The aging workforce (part 1)

December 2, 2010

Today’s Dilbert raised one of the classic issues in knowledge management. Back in the 1990s people argued that core knowledge walked out of the door each evening and might not return. The solution to this was to codify that knowledge so that it existed independently of the knowledge holder and thus became a corporate asset, not a private one. It was a rare soul (I use that word advisedly) who argued for a focus on key staff retention and succession planning which was not a mere mapping of competencies. Such mapping, like the idea of tacit to explicit knowledge conversion, is so partially true as to be dangerous in its adoption.

Of course, this was all at the height of what I have oft-referenced as the techno-fetishist period of management theory in general. As exemplified by BPR, the idea was to reduce as far as possible the wet-wear in favour of software. Of course, the torrential-torrent-wear of consultancy firms and technology providers was considered a one-off cost. I remember once in a government department showing that the cost of process consultancy exceeded the five-year returns from the layoffs they proposed; it caused some consternation but did not stem the rot.

Now of course this did not work in practice, and it’s a pity people did not understand up front that it was a priori impossible. My favourite way of illustrating this point is to suggest to people that they take a paragraph in English and use google translate to convert it to Welsh, then the Welsh to German and the German back to English. If we take the opening paragraph of this post then we get:

godwyd heddiw Dilbert un o’r materion clasurol mewn rheoli gwybodaeth. Yn ôl yn y 1990au mae pobl yn dadlau bod gwybodaeth graidd cerdded allan o’r drws bob nos, ac efallai na dychwelyd. Yr ateb i hyn oedd cyfundrefnu y wybodaeth fel ei fod yn bodoli annibynnol ar y deiliad wybodaeth ac felly daeth yn Nid yw asedau corfforaethol yn un preifat. Yr oedd yn enaid prin (defnyddiaf y gair ddoeth) a oedd yn dadlau dros ganolbwyntio ar gadw staff allweddol a chynllunio olyniaeth nad oedd yn mapio yn unig o gymwyseddau. mapio o’r fath, yn hoffi’r syniad o ddealledig i drosi gwybodaeth eglur, yn wir felly yn rhannol ag i fod yn beryglus yn ei fabwysiadu.

Zurück in den 1990er Jahren, argumentierte, dass Menschen Kernwissen aus zu Fuß die Tür jede Nacht, und kann nicht mehr zurück. Die Antwort auf diese war es, die Informationen, so dass es existiert unabhängig von dem Inhaber der Informationen und damit zum Unternehmenswert ist nicht privat zu kodifizieren. Es war eine seltene Seele (ich benutze das Wort her), die für eine Konzentration auf wichtige Mitarbeiter halten argumentiert und Nachfolgeplanung war nicht nur die Zuordnung von Kompetenzen.Solche Mapping, wie die Idee der Umwandlung stillschweigende zum expliziten Wissen, gilt zum Teil so gefährlich zu sein in seiner Annahme.

Dilbert is one of the issues raised today in a classic knowledge management. Back in the 1990s, argued that people from core knowledge to walk back the door every night, and no more. The answer to that was the information so that it exists independently of the owner of the information and thus to the company’s value is not to codify private.It was a rare soul (I use her word) that argues for keeping a focus on key employees and succession planning was not only the assignment of competencies. Such mapping, as the idea of converting tacit to explicit knowledge, is partly to be so dangerous in its adoption

Now it’s not too bad a job if you know the original, but if you come on it a year or so after the creation, or if you have no idea of the original then it’s getting close to non-sense. It’s also a simple paragraph with short sentences and no technical language. I’m also using languages with common roots and in a context where vocabularies are well documented, the languages are stable, and the rules of grammar are known. It is probably one of the easiest tasks available to a set of algorithms.

Now imagine you are dealing with the tacit, embodied knowledge of a craftsman, or an engineer with 20-plus years of experience. Do you really think it’s possible? No one with any real experience would subscribe to it, and that might go some way to explain the lack of take-up or participation. As the century turned people started to play (and again I use the word advisedly) with narrative. Unfortunately, they were taken up with stories rather than narratives. More on that tomorrow, and then to some solutions that work with the evolutionary history of humans rather than attempting to force us to act as automatons.

One response to “The aging workforce (part 1)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


Social Links: The Cynefin Company
Social Links: The Cynefin Centre
< Prev

Of chickens and eggs

- No Comments

One question raised in the comments to my post on Perdition was from Chavin ...

More posts

Next >

The aging workforce (part 2)

- No Comments

Dilbert is one of the challenges in classic knowledge management that will occur today. Back ...

More posts

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram