With management and service delivery responsibility for knowledge services, the organization’s knowledge services director has a unique two-sided role to play. On the one hand, this person is the knowledge thought leader for the entire enterprise, with all the innovation-directed and future planning pressure that goes with that role. On the other hand, as the manager of the knowledge services business unit, however it is structured in the larger organization, this manager must ensure that information, knowledge, and strategic learning products and services are delivered as required. It’s a challenging task, this business of being two things at once.
And part of the challenge is defining the “audience” (we might call it) for the knowledge services work. Who benefits?
Peter Drucker might have provided us with an answer. Or at least with a provocative way of thinking about the people we’re trying to reach.
One of Drucker’s concepts, discussed last night among the participants at a meeting of The Drucker Society of New York City, is the role of the CEO in linking between what Drucker referred to as the Inside – i.e., “the organization” – and the Outside, all those external infuences that drive our work. And why is it important to make that distinction? Drucker answered that in an article in The Wall Street Journal in 2004 (“Management Today: The American CEO” – December 30, 2004): “Inside, there are only costs. Results are only on the outside.”
Well, of course. And it’s the results we’re after, isn’t it, as we seek to use knowledge services to ensure that the company is functioning as a knowledge culture? So how do we arrive at that “meaningful Outside” Drucker wrote about and apply those principles to knowledge services?
For the knowledge services director, it is important to recognize that there are two “Outsides.” Thinking in terms of the larger enterprise, that Outside can be described as Drucker described it: “society, the economy, technology, markets, customers, the media, pubic opinion.” For the knowledge services business unit – whether it is a research department, a specialized library, a knowledge center, or any of a variety of other business units providing knowledge services – the Outside is everybody and everything affiliiated with the company for which knowledge services are provided.
There are many, many practical applications that can be used to demonstrate how these Outsides become “meaningful,” and we can look at a couple. And they apply – going back to the conundrum posed in the first paragraph – whether I’m doing my job as enterprise-wide knowledge thought leader or as the manager of a single, specific, knowledge-focused business unit.
For example, we can identify at least one element of Drucker’s “Outside” for providing “meaningful” results if we have built, say, an expertise database (for the company or for an individual business unit) and we are able to monitor how many people – outside the domain of the knowledge services business unit – are working with this tool without being directed to it or shown how to use it by the knowledge services staff. The users are “outside” my realm of responsibility but how they use the tool provided by my business unit is meaningful, telling me much about my success. And I’m doing the same thing Drucker’s CEO is doing, I’m serving as the link between my unit’s Outside (the larger enterprise) and the Inside (the knowledge services business unit and its staff).
Another example might be on a less specific level, to think about the effect or impact of some action I take without having a measurable result in hand. As the knowledge thought leader, one of my jobs is to give attention to how people act differently in the workplace after they have been exposed to or participated in some initiative from my unit. If it’s the result we are looking for, what might be the result after several weeks (months? years?) of working with staff in team-building situations, working with them in programs and learning activities relating specifically to knowledge sharing or in activities having to do with a project focus that is not especially knowledge related? It all boils down to the same thing, doesn’t it? The impact or the effect is an organizational ambiance in which team work is expected, trust is a given, and collegiality is built into the process. It might not be a result that can be measured in quite the same way as the number of hits in an expertise database but it is, nevertheless, a result to be desired and sought after.
— August 26, 2009