Chapter 9: Planning a knowledge-based intervention: strategy, tools, analysis – Records Management and Knowledge Mobilisation


Planning a knowledge-based intervention: strategy, tools, analysis


An interactive knowledge and records strategy bridges both the formal structures of records management with the dynamics of knowledge mobilisation, and the knowledge-based activities of policy management with those of delivery and programme management. A knowledge-based intervention plan aims to add value by influencing areas for improvement in knowledge-related activities. It is developed by: analysing the intended future state and comparing with the current state from a knowledge and records viewpoint; identifying gaps, aligning with risk and business issues, and determining possible interventions.

Key words

knowledge value chain

knowledge strategy

outcome relationship mapping

knowledge audit

risk appetite

gap analysis

The earlier parts of the book have walked through aspects of the interaction between formal records management and dynamic knowledge development, building on successive frameworks as tools for thinking about the relationship. Based on this platform, this chapter suggests a broad process for creating an iKR strategy and knowledge-based intervention plan. It is not intended as a prescriptive methodology to be followed step by step; it sets out an approach and some accompanying tools for analysis, which should be tailored to the particular situation, selecting from the toolbag as appropriate. Equally, it is not intended for a system-wide or extensive application; it is a fairly intensive method that is suitable for fairly discrete areas which are targeted for their importance or potential high value.

Aim, context and structure

Aim: to develop a knowledge-based intervention plan

Knowledge strategies abound as abstract documents that set out general principles and broad ambitions for an organisation as a whole. While thinking things through carefully is always a useful discipline, and a general strategy is a good starting point as a first step in the field, an interactive knowledge and records strategy pursues a closer engagement. The aim is to use limited resources to the best effect by making selected interventions, limiting the scope to those areas where they can achieve the most.

Interventions are not big project engineering efforts to rework business processes or organisation-wide culture change initiatives. They aim to work with the grain of the situation, by finding those points at which a small nudge in a promising direction has a much larger overall effect – using the specialist expertise of the knowledge and records practitioner to spot those opportunities and help people see what they might otherwise miss. Interventions which create significant user resistance are not working; change in small but significant steps creates momentum.

Context: the knowledge value chain

An iKR strategy aims to build two sorts of bridges: the first between knowledge and records, and to make use of this for the second, between policy and delivery. There are two aspects of knowledge mobilisation: developing potential knowledge not yet realised and deploying existing knowledge locked up in some way. Knowledge development is largely a collaborative process, oriented towards flexibility, adaptability and change, although often within an ordered context – it tends towards the upper half of the competing public values model. Knowledge deployment is also the domain of conventional records management, where the two meet: it tends towards the lower half of the model, characterised by integration within a controlled environment. Development and deployment are complementary and interactive, each shaping and being shaped by the other: rather like the famous Escher print of two Drawing Hands, each one holding a pencil and drawing the other.

An iKRS also sits between policy management and programme management, augmenting both but replacing neither. Policy management is responsible for identifying issues and problems, developing an understanding of them, engaging with stakeholders, negotiating competing values, agreeing on desirable outcomes and determining overall strategies. Programme management turns policy into delivery, setting up projects and activities that achieve those policy outcomes in practice – it is about making the change happen and delivering added value. While both are inward- and outward-facing, policy management is essentially about crafting an internal response to the wider world, while programme management is essentially about working with that wider world to make the response real. An iKRS helps to bridge this divide – between the inner and the outer worlds – through its own programme of knowledge development and coordination. It works with both as part of the knowledge value chain, adding value to policy-making and helping programmes deliver improved public value.

The strategy must interact with both policy management and programme management to carry through its initiatives and activities, not work in isolation:

 knowledge strategy development draws on stakeholder analysis and risk management from each, identifying knowledge-based problems and issues through an …

 analysis of processes and landscape at the social layer (Figure 6.2 on p. 139) that is informed by a strategic alignment with business processes and objectives, and which in turn prompts…

 activities to mobilise actual and potential knowledge, by fostering sharing and learning and by networking knowledge sources in the knowledge layer, and…

 building knowledge architecture at the organisational layer, from formal records and other information resources, and presenting this in views recognisable by different participants.

This chapter deals with the first two layers in Figure 9.1 and Chapter 10 covers the lower two layers.

