KM and OD

Piers YoungNotes1 Comment

Gautam has been doing some thinking about the overlap between Knowledge management and Organisational Development.

“Eventually every KM project is an attempt to change the corporate culture of the organization and the behavior of people in the organizational systems. This change can never be sustainable unless human and organizational processes change to support this change. That is the insight that traditional OD consulting brings to KM.”

Through serendipity, I recently came across a nice entry on Saul Eissen’s Organizational Development blog summarizing how OD emerged. The results of management development courses were moot in the fifties. Managers followed one of three basic courses after them: they became change-agents (rare), they became trouble-makers (less rare), or they found it was too much of an uphill struggle to implement what they’d learned so they reverted to the way things were done (depressingly common).

“Family therapists were learning that they could treat a problem child with apparent success, but on returning to the family s/he promptly reverted to the previous problem behavior. The problem was not in the child as an individual, but in the family as a system. Similarly, an organization could be improved not by developing individuals within it, but by changing the organization as a whole–hence the shift in thinking–from management development, to organization development.”

Hmm. The problem for me is that if you really want to advocate a systemic approach, you need to focus on individuals and the organisation. If you’re environment is changing, the more foragers, scouts and guides you have the better. More importantly, perhaps, the more these front-line people can talk to each other the better. So yes, the insight that OD brings to traditional KM is crucial – cultural change is darn tricky – and it needs support. But aren’t the insights KM bring to OD just as valuable? If you focus on the organisation and process too much, then don’t you squeeze the creativity out of your people, and with that, your ability to adapt?

One Comment on “KM and OD”

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