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Sep 15

Creating an Environment for Knowledge Management and Project Management

I just finished The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo (the researcher who devised the Stanford Prison Experiment). A month earlier, I finished Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind by David Berreby which discussed how people categorize each other by race, nationalities, generations, etc. The common theme in both of these books is that situation was the major determinant of our behavior. According to Zimbardo, it was the situation that compelled the brutal behavior by the "guards" and the passive behavior of the "prisoners" while Berreby details an experiment in which a group of male teenagers forged a new tribal identity within just a few days because of the situation that was created for them. To me, both of these authors also verified the "Observe" and "Orient" portions of Boyd's OODA Loop in that decisions and actions were based on how people perceived their situation.

So, what impact does this have for KM and PM? Well, it should make knowledge managers and project managers more aware of the environment that they create as they form communities of practice and project teams. The first characteristic of such environments is trust which is hard to forge and quick to lose. Just as important is a commitment to a vision. Culture is usually considered by good managers and leader but the specific situation is also just as an important (and can even overcome a bad culture - think of the various skunkworks).

No matter the overt message, the situation communicates louder. As I tell my students, if a company says that they trust their employees but they lock their supply cabinets, you know what the company really believes about their employees.

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