Figure 9.1 Role of iKRS in the knowledge value chain

Structure: developing knowledge-based strategy and intervention

The general development of a knowledge strategy is covered in Chapter 7, which put forward the case for intervention, and is not repeated here. This section builds on that introduction with a method for strategic analysis of problems and opportunities in selected areas (see Figure 9.2) in five stages:

Figure 9.2 Developing a knowledge-based intervention strategy and plan

 setting the scope and boundary for action, and understanding expected outcomes;

 analysing desired knowledge-related behaviour and resources to reach those outcomes;

 auditing existing behaviour and resources and maping to records structures;

 comparing desired and existing behaviour to identify gaps, aligning with risk and business issues, and identifying intervention areas;

 developing stakeholder profiles as the focus of interventions.

The method may be iterative: gap analysis and strategic alignment may point to a reworking of earlier steps – pointing to a revision of desired behaviour, perhaps, or a redefined boundary. Iteration is an important part of the collaboration with programme management because it may reveal knowledge-related problems not recognised in the delivery framework; or more fundamentally, with policy-making if the revealed issues challenge the basis of expected outcomes.

Knowledge analysis

Set the boundary and outcomes

The boundary is determined by the nature of the policy initiative or service improvement; it may cut across the organisation, including some parts but not others, as well as people or groups in organisations or communities elsewhere. The boundary should be closely drawn to focus on a quite specific area or problem. It should make clear the:

 size and scope of the intervention area;

 intended outcomes of initiatives in that area;

 relevant stakeholders involved and the nature of their involvement.

Boundary-setting takes its lead from policy and programme management and should coordinate work with stakeholders with programme and project teams. Essentially, setting the boundary and outcomes is drawing on the vision of a desired future state, for the organisation or for overall delivered value, and the steps that follow are envisioning how that change can come about.

Stakeholders might include, for example:

 political interests: ministers, elected representatives, lobbying groups, campaigns, industry associations;

 management interests: departmental managers, executive boards, financial, audit, etc.;

 client interests: service users, service providers, residents, at-risk populations, specific communities;

 expert interests: academics, practitioners, information providers, research utilisation providers;

 commercial interests: suppliers, developers, data service applications, business partnerships.

Analyse knowledge processes and landscape

A general approach towards analysing knowledge processes and surveying knowledge landscapes is covered in some detail in Chapter 7 in discussing knowledge strategy development. In the context of an intervention plan, this work should be driven by an understanding of outcomes and progress in conjunction with mapping these to knowledge processes and resources. The intention is to develop an understanding of the knowledge-related behaviour that is desirable for achieving outcomes – the kind of behaviour that the change initiative is trying to make. This ‘ought to’ view may or may not exist in some parts at present: the point is to be able to see the gap between what is desirable and what exists now.

Map knowledge to outcomes

Knowledge processes and resources need to be linked to the production of outcomes as determined by the relevant policies and programmes; the mapping can progress by asking:

 Who is involved in producing the expected outcome (the stakeholders within the boundary)?

 What kind of knowledge interchanges are, or could be, involved: generating, transferring, acting on, embedding, sustaining?

 Are they consistent, or do some participants have a different world view from others; what framing clashes are present and who do they affect?

 Are there differences between participants in access to, use or ownership of information; what entitlement clashes are present?

 How do the knowledge flows deliver policy results, e.g. by changing behaviour; is this realistic?

 At which points do processes generate explicit knowledge that should be formalised as records or synthesised in packages?

 How do knowledge flows relate to governance mechanisms?

Outline relationship mapping is an established programme management tool (Office of Government Commerce, 2007) for modelling the links between activities and the intermediate and final outcomes they produce. The key point is to work backwards from the desired outcome, including all, and only, those activities logically required to reach it, rather than forwards from existing activities, which may not be necessary. These programme maps will have done much of the work and the task here is to add the knowledge resources and flows that identified activities require.

