Knowledge and Knowledge Management

There is a lot of talk about Communities of Practice (CoP).  You may have already heard about something called a Center of Excellence (CoE).

While the 2 entities have common goals and objectives and generally support improvement throughout the organization, they are targeted towards different groups and ways of interacting.

As background, it is important to look at how knowledge is gained, and how organization knowledge is gained and ultimately shared and managed.  For the individual, a sample knowledge model might look as follows:

The DIKW model:

In this model, there is a representation of how an individual gains knowledge through a process of acquiring data and maturing it. This is a common model and provides a good basis for the value of Training and Continual Learning.  Noting that application of Data and Information is critical to acquiring the Knowledge/Wisdom Level.

If you want to learn all about the DIKW model, there is an excellent paper in the Journal of Information Science, entitled ‘The wisdom hierarchy: representations of the DIKW hierarchy’ (PDF) and written by Jennifer Rowley of the Bangor Business School.

Organizations acquire knowledge differently.  Typically through the acquisition of people or expansion of the existing workforce’s knowledge bands.

This brings us back to an earlier discussion about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. In order to facilitate the knowledge growth in an organization the following CoP’s might be established:

    • Product Owner CoP
    • ScrumMaster CoP
    • Leadership CoP

Some background on CoP vs CoE:

Centers of Excellence (CoE)

SUPPORT: For their area of focus, CoE’s should offer support to the business lines. This may be through services needed, or providing subject matter experts.

GUIDANCE: Standards, methodologies, tools and knowledge repositories are typical approaches to filling this need.

SHARED LEARNING: Training and certifications, skill assessments, team building and formalized roles are all ways to encourage shared learning.

MEASUREMENTS: CoEs should be able to demonstrate they are delivering the valued results that justified their creation through the use of output metrics.

GOVERNANCE: Allocating limited resources (money, people, etc.) across all their possible use is an important function of CoEs. They should ensure organizations invest in the most valuable projects and create economies of scale for their service offering. In addition, coordination across other corporate interests is needed to enable the CoE to deliver value.

Communities of Practice (CoP)

SUPPORT – provision of a network of experts from both inside the organization and from outside

GUIDANCE – a CoP can be entrusted to devise and document best practices, standards, methodologies, tools, bodies of knowledge

SHARED LEARNING – Except for actually creating formalized roles in a company hierarchy, a CoP does all the same things as a CoE under this heading, plus provides mentorship, apprenticeships, and access to external informal and formal trade groups.

MEASUREMENTS – besides providing measurements of efficacy, a CoP typically describes what measures are appropriate for the proper execution of the domain of expertise or trade

GOVERNANCE – in this one dimension a CoP differs greatly from a CoE and instead of managing resources, a CoP strives to refine and improve the domain of expertise itself. A central function of the CoP is to improve the domain itself rather than simply managing its deployment. A CoE for project management seeks to improve the deployment of project managers and the like in furtherance of operational targets, whereas a CoP would seek to improve the entire field and practice of project management itself.

These distinctions will serve you well as you plan to improve and harness your organization, and leading transformations into a future of unleashed talent to build your solutions.

In a future article, I will add some additional information to help you further these ideas.