October 11, 2008

7 Principles of Law Firm KM

Dave Snowden's 3 Rules of knowledge management have expanded to 7 Principles, now that he is focusing on law firm knowledge management. (Perhaps there is just something about lawyers that invites the creation of more rules). Here are the 7 Principles:

1. Knowledge can only be volunteered, it cannot be conscripted.
2. We only know what we know when we need to know it.
3. In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge.
4. Everything is fragmented.
5. Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success.
6. The way we know things is not the way we report we know things.
7. We always know more than we can say, and we always say more than we can write down.

This is a list worth chewing over. I expect I'll come back to it several times. In the meantime, I'd urge everyone involved in law firm knowledge management to take a hard look at their KM programs and measure them against these 7 principles. A large number of firms are engaged in classic KM 1.0 efforts: trying to convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, creating precedent collections and brief banks, writing practice guides to convey best practices, etc. These methods seem to violate one or more of the 7 Principles. It would be worth spending a little time to determine if you are achieving the levels of success you and your firm anticipated from this efforts. If not, how much of that is due to the fact that your projects do not conform to these principles? If you are truly successful in your KM 1.0 approach, we should talk. You may have identified an interesting exception to the 7 principles.

[Hat tip to Dennis Kennedy's microblogging on Twitter.]

2 comments:

Dave Snowden said...

Its more that I updated them while writing an article on KM for law firms .....

... but I like the idea of more rules for lawyers.

Mary Abraham said...

Dave -

Thanks for the clarification. It would be interesting to get your take on law firm knowledge management. My sense is that adherence to these principles is generally sub-optimal in the legal industry. However, I'm always glad to be proven wrong.

- Mary