How ISO, KM, and L&D practices merge within the enterprise – Part 2

How ISO, KM, and L&D practices merge within the enterprise – Part 2

by Dennis L Thomas

I was challenged by a reader of a previous blog post to explicitly define what the merger of ISO, KM, and L&D looks like when implemented within the enterprise.  These three industries have been defined and sold as separate industries for so long that most practitioners willfully ignore the others in favor of their preferred industry.  As a technologist seeking common ground across these industries, my focus has been on how our software development efforts can best serve all these industries.  The overlapping similarities of these industries makes this fairly easy.

First, each of these industries have a deep history.  ISO (International Organization for Standardization), was founded in 1947 after WWII.  The intent of the 26 founding country members of the organization was to standardize the manufacturing of parts, equipment and machinery as a means of coordinating the rebuilding of participating countries after the war.   Since its founding, over 19,000 standards have been defined by the ISO and their current offering is being deployed by as many as 162 countries.  As technology advanced, ISO standards were redefined to keep pace with the technical progress gained across the world.  ISO 9001, a key standard, defines a Quality Management System designed to establish and manage high fidelity delivery of an organization’s products and services.  The ISO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Each country standards Boards operate under the ISO title, or through affiliate organizations such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute) in the U.S.

The KM (Knowledge Management) industry emerged in the 1980s but flourished in the U.S. in the 1990’s as the then, big 5 accounting firms, started a cost cutting effort called “down-sizing.”  Those companies that down-sized quickly learned that firing people meant that they took their vital organizational knowledge with them when they left.  The financial impact on companies was substantial. Out of this trend, a new breed of Knowledge Management consultant emerged who helped companies to “right-size,” and to establish operational systems that tracked and managed the flow of knowledge through the enterprise.

KM people by nature are conceptual people who think in terms of organizational systems, but many fall short on understanding the technical component of the systems equation.   Throughout KM history, most KM practitioners considered knowledge to be information (who, what, when, where, and how-much data), and books, manuals and documents (information).  In their minds, the purpose of data systems was to model best KM practices and store subject matter expert contact information, among other content.  In the early 2000s, XML and semantic standard technologies emerged which were designed to help disambiguate documents and other media, and to represent and understand the meaning of data and information.  Many of these systems are used today for “enterprise search.” KM partitioners are now thinking deeper, forcing them to be more active in the selection of the technologies that support their systems approach.  Their concerns are now also about the underlying intelligence of operational structures, processes, functions, and analytics.  This includes related L&D requirements.

The L&D (Learning and Development) industry, also referred to as T&D (Training and Development), has been in business in one form or another since the beginning of human evolution.  The essential effort of passing lessons-learned knowledge down from one generation to the next speaks for itself, since our societies would not exist in their current states without it.  eLearning is a component of the L&D industry.  In the 1970’s the earliest forms of eLearning began to emerge. California universities such as UC Irvine, Stanford, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and others experimented with computer dialogue systems that were designed to teach students through interactive dialogues. The National Science Foundation cited Dr. Richard L. Ballard for the first application of artificial intelligence to conceptual learning (Expert Systems in Business), UC Irvine 1975.  I worked with Ballard or six years.  Our IQxCloud knowledge ecosystem technology is based on his knowledge science principles.

The problems the Board of Director’s solve

Business is complex. It takes a diverse group of talent to make them run.  The larger the company, the more people are required to deliver the products and services of an organization.   Medium and small companies are more lean and mean and need to get more out of the talent they can afford.  In all cases, however, the Board of Directors very often have to make decisions about issues where there are no right answers, only decision options.  It gets down to the complexity problem.  Here is an example of what complexity looks like:

Decision options are based on research related to historical and current market trends, and on the strategy required to effectively execute on the goals and objectives through the company’s organization.

