ABCs of KMAgile decision-making

The problem solving pattern [Agile decision-making series]

This is part 2 of a series of articles on modelling and enhancing how decision-making occurs in an organisational context.

Earlier decision-making models often resemble the tale of the “blind and the elephant”,1 each describing only one aspect of a generic and universally applicable problem-solving pattern. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the multiple definitions of knowledge management are also often accused of only describing part of a larger whole.

By unifying the components of the various decision-making models described in part 1 of this series, it is possible to generically describe problem solving as taking place through three related cycles of activity.

Problem solving cyclesEach of these cycles serves a different purpose:

  • Information processing refers to the gathering of needed information to either develop solutions to the problem or act to put a solution in place
  • Knowledge processing refers to the development of solutions, testing of their validity, and selection of the best performing
  • Business processing refers to the actual execution of actions identified as necessary to solve a problem, and determining their effectiveness.

The problem-solving pattern is fractal (self-similar) in the sense that working towards a solution for a large problem will almost certainly identify several smaller problems. Solving these problems will generate a local iteration of the problem solving pattern, which in turn can generate further problems, and so on.

For example, typically the act of identifying alternative solutions for a problem will require the solving of several information processing problems (to research similar, previous attempts), knowledge processing problems (to adapt these to the actual situation), and business processing problems (to write up the options to communicate to the team).

A simpler representation of the underlying knowledge and environmental transformations during decision-making can be found in the AKI model described by David Williams. Here, the “action” step can mapped to the business processing cycle.

The role of KM is to identify opportunities to intervene and improve how any of these steps in the problem solving pattern are carried out.

In the next article we will look at methodologies that can be fruitfully applied as KM interventions to improve the quality of decisions being made.


  1. Bonanno, K., “Knowledge management: a people process”, in Nimon, M. (ed), Connecting challenges: issues for teacher and children”s librarians, Auslib Press, 2003, pp26–33.
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Stephen Bounds

Stephen Bounds is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist with a wide range of experience across the government and private sectors. As founding editor of RealKM and Executive, Information Management at Cordelta, Stephen provides clear strategic thinking along with a hands-on approach to help organisations successfully develop and implement modern information systems.

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