Back in 2009 Ted Tjaden put together what I consider a seminal paper called “The 7 Faces of Legal Knowledge Management.” [PDF] Knowledge Management is still a young discipline, with thinking and the areas it encompasses in flux. At a couple of recent meetings, including Knowledge Workers Toronto (a KM-related meetup group I help to organize), we explored how KM is changing, how it is varying from these “7 Faces”. Here are a few of my notes co-mingled from those discussions.
KM as a place to develop new frameworks and models
As the place to develop new thinking, new ways to address workflows, communication across the organization, and business models, KM can incorporate an agile approach. Use a specific approach to development of ideas can allow people across the organization–with different areas of concern and approaches–to come together and have a meaningful interaction.
Examples of types of frameworks and models that may be developed:
- frameworks for working with clients/customers
- innovation frameworks
- idea management – allowing us to categorize new ideas, help them find the right homes (knowledge brokerage of a sort)
- new business models, such as for legal work
KM as Research & Development
Related to the idea above, KM may be the place where the innovation is actually taking place, so the KM department is not only facilitating other departments, but also driving innovation inside the organization.
Models for KM as R&D:
- Continuous improvement
- Models and prototyping
- Collecting data (statistics) to support activity
- Tapping into areas of interest to clients/customers
KM as efficiency and productivity
The strengths behind KM departments allow for work on things like workflow and processes, ideally to improve efficiency and productivity. “Doing more with less” is the catch-phrase here. Some of the strengths of the KM department:
- ability to work with technology
- design thinking
- document management
- practice management
For anyone working with lawyers, KM can help to reduce the non-billable time lawyers spend on risk management by:
- creating standardized retainer letters
- developing specific methods for creating and maintaining ethical walls
- creating standardized conflict of interest waiver letters
- creating an intranet page with risk management solutions all in one place
KM as developing the “modern lawyer”
Given this work on innovation and development of models and frameworks, and developing more efficient workflows, KM is seen as helping lawyers to practice law in a new way. This is supported by Mitch Kowalski’s writings.
Social Knowledge Management (SKM)
Knowledge Management has always been an area hinged on interaction of people, but with the rise of social media inside the firewall, KM is becoming increasingly social. There is now even more attention being paid to relationships.
We are also seeing increasing turn over in our organizations, whether from down-sizing or retirements. The knowledge workers left inside the organization may no longer know each other, so it becomes even more important to help them build trust and working relationships.
We are seeing that KM is increasingly becoming a Human Resources and Professional Development issue.
KM as Professional Development and Training
Because of large turnover in staff, new processes are being put into place to on-board new staff and help them learn from the new knowledge. As well, PD and training are ways for knowledge to be passed from one to another inside the organization.
KM Director as Director of “Everything Else”
We are seeing that all the new thinking and processes that don’t otherwise have a home inside the organization are coming in through the KM department. For example:
- legal project management
- design thinking
- user experience
- taxonomy building and maintenance
- anything of interest to clients
The KM Director can find opportunities in any number of places, taking on what others don’t feel is part of their jobs, and making it work for the organization. The key–as Joan Rataic-Lang here on Slaw might say–is being intrapreneurial.
How is KM Changing?
So this all raises the question: is the nature of KM changing? My thinking is that the basic ideas behind KM are still the same, but the work being taken on by KM departments is changing. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.
What do you think?