Saturday, October 17, 2009

KM, Healthcare & CSUN KM

The most recent issue of Time Magazine (Monday Oct 26, 2009) has an article relevant to KM titled “A healthy way to pay doctors.” It's also relevant to CSUN's Master's in KM program.,9171,1930501,00.html

The article talks about how doctors get paid (by the treatment, by the day, health outcomes….) but also how sharing and institutionalizing good practices (although they don’t call them that) can significantly reduce costs, improve outcomes for patients…and keep doctors happy.

What struck me about this article was its relevance to KM. The article talks about how Geisinger Medical Group in Pennsylvania has significantly reduced costs, improved patient health outcomes, and attracted and retained top quality doctors through the use of some fairly straight forward KM practices. An example of what they have done is in surgery.

The first thing he (the head of surgery at Geisinger) and his team did was take 20 general steps all surgeons follow throughout a bypass episode and try to sharpen them in a way that would remove as much chance and variability as possible, going so far as to spell out the specific drugs and dosages doctors would use. The result was an expanded 40-step list that some surgeons balked at initially, deriding what they called “cookbook medicine.” Once doctors began following the expanded checklist, however, they grew to like it. After the first 200 operations — a total of 8,000 steps — there had been just four steps not followed precisely, for a 99.95% compliance rate. A total of 320 bypasses have now been performed under the new rules. “There are fewer complications. Patients are going home sooner. There’s less post-op bleeding and less intubation in the operating room,” says Casale. What’s more, the reduced complication rate has cut the per-patient cost by about $2,000.

The article goes on to talk about how Geisinger Doctors have done similar things for hip-replacements, bariatric and cataract surgeries and kidney treatment. And the very positive results from both a cost perspective and a health outcome perspective.

So why is this relevant to KM and to CSUN's KM program?

The processes that are being used to develop better practices in the hospital are classic KM. They include assessing the current processes and looking at current outcomes. They then ask the can we do it better...and how can we standardize the process to improve overall outcomes? They then look at metrics and analyze outcomes to ensure what they have put in place is making a difference.

While these are well known KM techniques and processes, it is amazing how few people know how to effectively apply them. A staff will try and implement something like this...or they will bring in a consultant -- who often will say -- implement this technology and it will solve all of your problems.

But for those steeped in know that this won't be solved by technology alone. You know culture and change management will be a big part of a successful solution. You know that putting in processes that fit with the organizations culture is key to success. And you know that technology can be a big part of the solution...if done well. Finally you know that one size does not fit all. KM solutions that are appropriate for this type of issue may be completely inappropriate for more complex or complicated problems.

In CSUN's KM program we are introducing our students to the types of problems outlined in this article. And we are helping them learn what it takes for successful implementations that make a difference to the bottom line for the enterprise and to all of their stakeholders. We are also working with them to make sure they understand various KM frameworks and use cases that will help them analyze the types of KM solutions that will be most appropriate and effective.

For more information on CSUN's Master's in KM program check out our website at and attend one of our upcoming online introductory sessions. The time and registration information for these sessions is on the website.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

CSUN Graduates first Master's in KM on-line cohort

KM is alive and thriving at California State University Northridge.

We have just graduated our first completely on-line cohort from our Master's in KM (MKM) program and are now in the midst of recruiting for our 3rd cohort, which will begin in January of 2010 (the 2nd cohort began in January of 2009 and will finish in December of 2010). The students in this first on-line cohort came from across the country and from a wide variety of organizations and industries ranging from pharmaceutical companies such as Amgen, to the US Military (the Marine Corps), to aerospace (Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne) the energy industry (Chevron) as well as independent consultants. These students are now applying what they learned in the MKM program within their organizations.

The program focuses on the full range of KM topics that enable students to develop and help implement a "knowledge strategy" for their organization that is aimed - not just sharing, leveraging or creating knowledge -- but at improving the performance of the organization. The students learn about the history of KM and how it has evolved, they learn about the key processes and technologies that can help leverage and create knowledge as well as stimulate innovation and finally they learn the leadership and management skills that are required to be successful in today's knowledge based organizations.

The faculty for the program includes well know KM practitioners, such as Kent Greenes (if you don't know Kent - he is considered one of the fathers of modern KM with his pioneering work at BP and his subsequent work with a wide variety of clients around the world) as well as academics steeped in the knowledge of the disciplines that underlie a successful KM program. We also draw on faculty from organizations such as the US Army and their Battlefield Knowledge System (BCKS) as well as from consulting companies such as Ernst and Young.

But why would anyone what to take an on-line program? Of course there is the obvious reason - it allows students to take the program from anywhere in the world. There is no requirement for face-to-face meetings. What this means from the students is that they are exposed to and work with other students from around country and from a wide variety of industries. It also means that we can draw our faculty from literally anywhere in the world. Ah - all well an good - but isn't a distance learning program the "poor cousin" of an on campus program. As it turns out - no. What research is showing is that from a "learning outcomes" perspective (academic speak for what the students know at the end of program) Distance Learning (DL) programs are in fact superior to face-to-face. There are a variety of reasons for this. Two of them are (1) students tend to spend more time in a DL setting than in face-to-face and (2) as a result of the extensive use of what we would now call Social media tools (ie., wikis, blogs, forums and IM) the students spend more time reflecting on what they are learning, which leads to better "learning outcomes." If you want to see more on this there is an interesting paper just published by researchers at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) for the Department of education. I will warn you - that it is an "academic paper" so it's heavy on the methods - but the findings are very interesting not only from the perspective of education - but also for the KM implications and how we can effectively share what we know across and organization using DL techniques.

For more information on CSUN's MKM program you can go to or contact Barb Frye, Program Administrator (, or our faculty advisors Allan Crawford ( or Tracey Wik (