how?"

The answer would be what we think of as a traditional needs analysis. This article is my attempt to add beef to that response by beginning to bring analysis and knowledge management together. What does KM bring to planning training? How does it enhance the way we figure out how to serve our clients and customers? It starts with definitions.

How Knowledge Management Expands Our World

TYPICALLY                   KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
                            PERSPECTIVES

Our goal is development     The goal is creating, nurturing, and re-
of individual capacity      freshing organizational resources and
and memory.                 interactions.

A customer might ask,       Typically, customers will not come to
"When can we schedule a     us for knowledge management. We
class to introduce sales    provide grist for the knowledge base
reps to the system?"        and impetus for the interactions that
                            surround it.

Our responsibility is       Responsibility expands to content and
products and services       social situations for learning and per-
that teach.                 formance.

We communicate the right    We attempt to show many ways to
way to do it.               handle it, with commentary that illumi-
                            nates standards and customization.

Our efforts have staying    We contribute to materials and systems
power.                      that change readily.

Interventions must be of    The knowledge management system is
sufficient length and       salient for problems and opportunities
magnitude to justify        that are great and small, important
travel costs.               and mundane.

What is analysis?

In a nutshell, analysis is the planning we do in order to figure out what to do. Through analysis, we take a fresh and data-driven look at the work, worker, and workplace - seeking to base our training recommendations on wide-ranging opinions, practices, and work products - not on habit, whim, or fiat.

Bracketing the training profession as we move into the next century are enthusiasm about workplace training and cynicism about the ability of training in and of itself to influence what really matters: performance improvement linked to strategic results. Analysis is the systematic basis for decisions about how to influence performance.

These ideas dominate analysis:

* Analysis is where it all begins - establishing relationships, exploring strategies, and defining solutions.

* More sources of information are better than one.

* It is important to seek the gap between the current situation and the desired situation, focusing resources where they're most needed.

* The analysis must determine root causes, or drivers, to define systemic solutions - recognizing, for example, that a question about why something doesn't or won't work is just as critical as what people do and do not know.

What is knowledge management? Knowledge management involves recognizing, documenting, and distributing explicit and tacit knowledge in order to improve organizational performance. …