I discovered this article courtesy of Craig. I thought it was a valuable illustration of how bottom-up advocacy can "jam" the culture of an organization wed to top-down structure and command-control direction. The other subtle point I took away was how important it is to distinguish between the value from community interaction versus the collection of documents into a central repository. While capturing documents, indexing them and classifying the information in a way that improves productivity and process performance is very important - it is typically over-sold as knowledge management. You do not harvest knowledge from documents. People do learn from documents and improve their own insight but the document itself is not "knowledge" - knowledge happens as you interpret information. From my research, knowledge management has "moved on" from what I call the "supply side theory" of repositories and has increasingly focused on ways to leverage the social aspects of communication and collaboration (much of which happens around documents).
I agree with the emphasis on communication and collaboration. As always you need to start with understanding the organizational dynamics that influence communication and collaboration - not technology. At some point, as it relates to this particular example, creating opportunities for people to connect to co-workers and interact informally can lead to valuable dialog / brainstorming / sense-making and healthy debate around the content. Knowledge management is at its best when it leads to people exchanging stories, offering insight, passing along personal experiences and eventually coming to some level of shared context.
I don't want to trivialize the information management aspects necessary to support knowledge management practices. People do learn by reading documents and there are definitely KM-ish benefits from having access to that type of content. But the synergy between information management and knowledge management happens when documents act as a connectivity mechanism. The obvious linking mechanism is the meta data that the document itself might contain (author) but documents can also be "blogged about" or tagged with user-assigned meta data and bookmarked by people (del.ico.us being the obvious example). These breadcrumbs, along with discovery vehicles (e.g., search, XML syndication) - can facilitate linkages and informal interaction between people. Once people connect there is an opportunity for some type of social exchange - the content veil is lifted and people learn the "story" behind the document - they learn why co-workers did the things they did - what really worked and what did not - ultimately they uncover insight into a particular situation that is not captured in the document itself.
Lessons learned: (1) information management is a critical foundation for knowledge management and (2) the community and social networking aspects that swirl around the "information water cooler" is one place where KM happens (assuming proper attention was paid to organizational dynamics).
Some years back I wrote what I thought was a pretty good little article about the origin of a knowledge group at a well-known consulting company. It told the story of two young guys who thought it might be useful to collect proposals and reports from successful engagements and make them available for research and reuse. When their boss rejected the idea, they went ahead anyway, working on weekends, pulling a couple of discarded computers out of a storeroom, soliciting contributions from people they knew, informally spreading word about the resource they had created. A few months later, a consultant used some of the material they had gathered to win a big contract. Demand increased. The bootleg system was eventually legitimized and grew into a sizeable knowledge center.
The article was never published. The company executive whose approval I needed admitted that the article was accurate but said he didn’t want the public to get the impression that things happen in such an informal, ad hoc way at the company. Although he didn’t say so, I think he was also uncomfortable about casting disobedience in a positive light.
I think the fiction he wanted to maintain—that all decisions are carefully deliberated at the top and carried out by those below, that nothing happens by accident—is a damaging one. To the extent that leaders tend to believe it, it stops them from seeking and learning from the innovative ideas and practices that bubble up in odd corners of their organizations. To the extent that they present themselves as the sole source of company wisdom, they stifle the creativity of the people who work for them. (Why bother if leaders won’t listen and then take credit for ideas that survive in spite of their opposition?)