The terms ‘knowledge management’, ‘learning organizations’, etc. were but a few of the mantras one often heard in the business world during the mid to late 1990’s. And, of course, there is the old adage of; “Knowledge is Power”.
During this period and even today, various companies and organizations are actively engaged in identifying what they term as their core critical skill(s) and knowledge. One objective of such exercises is often to try and differentiate them from their competition. In numerous annual reports terms are found that ‘…our real assets are our people and their knowledge’. It is fair to say that it is widely believed but perhaps less accepted that for an organization to be able to continue its existence let alone grow and prosper there is a need for it to develop and retain a certain body of knowledge.
Can a lack of knowledge hurt? Arising out of his investigations into the Longford Gas Plant accident, Sir Daryl Dawson, QC found that ‘The Real Cause’ was rooted in the fact that the operators and supervisors did not have knowledge of the dangers that could arise when a part of the operations shut down for a period of time. The consequences of this accident included two fatalities, eight serious injuries and the loss of gas supply to the state of Victoria (i.e. 4.5 Million people) for upwards of ten days.
However despite the above in the day-to-day, month-to-month or perhaps more importantly the quarter-to-quarter reality of the business world more often than not the commitment of resources to capturing and retaining knowledge is viewed more as a cost versus an investment. Shifting the thinking or culture within an organization from a cost to investment basis can at times be trying. To assist in this regard the following model or pictogram was derived based on the engineering concepts of the ‘design and operating envelopes’.