KM Euphemisms – ‘Culture’

Knowledge Management is something I love to do and to talk about.  Nonaka and Taguchi is music to my ears. However, in my education we talked around a central KM issue that needs to be considered more. The euphemism that is used in KM is ‘culture’.  What exactly does this mean? It means considering what a company says and comparing it to what actually happens. In other words, business ethics. Right and wrong.

Ethics are a requirement for KM. Right action is a requirement for KM. Countries and companies that excel at KM are also ethical organizations. The Scandinavian nations are an excellent example. Toyota is another, as is Google.

Let me make it clear from the outset that this is not a hagiography. All of these organizations have problems, and have committed ethical violations. However, they usually stick to a core set of principles and are at their most effective and profitable when they stick to those principles. Toyota is one of the few remaining Japanese corporations that guarantees employment, taking a loss during the 1980’s in order to maintain their workforce. The Scandinavian nations, especially Norway, Denmark and Sweden have one of the most effective education and welfare programs in the world. They also have some of the most innovative and successful corporations, like Erickson, Nokia and Ikea. Google has a clear corporate policy of ‘Don’t be Evil’ and have an ethical affairs committee to review changes in their corporate policies.

Culture is one of the most difficult areas in Knowledge Management. Changing culture is the primary reason that Knowledge Management infinitives take longer than structural and procedural changes. However, a strong and consistent corporate culture also increases innovation and creativity.

In a larger context, corporations operate much like countries. If there is a strong, ethical leadership with entrenched institutions to safeguard central ethical principles it encourages investment. A kleptocracy or a country with inconsistent laws discourages investment.

Questions

Are you willing to lose money in defence of your organization’s core principles?

What is ‘not for sale’ in your organization?

What do you pay people for? What do you encourage through bonuses and corporate policies?

What do you discourage through disincentives?

Reading

On the origin of ‘Don’t Be Evil’

The Contradictions that Drive Toyota’s Success
– Harvard Business Review

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