10 Step Process
Knowledge Management
Documentation and Notes - greatly augmented with commentary and links - in support of my presentation of The 10 Step Process, Knowledge Management and Weak Signal Research for the CHE PatchWorks DesignShop at the VCBH Innovation Center on September 17, 2002

The 10 Step Model [link: 10 step model] was first developed in July of 1987 for Capital Holding Corporation (now Providian). It was a generalization of knowledge management processes that we developed at MG Taylor Corporation, between 1979 and 1982, to support DesignShops and various project management activities.


This process has been extensively tested in the Mentor NavCenter (1981 - 1983) as an executive function to keep a holding company and key divisions coordinated, The Capital Holding Design Center (1987 - 1988), in support of several projects merging many insurance companies; And, it has been employed in several other client owned Taylor NavCenters and by MG Taylor in over a 1,000 DesignShop events between 1980 to 2002.


Given this extensive experience, we know the process works. The full potential of the Model, however, is yet to be realized. There are three reasons. First, the success of the Model as a meeting documentation, process support and project management tool has obscured its greater potential and use as a general knowledge management tool. Second, the technical system (hardware and software) required to track the high number of information transactions on the scale and scope required to sustain a broad application in a large scale distributed organization is just becoming economical and ubiquitous. Prior systems succumbed to scaling issues and platform migration. And third, NavCenters, the natural environment for the process, that support multiple activities additional to group process events are only now being built and fully employed. The Vanderbilt VCBH Innovation Center is a beginning level example of this kind of application.


Therefore the use of this Model/Process, up to now, has mostly been episodic and wired together with ad-hoc systems built from primitive off-the-shelf computing tools. Nevertheless, the results in many cases have been extremely efficacious. The amount of information captured, processed and delivered - as a final product - 48 hours after a DesignShop is but one demonstrates this capacity. The task which lies ahead is to evolve the Model into a broad scoped System and Method of work forming a practice throughout an (often virtual) community-of-work which provides sustainability and scale-ablity in an appropriate [link: appropriate response model] way. As with all Taylor designed products and services, this can only be done in a client environment with active client collaboration in both design and the implementation of the system. This requirement is driven by the nature of knowledge-work itself and the unique circumstances to be found in each organization.


The 10 Step Process, in practice, provides - on the recursion level of corporations and global organizations - the kind of mental integration common to highly competent professionals doing work in their own field of expertise. People are born with this capacity built-in - as a potential. They can train this natural gift and mold their metal abilities to accomplish a high level of craft and performance. An organization of people does not have the wiring nor the protocols of this kind of function built in - it has to make a SYSTEM that does this process. This system is composed of people, work processes, disciplines, technology, and it requires a “market” (network) to function within. This system requires the integration of many different types of agents and intelligence(s). Many otherwise conflicting languages and protocols have to be made one. The range of this integration is across several agents that can be treated as one kind: minds, teams, ValueWebs [link: valuewebs] - all of them viewed as network a [link: value web model components] architecture thereby creating agency. A reading list of books spanning some of the key disciplines and seminal concepts necessary to the crafting such a system is provided [link: taylor system and method basic reading list] for review. To function at the optimum level, all of these components are designed and embedded in the structure of an organization so as to function in a mind like way thus creating strong memory throughout that organization [link: strong Memory]


A significant attribute of the 10 Step Process - in any application - is that it be designed to be as content neutral as possible crafted as a strong work disciple, to reliably support emergent [link: zone of emergence engine] results. It must be competent in traditional task management at the same time a powerful open-ended, evolving, transformational work machine.


In terms of information management, the bias of the 10 Step Process is toward finding and creating relationships, discovering unknown links, and in creating the interface between system, computer, human and groups of humans (and machine and systems) more than in finding the most efficient way of storing discrete, known information and retrieving it. What is interesting, in this view, is what happens when smart humans, smart computers and smart networks interact thereby discovering new insights, creating new information and making new knowledge and creative actions possible.


The 10 Step Process is intended for complex distributed organizations and the special knowledge management issues they exhibit. While it works on the level of an individual, small teams and projects, it is designed to scale and work in environments of extreme complexity involving high variety and rates-of-change. The 10 Step Process is an engine. A function. It is the wiring and work protocol of Group Genius. It supports the MIND of the organization. It is engineering - not metaphor.


