Thursday, February 22, 2007

On The Train (KM in Malaysia), May 3, 2006

I was already about five minutes standing at the platform waiting when an inaudible announcement came on air stating that there was a flood somewhere and the train service would be delayed. I was not sure which line though. Just this evening our consultants using the train station announcement analogy to described AV concept on intelligibility. At train station there would be constant announcement but most of them were not intelligent and commuters tend to just ignored them. I guess it was the same just now everyone seems to ignore the announcement. When the Seremban train came I heard someone remarked ‘Eh, Seremban lagi la.’ So I guessed the troubled line was the Sentul - P Klang line.

There were a lot of people today compared to the same time on other days. Again the majority of commuters were Malays followed by Indian and Chinese a distance second and third respectively.

There are two things that caught my attention today. The first one ws a posting made by Dave Snowden and the other by Naquib Chowdhury’s sixth-point plan to promote KM in Malaysia.

Dave talked about the ‘three big shifts in organizational theory the last 30-40 years that had shaken things in such a way that it is difficult to return.’ He further said ‘I don’t include things like the Learning Organisation or the Quality movement both of which had a big influence but did not change the structures.'

The three things are: Business Process Re-engineering, Outsourcing and the massive growth of the big consultancy firms (and their increasing focus on technology).

Now all three are based on an assumption that any KM professional knows to be wrong - namely the assumption that knowledge can be fully codified.

All three got their growth out of manufacturing (a closed system which can be largely codified) but then extended their range to cover services using a manufacturing modelMaybe, just maybe the world is finally waking up to the reality of using these manufacturing models and mechanical metaphors as the failures are starting to become visible. BPR is having a late revival in Six Sigma, but that’s rather like the extreme religious movements that arise towards the "end of days" so extreme that it points up the deficiencies of the belief system by taking the ideas (in this case measurement) to excess. Outsourcing is starting to creak at the seams and its growth is Government. Now given that Government adopts things as industrial best practice, just when industry realises they don’t really work as well as was claimed, isan additional sign of failure. The growth of small consultancies (our own open source movement for them) and the increasing cynicism around the claims of large consultancy firms who partner-consultant ratios will now only sustain an industrial rather than an apprentice one.

If so, when we look back in twenty years time, will everyone see these three as temporary blip, something that disrupted life unnecessarily but then (thanks to KM) we realised the error of our ways?’

Now, it is clear for Dave that any extreme use of methods or tools, including his, especially using manufacturing model, in KM is a flaw.

In another interesting development is Greame Burton’s comment in Inside knowledge on Naguib Chowdhury’s Six-point plan to promote KM in Malaysia. First of all, reading the piece, I am not sure whether the recommendations are personal views of Naguib or official views of either KM Association of Malaysia or MDec. The six main recommendations;
  • The importance of learning and sharing should be included in the academic curricula so that future corporate leaders – and their top staff – will have a mindset devoted to continuous knowledge sharing. The education system should also encourage creativity and ‘out of the box’ thinking;
  • The government must develop a master plan to drive KM activities, especially in the public sector. The government’s plans for encouraging an e-learning culture in the private and public sector should help boost the adoption of KM, if well implemented;
  • A platform has to be created whereby practitioners, researchers and corporate leaders can unite to share ideas and knowledge. KM Association Malaysia can play an active role in this context. Regular forums and sharing of best practice will help organisations to adjust their KM programs accordingly;
  • Cheaper, locally made KM tools could boost the adoption of KM in Malaysia, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Many SMBs are reluctant to consider knowledge management on the grounds of cost. Local software companies could, perhaps, leverage the open source software community to develop cheaper content-management systems, for example;
  • The media can play an important role in building awareness of knowledge management and its role in improving productivity. A regular KM bulletin, for instance, would help greatly in achieving this. KM pioneers in Malaysia ought to take the lead and publicise their efforts and successes more widely;
  • Effective knowledge and cultural auditing are pre-requisites for any successful KM project and greater emphasis needs to be placed on developing the right tools and frameworks to achieve this. Measuring the performance of KM initiatives is also valuable in maintaining people’s motivation for knowledge sharing.

What being said are something that already been talked about that I agree would help further the development of KM Malaysia. Based on my experience though this need to be looked at holistically. I know there has been an endless debate on what KM is still some kind of common understanding for us in Malaysia is necessary. To me KM should be part of strategy rather then just a process to some of us. So what is KM strategy for Malaysia? Some of the tools and methodologies could be infuse, or some use embed, into our economy and we do not have to call them KM. The thing is we have some good things going already, probably what we need is a bit of realigning to move a step ahead and taking heed from Dave would be wise as well.

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