For convenience of the narrative, Figure 9.3 shows an example of a map that models the strategic alignment of an internal iKRS intervention strategy with departmental business plans; in most cases, normally maps would describe externally focused outcomes. Activities are shown by rectangles and intermediate and final outcomes by oval shapes. The types of knowledge that feed into activities are drawn from analysis of knowledge flows and landscape. In this example, they might include:

Figure 9.3 Example outcome relationship map for iKRS strategic alignment

 analysis by an iKR strategist on stakeholders, landscape and flows;

 organisational priorities and policy objectives; human resource expertise; business change;

 departmental business plans; performance indictors; public value analysis.

Carry out a knowledge audit

The knowledge audit is a principal tool for constructing an ‘as is’ view of the knowledge landscape. This technique is well described in the literature and focuses on producing an evidence-based assessment of the current state of an organisation’s knowledge strengths and weaknesses, asking questions such as:

 What relevant knowledge resources exist now and where are they located?

 How does knowledge flow between people and groups now?

 Where are gaps in knowledge known about, and where are known barriers to knowledge flow?

A conventional knowledge audit has three limitations for a network-based approach:

 It assumes an organisational focus and tends to focus on outputs rather than outcomes.

 In practice, it tends to focus on explicit knowledge and physical resources.

 It looks for a systematic expression of known knowledge needs in order to identify gaps.

The audit complements the ‘to be’ analysis by enabling a comparison with the ‘as is’ perspective; the first emphasises desired behaviour within an organisation or network, and the second existing behaviour. A comparison between these alternatives is the platform for development of an intervention plan. Clearly, the boundary for the audit has to be compatible with that set in the first stage.

Map knowledge to records

To work with the interaction between knowledge-in-action and formal records, it is helpful to link the two through the medium of a stakeholder profile. A profile collects together relevant information about identified stakeholders (usually as groups, not individuals) as a basis for planning and managing specific interventions. The earlier work on mapping knowledge processes to intended outcomes identifies the types of knowledge that are inputs to the various activities and their sources. The audit will have identified relevant records and information categories and their creators that currently exist. Stakeholder identity is the link between these two: they are the embodiment of the formal powers and informal capabilities which enable knowledge to be put into action and which give authority to the records they produce. Table 9.1 shows a simplified example of a stakeholder matrix relating personal budgets in adult social care: cash payments given to users for their own allocation, in lieu of providing an actual service for which they have been assessed, allowing them greater choice and personalisation.

Table 9.1

Example stakeholder knowledge map (simplified)

K = knowledge-generator/user; R = records-creator/user

The leftmost column lists the various interests – client, professionals, administrative, etc. – against the kind of knowledge they contribute to the process and the records they create (which latter a records classification schema specifies more precisely). Knowledge indicators are drawn from outcome relationship mapping and record indicators from the audit. The matrix is read as a statement of stakeholder behaviour – knowledge-generating/using and record-creating behaviour – that should be consistent with, and appropriate for, their legitimate powers and capabilities. For example, doctors and health workers can create records of the client’s health conditions, but a service broker (an adviser to the client on available services) cannot, although she would have knowledge of them.

Stakeholder profiles mediate between the purposes of putting knowledge into action and the structures that support and record action.

Figure 9.4 Mapping stakeholder behaviour to knowledge processes and fileplan structure

Often, the aim of knowledge-based intervention is to change stakeholder behaviour in some way, through development or deployment of knowledge, or perhaps through strengthening the links to formal structures. Alternatively, analysis of the profiles may also prompt a revised understanding of how knowledge processes contribute to outcomes or offer greater insight into the outcomes themselves; or suggest issues with the ability of certain stakeholders to interact with, or benefit from, formal structures that prompt system revisions. Stakeholder knowledge and records maps are a basis for:

 cross-checking inconsistencies between knowledge and records behaviour;

 incorporating issues of trust and accountability in terms of powers and capabilities against knowledge and records;

 considering changes to analysis of purposes and delivery expectations, or to supportive records and information structures;

 suggest possible intervention initiatives and tactics to influence stakeholder knowledge-related behaviour;

 actions to improve support, cover and capabilities of the records base;

 possibilities for packaging and synthesising existing records and information;

 designing productive user views within the knowledge architecture.

Business and stakeholder analysis

Conduct a gap analysis

The purpose of a gap analysis is to understand the difference between current and intended future states, in relation to knowledge and records. Identifying the gaps is essential for exploring alternative approaches to meeting the objectives that the gap indicates – for understanding how to make the future vision a reality.

