KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT AS A DOUGHNUT: SHAPING YOUR KNOWLEDGE STRATEGY THROUGH COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
1. About the author
Etienne Wenger, a recognized authority on the discipline, is a consultant and researcher, and the co-author of Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) with R. McDermott and W. Snyder.
The utility of knowledge management has been debating for a long time. Knowledge is a strategic asset so it has to be managed like any critical assets of organization. In this article, the author argues that in the term "knowledge management", management is a doughnut with empty centre. Knowledge management, therefore, is primarily the business of those who actually make the dough the practitioners. Unless you are able to involve practitioners actively in the process, your ability to truly manage knowledge assets is going to remain seriously limited. The article proposes fundamental principles for effectively managing knowledge. The doughnut model of knowledge management is the key issue to be discussed in this article.
3. Key points
3.1 Principles of knowledge management
- Practitioners, the people who use knowledge in their activities, are in the best position to manage this knowledge. Since knowledge of any field is too complex for any individual to cover, community of practice, which are social structures that focus on knowledge and explicitly enable the management of knowledge to be placed in the hands of practitioners, comes to play a critical role. - Communities of practice are groups of people who share a passion for something that they know how to do, and who interact regularly in order to learn how to do it better. They, therefore, are the cornerstones of knowledge management. From this perspective, the role of professional "manager" is not to manage knowledge directly, but to enable practitioners to do so. - Communities of practice manage their knowledge. If you had enough knowledge to micro-manage communities of practice, you would not need them. In contrary, communities of practice need to be in dialogue with executives in the organization, other communities of practice, and experts outside the organization. - No community can fully manage the learning of another, but no community can fully manage its own learning. 3.2 Three elements of a community of practice
- Domain: the area of knowledge that brings the community together, gives it identity, and defines the key issues that members need to address. - Community: it is the group of people for whom the domain is relevant, the quality of the relationships among members, and the definition of the boundary between the inside and the outside. - Practice: the body of knowledge, methods, tools, stories, cases, documents share & develop by members. Company-wide communities make learning available to all concerned. They make sure that the learning from various locations within and beyond the organization is synthesized and integrated, and then remembered and distributed. 3.3 From strategy to performance
Doughnut model is meant to convey the logic of a community-based knowledge strategy, bottom-up as well as top-down, not a chronological sequence of steps. Elements of Doughnut model: - Domain: knowledge is needs to do what you want. Translation from the strategy of the organization into a set of domains is neither static nor obvious. Key issues are how to mix top-down and bottom-up processes to allow an organization engage the passion of its practitioners in strategic challenges; how to allow new domain to emerge and old ones to disappear? - Communities: cultivate the communities according to each domain. You need people to have knowledge. This step is to find the practitioners who can form a community to take care of the knowledge in their domain. Key issues: how to overcome organization silos; accommodate various...