The Institutional KS project is suggesting and looking for feedback on a framework for action that has two main objectives:

  • Imbed KS action into a strategic and practical  framework.
  • Create a baseline for monitoring and evaluation of future KM/KS interventions.

This is an initial attempt which should be fine-tuned over the next months through:

  • Discussions with the ICT-KM Program, and a wider KS practitioner community.
  • Collaboration on the evaluation activity of KS project Phase 1
  • Preparation and the outcomes of the CGIAR KM strategy workshop which is currently being prepared for December 08.

Rational

Knowledge sharing and organizational development

We argue that institutional KS is to be analyzed and developed as an integral part of organizational development. Organizational development “is the process through which an organization develops the internal capacity to most efficiently and effectively provide its mission work and to sustain itself over the long term. “ (see Wikipedia).

Organizational development takes place in a constant interaction between Power (decision making and effectiveness managed from the top) and Empowerment (processes that allow us to gain the knowledge, skill-sets and attitude needed to cope with and influence the changing world and the organizational circumstances in which we evolve). We also argue that organizational development is unfolding in a constant effort to the cope with the duality between Complexity and organizational Effectiveness. Complexity is increasing by the scientific research problematic itself, the scope, and the geographical spread and cultural diverse teams that are involved nowadays in our research work to mention only a couple, and Effectiveness is a condition for sustainability. Power, Empowerment, Complexity, and Effectiveness are main pillars and challenges in the path towards beneficial and positive organizational development and are represented in an axes chart (see below).

4 interrelated fields of action

  • Three of the four fields of action created by the axes represent possible areas of KS intervention whereas the forth field between empowerment and effectiveness is the desirable stage where all organizational development efforts are aiming at: Momentum of adoption, impact and satisfaction.
  • The field between Complexity and Empowerment is an area of action that aims at improving skill-sets, knowledge and attitudes. They address issues related to capacity building, and strengthening, M&E, Impact assessment and organizational learning.
  • The field between Power and Complexity deals with strategic planning, development, or change management, as an effort to approach them in a systemic perspective and inclusive approach, based on an active interaction with the whole organization.
  • The field between Effectiveness and Power deals with corporate aspects related to: administrative issue, business reengineering and development, as well as communications, all those efforts that intend to make organizational processes more effective, visible, and transparent.

The left side of the axes is the area of organizational development that deals with transformative issues; the right side is the area that deals with practical aspects of organizational development.

The circle around the four components reflects their constant interaction; they are all essential to organizational development. We can for example state that: Empowerment which is based on the acknowledgement of organizational complexity and which benefits from management support and participatory decision making processes leads most probably to organizational effectiveness.  We could also say: An organization that empowers its personnel but does not manage a momentum of decision-making is going to reach levels of complexity that are difficult to handle and are getting in the way of effectiveness.   

A framework for Institutional KS project activities
 
Within this suggested framework, the activities of the Institutional KS project can be clustered as follows:

  • The KS Workshop, the KS Toolkit, the evaluation study of Phase 1 of the KS project (2004-2006) as well as the involvement with the KM4Dev community are activities that aim at empowerment of CGIAR staff  based on the acknowledgement of the complexity of organizational realities and our related KM/KS efforts.
  • The involvement in the CGIAR Change Management Process, and AGM events, as well as a planned KM strategy workshop are activities that support strategic planning processes in order to evidence the usefulness of KS approaches in that area. The pilot project with CIFOR on their strategic planning process is also part of this group of activities.
  • The pilot projects with IRRI (research data management) and WorldFish (effective communication through ‘storymercials’) are to be considered as an effort to showcase innovative ideas to make CGIAR daily business more effective and attractive. The KS Web site featuring Web 2.0 tools, and this blog are also to be considered part of this area.
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Thomas Metz from IRRI is leading a KS pilot project about collecting, publishing, and sharing good practices in research data management. Thomas is building this information and capacity building resource in wiki format. He is also supporting the development a Community of Practice around the wiki. In an interview this week, I asked Thomas to tell us about his perception of wikis, their usefulness, potential, and weaknesses.

Here is an excerpt of his reply:
We have decided to use the wiki technology for the collection and publishing of those good practices. When I talk about this process, I frequently use the analogy of cooking and cookbooks. While most of use have some basic cooking skills, we need recipes in order to cook a descent meal. Expert cooks have published their lifelong experiences in the form of cookbooks for us to use. Our collection of good practices in research data management aims at just that, a cookbook with expert recipes for data management. The wiki technology helps us to do this collaboratively, incrementally and quickly. […] We need many contributors, but we need to keep the transaction costs for contributing as low as possible. Wikis are very good at reducing the transaction cost for individual contributions, especially small incremental contributions. On the other hand, wikis can’t be easily managed in the sense of a central control over content and contributors. In that sense, the use of a wiki gets us into some new territory that may be out of the comfort zone for some. However, the newer generation has a completely different attitude to contributing content that is visible on the web and we believe that we just need time, patience and support to introduce this new way of web-based collaboration.”

Read the complete interview