Knowledge Management (KM) is a vitally important discipline and it happens to be something that I am particularly interested in. But before we can explore this subject in depth we need to understand exactly what KNOWLEDGE is.
I have come up with this explanation to define knowledge:
Data is a by-product of the business process.
Information is data placed in context.
Knowledge is information that can be used.
I know that there are many different explanations for knowledge but this short summary should suffice.
So why manage knowledge in the first place?
Well it simple. You’re in business because of what you know. Plain and simple.
You can do what you do and offer what you offer because you – and those that work with you – have a key skill set that allows you to undertake your daily tasks – and charge for it!
Now if one of those key knowledge holders suddenly became unavailable – due to illness, resignation or some other unforseen reason – would you be able to access that knowledge in a timely and affordable manner?
Also, KM really helps new employees to ‘hit the ground with their feet running’ so to speak. To quickly catch up and answer some of the more common questions effectively.
One of the most import things to understand about Knowledge Management is that it is not an I.T. discipline but rather an H.R. discipline. In fact it is more of a ‘corporate culture’ paradigm than anything else. A company could have all the appropriate KM tools in place but if the end users don’t see the importance of fostering KM it will all come to naught.
The first step to creating an effective KM strategy is to draw a Knowledge Map for your organisation.
- How does knowledge enter your organisation?
External Consultants …
- How does knowledge move within your company?
- How is knowledge stored/accessed within your company?
Internal Library …
- How does knowledge leave your organisation?
Once you have established the basic flow of knowledge withing your organisation you can take steps to manage it.
As stated earlier it is imperative that you understand that it is a ‘culture’ thing. At my wife’s current place of employment they have a knowledge management system that is so complicated to use that no one ever does. You first need to logon, then navigate through a maze of categories, then tick boxes and descriptions etc all of which make it a prohibitive exercise.
So what can we do to encourage a corporate KM culture?
Incentivise! Eg: …
– Give free movie tickets away to someone and their partner to the person whose submission is selected on certain criteria.
– Perhaps once a month give away a free lunch to someone who reviews a selected submission into the KM system.
– Offer cash bonuses to employess for valuable information provided during an exit interview.
( The importance of exit interviews and their proper management is a very important facet of KM and needs more space and time than this blog allows )
So remember, identify your knowledge ecosystem and incentivise a KM culture within your organisation and you will reap the rewards.