Today’s Dilbert raised one of the classic issues in knowledge management. Back in the 1990s people argued that core knowledge walked out of the door each evening and might not return. The solution to this was to codify that knowledge so that it existed independently of the knowledge holder and thus became a corporate asset not a private one. It was a rare soul (I use that word advisedly) who argued for a focus on key staff retention and succession planning which was not a mere mapping of competences. Such mapping, like the idea of tacit to explicit knowledge conversion, is so partially true as to be dangerous in its adoption.

Of course this was all at the height of what I have oft referenced as the techno-fetishist period of management theory in general. Exemplified by BPR, the idea was to reduce as far as possible the wet-wear in favour of software. Of course the torrential-torrent-wear of consultancy firms and technology providers was considered a one off cost. I remember once in a government department showing that the cost of process consultancy exceeded the five year returns from the layoffs they proposed; it caused some consternation but did not stem the rot.

Now of course this did not work in practice, and its a pity people did not understand up front that it was a priori impossible. My favorite way of illustrating this point is to suggest to people that they take a paragraph in English and use google translate to convert it to Welsh, then the Welsh to German and the German back to English. If we take the opening paragraph of this post then we get:

godwyd heddiw Dilbert un o’r materion clasurol mewn rheoli gwybodaeth. Yn ôl yn y 1990au mae pobl yn dadlau bod gwybodaeth graidd cerdded allan o’r drws bob nos, ac efallai na dychwelyd. Yr ateb i hyn oedd cyfundrefnu y wybodaeth fel ei fod yn bodoli annibynnol ar y deiliad wybodaeth ac felly daeth yn Nid yw asedau corfforaethol yn un preifat. Yr oedd yn enaid prin (defnyddiaf y gair ddoeth) a oedd yn dadlau dros ganolbwyntio ar gadw staff allweddol a chynllunio olyniaeth nad oedd yn mapio yn unig o gymwyseddau. mapio o’r fath, yn hoffi’r syniad o ddealledig i drosi gwybodaeth eglur, yn wir felly yn rhannol ag i fod yn beryglus yn ei fabwysiadu.

Zurück in den 1990er Jahren, argumentierte, dass Menschen Kernwissen aus zu Fuß die Tür jede Nacht, und kann nicht mehr zurück. Die Antwort auf diese war es, die Informationen, so dass es existiert unabhängig von dem Inhaber der Informationen und damit zum Unternehmenswert ist nicht privat zu kodifizieren. Es war eine seltene Seele (ich benutze das Wort her), die für eine Konzentration auf wichtige Mitarbeiter halten argumentiert und Nachfolgeplanung war nicht nur die Zuordnung von Kompetenzen.Solche Mapping, wie die Idee der Umwandlung stillschweigende zum expliziten Wissen, gilt zum Teil so gefährlich zu sein in seiner Annahme.

Dilbert is one of the issues raised today in a classic knowledge management. Back in the 1990s, argued that people from core knowledge to walk back the door every night, and no more. The answer to that was the information so that it exists independently of the owner of the information and thus to the company’s value is not to codify private.It was a rare soul (I use her word) that argues for keeping a focus on key employees and succession planning was not only the assignment of competencies. Such mapping, as the idea of converting tacit to explicit knowledge, is partly to be so dangerous in its adoption

Now it’s not too bad a job, if you know the original, but if you come on it a year or so after the creation, or if you have no idea of the original then its getting close to non-sense. Its also a simple paragraph with short sentences and no technical language. I’m also using languages with common roots and in a context where vocabularies are well documented, the languages are stable, the rules of grammar are known. It is probably one of the easiest tasks available to a set of algorithms.

Now imagine you are dealing with the tacit, embodied knowledge of a craftsman, or an engineer with 20 plus years experience. Do you really think its possible? No one with any real experience would subscribe to it, and that might go someway to explain the lack of take up or participation. As the century turned people started to play (and again I use the word advisedly) with narrative. Unfortunately they were taken up with stories rather than narrative. More on that tomorrow, and then to some solutions that work with the evolutionary history of humans rather than attempting to force us to act as automaton.

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