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Wise Guys: Mission Critical Knowledge Management

Release date to be advised

A new method of managing knowledge within a corporation that debunks mainstream consultants, who argue that all knowledge needs to be captured, maintained and made accessible. This novel method is stunning simple yet profoundly powerful. It maintains that only knowledge that contributes to an organisation’s key performance objectives, at the individual person-level, should be captured and managed.

The Essence of the Book
There are few people in business or organisations that haven’t been exposed to the tantalising promises of the glitzy “bells & whistles” knowledge management system or the smooth software sales pitch. The pitch normally goes something like this:

  • The rate and scale of change in your industry or market is increasing;
  • Knowing what’s happening in that environment is critical to your ability to adapt to it, and perform despite it;
  • You must collect all the information that may impact upon you;
  • You must disseminate all such information to anyone within your organisation that requires it;
  • People who require information will interrogate the system to extract information (knowledge) that they require.

The solution then touted is a sophisticated, information capture, storage and dissemination tool.
There is no denying the need to capture, maintain, store and disseminate information, and there are many competent vendors and systems that deliver this effectively and efficiently. However, the problems with the conventional approach to knowledge management are many and tend to compound an organisation’s difficulty in navigating through the knowledge management forest of jargon, guru peddlers, swish systems and highly rewarded system salespeople.

The Problem with Mainstream Thinking and Solutions
Some of the problems associated with many of the conventional systems include:

  • There is an assumption that all knowledge captured has equal value to everyone and is thus treated equally. In reality, different people in different roles need different information at different times in different forms and at differing degrees of accuracy.
  • There is an assumption that eventually you can capture “all” knowledge relevant to you. This is impossible at worst, and impractical and very expensive at best.
  • No differentiation is made between knowledge that contributes to organisational outcomes, and that which doesn’t. The assumption is that someone may need the information at sometime so best to keep it just in case. The marginal cost/benefit of securing that extra piece of input is unquantified.
  • Because of the sophistication of the systems and the presumption that they need to be a “catch-all” accessible by all, they are very expensive.
  • Many systems profess to harness tacit knowledge and thus protect the organisation from the vulnerability to its key people walking out the door. In reality, when one examines the offerings, one realises that the systems merely catalogues either “Communities of Knowledge” that possess the knowledge or individuals who possess the knowledge. One still needs to go to these entities to interrogate them as to what they know or what one needs to find out. Having the catalogue, as useful as it seems, may actually be counter-productive since it entrenches the reliance of the organisation on that individual when the catalogue is individually based. Organisations can lapse into a sense of false security that they can access the knowledge whenever they need it – failing to acknowledge that once the person has left the organisation, the knowledge often “dies”.
  • Conventional systems ignore the fundamental purpose for the acquisition of knowledge: the enhancement of decisions and decision-making. It is as if the mere ownership or access to the knowledge is sufficient to deliver the benefit of having the knowledge – as if by osmosis. There is a profound difference between “knowing” something and “acting on that knowledge”.
  • Where measurement exists in such systems, it is traditionally associated with volume, growth and access of and to the content of the knowledge base – rather than of the robustness of the decisions that the knowledge contributes toward. If the knowledge that exists, irrespective of its level of comprehensiveness, doesn’t add the quality of decision-making, then it is of no purpose.

A Different Perspective
If one eliminates the hype and slick sales pitch by vested interests, and examines the area of knowledge management from a business or organisational perspective, the solutions to knowledge management are not nearly as complicated or as expensive as they seem.

In a nutshell:
Effective knowledge management is about identifying and securing the knowledge required to make the decisions needed to deliver the KPOs associated with each role within the organisation. Such knowledge is termed mission-critical knowledge.
In other words, there are a number of steps to effective knowledge and know-how management:

  • Identify the KPOs related to each role within the organisation.
  • Identify the decisions that need to be made to deliver those KPOs (as they relate to each different role).
  • Identify the information (knowledge) required to make a robust decision (based on the 80%/20% rule). The identified knowledge elements are termed the mission-critical knowledge elements related to that role. In other words, the elements identified are required for the person in that role to make a robust decision.
  • For each identified mission-critical knowledge element needed, identify whether it is available. The ratio of what is needed to what is available is termed the “Decision Robustness Ratio” (DRR). The logic behind this measure is that, the more mission-critical knowledge you have about a decision you are about to make, the better the decision. If for example you have identified 10 knowledge “inputs” that are critical to a particular decision, but you only have 3 of them, then the decision-risk is higher and strength of decision is lower than had you had 8 of the 10 required inputs. In this example the DRR for that role would be 30% if only three inputs were available or 80% if 8 were available.
  • Assess the quality of the knowledge in terms of timeliness, accuracy and fit for purpose. If the quality of the knowledge rates poorly across these three criteria, then it is as if the knowledge isn’t available.
  • Identify the specific systems, processes, procedures or practices that are mission-critical for any given area of responsibility.
  • Determine the extent that these systems, processes, procedures or practices have been documented. The proportion of mission-critical processes documented is termed the Process Capture Ratio (PCR). If you have identified 50 processes or procedures that are mission-critical to an area of responsibility or accountability, and documentation exists for 20 of them, then the PCR would be 40%. This means that 60% of the mission-critical ways of doing the role “remain informal or still in peoples’ heads”. A high PCR suggests a strong business continuation profile; strong ability to replicate good work and to protect the business. A low PCR suggests higher risk and vulnerability for the business.
  • Determine the extent that staff has been trained to use these mission-critical systems, processes, procedures or practices. The proportion of mission-critical processes in which staff have been trained is termed the Process Training Ratio (PTR). There is not much value in documenting the mission-critical processes if staff aren’t trained in their use. Ideally, a functional area has a high PCR and an equally high PTR. A low PTR indicates high vulnerability from staff turn over and a higher acclimatisation requirement to the business area.

Benefits of the New Paradigm
The advantages of adopting this way of thinking about knowledge and know-how are:

  • Augments decision-making
  • Identifies what knowledge and which processes are mission-critical
  • Identifies knowledge gaps that if filled, would enhance the quality of decision-making.
  • Identifies which tacit knowledge is mission-critical
  • Identifies which tacit processes and practices are mission-critical
  • Identifies the people and roles that represent the organisation’s vulnerability to staff departures.
  • Enables the organisation to allocate resources to collect, manage and disseminate only mission-critical knowledge – eliminates non-value adding practices.
  • Enables knowledge to be “delivered” to the decision-maker as and when required rather than forcing them to chase information, thereby making faster decisions.
  • Able to diagnose the organisation to identify poor decision-making practices – thereby helping to manage decision risk.
  • Ability to monitor the volume and quality of mission-critical knowledge available to each role.
  • Ability to better utilise the resources used to manage data and information.
  • Improves operational effectiveness and efficiency by eliminating knowledge-related non-value activity and resources.
  • Ensures that all critical systems, processes, procedures or practices are identified and ultimately documented.
  • Ensures that all staff are trained in all mission-critical systems, processes, procedures or practices.
  • Enables the organisation to develop their own knowledge, decision and know-how maps without the need for expensive consultants or systems. It is only when the exact nature, configuration and profile of an organisation’s mission-critical knowledge become evident through their knowledge maps, can an organisation determine the optimal system to capture, manage and disseminate the information.

The approach of the book has the following structure:

  • The layout of the book is designed as a manual for managers and people interested in knowledge management and intellectual capital.
  • The manuscript commences by discussing the definition of Intellectual Capital and its importance to the company.
  • It then defines the various terms used in the intellectual capital “space”.
  • The case for a new model, the one proposed here, is then discussed with a particular focus on Knowledge Management, Know-How Management and Intellectual Capital Management including commercialisation of I.P.
  • Measurement techniques are discussed and explained.
  • Although the manuscript assumes a paper-based method for handling Knowledge Management, either a CD with the methodology or a downloadable version of the software will be available from this website. 

Benefits for the Reader

  • Authoritative approach to the topic of Knowledge management – based on extensive client-based experience.
  • Written in a contemporary, easy to read style
  • Discussion and explanation of all elements of intellectual capital.
  • A rationale for an alternate method
  • A step-by-step guide to implementation thus enabling self-guided improvement without the need for very expensive consulting services
  • Examples of how the proposed approach may impact corporate management


  • Novel approach to a very difficult and confusing area
  • Theory with practicality with ability to implement
  • Offers immediate insight into a reader’s “dysfunctional” beliefs about own knowledge management and intellectual capital management


  • A number of diagrams, charts and tables
  • The book is 58 pages in length

Who is it for

  • Directors
  • Practicing managers
  • Consultants
  • Institutes of management
  • Corporations
  • Government departments
  • Academic institutions – business schools, undergraduate and post graduate
  • Press: business writers
  • Business Media: writers on business, observers of business and organisational effectiveness

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