Knowledge Engineering


In the traditional approach to systems design, a system analyst, together with the ultimate end-users, or clients, for the project, will complete a functional specification of the system. At that point, the project is essentially in the hands of professional project management and programming staff, because that group possesses the knowledge and skill required to deliver the agreed upon features and functions. In the development of knowledge systems, this is simply not the case. Following the specification of function, a new problem arises. This is because it is not an algorithm that is being developed but knowledge that is being encoded for machine use.

 

The immediate problem is that traditional applications developers do not have sufficient knowledge of the applications area to complete the project from the starting point of a functional specification. This information generally exists in a variety of forms, depending on the application area. In some cases an individual or group of individuals may uniquely possess the relevant knowledge. In other cases, the knowledge may exist in the form of published materials like manuals or textbooks. In still other cases, the knowledge does not presently exist at all, and must be created and developed along with the system itself. This is an extremely difficult circumstance. Further compounding this problem is a critical factor: Regardless of the form in which the knowledge currently exists, it is not in a form that is ready for use by a knowledge system. Someone must decide what knowledge is relevant and desirable for inclusion, acquire the knowledge, and represent it in a form suitable for a knowledge system to apply. In all but trivial applications the task of representing the knowledge requires not only coding individual “chunks” of knowledge, but also organizing and structuring these individual components.

 

Historically, owing to the remoteness and enigmatic quality of artificial intelligence technologies, the person doing the actual systems development and the “expert,” or source of knowledge, were not the same. The availability of tools, in place of enigmatic technologies, has had an impact on reducing this problem. Even if one can imagine the case in which the “expert” whose knowledge is to be modeled is also an “expert” with the use of artificial intelligence development tools, there still remains a sizable problem.

 

In case where knowledge resides with some practitioner or expert, it does not exist explicitly as a series of IF …THEN rules, ready to be encoded. Most practitioners and experts find it difficult to explain explicitly what they are doing while solving problems. They are not cognizant of the underlying rules they are applying. Their expertise has been developed from numerous experiences and involves highly developed pattern recognition skills and heuristics.

 

In the case where the knowledge to be included is contained in text material like manuals, regulations, procedures, and the like, the information is still not in a form ready for inclusion in an expert system. It must be remembered that one of the most often cited advantages of expert systems is that they make explicit the knowledge that is most often implicit and unavailable for review, evaluation, dissemination, and modification. The task of making knowledge both explicit and available for systems application is that of knowledge engineering. Most literature on the development and application of knowledge systems has identified the need for individuals skilled in knowledge engineering as a critical factor to widespread use of technology.

 

Knowledge engineering involves acquiring, representing, and coding knowledge. The representation and coding aspects of systems development have been greatly impacted by these newly available tools. The speed with which prototyping can be accomplished has also helped reduce some of the difficulty in acquiring or refining knowledge. The knowledge engineer now finds it much less costly in time and effort to represent, code, and test early approaches to systems development, providing a more efficient feedback loop. This feedback loop is critical in the development of knowledge systems. The end-user/client for the project is, by nature, going to be much more involved in the systems design process. The “programmer” often is incapable of deciding if the system is behaving properly, owing to a lack of fundamental knowledge about the application area. This is simply not as strong a factor, where the programmer is capable of evaluating the accuracy and efficiency of algorithms. When the product is actionable knowledge rather than algorithms, the ability to evaluate project progress shifts to the end-user/client. This creates the increased emphasis on the feedback loop.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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Training and Development


Mr. President, and Director Training:

Spring has arrived with flowers. The buds have reappeared on bare branches again. Indeed! The March winds are the morning yawn of the year.

All and every little thing tell us
That once again ’tis Spring

Please accept my best wishes for a bright and beautiful season.

 

This time spring has brought along the advent of cricket season. And the current cricket series with India has caused a sort of fever to cricket lovers. Today is a crucial day for all of us. An important and decisive match between traditional rival teams is about to start and we are here participating in a learning exercise. You are not alone missing the glimpses of the match. My heart also joins the curious thumping of your heartbeat.

 

I have the opportunity to talk to you, the learned managers under the new system of local government, and I will avail it with honor talking relevant or maybe some irrelevant things.

 

Overtly or covertly, the district government system is new and complex. Its managers face requirements that are different from their federal, provincial, or private sector counterparts. Because of the complexity and range of those requirements, it is important for DDOs to understand the requirements specific to the district.

 

Friends! We use management and professional development to refer to those processes directed towards equipping professional managers with the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to achieve administrative objectives both now and in the future.

 

Any human development must be aligned with the entity’s mission and strategic goals in order that, through enhancing the skills, knowledge, learning ability and enthusiasm of people at every level, there will be continuous organizational and individual growth.

 

The perspectives of management and professional development are interpreted here as including the terms education, learning, training, and development which are seen as an integral part of the wider professional development framework.

 

I have the reason to believe, my dear officers, that if the training and development of managers of any department is not accorded high priority, if training is not seen as a vital component in the realization of government policies, then it is hard to accept that we have committed ourselves to management and professional development.

 

Those departments where there is a chronic under-investment in management and professional development that is the prime reason for the poor performance of the financial management or economy at large. The critique that can be constructed is disturbingly pervasive. At the macro level the education and training infrastructure, particularly when subjected to international comparisons is the major basis for consistently failing to address the needs of economic development. Training initiatives failing to provide consistent direction; concentrating on the certainties of vocational relevance rather than longer-term knowledge demands relevant to an imperfect future, and, simply, a lack of overall investment.