While all of this sounds quite esoteric and complex, the beauty of The 10 Step Process is that the theory is “reduced” to a simple system and practice each step of which is governed by simple rules. The theory and design of networks and living systems involves complex issues; the practice of knowledge management is actually simple. It does, however, require a discipline uncommon in most modern organizations. Today, mental and process disciplines are mostly held in professional categories: science, design, law, economics, accounting, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and so on. Most organizations tend to organize around these disciplines which is silly because you buy cars from General Motors not legal, design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and so on. The so called management processes are, in the main, the least disciplined of all and the most subject to lose analogies and after-the-fact speculation and justifications. The integrated disciple of managing the key asset of an organization - it’s KNOWLEDGE - is rarely demanded from, nor practiced by anyone, let alone senior management. Like any skill, it has to be learned, practiced and technically supported and, too often, this is not what senior people do. And yet, of course, they are, in fact, the senior knowledge workers of an organization. Take key individuals out of the knowledge-creation and sharing loop and the entire “system” breaks down. This is the consequence of poor systems design, sloppy practices and an astonishing absence of feedback and accountability. If any member of a recognized discipline practiced their art in the way which most management and knowledge integration is conducted, in most organizations, they would be fired for incompetence. Those now recognized as knowledge workers are usually trapped in the specifics of their field and do not practice cross discipline knowledge management as a generality. The issue is too often relegated to IT as an assumed database or data warehouse problem. Occasionally, there is a hue and cry for knowledge management and some organizations even make it a VP job. Knowledge is treated like some kind of “thing” that has to be caught, protected, made safe and kept out of the rain. It has to be seen as a process and discipline which is ubiquitous and integrated throughout an organizational entity and it ValueWeb. It is a technical issue yet technology as we presently conceive of it will not accomplish the necessry result.


Knowledge is not a thing - it is a no-thing. It is created by being used, it is kept by being used and it is lost when not used. It is like money in an economy. It is the currency of mind-full-ness. If it is not accessible to all members of a practice and across the organizational divisions of an entity, it quickly decays and distorts the mind-of-the-organization.

Knowledge cannot be managed in the old, limited, controlled sense of the word. The conditions that allow knowledge to emerge can be systematically established. Knowledge disciplines can be defined and practiced. The technical infrastructure can be built. It cannot be accomplished by the installation of an IT package.The 10 Step Process is a protocol (supported by strict rules) that transforms these elements into the reality of an intelligent organization.
The Models

The diagram (above) is one contemporary illustration of the Model. It shows the steps of the process in groups of activities. This is a useful way but not the only way to look at the Model. Below, the 1997 version offers another perspective - also useful for understanding certain aspects of how the 10 Step Process functions and how it can be employed in a project management circumstance.


The essence of this process is that an information EVENT (which could be formal or informal - planned or spontaneous) is documented and that the documentation is entered into a KnowledgeBase. The Knowledgebase is searched for relevant information which is linked and attached to the documentation. The (thus augmented) documentation is then DISTRIBUTED to a select portion of the ValueWeb on a need-to-know basis in a format designed to fit each recipient’s knowledge profile. This action is TRACKED and FEEDBACK (on both the utility of the knowledge artifact as a communication and the content of it in terms of usefulness to each recipient) is sought and the capture of the feedback facilitated. The content of this feedback is entered into the KnowledgeBase and all relevant documents and links are updated. DESIGN work for the next Event is then done and READ-AHEADS distributed (both these documents and entered in the KnowledgeBase with appropriate searches and links conducted). The cycle repeats. Iterative work is supported. Both individual “agents” and the system, “agency,”get smarter.

