July 2, 2008

Knowledge Management Made Easier

Tim Leberecht's post, The Writing Organization: Knowledge Management Made Easy, literally took my breath away this morning. I loved the idea. And then wondered if I or any of my KM colleagues in other law firms would have the audacity to propose it to our respective firms.

Here's his suggestion:
Make it mandatory for every employee to keep an internal blog and post at least once per week. Depending on their role, employees can blog about customer experiences, sales tactics, strategy, product improvements, organizational design, competitors, market trends, and even gossip. Potential productivity losses are outweighed by the value of knowledge that is being generated and shared.
For a brief moment I had this vision of lawyers, legal assistants, administrators and support staff blogging away at their desks, capturing the minutiae of their daily lives -- those things that usually reside in the back of your brain and are never needed by the firm until you are on vacation or out sick. And then, I wondered how easy or difficult it would be to obtain firm management support for this proposal.

Those of you who have already had your morning shot of caffeine will note astutely that law firms currently capture a great deal of daily detail in the form of time tickets or fee earner logs. And some firms even search and expose those details as part of their enterprise search capability. However, these daily entries often verge on the cryptic and they only track the work of fee earners, not those who spend their days ensuring the firm is well run. Yet, in terms of the institutional health of the firm, both pools of knowledge are important.

Tim Labrecht is correct when he says that by fostering a writing culture the firm increases the chances of making tacit knowledge explicit. And that once this knowledge is explicit, it can be found and used by people who didn't know it existed or didn't know they didn't to know it. The potential power of this proposal is huge. But, can it work in a law firm?

5 comments:

Sean said...

I suggested something similar in my small section of IT (6 people). It was a hard sell in that group mostly because it was unfamiliar. They didn't know what to write, and so they didn't. I didn't press the issue.

Patrick Lambe said...

Dr David Vaine has been running a programme like this for some time now. See his podcast at:
http://www.greenchameleon.com/gc/blog_detail/david_vaine_on_corporate_blogging/

Mary Abraham said...

Sean -

As I read your comment, I found myself wondering whether it was fear of change or fear of writing that made this such a hard sell. Few of us write regularly. And fewer still write well. Consequently, fear is a perfectly understandable response.

If the issue is that they were at a loss as to what to write, could that have been addressed by some guidelines or examples? Presumably, if they knew what the program was trying to achieve and how their participation was valuable, they might be more willing to participate (with a little encouragement to help them overcome any apprehensions about writing).

- Mary

Doug Cornelius said...

Mary - I think this is a bad idea.

Encouraging the use of social media inside the enterprise is a good idea. Mandatory blogging is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

You mention that Tom is right is suggesting that writing helps make tacit knowledge explicit.

Can tacit knowledge ever be made explicit?

Polanyi observed that that tacit knowledge is by its very nature, tacit - it cannot be made explicit. Indeed, explicit knowledge is rendered meaningless without its tacit dimension, they are two sides of the same coin.

I think there is a big difference between tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge, which has not yet been made explicit.

Jeremy