Recalling the FBS design method discussed in Chapter 4 (that behaviour mediates between structures and functions) the purpose of comparison is to:

 compare the existing knowledge behaviour with the desired knowledge behaviour to identify gaps;

 assess these gaps in the context of policy aims, delivery strategies, risk appetite and business issues;

 determine which of the following is indicated: action to change existing behaviour; a refined analysis of desired behaviour or a redefinition of intended outcomes; or structural change to support and delivery mechanisms;

 if necessary, rework and reiterate the comparison;

 select initiatives to promote the agreed changes and determine appropriate impact measures.

One purpose of gap analysis is to identify issues to be addressed – what are their causes, what needs to change and in which ways – so that they can be expressed as business issues.

Align with risk appetite

Methodologies for risk analysis and management are well known (e.g. OGC, 2010); but some aspects of information and knowledge risk can be missed. Information risk is often interpreted as risks related to (a lack of) IT security, of inappropriate disclosure of personal, commercial or confidential data, or of failure to meet compliance regulations – downside risks that identify possible errors. Risks can also identify possible opportunities which may otherwise be lost. Examples of possible knowledge-related risk to consider are:

 the opportunity cost of not sharing information, knowledge or expertise;

 loss of new knowledge that would have been created by engaging with stakeholders;

 networking knowledge connections produces an opposite result to the one intended;

 undue influence by undeclared stakeholders in an organised campaign to crowd out competing knowledge;

 misleading knowledge fed into a knowledge process to subvert the intended outcome;

 inappropriate use of transferred knowledge due to a disregarding of changed context;

 excessive secrecy restricts free availability of data to external application developers.

Risk appetite is an indicator of the degree of risk which an organisation is comfortable with: how much risk of what kind is it prepared to take? The public sector is known to be risk-averse, partly because some consequences of failure have severe social impacts and partly due to a culture in which failure is usually seen as a lack of competence. This encourages people to aim at a low level of achievement, as a precautionary measure; however, where the returns will be high, a higher level of risk is justified, even if they initially result in a loss.

Mobilising knowledge is an inherently risky activity because one cannot predict the result with exactitude. For example, connecting together someone who has experience of an innovation with another who is sceptical, in the hope that the first influences the second, may in fact result in the opposite: two sceptics, both resisting change! This is a risk, but its realisation may indicate that it is the expectations, not the resulting behaviour, that are wrong.

Residual risk is the remaining degree of risk, once some remedial actions have been taken on a risk identified and made visible. The aim is to match the residual risk with the risk appetite – with just as much on the plate as you like to have – whether both are set higher or lower. Gap analysis should take account of the level of risk appetite in assessing the likelihood and impact of knowledge and information risks, and the effect on expected outcomes. It should take account of the risks of a knowledge mobilisation initiative, as well as those inherent in the knowledge process.

Align with business issues

The comparison between audit and strategy may also highlight the two different manifestations of knowledge: as an explicit commodity that can be captured transferred between contexts without loss, or as an attribute possessed by individuals. Depending on which is predominant, the same issue will be treated in different ways because each implies different root causes and symptoms, different behaviour changes and different incentives to change. Table 9.2 illustrates the differences for a knowledge-sharing issue, when seen from the cognitive (A) and physical (B) viewpoints.

Table 9.2

Alternative conceptions and differing tactics for a knowledge-sharing issue

How should we choose between alternative interpretations? One can find many strategic plans for knowledge development which set out laudable objectives in principle but are never implemented because they are not feasible in that particular situation. A strategy that swims completely against the tide of organisational culture is unlikely to reach its objectives intact; and yet the intention is to promote change actively and to seek fresh insights, not simply respond to prevailing ways of thinking. A strategy must plot a middle way between attempting the possible and leveraging change where it can; and while some elements will be implemented as highly visible initiatives, others will be more opportunistic, based on a new way of thinking about professional practice – spotting opportunities for brokering knowledge connections requires good relations with a user community, not a formal project.

