May 22, 2008

Accounting for KM: I ♥ Patrick Lambe

My beating heart
If you can't tell from my blog, I'm pretty irreverent.

While there are a few things I like to keep traditional (NY-style cheesecake sans toppings, Sunday Brunch, Gin Martini's, Presbyterian Church services with classical hymns - none of those contemporary services for me, bub!), I'm otherwise a white-after-Labor-Day wearing, sex-politics-religion talking kinda guy. Back when I was a Pika Pika!student at Georgia State, absorbing anything and everything KM that I could get my hands on, it's my irreverence that I credit with helping me to separate the wheat from the chaff of KM lit as well as seek inspiration from other sources/fields - Psychology, Economics, Marketing, Education...Pokémon.

Yes, Pokémon.

I wrote a paper entitled "Pokémon As a Metaphor for Knowledge Management: Gotta Catch 'Em All!"...hardly worthy of KM World or InsideKnowledge, but I got an 'A'! (If you think that's interesting, I got my one and only tattoo just for an Organizational Devevlopment class project in which we had to present analyses and comparisons of three businesess in the same field. We chose tattoo parlors. And, again, got an 'A'. When I get my PhD I'm going to get something pierced, lol.)

Yes, I rock. I know. Totally OOC (out of control).

Patrick's PedestalAnyway, having read a lot of crap on the subject of KM, I'm not one to fawn over the rockstars of KM (even though I have the list). Usually, I'm so critical of the literature that it's rare for me to put anyone on a pedestal, but I'm putting Patrick Lambe on one today.

I don't know Patrick, personally, and I was only recently introduced to his work and thoughts last week when I was researching KM certification and came across his 2006 article, "KM Competencies: Is Certification the Way to Go?".

On Tuesday, I was Googling 'sunk cost' wiki-style (you know, when you start on one page reading something and then 2 hours later you've clicked your way onto some completely tangential topic?) when I found myself at Green Chameleon reading Patrick's 2002 article,"Accounting for Knowledge Management"

Hands down, it's the most brilliant piece on KM that I've read in 2008 and, maybe, for the last couple of years. And, it's useful. Not in some academic, theoretical, abstract sense, but practically useful. It's not a 'how to' manual though (so don't go gettin' all excited), but for those of you grappling with the development of metrics and tools/processes to measure the value of your KM efforts, Patrick has written an intelligent, insightful (and interesting to read) article that provides both history and perspective on accounting for knowledge-intensive businesses and activity.

It made me think of my first knowledge audit and how it took me just a hair over six months, several (almost) pointless AEA (American Evaluation Association) conference modules and sheer gumption to design and then implement what I hoped wouldn't be a capital-F failure. The end result, my 'State of Knowledge' report to the company, has become a regular deliverable in every KM engagement with which I'm involved. Just as Patrick touches on in this article, it may not provide the hard numbers and precise statistical figures associated with modern accounting methods, but it does provide an account - annually - that represents to management, the leadership, investors and the organization, in general, the value derived from investments made in human capital and KM efforts.

So, after reading this KM chef d'oeuvre I cyber-stalked Patrick via Google, nosed around Green Chameleon for a bit, and read several more amazing articles:There are many more, so you'll have to check out the website to view them, but I love these articles mostly because even the ones written 7 or 8 years ago still ring (prophetically) true today.

Thanks Patrick! It would have been nice to have had your insights when I was in school, but I'll happily share them now that I'm in the field.