KM Forum event blog: Joseph Horvath on learning and KM

October 1, 2007

Now with Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Joe was one of the IKM originals and the most ethical of all the members. During the period of the knowledge wars in IBM (it takes a few beers for me to talk about that) he refused to be sucked into the politics and I gained a lot of respect for him. He put some great stuff together on tacit knowledge back in IKM days.

Good idea here. Training is about propagating what you know, knowledge management is more about uncertainty, linking and connecting people. Joe is a researcher who is now a practitioner so this is going to be interesting. Joe is also going fast so I will keep notes and comment at the end.

KM is being torn between business intelligence & decision support on one side and learning on the other. A lot of the BI vendors are starting to cannibalize KM functionality. Argues that KM needs to get more specific and make its offerings clear. Learning is no longer at liberty to take expert knowledge and translate it into the classroom. Outsourcing has not really worked and the pressure is too high, needs to move to direct transfer.

Knowledge management is more recent than learning. Challenge has been to measure impact and sustain management interest during dips in the business cycle. Consultancy origins (which is true) and the B****** just put my photo up on the mind blowing ideas section of this methods list.

Performance needs can no longer be handled just by training – have to deal with more ad hoc and messy material (blogs etc).

Your best employees are always swamped. (Simple but very important statement there). You won’t get them out for training, if they need it smaller bites and to test the water before I commit to any period of time. Employees need more granularity, less direction onto courses, more selection. Link to peer networks, use information which is less warranted. It’s not mr right, but mr right now.

Blending learning is going to be redefined. Not longer just a level set, classroom and assessment. Key points:

  1. It will be redefined as a continuum of performance support to the learner.
  2. More granular training delivered with web services architecture.
  3. Employee generated content developed and leveraged more systematically.
  4. LMS (Learning management systems) becomes a hub for post training reference and linkage to on line content.

Now Joe is in the Pharmaceuticals business and they have a lot of compliance issues around training which provides a particular driver, but I think the above are generic.

Now he is onto management challenges, this will be interesting, Joe is a reflective guy

  1. Establishing systematic management of training content and keeping it in synch with related content
  2. reconciling quality./compliance standards with the speed and flexibility required for effective performance
  3. Funding learning/KM practitioners with the right skill sets
  4. Working out functional ownership for the converged discipline.

Now the first of these is a real Pharmaceutical issue but it applies elsewhere. I call it the tick box mentality of training. If someone has been on a course and signed a document (electronically or otherwise) then we have compliance. The chance of anyone remembering anything if they do not practice it shortly after they a retrained is non existent. However this is the learning function becoming like the health and safety function: more concerned with legal compliance, avoiding prosecution than with the objective itself. Its part of the general problem with SOXs compliance. Well intentioned, but often producing the opposite of what is needed. (Asked and Joe agrees).

Overall Joe thinks that Learning wins the battle of ownership over KM. I’d agree with him there, KM is reaching the end of its life cycle. It should be part of strategy, but if the choice is between Learning and IT I would always go for Learning.

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