This is where ISO, KM and L&D merge.  Large companies most often have highly engineered organizational structures in place because those systems were developed organically as the company grew. The Fortune Magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For” list demonstrates this point well.  The key characteristics of these esteemed companies is strong leadership, a strong hierarchy with a clear reporting structure, clear goals and objectives, accountability for assigned tasks, open office communication, strong convictions about their products and services, and according to Fortune magazine, a sense of “high stakes, with even a hint of danger.”

Medium and small size companies automatically feel a sense of high stakes, with a hint of danger, due to their position on the revenue food chain, but in most cases, they do not have the benefit of proven, organically engineered organizational structures in place.  They simply have not grown to the size that demands such highly engineered structures.  Yet, if these structures were in place, their operations could run more smoothly and support rapid growth.

Choosing the Right Service Solution

From this author’s point of view, the right service solution includes ISO, KM and L&D because combined, these three solutions can provide small and medium size companies a top-down organizational infrastructure that can optimize and sustain growth over the long haul.

It is also my contention that Boards of Directors are looking for this kind combined approach, but the ISO, KM and L&D industries are not presenting this exciting product/service opportunity to them.  Most don’t see it and most don’t have enough understanding about the three industry’s services to actualize it – some KM and high-end L&D practitioners are the most likely people to “get it.”

Another problem is the technology blind spot.  Most people think that information (who, what, when, where and how-much?) is knowledge, even though 100s of billions of dollars have been spent on L&D services, proving otherwise.  The “knowledge is information” misnomer has been propagated by the big data technologists who have sucked in less wary consultants who are willing to go along with the A.I. stampede.  The technology solution must substantially allow users to answer how, why, and what-if (knowledge) process questions on their own during the process of work to gain the greatest impact for an organization’s operation and human culture.  We don’t need in-human, logic-based machine spitting-out answers that may or may not be right, for every problem.  They rob people of the opportunity to discover and learn.   Machines can easily strip away our humanity – and it is doing so on a daily basis.

Your thoughts?

The Merger of KM, L&D, and ISO QMS – Part 1

The Merger of KM, L&D, and ISO QMS – Part 1

by Dennis L. Thomas

There is an old saying that has proven to be useful across all professions and industries.  When everyday operations start to get crazy, “go back to the basics.”  This common sense statement might have been valid several years ago for the KM (Knowledge Management), L&D (Learning and Development), and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) industries, but it’s not valid anymore.  The focus and practices of these industries have overlapped to such an extent that there is no turning back.  “The basics” barely exist anymore.

Where management only had to make choices between data systems or LMS (Learning Management Systems) to fulfill knowledge oriented requirements, they now need to think differently.  The C-Suite in particular, is thinking about KM/L&D/ISO as an overall strategic organization solution, rather than as separate functional solutions.   Now, the goals and objectives are on how to capture, manage, and deliver structural, procedural, functional, and analytic knowledge across the enterprise.   As a result, going back to the basics has become, “adapt, or watch your competitors pass you by.”

In spite of all the new language and hype surrounding the focus and thrust of each of these three industries, an unavoidable reality has come to the surface. The lines of division between these industries has melted under the heat of practical reality.  Many managers don’t recognize this yet, but that is what is happening anyway.  New vendor/customer exchange services provide the evidence for this through participating company requirement profiles.  Companies are planning and looking for products and services that reach as far across the KM, L&D, ISO divide as possible.

The proof of this is also in plain view across the endless number of articles, white papers, and blogs that appear from university, social media, and company sources.  These resources are primarily oriented toward the next and greatest term, service, product, technology, or research backing-up a favored perspective.  It’s a well-justified game of one-upmanship with the purpose of gaining work and holding market positions within these industries.  It’s what free enterprise is all about.

