In their article, Don’t Just Capture Knowledge – Put It to Work, Katrina Pugh and Nancy M. Dixon discuss ways to ensure that institutional knowledge is available for those who need it and not simply filed away in the archives. They use an approach called a “knowledge harvest: a systematic, facilitated gathering and circulation of knowledge.”
“The key,” they say, “is to identify, before the harvest begins, others in the organization who could use the knowledge (the ‘knowledge seekers’) and involve them in gathering valuable lessons.” The case study in the article involved a health-care consulting team. The authors reported that the knowledge seekers participated out of self interest and therefore asked “tough, exploratory questions of knowledge originators, extracting important nuances…how knowledge might be applied elsewhere, what worked and what didn’t, and so on.”
One factor not discussed was the ease with which the facilitators were able to obtain the assistance of the key participants, the knowledge seekers. For law firm KM folks, we know all too well that getting our knowledge seekers–the attorneys–to participate in knowledge-sharing activities is tough. Since KM activities don’t directly contribute to the all-important Profits Per Partner (it’s Am Law 100 season!), when they finish one case or deal it’s usually on to the next. “Post mortem” and “after action review” are not terms they teach in law school. And good luck getting attorneys involved before some “knowledge harvesting” activity begins.
Legal KM folks always have to keep in mind what I like to call the Zero-Percent Rule: try to make any KM initiative require zero percent of an attorney’s time. It’s a half joke, but painfully funny. Ask anyone involved legal knowledge management and they’ll tell you that it’s a real problem. More on the Zero-Percent Rule later.
So, to all you legal KM folks out there: Can a knowledge harvest work in a busy law firm? Is this a question of KM culture, technology, both, or neither?
LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms