By Elisabeth Goodman
This blog is a summary of my presentation at the APM KSIG event in Birmingham on 14th May 2013. A fuller write-up, including my and Martin Fisher’s notes on the highlights from the discussion will shortly be available on the APM website.
Every project management input and output involves both information and knowledge
We are all very familiar with the many documents, whether on paper or in electronic form, that illustrate the governance of a project team: decision logs, meeting minutes, project plans, even lessons learned. But behind each of these tangible information assets, lies all the thinking, conversation and contextual knowledge that went into their creation, and are available from individual project team members should anyone have questions about their content.
As Patrice Jackson, Knowledge Strategist at Lockheed Martin, said in a LinkedIn exchange with Elisabeth prior to the seminar:
“The one thing I know for sure is that the human process is the bridge between them [information and knowledge.]”
“The bridge is a metaphor for how people behave. Their willingness to share, collaborate and learn brings information to life and gives knowledge its insight to then apply and innovate!”
Information and knowledge overlap in project management, and form a continuum
We may be unclear about where information management ends, and knowledge management begins exactly because they overlap and form a continuum. This is apparent in the overlap between the (admittedly limited) definitions of these 2 areas in the 6th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge where related words appear in both definitions.
If you study the overlap between the definitions, then the distinction may be that:
- Information management is to do with the collection, storage, dissemination, archiving, and destruction of information
- Knowledge management is to do with the use that people put that to, how they apply their expertise to make decisions, how they tap into what they have learned and the translation of personal experience into collective knowledge
Models may help to frame the discussion about information and knowledge
I used two models to help frame the discussion.
In the first model, project governance is one of 3 contexts for the information and knowledge inputs and outputs of a project.
A second context is the actual technical content of the project – be it around the development of a new drug, the erection of a new building, or the implementation of an IT system.
And the other context is the governance at play within the operational organizations that individual team members may be members of: HR, IT, scientific departments, engineering departments etc.
My second model suggested an approach that might help with the effective management of both information and knowledge:
- A clear context that provides the goals and objectives for the project and for information / knowledge management (derived from the overall organisational goals, those of the project team itself, and those of the individual departments represented by the team members);
- A framework of processes and systems that continuously improve and evolve based on new information and knowledge;
- Active facilitation of information and knowledge management;
- Some key enablers to drive the behaviours that make this all happen
These points are reflected in my last slide:
There are numerous challenges associated with managing information and knowledge in projects!
A lively discussion ensued around the main themes identified by the delegates:
- Language barriers and key messages being lost in communication between the various team members
- The risks to corporate memory associated with time and reorganizations
- The importance of top down sponsorship and time to influence and sustain the right behaviours
- The evaluation and recognition of the value of information and knowledge: what is useful?
More details on these and other aspects of the discussion can be found in the fuller write-up of the event, which will be available shortly on the APM website.
Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer, facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis.
Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.
Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.