Alignment with business strategy validates knowledge mobilisation, records and information management issues by rephrasing them as recognisable business problems. It is insufficient to simply draw out statements from formal business plans, since this will reflect and reinforce the current understanding, and filter out those issues that are challenging to embedded preconceptions. Alignment needs to be a process of critical debate with the key influencers, both internal and external: senior management, business strategists, programme managers, policy leaders, external advisers and perhaps ministers. The iKR strategist takes the role of a critical friend, engaging others on their own ground, being well prepared and challenging, and prepared to be challenged in return. Alignment needs to keep the relationship between knowledge issues and business problems at the centre of the debate, avoid agenda-change, maintain a brisk pace and result in an agreed list of problems and issues on which to intervene. Some other candidate business problems are:

 When people leave, their knowledge leaves with them.

 People do not know about and make the best use of the knowledge resources available to them, sometimes causing project and programme failure.

 There is a need to be more consistent and objective in the creation, use and interpretation of evidence for problemsolving.

 Policy-makers do not pass on the knowledge they have gained from developing the policy to those responsible for implementing it.

 Policy-makers are not well enough connected to external participants, e.g. professionals and service user communities, which leads to misunderstanding of issues and bad policy design.

 Long-term programmes fail to take account of changing knowledge about the issues they are addressing, leading to ‘issue drift’.

 Sometimes projects fail because the project team do not know about knowledge that someone elsewhere has that could have been available to them.

 The cost – in time, effort, money – of finding the best knowledge available is too high.

 There is a need to be able to measure knowledge value and deliver business benefits.

 There is a need to be more innovative in the way knowledge and information is used to solve problems.

 There is a need to regulate the use of own, and partner organisation, knowledge and information resources to ensure proper and proportionate use.

Develop impact measures

Impact measures of successful interventions follow on from a sound understanding of the relationship between business problems and outcomes achievement. They should ideally measure the impact of knowledge mobilisation on successful delivery of outcomes, but this can be difficult to do directly. Some alternatives are:

 proxy measures take some other measurable factor as an indicator of improvement: e.g. an improvement in levels of public trust in government, underpinned by stratified example cases citing traceable knowledge initiatives;

 staff satisfaction levels on knowledge-related tasks, taking into account expectations: e.g. high satisfaction in a challenging environment indicates success;

 multi-attribute analysis for qualitative benefits: agree functional business problem; identify alternatives to intervention; assess functional adequacy and make comparative economic analysis of each alternative; results guide choice of the alternative;

 in-process evaluation: instances in which knowledge strategy analysis identifies elements that change misconceived policy or delivery mechanism;

 qualitative narratives or case studies debated and validated by participants.

Impact measures should emerge from the debate on strategic alignment to ensure they are properly grounded in a realistic understanding on all sides; if an impact measure cannot be agreed, the change may not be worth making. They are a broader concept than service performance indicators, which are suitable as measures of technical efficiency, but may have a perverse effect if applied as measures of knowledgeability or accountability. Knowledgeability – the quality of knowledge possessed – and trust are subjective qualities; while surveys can ask ‘how knowledgeable or trusting do you feel?’ and reach a percentage, this is only meaningful in the context of the shared understanding between all involved.

Build up stakeholder profiles

Stakeholder profiles, discussed above, are a central integrating point and often the focus of interventionist action. They should be maintained and revised as work progresses and linked to the similar profiles used by project and programme management teams. The common touching points of this activity with programme management (see OGC, 2007) are primarily in: identifying stakeholders; developing interest profiles; and planning engagement.

The term stakeholders as it is used here refers to all the participants whose knowledge is implicated in delivery of the intended outcomes, some of whom may have only an indirect stake in their achievement; better to start with a broad canvas and narrow it down than miss an essential participant. Project managers often speak in terms of ‘managing stakeholders’ and of developing detailed communication plans to inform them of progress; but stakeholders can be relied upon to dislike being ‘managed’ – not conducive to the aim of drawing on, or drawing in, their knowledge. Engagement should be seen as a two-way process, which draws insight from their perceptions, concerns, expertise and knowledgeability, as much as informing them.

Determine and structure knowledge-based intervention

This chapter has outlined the platform for constructing an iKRS intervention plan. The plan is able to select from a wide variety of actions and techniques, according to the issues and problems identified, an agreed understanding of their roots and of what needs to change, and how to understand the success of interventions. Chapter 10 outlines some potential techniques in three categories: fostering learning and sharing; networking knowledge; and building knowledge architecture.