One of the original rallying cries behind knowledge management was, "If we only knew what we know."* 20 years ago that got hijacked into building knowledge bases, which didn't answer this cry. And now we have KM 2.0, and if it is still all about the technology, it still won't answer the cry. Here's a current media example of the inevitable result.
The recent Toyota recall and particularly the reporting of the U.S. congressional hearings on the subject turned up at least one tidbit related to knowledge management. Today's article in the International Herald Tribune isn't published online yet, U.S. official takes heat at Toyota hearing by Micheline Maynard, who seems to be a key reporter on this topic for the NY Times.
The KM connection? It turns out information and concerns about the sticking accelerator was known and fixed in Europe at least a year before it became a problem in the U.S.
Mr. Inaba ... acknowledged that Toyota had been aware of issues with sticking pedals in Europe for over a year before accidents were reported in the United States.
What happened? Toyota is regarded as an advanced company with practices in manufacturing and continuous improvement that have made it one of the biggest automobile manufacturers in the world. The Toyota Production System has been the subject of books and education around the world. Toyota are even regarded as a Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise.
This is what happened.
Mr. Inaba said the information had been contained in a company database but that it could have been found only if a staff member had known where to look.
I have no knowledge beyond what has has been reported in the media. This could be an isolated example or an extensive problem throughout the company. Given this one sentence, I will leap to the conclusion that the problem wasn't discovered due to an artifact of how the business operates. The fact that no one in the company discovered the issue in the database is a symptom. Whose job is it to do this kind of thing? Is it one specific person (or role)? Is it the job of everyone in the business to seek out this information? What is the business process when potential problems happen?
* I believe it came from an HP executive. It's also the name of a <a href="about:If Only We Knew What We Know">Carla O'Dell book.
[Photo: "Rallying cry" by joffley]