Over time, more and more links are made between the various “knowledge agents” in the Knowledgebase. Strong channels are established. Information is chunked. MEMORY [link: memory in a complex system] is built. Human memory is augmented by system to become GROUP memory. In advanced systems, a variety of intelligent computer agents can be employed to augment this process. This capability, however, is not necessary for effective functioning. Computer augmented or not, humans are central to the process. It is the system-as-a-system that makes the capacity and this includes humans as an active agent in the process.
Multiple iterations reaching through multiple levels of recursion are necessary for true distributed memory of knowledge to emerge. Constant re-use is required for knowledge to remain viable. The agency of this knowledge must reach to at least one order of magnitude beyond the daily operations of an organizational entity in order to function as knowledge for that organization. Appropriate, to the kind of organization, feedback loops of a complex kind have to be embedded into the metabolism of the entity in order for the memory to remain healthy. The mind-of-the-organization requires the same care as does the mind of an individual. Knowledge management has little to do with the content per se - it is the systematic maintenance of the process.
1987 Model
The 1987 Model and description as expressed in a early 90s MG Taylor Manual.
This version of the Model structures the process into steps that can be bundeled into “triads” of work each having rules and producer/user tasks.
This matrix of tasks establishes the rules of engagement of the system and individual roles and accountability.
Reduce the number of meetings; Document them; design the event structure and participation to work; don’t use meetings for work that can be done any other way.
If a meeting cannot be documented, can you afford to have it? Fewer meetings with better distribution to the right people is a better economy.
A message is not communication. Dialog and feedback is necessary to keep a system stable and to make shared memory.
When purpose (intention), information, experience and a framework (model) is fused in ACTION, knowledge is created.
Data, Information, Knowledge

There is a significant difference between data, information and knowledge. Each of these forms of mind-matter/content are different and each follows their own rules.


DATA is the raw atoms of experience. 9/11 meant one thing before that date in 2001 - it means something else now. It still means emergency. That something else is made possible by context or, data/information about the data in a way that frames it. INFORMATION is data organized in some way that gives it meaning. Having information, however, is not knowing. You can have a great deal of information about something and still not have KNOWLEDGE of it. This is why (true) education [link: 5 Es of education] has to combine several modalities [link: coe designshop] of learning [link: 5 points of mastery] and work in order to be effective. This is why a knowledge-base has to focus on the interactions of the users not only the static content. This is why knowledge management is too often a means for consultants to make money not a discipline transferred to a client as a method that augments THE critical process of their organization.


Several factors have to be in place for knowledge to exist: information about something, experience and memory related to it; to have knowledge you must have a purpose in mind and you have to be in action. In this state, you are wired into reality. There exists multiple feedbacks channels. You are experienced-based but not only that - intellect is in play (but not in control, by default) in a circumstance of high frequency information flow. This is the “sweet spot” in sports, the one-with-the-universe in religion (which means to “connect back”). It is the “divine spark” in the creative process, the intuitive leap in scientific discovery. You KNOW. And, you know that you know. You do not, necessarily, know what you know or if it is complete for the task at hand. This is an issue that only several iterations of work can resolve.


It is in this this context and meaning that I think of knowledge-formation [link: design formation model] through iterations of work - each documented and each producing a knowledge-artifact that is useful. Each iteration improves on the last. Each, engages the appropriate population of participants (be they human or other kinds of agents).

Knowledge Management

Knowledge MANAGEMENT, then, is the process of creating the conditions for learning, the process of design and the protocols and infrastructure of document (artifact) control. It requires appropriate application of engineering practices. It is dependent on rigorous feedback of a complex kind (feedback on feedback). To work, grow and evolve, the system has to be operated.


This approach to knowledge management is highly compatible with rapid-prototyping techniques. In fact, it could be argued that rapid Design/Build/Use [link: design build use practice] cycles are inherently easier to bring into the 10 Step Process than more linier and slow development methods. Documentation is easier when a full cycle of work is completed and completed quickly. With a focus on “shipping a product,” the product itself (in each of its stages of development) becomes a significant part of the documentation.

Tracking Knowledge Formation

To do this well, you have to know where you are in the total process of creation and use. The SolutionBox Model provides this tracking capability. The SolutionBox is composed of three Models: Creative process, Design Formation and Vantage Points. These form a 7 x 7 x 7 grid that charts the journey from idea to use. Thus, the SolutionBox has 343 cells each representing a “voice,” criteria for completeness and test of veracity; Each is an “energy” - a waypoint. Each is a means of feedback (and learning) for the entire process. The establishment of 343 “states” is sufficiently fine grained to provide a detailed mapping of a vast number of human projects no matter their scale or complexity. Yet, with the use of icons and a basic understanding of each model, a mapping schema easy enough for most people to learn and employ.

click on the SolutionBox to go to explaination

The SolutionBox has several uses: It is a means of providing information about information. A document, for example can be identified in terms of its “location” (on the path) from concept to use. This helps the user of the document to know how to “read” it. It establishes a protocol in a community-of-practice that builds a common basis for claims, completeness and veracity. The SolutionBox can be a tag in the search process. Artifacts of similar “maturity” can be retrieved and compared. It provides “a roadmap” of the creative process useful to those facilitating the process and for those employing it. They can know where they “are” and have ready access to criteria, process rules and tools as they relate to the state [link: memory no. 12] they are in and about to move to.


