Should I build or should I grow?

Though Knowledge Management is much (much much) more than information management, the fact is that information management is a key element (you could say requirement) of effective KM. Information technology just happens to make info management easier and harder all at the same time.

One of the challenges in coming up with an effective information strategy is figuring out what works best for the type of organization that you have*. There is no single strategy that will work for every type of organization and, best practices and knowledge management and all that stuff aside, even organizations that are very much alike will likely use their information in vastly different ways. This is because organizations are made up of individuals and every individual does things his or her own way. (I thought about qualifying that a bit, but I don’t think that would be appropriate. Even in the most structured environment, individuals will find little tweaks and tricks that make the work go faster, better, more enjoyable, whatever.)

“Old style” organizations, especially those in the manufacturing arena, were very structured in their design and operation. From the outside looking in you might say that the organizations were built, likely using a very structured blueprint and plan based on best practices, scientific management theories, etc. Like a building or machine, the foundation was set, and everything was developed according to the plan. When you are finished, you typically end up with what you started out to make.

“New economy” organizations, particularly knowledge based organizations, are more fluid in their design and operation. From the outside looking in, it may seem that the organization was grown more than it was built. Much like a garden, a general plan is established (in the form of boundaries and goals) and the appropriate seeds planted and nourished. What you end up with may not be exactly what you were planning on, but chances are you will end up with something much better than what you imagined in the first place.

While there may not be any one right way to create and maintain an organization, it is important that you make a plan and stick with it. In other words, strategy by design not strategy by default (which, using the garden analogy above, will likely result in a wild field of weeds with a few pretty flowers mixed in randomly throughout).

*(Of course, this implies that you know what type of organization you have – mechanistic or organic, scientific management or new economy.)

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