LKM learning network launch

Date: 21 Feb 2003

Venue: Galagher Estate, Midrand

Background and Objectives

Knowledge management has been discussed in various sessions but there still exists a need to explore the area and find common ground for implementation. The ultimate goal is to entrench the culture of knowledge management in government and put in place mechanisms and systems to drive it. Some models have emerged and there is a need to understand the models, learn from them and other particular cases, and develop a tailor made program to implement learning and knowledge management. The Purpose of the Network is to provide a platform for those in service delivery:

  • To explore and reach an understanding on the importance of KM in the business of government, particularly service delivery
  • To establish a common understanding of the area in the context of the knowledge economy
  • To share on various interpretations of and initiatives in implementing Knowledge Management programmes
  • To keep public servants abreast of global developments in the field of knowledge management

Presentations

Report

On Friday, 21st February 2003, the Learning and Knowledge Management Network was launched by the LKM Unit in the Department of Public Service and Administration at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. This was a special learning network -- a learning network about otherlearning networks. Quite different from the narratives or 'stories of war' on daily experiences of public servants at their service delivery posts that are told in other learning networks, this learning network aimed to reflect on government's ability to manage and apply the wealth ofknowledge at its disposal -- to, as Seadimo Chaba, Deputy-Director- General, Department of Transport in Gauteng diligently put it 'take a walk to the balcony'.

From the onset, attendants were reminded of the importance of information and knowledge management. As part of the global village, South Africa's rating in terms of the knowledge economy depends uponthe ability of the public employees to harness and leverage the knowledge that is generated to benefit the citizens. The government's success in this regard depends on how much effort public employees invest in dealing with certain challenges that werevoiced during the network.

Firstly, we have to deal with information flow. This would require strengthening and publicising existing channels of information such as the Service Delivery Review journal, learning networks and other interaction forums and further exploring new channels and make themsustainable to facilitate easy access and dissemination of information to the citizens. This is fundamental to both citizens as recipients and public employees as service deliverers, particularly in the light of the many technological advancements in service delivery.We also have to remove certain barriers that have been found to impact negatively on our attempts to manage knowledge. This would include bureaucratic tendencies in our organisations and the traditionalpyramid, multi-layered system of management that inhibit the free flow of information.

Not only are these tendencies and structures harmful to information flow in organisations, they also have an adverse impact on service delivery. In an organisation with a pyramid, multi-layered organogram, the characteristic culture amongst junior employees is to refer cases to theirsenior counterparts. Because of lack of information they are less empowered and thus unable to boldly take initiative. Because junior employees are mostly at the coalface of service delivery and thus in daily contact with citizens. This unfortunately results in unnecessarydelays and frustration amongst citizens who need to be served. As it has emerged in several learning networks, there are many commendable achievements in the form of best practices and creative solutions to service delivery related problems throughout the threespheres of government. It was emphasised quite strongly that the public service needs to develop a culture to document such experiences as key lessons for other people who deal with service delivery.

Knowledge management compels us to think beyond information sources, i.e. case studies and narratives, dissemination channels, i.e. the Review journal, discussion forums etc, and access. What emerged strongly in the network was the need to promote the ability to convert information into useful knowledge that can be leveraged and applied indifferent contexts to improve service delivery. We need to develop the skill to critically analyse and understand information beyond the successes, to extract the critical points that led to the success, and adapt to suite our various circumstances in which we deliver services. The Learning and Knowledge Management learning network atGallagher Estate was, in a nutshell, about the institutionalisation of knowledge in the public service. It was meant to supplement the various efforts of propping up service delivery in the public service. It dealt withissues such as decision making across levels, the value of being knowledgeable and resourceful to prevent unnecessary and wasteful redoubling of efforts in service delivery and lastly, adopting the culture to acknowledge and learn from each other's experiences.

Way Forward

Action Points Responsibility
Intensify efforts to popularise existing knowledge products through existing fora in government, e.g ensuring that the Service Delivery Review journal reaches a wider audience All government departments
Assist with targeted distribution strategy of the journal GCIS to assist DPSA
Facilitate exchanges of lessons, onsite- visits and interaction between provinces and between departments DPSA
Explore better ways of sharing information, capturing solutions, and making use of it All
Build an interactive living community of practitioners All
Establish and participate in special discussion/interactive interest groups All, DPSA to facilitate
Raise awareness in Knowledge Management Department of Communications
A data-base of development communication case studies/models GCIS and DPSA
Build and institutionalise Knowledge Management All

Last update: 31 August 2011

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