Inside Knowledge Magazine, 10 (3), 2006
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Editor’s letter: Unintended consequences
Change management is, in many respects, at the heart of knowledge management (KM) – especially when KM is being introduced into an organisation for the first time.

Our two case studies this month, from modest but fast-growing service organisations, illustrate how this can be done successfully. In both cases, the knowledge managers leading their respective programmes did not necessarily rush to provide the solutions that they felt their organisations were crying out for. Instead, they facilitated the solution-finding process, but were always able to lend their expertise to support that task.

The results, in both cases, are new systems and processes that support staff in their roles, enabling them to do their work more effectively, while in many cases providing efficiency savings for the organisations, too.

Of course, change – and KM – is easier to introduce when an organisation is young and malleable, and the potential side-effects are easier to foresee and forestall.

In major organisations, however, even the smallest of changes can have the biggest of side-effects if that change has been poorly thought through. Let me provide an example revealed to me by a senior manager at the Royal Mail, the UK’s postal service provider.

A few years ago, the organisation introduced a small change to the way that mail was collected from its post boxes. For years, when a postal worker made a collection, he would change the disk on the front of the box so that users would know when the next collection was due.

In the name of efficiency, it decided to stop doing this because of the savings that could be accrued, aggregated in terms of every collection made across the UK every day. That, at least, was the theory. In the absence of the little disk on the front of the post box, users did not know when the collections were due – so saved up their mail until the end of the day.

For the Royal Mail, the consequences were enormous: sorting office staff who used to have a steady stream of work to deal with throughout the day now sat idle – until late afternoon when it all came in at once. Machines had to operate at capacity and extra staff had to be taken on. Overtime payments went through the roof, too.

One small change in the name of efficiency had major consequences throughout the organisation’s operations. A lesson, perhaps, that every organisation should bear in mind when contemplating change.

FEATURES

Case study: Davies Arnold Cooper 
Mark Collins charts his first 200 days as the first knowledge management partner at international law firm Davies Arnold Cooper.

Case report: Using the whole brain 
No two management approaches could be more different than Six Sigma Lean (SSL) and Knowledge Management (KM). SSL’s centre of gravity is in the industrial economy – machines, production and engineering – while KM is the knowledge economy. But at Unisys, KM and Six Sigma get along as smooth as SiLK.

Case study: PRP Architects 
PRP Architects needed to develop a knowledge-management strategy to help it cope with continued growth. By Cathy Blake.

Masterclass: Business taxonomy, part two 
There are three primary mistakes that organisations commonly make when designing a taxonomy. All three are related and result in many of the taxonomy usability, management and maintenance issues examined last month. By Zach Wahl.

Book review: Treading lightly 
The stories of an Aboriginal society in Australia and the lessons they may be able to provide for the world today might not strike many as a particularly fertile basis for a book from a professor of knowledge management. But such an attitude might lead potential readers to fall into the same trap as the early Europeans who ‘discovered’ Australia more than 200 years ago.

REGULARS

Thought leader: A model for coaching at Honda 
IF YOU have seen any TV over the past year you will have seen Honda’s ‘Hate Something, Change Something’ commercial. By Duncan Johnston.

The knowledge: Charles Armstrong 
Sandra Higginson talks to Charles Armstrong about his study of how information is shared in small communities and the lessons that big business can learn from it.

Knowledgeworks: Measured opinion 
Some KM advocates are becoming less timid and more testy when confronted with the perpetual challenge to provide metrics to prove the value of knowledge management.

KM toolkit: Ajax 
Web 2.0 is the term widely used to describe the new wave of interactive web applications – and Ajax is the key technology behind Web 2.0.

The Gurteen perspective 
I discovered weblogs back in 2002 when a colleague suggested I take a look at them. At first I stumbled across the mass of personal weblogs that held little interest for me but then I found a single weblog that changed my life.

Read the articles online.

NEWS

KM tool highlights Enron e-mails
Web users can decide for themselves the guilt of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling after all the e-mails relating to the case were put online as part of a showcase for a recently released discovery tool.

Intranet managers ‘little more than administrators’
Intranet managers are, too often, little more than mere administrators who willingly publish everyone’s work and who do too little to prioritise the content that staff really need to see, according to web design guru Gerry McGovern.

IBM’s ‘information as a service’ strategy
Computer giant IBM has been fleshing out its ‘information as a service’ strategy for the first time since the completion of its $1.6bn purchase of FileNet.

Open-source portal software gaining ground
Open-source enterprise portal packages are gaining in popularity, but vary substantially in terms of features and usability, according to the latest release of the Enterprise Portals Report from analyst group CMS Watch.

ADVETRISEMENT

How to Implement Successful Knowledge Management: Practitioners Share Best Practices
Download this complimentary paper from InQuira

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