The creation, sharing and tracking of information and knowledge across all areas of an organization’s landscape is particularly critical given the dynamic environment that exists today. In circumstances of great change and complexity, and of large highly connected organizations, collaborative work is not just a good idea it is a must do. Problems in modern organizations are complex and systemic. They require the expertise available only from a broad range of individual perspectives and disciplines and cross discipline integration is a basic requirement. Policy laden organizational structures cannot deal with this. DESIGN is required. Peer relationships are required. Ideas have to be formed, tested, rejected or, when successful, taken to scale quickly. The glue that holds this together is shared knowledge and work protocols. It is this that makes a “community of work - work.”

Weak Signal Research

All organizations, no matter if they think they do or not, act to change the future. We are all futurists only a few, however, try to get good at it. We all act in the present based on a model of the past and a expectation of the future. For many, this is implicit. For some, explicit. For a very few, the result of rigorous research. We call the latter Weak Signal Research [link: weak signal research]. Not all future research is focused on weak signals but we emphasize this aspect because it is the most critical. It takes time to respond to new conditions. The intrinsic response time to a given kind of challenge or opportunity is the measure of the minimum anticipatory modeling that must take place. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that the look ahead time in any field should be the length of 3 cycles of change. By definition, Weak Signals are non-obvious, non-credible and obscure. The key indicators have to be detected and separated from the general background noise of a subject area - the obvious ones are useful but not critical. Weak Signal Research is a science-art in itself. What interests us here is how the 10 Step process can be employed to harvest the huge, latent potential of forward thinking that usually remains untapped in the vast majority of organizations.


Most individuals in an organization have many interests that range far wider than the work they do in the organization. And, most individuals work in an organizational circumstance that greatly focuses and narrows even their professional scope. Add to this the fact that, in most organizations, individuals are not systematically connected in an organization wide network and you can see that the flow of information throughout the organization is greatly biased toward what it already knows and directed to the immediate work at hand. In addition, new ideas are easily discredited because they will fail the test of veracity appropriate for more mature ideas. This is due to not employing a schema and disciple like the SolutionBox across the organization. The result of all this is that the flow of Weak Signals are too restricted and do not find their way to one another where synergies can occur. The organization suffers the equivalent of what we would call repression or extreme predigest in an individual. The Corporate mind is dead on certain subjects. Individuals have separate puzzle pieces but no game board to assemble them. This, by the way, is but one example of organizations - made up of well meaning and competent people - can act is ways that if a single individual did they would be highly criticized or in some cases locked up for mental incompetence.


There is, of course, a cure for this. Using the 10 Step, SolutionBox, PatchWorks architecture and Weak Signal processes, it is possible to wire together this unused corporate capability. This cannot be done like another intentional traditionally managed project (which may have value in a mature domain of inquiry). It has to be a heuristic process exercised with rigor. Corporate wide channels and nets have to be made that allow Weak Signals to flow through the corporate mind, combine and come to “awareness” when appropriate. A first step to building this mind is understand where you are. A 7 Domains analysis can aid this exercise in corporate self-awareness.


The importance of systematic Weak Signal capability being an embedded process of an organization can be illustrated by the Jet Planes metaphor. Imagine two state-of-the-art jets flying a full speed toward one another on a collision course. By the time they see one another, if flying visually, they are dead. There simply is not enough reaction time. To survive, they use radar. They “look out” to the future. They navigate based on a technology augmented model of that future not the verified present. They correct by feedback: “the message from the sensor(s) of a system to the controller of a system of the difference between performance and expectation.”