 

At the micro level, despite the relevance placed on bureaucratic system by successive governments, the practice of individual departments is similarly disturbing. Under-investment in management and professional development, whether measured in terms of budgets or training days, is regularly reported. All too frequently management and professional development fails to be regarded as a managerial priority or something that should be fully integrated through a learning culture into everyday practice. The traditional practice of public service, dominance of accountancy traditions and short-term-ism that characterize our bureaucratic inheritance arguably provide infertile conditions for what is essentially a long-term commitment.

 

While acknowledging the pessimistic construction that I have made, I would argue that investment in management and professional development could play a key role in initiating and facilitating change. You can thus adapt to whatever comes along and to take advantage of it, turning threats into challenges, and rising to these challenges in ways that produce increased benefit to the government and employees.

 

If I were to prescribe one process in the training of men, which is fundamental to success in any direction, it would be thoroughgoing training in the habit of accurate observation. It is a habit which every one of us should be seeking ever more to perfect.

 

All organizations, entities, and departments require some form of organizational structure to implement their strategies. Principally, structures are changed when they no longer provide the coordination, control, and direction managers, and entities require implementing strategies successfully. The ineffectiveness of structure typically results from increases in department’s revenues and levels of diversification. In particular, the formulation of strategies involving greater levels of diversification demands structural change to match each strategy. Some strategies require elaborate structures and strategic control, while others focus on financial control.

 

Allow me to briefly converse about strategic leadership. If you are a strategic leader, you have the ability to anticipate, maintain flexibility, and empower others to create strategic change as necessary. Multifunctional in nature, strategic leadership involves managing through others, managing an organization rather than a functional subunit, and coping with change that seems to be increasing exponentially in the current administrative landscape. Because of the complexity and global nature of this landscape, as a strategic leader, you must learn how to influence human behavior effectively in an uncertain environment. By word or by personal example, and through your ability to envision the future, as effective strategic leader you can meaningfully influence the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings of those with whom you work. The ability to manage human capital may be the most critical of your leadership skills.

 

From now on, in the 21st century, many managers working in government across country will be challenged to alter their mind-sets to cope with the rapid and complex changes occurring in the global economy.

 

A managerial mind-set is the set of assumptions, premises, and accepted wisdom that bounds—or frames—a manager’s understanding of the department and the core competencies it uses in the pursuit of strategic role. Your continuous success depends on your willingness to challenge continually your managerial frames.

 

Today competition means not product versus product, company versus company, or department versus department. It is a case of mindset versus mindset, managerial frame versus managerial frame. Competing on the basis of mindsets demands that strategic leaders learn how to deal with diverse and cognitively complex situations. One of the most challenging changes is overcoming your own successful mindset.

 

As effective leaders you should always be willing to make candid and courageous, yet pragmatic decisions—decisions that may be difficult, but necessary in light of internal and external conditions. You should solicit corrective feedback from peers, superiors, and employees about the value of your difficult decisions. Unwillingness to accept feedback may be key reason talented executives fail. This highlights the need for you to solicit feedback consistently from those affected by your decisions.

 

Because strategic leadership is a requirement of strategic success, and because departments may be poorly led and over-managed, working in the 21st century competitive landscape you are challenged to develop effective strategic leaders.

 

At district level you are the top administrative managers. And top-level mangers are an important resource for departments seeking to formulate and implement strategies effectively. A key reason for this is that the strategic decisions made by top managers influence how the department is designed and whether goals will be achieved. Thus, a critical element of your organizational success is having a team with superior managerial skills.

 

You often use your discretion (or latitude for action) when making strategic decisions, including those concerned with the effective implementation of strategies. You must therefore be action oriented: thus, the decisions that you make should spur the department to action.

 

Since you are top executives, you have a major effect on your department’s culture. Your values are critical in shaping your department’s cultural values. Accordingly, you have an important effect on organizational activities and performance. The significance of this effect should not be underestimated. Permit me to remind you that acquiring of culture is the development of an avid hunger for knowledge and beauty.

 

 

Add innovation and creativity in all your endeavors. It will certainly pay off. Effective leaders focus their work on the key issues that ultimately shape department’s ability to perform effectively.

 

And in the words of Charles de Gaulle, “Every man of action has a strong dose of egotism, pride, hardness, and cunning. But all those things will be forgiving him, indeed, they will be regarded as high qualities, if he can make them the means to achieve great ends.” To get others to come into your ways of thinking, you must go over to theirs; and it is necessary to follow, in order to lead.

 

While concluding, let me ask: do you know how do geniuses come up with ideas? What is common to the thinking style that produced “Mona Lisa,” as well as the one that spawned the theory of relativity? What characterizes the thinking strategies of the Einsteins, Edisons, da Vincis, Darwins, Picassos, Michelangelos, Galileos, Freuds, and Mozarts of history? What can we learn from them?

 

“Much learning does not teach man to have intelligence.”

This is the quotation from the philosopher Heraclitus, who spanned the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Twenty-five hundred years later, he’s still right. You might spend most of your life going to school, reading, looking up facts, acquiring information, and memorizing it. But, although you’ll become more informed, in the end it won’t make you any smarter. Is a reference library smart? Is a computer with a vast storehouse of voluminous data smart? Is the simple act of digesting and then disgorging information either smart or impressive? My answer is simple: “No.”

 

Anyway, I hereby formally inaugurate this training course.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Thank you for listening.

God bless you!

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight