Knowledge management better than procedure manuals and rule books

After reading the book version of this article, Big Macs vs. The Naked Chef by Joel Spolsky I wrote down a few thoughts on the difference between knowledge management and creating a procedures/rules book.  

I often examine processes to improve productivity. On my teams I push for documenting solutions to record and share with other team members. However, it’s important to understand that documenting process and procedure alone does not equal the spread of knowledge or an increase in expertise within your team or organization.

As any phone call to Dell tech support will show you, the act of following a tech manual step by step will usually not get your computer fixed. Procedures are nothing without very smart and experienced people working for you to find a solution. It’s also the very smart and experienced who don’t really use a procedures manual.

As Joel Spolsky writes in his “Big Macs vs. The Naked Chef” post:

  1. Some things need talent to do really well.

  2. It’s hard to scale talent.

  3. One way people try to scale talent is by having the talent create rules for the untalented to follow.

  4. The quality of the resulting product is very low.

So what do we use in our teams and organizations instead of rules and regulations?

  1. We hire very smart and experienced people
  2. We implement a knowledge management system

Knowledge management helps when you have a team of experts or hire really smart people, instead of just hiring people to follow a rules book.

Knowledge management means that geniuses within your company may apply different and varied solutions instead of a single cookie cutter one, as long as:

  1. You require someone (not always the genius) to document solutions out
  2. Share them with everyone so the information is available to all and may be referenced later

Additionally a good system will allow your genius staff to view each others’ varied solutions and have discussions about them in order to further add to or examine what a best practice solution may be.

Check out for a great example of documenting and dialoging best practice solutions. From the site, it is a,

“collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers”

Its model is a great way to gather and manage knowledge for any team, organization, or industry.

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