Weak Signal Research is not the job of a few it is the task of the many. It involves a process of systematic scanning, imagination, design, testing and integration. It requires many vantage points, levels of experience and specific areas of knowledge, therefore, many people. The potential remains latent, however, unless an integrating system is in place and the “metabolism” of that system is kept requisite with the change happening both inside the organization and in it’s environment. The organization has to function as an organism not a simple mechanism. This is one way to overcome the requisite variety problem.
Integrating the 10 Step Process

The traditional organization is not structured in a way that easily promotes systematic “10 stepping.” Its entire architecture is actually based on the separation of knowledge and control of its “integration.” For the 10 Step Process to work in an organization it has to be organized much more like a market - a network of agents. It has to be structured more like a brain and less like a simple machine. The good news is that this can be done without initially upsetting the hierarchy in place. A knowledge-network can be design and installed that cuts through traditional organization barriers. This network can serve the organization and become the basis for an organizational transformation that can evolve rather than be over designed and mandated.

The 7 Domains Model puts an organizations “Body of Knowledge” in context of the other “domains” which have to be managed in order to create a systemically viable organization. The balance and connections between these domain is a critical as the domains themselves. People do not need to be managed as has been the practice for so long. The environment - the totally environment - in which they work can be made and managed, however, and this context is critical to sustained success.

Humans are not assets or resources of any organization. Is not even appropriate to say that humans work for an organization. It is more accurate to say that humans employ organizational structures and processes in order to lever their individual abilities and capacities to accomplish some shared goal.


This is not to argue, once an individual joins an organization, that there are not duties and responsibilities due the organization nor that a legitimate hierarchal process does not exist. It does not sanction individuals using an organization for narrow or personal goals contrary to the benefit of other members or the organization itself. Nor does it promote the use of organization to perform social looting as we have recently witnessed. Organizations are social systems. They are, by definition, a shared space made up of shared property. They have legitimate legal rights (sometimes overstated) and responsibilities (many times understated). As such, an organization’s greatest asset is it’s Intellectual Capital.


This Intellectual Capital is composed of a number of factors: intellectual property, organizational capability to create and deliver products and services, and access to a market to deliver those products and services. Organizational knowledge is at the root of all these factors. Organizational knowledge - we call it GroupGenius and the Mind of the Organization - are the least understood, least “managed” and least attended to of all the so called properties of the average organization. Organizational knowledge is largely a matter of accident. It tends to exist in the early stages of an organization’s development and fade as success and growth drives out entrepreneurial conditions and fosters growth beyond a small team.


Just as reworking organizational processes has been and remains a rich source of costs savings, paying attention to Organizational Knowledge is the great untapped wealth-creating-potential that virtually every organization has, but has not developed. This is true even though there is much talk about the information economy and the knowledge society. In practice, it largely remains just that - talk.


The Models presented here provide a LANGUAGE to give shape and voice to this potential. The 10 Step Process provides the engine of creation necessary to start the process of building the mind of the organization. Implementing this process is not easy nor is it to be had for free. However, the costs are trivial compared to the potential gain.

The tool that we created at MG Taylor Corporation to facilitate this process is the navCenter. The navCenter is a means of creating and installing a new OS into an organization that fits with their purpose and culture and promotes their highest potential. It is creating an new way of working in support of those who are facilitating the transition of their organization from an industrial model to a knowledge paradigm and practice. This has been a part of our Mission [link: mg taylor mission] from the beginning.
click on graphic above to go to the Making, Ownership and Use
of navCenters
Return To Index
GoTo: Creative Augmentation
GoTo: Creative Habits/Embedded Processes
GoTo: Curriculum For the 21st Century
GoTo: Experience Based Education Model
GoTo: The 4 Step Recreation Process
GoTo: Information Factory
GoTo: IDIAP Dialog - 2005
GoTo: Learning-Collaborative WorkSpace
GoTo: Media as Augmentation Tool
GoTo: 22 Aspects of Memory
GoTo: MG Taylor Tool Kit
GoTo: Modeling Lanage
GoTo: PatchWorks Designs
GoTo: Practice - bringing idea into reality
GoTo: Solution Box Architecture
GoTo: ValueWeb Architecture
GoTo: Zone of Emergence Model

Matt Taylor
September 20, 2002



SolutionBox voice of this document:


click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox

posted: September 24, 2002

revised: December 17, 2008
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(note: this document is about 85% finished)

Matt Taylor 615 720 7390


Copyright© Matt Taylor 1982, 1987, 2002, 2008



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