Lesson learning as a supply chain
Another reprise from the archives – the idea of lessons being the “car parts” of knowledge
This post is a combination of three ideas, to see if they come up with something new.
- Idea number 1 – the idea of an organisation as a knowledge factory, sparked by Lord Browne’s quote – “anyone in the organization who is not directly accountable for making a profit should be involved in creating and distributing knowledge that the company can use to make a profit”
- Idea number 2 – the idea that corporate process is a compilation or synthesis of all the lessons learned over time
- Idea number 3 – the idea that we can treat knowledge management as a supply chain, designed to get the right knowledge to the right people at the time they need to make decisions.
So the combination idea looks like this;
The inner ring is a supply chain where components are manufactured, and assembled into products (like a car plant, or a construction site).
The outer ring is the lesson learning cycle, one of the procedural loops in Knowledge Management. Please note that this is only one of the many ways in which KM works; this is the systematic push-driven cycle involving the collection of explicit lessons, and there are many other types of interaction in KM (push and pull, connect and collect).
In our analogy, we have lessons from experience being collected, distributed through lesson management, and assembled into continuously improving corporate processes, rather like car parts are created, distributed, and assembled into cars. The links within this chain are as follows
- The raw materials for the supply chain are the experiences of the individuals in the workplace, who are trying to apply the processes in different contexts, in a changing world.
- The supplier of the raw materials therefore are the individuals themselves.
- Experiences are manufactured into lessons through processes of analysis and discussion – team meetings such as Retrospects, and After Action Reviews. Through discussion and analysis, individual unconscious knowledge is made conscious, and the experiences of many individuals are combined into the lessons of the team or the lessons from an event. These lessons are the components – the car parts within the supply chain.
- Now we get into the Distribution part of the supply chain. We need to get those parts to the assembly plant. This is a part where many Lessons learned systems break down. They leave those parts (lessons) in the warehouse (database), and expect people to come and find them (remember that scene from raiders of the Lost Ark?). We need instead to have active lessons management, to push the lessons to those who need them.
- Those who need them are (primarily) the people in charge of corporate process, who need to keep those processes fresh and updated as new learning comes in. The Process owners, or SMEs.
- However that is not the end of the story. The assembled knowledge needs to get to the consumer – though the equivalent of car showrooms (community portals), or supermarkets (Intranets) or street markets (wikis).
- The consumer is the knowledge worker. They apply the new knowledge, and in doing so, gain new experience.