Every once in a while, however, out of the blur, comes a statement that drops an anchor of insight so deep into the reality of a situation or circumstance that a temporary state of clarity occurs that helps orient us to the new reality.  One such statement was made by Mark Britz (@britz), an L&D thought leader, who made the statement, “people go to work to work, not to learn.”  And so it is.  most organizations exist to actualize their missions, goals, and objectives, not to provide learning for their employees and members (academic and training organizations obviously excepted).  It may be that organizations conduct training for compliance and to improve work performance, but that is not their primary objective. Work means that individuals perform a service of value that helps an organization achieve its goals and objectives.  Training is often considered to be a necessary evil that is required to achieve first priority goals.

Given this, we have to ask, “What is the solution, for large, medium, and small companies” from the perspective of “adapt or die” based on the people go to work to work insight?  From our point of view, the solution comes from each of the KM/L&D/ISO industries since each of these industry services cross the boundaries into the other industries territory.   To us, it is clear that the focus needs to be placed on operating strategies that are geared toward work/performance above all else.  Here’s how I break it down:

Industry focus:

KM: knowledge systems that are defined, coordinated, and retained to support missions, goals, and objectives across an enterprise.

L&D: compliance, best practices, subject matter expert knowledge transfers delivered through in-person and technology systems.

ISO: (and country standard organization affiliates), that define Quality Management System standards designed to ensure consistent, high fidelity product and service operations.   ISO certification is an indicator of the kind of operational fidelity that is consistent with well run organizations.  ISO certification is a door-opening requirement for most large product oriented commercial and government organizations.

Based on the strategic work/performance criteria, this is how I see the three industries merging:  

KM will emerge as not just a strategic big business practice, but as a medium to small size business practice due to the growing sophistication and cost advantages of technology.  CHRO (Chief Human Resource Officers), CKOs (Chief Knowledge Officers), CLOs (Chief Learning Officers), and Knowledge Management specialists will lead the way.   Data technologies have streamlined enterprise operations, but the data mindset does not understand the knowledge mindset – or more specifically, the difference between data technologies and knowledge technologies.  KM practitioners such as Nick Milton (@Nickknoco) has been helpful in clarify the difference between information and knowledge to help resolve the confusion.

L&D / T&D: company compliance and best practice training will gradually be subsumed by KM as the CLO mindset shifts from largely administrative thinking to strategic work/performance thinking which forces broad, beyond the parameters thinking about L&D / T&D / eLearning.  Though not specifically defined as KM, the “system” practices of industry advocates such as Guy Wallace (@guywwallace) and others, demonstrate how Fortune 500 L&D models can be segmented or down-sized to accommodate the requirements of medium and small companies – which they can grow into.

ISO: ISO standards have become easier to establish and maintain due to automation, which reduces the administrative complexity burden resulting from high-detail delineations and cross-referencing of certification requirements.  As a result, automation is allowing more companies to take advantage of time-tested Quality Management System processes and procedures whether they seek ISO certification or not.   Many of these same requirements can be found in KM and L&D processes and procedures.  The ISO market is growing at a rate of 15% per year.

As the saying goes, “Life will not be denied.”   As practitioners and technologists continue to push the envelope of progress beyond its boundaries, the “adapt or die” pressures will be reduced in favor of a “come whatever, come what may”  mindset, especially as the strategic work/performance ideal is actualized.   In the meantime, we need to hold onto our seat belts as we feel our way forward through this dynamic change.

Your thoughts?

About the author:

Dennis L. Thomas is a cofounder and CEO of IQStrategix, Inc.  Thomas is the conceptual designer of the company’s IQxCloud knowledge ecosystem.  IQxCloud was designed to integrate Knowledge Management, L&D, and ISO functional requirements into a dynamic knowledge ecosystem that delivers user-friendly, real-time work/performance training during the process of work.    Thomas has been engaged with the semantic/knowledge technology industry since 2002.  He has published numerous articles and blogs related to semantics, knowledge science and engineering, eLearning, and concept computing systems.  Thomas has made numerous presentations at schools, business groups and innovation conferences on these subjects. He was a co-developer of the first Knowledge Science and Engineering course delivered at the University of California, Irvine.