Requirements-driven Knowledge Management

We recently came across the International Atomic Energy Agency's ( definition of knowledge management (KM). We wanted to share this with you to get your take on it and compare and contrast your own definition with it. We'd like to get your input. Following is our own take on how best to institutionalize the practice of KM.

The definition was found in the "Nuclear Energy Insider" by F.C. Business Intelligence. The document name is entitled, "Nuclear Knowledge Management; An Introduction".

The IAEA defines KM as: “An integrated, systematic approach to identifying, acquiring, transforming, developing, disseminating, using, and preserving knowledge, relevant to achieving specified objectives.” That definition sounds unnecessarily complicated, but perhaps a slightly more achievable working definition of KM would be: “Conversion of implicit and tacit knowledge to explicit and codified knowledge.”Essentially, this means that systems, processes and procedures need to be in place to facilitate the capture of knowledge in an explicit and codified way. The more knowledge that is captured and codified early in the project lifecycle, the more useful it will be in the future. Considering the extremely long lifecycle of a nuclear project, this means that huge amounts of knowledge will need to be captured and stored, with the end goal of easy retrieval for future users.

Finally, it needs to be recognised that most knowledge transfer will happen informally. Organisations need to proactively develop a Knowledge Management Strategy and associated Knowledge Management Culture to support informal knowledge sharing. This means ensuring that the right tools and social mechanisms are in place to facilitate these processes naturally and without major additional effort beyond normal business

practices. This, of course, is the major challenge to realising the massive benefits of effective KM across an organisation.

We can appreciate the IAEA's definition of KM and the suggested modifications to it, too. But there are some aspects that jump out at us as potential red flags that we believe that all organizations need to not only, carefully consider, but more importantly to mitigate the risks associates with them. 

First, let's take the reference, "that most knowledge transfer will happen informally". The issue we have with this is that KM is all about "facilitating the capture of knowledge" and then transforming the knowledge into explicit forms that can be codified. This is formal work and putting into an informal context is a huge risk from a number of perspectives. The largest risk is that the work is left undone and key knowledge elements will fall through the cracks of the enterprise without extreme detail-to-attention, validation and oversight.

The other red flag is the intention to "develop a knowledge management culture" to ensure that the informal knowledge transfer can take place seamlessly. This all sounds great, like motherhood and apple pie, but let's be realistic. The nuclear field like any other highly regulated industry does not have the lattitude nor the time to mess around with informal anything, nor cultural-based hopes that the business environment will offer the necessary attention to detail and urgency around informal knowledge transfer. These thoughts need to be seriously questioned by any organization highly regulated or not.

Our experience has shown us that the best knowledge management programs that we have seen are highly crafted cross-enterprise processes that leverage the first, or at least one of the first, well-proven forms of knowledge managment methods. This practice is known as requirements management collaboration and oversight. It is used by progressive companies across a wide range of industries. It is, in our opinion, the most valuable form of knowledge management (to get started with) because it has huge strategic value associated with the requirements ellicitation and validation phases for whatever the work deliverable might be. No matter whether the business operation concerns a product or a service, the KM form of knowledge capture and codification has the power to transform good organizations into outstanding organizations. Requirements management KM is the proving ground for more advanced KM such as business rule management. This is why we are so fervent on the practice for the Governance Risk Compliance application needs. In future blogs we look into the business rule approach to compliance.