12 elements that limit change or KM capability & 3 ways to align them

There are 12 elements that limit change or KM capability within an organisation. What are they and how can you go about aligning them? This is the question for the second part of my 2013/14 change capability series, looking at what the future holds for organisations – Part 1 positioned change capability as the core capability for an organisation to focus on in 2014.

Award winning* research into KM/organisational practice, spanning a 120-year period, has shown there to be 12 organisational elements that need to be considered in order to manage change capability – illustrated using the the K-Core (Knowledge-Core) Model.

K-Core v3.0

K-Core v3.0

The focus for change is centred on an organisation’s ability in “Acquiring & Storing”, “Using”, “Sharing” and “Developing” knowledge via people/tools/processes/systems that can stabilise or reinvent themselves in the event of low-probability, high impact shocks to the environment, such as Black Swans or lesser discussed, Dragon-Kings (e.g. New York’s response to the 9-11 tragedy).

Change capability is governed by the K-Core’s 12 elements, which cannot be treated in isolation, as they exist as part of a complex environment or system. The K-Core proposition states that there is no constant single limiting element within the environment; meaning that a focus on a single element, as “the” one thing to focus on (e.g. culture), would be problematic for organisations.

The elements influence each other and changes to one element will have an effect/influence on another – which elements will be influenced, when and what will be the outcome, being some of the questions all organisations would like the answer to. An organisation needs to recognise the K-Core’s 12 elements and manage them in order to enhance boundary sense and response capability.

Limiting elements (“the” one thing to focus on) will emerge for a moment in time, but it is but a moment, a need of a particular time and place, and therefore the environment or system must be managed with a heightened state of awareness to detect changes within the whole – especially when one element is being adjusted, as unintended consequences might emerge. Leaders and managers must remain alert, as any change could impact the ability of the organisation to design, develop or deliver desirable services and/or products that meet the needs of the external environment.

To not monitor the environment/system, to become numb (a consequence of being in a constant state of high alert) or to become complacent, is one way to bring about drift, where the organisation’s products and/or services are no longer as desirable to the communities it serves.

The 12 K-Core elements to consider are as follows:

  1. Catalysts (People, Time, Technology and Finance are appropriately aligned with the need to continuously design, develop and deliver desirable products and/or services)
  2. Organisational Structure (i.e. the influence of the organisation’s structure over performance – e.g. Matrix, Hierarchical, Integrated form etc.)
  3. Culture (i.e. the way we do things around here – e.g. expected/accepted behaviours)
  4. Knowledge Structure (i.e. taxonomies, libraries, networks, communities of interest/practice, security/protection etc.)
  5. Artefacts (i.e. documents, databases, routines, policy, process, systems etc.)
  6. Spaces (Virtual, Physical and how they enable or hinder knowledge flow)
  7. What is known by the community (i.e. the knowledge, skill and experience held by the community and its relevance to designing, developing or delivering desirable products and/or services)
  8. Motivation (i.e. leadership, values alignment, hygiene factors that stimulate activity)
  9. Communication (i.e. the ability of people and/or artefacts (including social media) to communicate what is known, to stimulate curiosity, carry a message etc. against the purpose of the organisation)
  10. Context (i.e. values, purpose, strategy, policy, procedures etc. that set the context for activity)
  11. Questioning Processes (i.e. the way in which curiosity, the questioning of norms, action learning etc. takes place to leverage, stretch, innovate, invent against the need to continuously design, develop and/or deliver desirable services and/or products).
  12. Feedback Loops (i.e. quality control, quality assurance processes etc. that monitor (sub)system/organisation outputs, including signals from the external environment)

With change capability existing as this singular complex truth, there are 3 possible ways to manage the optimisation of an element or interactions between elements in this system/environment. When speaking of, “managing” the environment the objective is to optimise output, which is the continuous design, development and delivery of desirable products and/or services.

  1. Optimise a single element (e.g. leadership development) in isolation and then monitor the environment for influence upon other elements, which will then need to be addressed.
  2. Randomly test elements within your environment against practice in other organisations (e.g. benchmarking) and adjust accordingly.
  3. Shock the system: treat the whole by disrupting the elements by taking the system/environment into a controlled dive toward chaos, allowing the system to reorganise itself in a way that better aligns with the environment (e.g. a management restructure/reorganisation).

Monitoring the 12 elements of the K-Core Model, against the need to continuously design, develop and deliver desirable products and/or services, will allow you to develop an early warning system against drift and irrelevance. When the signal of change comes, it is then up to you to consider the best course of action, according to the severity of drift.

Ask yourself, what does your early warning system look like? How will you know if you are drifting? Are you being proactive or reactive? What are your competitors doing?

Change capability is a core capability for those people/organisations looking to remain relevant in years to come and to not act is to resign yourself to irrelevance. What will you do?

*Emerald Literati Network Award for Excellence 2012

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