I’ve been involved recently in a number of conversations about knowledge management. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is the tensions around

  • capturing information which is fast changing and fluid
  • the best ways of sharing information, or knowledge, usefully
  • being innovative, creative and responsive in a corporate environment where consistency and corporate memory are also valued.

These tensions have led me to think about stewardship; an old fashioned term which points in two directions.

In an organisational setting, stewardship picks up the idea that a steward acts on another’s behalf to use resources wisely. Stewards must be mindful that whatever we have at our disposal is ours to use but does not belong to us. Resources need to be used for the good of the organisation. This is what good managers do. Not for themselves, but for their team, while also ensuring that what their team achieves contributes to the organisation’s objectives.

Stewardship is also about building something so it is better when you leave than when you arrived. This is one thing good leaders do. But again, not for themselves. Although recognition may follow, the best leaders are not primarily motivated by what they gain but by what they create. Fundamentally, people are important. Managers cannot manage without them; leaders who have no followers are delusional!

I’m not suggesting that people are “soft resources” to be used or managed for organisational ends. Far from it, but people working together is how information is generated, shared and used, how innovations occur, how organisations serve their various customers and meet their goals.

In a different context I heard someone comment that we are rightly focused on being effective but that we also need to be affective. To have what we do come from the heart. I’d argue that the quality of our interactions with others and our stewardship will be better if they are affective too.