November 17, 2008

Quick & Dirty: Thoughts on a KM Curriculum

I know, I know, I’m a total flogger! I’ve seen my subscription numbers plummet and I’ve felt the guilt, but in my defense I’ve been craaaaazy busy with my new job…not busy enough to miss a single episode of Gossip Girl (what, are you kidding?), but that’s just one hour out of my otherwise hectic week.

I’ve been working (slowly) on a new full-length blog, but I’ve started to realize that perhaps I should take a stab at kicking out more "quick and dirty" posts to address many of the KM thoughts I’ve been reflecting upon lately but don’t (or can’t) seem to find the time to blog about at length. Between these and my OOTB posts (which should be easier to write now that the election is over) I should keep my readers and fellow KM-ers happy and reflective :-)

My current position has raised a lot of questions for me about managing knowledge in a large bureaucracy, most of them focusing on the impact of politics (within the KM function) and how it impacts the pursuit and implementation of KM (clearly not well) and also, how one might exploit conflict and office politics to achieve something positive (essentially turning negative behavior into something useful and constructive). Anyway, since I’ve got a(n imaginary) timer ticking down at my desk and in keeping with the concept of a "quick and dirty" blog post, I won't take time to dig through my daily journals to generate a list of those questions, rather I’ll blog about a question that a co-worker just asked about an hour ago: What did I study when I first began my foray into KM that helped me to learn and understand the field?

I’ve already envisioned, at some point down the road, teaching KM in both corporate and academic environments and helping to compile compile a KM resource list. Although, to be honest, I’ve only made notes, here and there, regarding what would appear on such a list. I do happen to have 80% of the articles I read on KM during college and grad school and occasionally I’ll thumb through them and shock myself with how outdated (and maybe a little ridiculous) they are in the present. Sometimes I surprise myself with an article that is still timely, I’ll have to look through them again and maybe blog a post about how KM (through the literature) has changed..or not, over the years.

Anywho, to the task at hand, I doubt I’ll be able to come up with anything definitive in the next 5-10 minutes, however I’ll give it a go and I invite others to offer suggestions about what they think should be added.

The KM Curriculum
Although I have an undergraduate degree in Urban Policy Studies and the majority of my time was spent in Economics and policy-related courses (and nearly every French course I was able to take), a good chunk of my courses were in the areas of Organizational Behavior (OB) and Organizational Development (OD), as well as coursework in Business Analysis and Strategy. In my humble opinion, these areas are seminal to working in KM. After all, KM is all about helping organizations to understand how they operate and to recommend (and implement, if that's your role or objective) strategies for improving areas of need. Even though these recommendations may involve non-traditional solutions, courses in these areas help to provide valuable insight into how many organizations operate and “think”.

If you’re wanting to learn how the people in organizations “think” then definitely you’ll want coursework in Psychology and Sociology, which was a requirement for me and, I think, most undergraduate students. I also recommend courses in Adult Education and Human Development. As I’ve blogged before, the number one reason I decided to pursue graduate study in Adult Education is because I felt that in order to understand how to implement and facilitate change, I needed to understand how people learn and adapt to change. I’m not knocking B-School ( this post) but I took enough Business courses to know that the answers aren’t there. If they were, we wouldn’t see the same problems (particularly with change management) cropping up time after time. Successful businesses (and business practices) aren’t merely adaptable they look outside of traditional business avenues for solutions and inspiration.

One field that I never properly studied in school (because I was already kinda good at it and my mother wisely suggested I explore new and unfamiliar territory) is Marketing. Over the last few years the concept of KM Branding (an article on which I promise I will write and shop around and eventually post to this blog before the end of the year) has really helped me to understand the intersection of marketing and education and its criticality in successfully implementing change - period, least of all KM.

Statistics and Program Evaluation. Math was never my strongest subject in school and processing data isn’t my idea of big sexy fun, but the 30+ hours of statistics, analysis and evaluation (including survey design) courses I was required to take between undergrad and grad school has been invaluable to me, particularly when you’re dealing with organizations that only seem to understand "bottom-line" business communications. It’s always a challenge learning how to translate KM goals and efforts into these types of communications, but if you learn one thing about implementing organizational change it’s that having data to back up your recommendations is essential and gives you unparalleled credibility…the rest is all in how you spin that data (see Marketing above).

One course that I’d wished I’d taken is Technical Writing. I pick up skills like it’s nobody’s business, but having this particular skill-set from the beginning would have been much appreciated. Again, it goes back to being able to translate ideas into requirements and documentation that can be universally digested. One resource that I didn’t discover until my last semester at GA State (mostly because its availability was only disclosed to the B-School students, even though all students had access) was the university’s suite (LMS) of online courses for learning various applications (e.g. MSOffice, Illustrator, etc) and programming languages (e.g., SQL, PHP, HTML, etc.). Not that I would have recognized the true value of this resource at the time, but, in hindsight, as a KM Strategist (and not a KM Architect) I would have been better prepared for some of the technical demands of the field. Fortunately, there’s some benefit in having a Sr. Systems Analyst/Engineer for a father (who maintained one of the most high tech households on the block). Just one of the reasons why I pick up new skills and new tech so easily.

All right my time is up and I’ve got to back on the professional grind. There’s definitely more that I could add to the above, but I’d love to hear what additions others would make!


Marius the Younger said...

As a fellow knowledge manager, I suggest any course that teaches communication, enables people connections/networking.
Maybe teach LEAN/6SIGMA, Human Factors, Adult Education/Learning, High Order Thinking...things like that.
I am working on a similar track: developing a KM training and certification strategy for DOD.
I look forward to reading future articles.

Christian Young said...

Thanks Marius! I've always been a little suspcious of Six Sigma (which I think is fitting since they're regularly giving us KMers a sketchy look, lol) but now that I'm in need of some new metrics I've been reaching out a little so it's definitely an area worth exploring. I'd definitely be interested in learning more about your work with the DoD if it you're able to talk about it!!