When you joined your first company, you probably went through a training program that taught you what to do and how.
You probably also had a line manager who coached you on the job ball by ball.
As months grew into years you’d have realized that you learned quite a lot of additional stuff all on your own, or is it?
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management in an organization is a planned and integral part of continuous improvement ensuring every employee has all the information he needs to perform all the tasks his role demands and fill all knowledge gaps himself through a structured system of knowledge capture, storage, and transfer.
So the way information is stored on various drives, and internet sites are not by accident but to ensure continuous learning and analysis.
It took ten thousand failed attempts before Edison invented the light bulb but because the knowledge was captured we do not have to repeat them. Hence it is not just what went right but also what did not work that needs to be captured.
Still with me?
Let me walk you through what Knowledge Management is and what it means for your business, organization or team.
Knowledge Management Strategies
With employee turnover at all levels, knowledge management has attained strategic significance as large numbers of employees have to be continually brought on board and in real-time.
Loss of people means not just loss of Knowledge but also an integral part of how the organization is run.
Sometimes when key people leave the loss may not just be of knowledge of how the business is run or task performed but also of the vision or the strategic direction of the organization itself. This is especially the case in startups.
The strategy should hence be to provide the right information to the right people at the right time as a matter of choice and not by chance, by capturing, identifying and distributing company, job, research, project, sales, software etc. information in a structured manner so that an employee can take on the batten from another seamlessly.
This information will also form the basis of training modules for the induction of new employees into particular functions.
There are many basic Knowledge Management Strategies you could adopt or you could develop your own.
Knowledge Management Process
The knowledge management process of your organization has to deliberately capture information first and foremost.
Does everyone who has the knowledge or generates it by virtue of his role in the organization capture it? The answer depends on; whether he has to or not.
Let’s go back in time and see what we can learn.
Ancient Indian Vedic knowledge has been lost as the process adopted for its transfer was orally from father to son with no written records and shrouded in secrecy.
Knowledge is power not only for an organization but also for the individual wielding it and hence there would be resistance to documenting key information. This is the reason many organizations structure their deliverables in a manner that involves data or knowledge capture in some ways.
For example, the number of finished reports published, submitted, uploaded onto the SharePoint etc. as a means of quantifying performance and delivery of targets with the hidden agenda of knowledge capture
Next in importance is to structure the storage and retrieval systems.
There are many places the information can be stored, the company’s intranet site comes to mind immediately but various department team rooms and shared drives are nearer to the employee and more private in terms of access as the information is valuable also to a competitor organization and may need to be access controlled.
Companies which are complex in their structure and vast in their operations and reach also have very complicated knowledge management systems stage wise, encompassing all levels of the organization.
Even a secretary has information that has to be confidentially stored and transmitted to a new incumbent should there be a reshuffle or turnover.
Information is captured and archived by reference to author and keywords to ensure quick retrieval and identification. Key learnings are captured as a capsule in important areas of operation like manufacturing, Quality, and research to enhance usefulness.
Abstracts and summaries save valuable time giving out only the crux of the information stored and in a usable manner. Even the formatting of this information capture is controlled e.g., the format for a visit report, a note, a research report, a consumer insight report may be rigidly laid out to enable completeness in data capture and standardization in its content.
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In today’s flat organizations and networked culture, lateral and spider web collaborations have gained sudden importance.
How can you collaborate with many people working on similar things in your organization locally or even internationally?
Can you get a solution for your accounting problem form another peer overseas?
Can you ask an expert in another country why you are not getting the proper results from your equipment?
Can you look at the success of a consumer promotion on a similar product and in a similar geography and if not can you ask someone there?
Social internal communication platforms and chat rooms are now gaining currency everywhere where like-minded employees mentor, share and even train others apart from sharing valuable insights and information.
In some cases, experts are mapped out onto networks with workflows routed to them such that when someone asks a question related to their area of expertise the software automatically routes the query to them and they then will have to send in a response within a given time.
Someone once told me that anyone who spends five years in a department becomes an expert in his role. Leveraging this expertise for the larger interests of the organization is one of the objectives of the knowledge management system.
Importance of Knowledge Management
That’s fine, you say. But why is it important to you and your organization NOW?
When everyone who needs a piece of information knows exactly where to look and how to search the database or document management system and finds it, the company saves a very valuable resource: time.
While working on a project if you know all the different people in your organization who might have worked on a similar project or even the same project at a different time and all their learnings and conclusions, you may not perform have the tasks or experiments that you’d otherwise have had to do. This saves another resource: money.
As the awareness of Knowledge Management is steadily increasing, companies that use Knowledge Management are looking for people who are trained and have knowledge management certification to run their Knowledge Mangement system.
Knowledge Management Theory
The most important theory about Knowledge Mangement you should know before you invest in it is this:
i. Communication flow is used to organized Knowledge in your Knowledge Management systems
ii. Knowledge Organization is almost a mirror of people organization in most parts of an organization
iii. A feedback system is a crucial part of any Knowledge Management system
The success of an organization depends on how it continually reinvents itself.
For this, all employees should know how to store and access knowledge within the organization. This helps to learn from the past and also to enhance performance in the future, in the spirit of an ever-transforming, ever improving and ever-growing organizational culture.
Knowledge captured can be systematically analyzed and used in the organization for decision making and training. Researchers are well versed with knowledge analyses.
They routinely use tools like meta-analyses of various publications in order to glean significant information first before even starting their next research project.
Employees at every level should be trained to perform this task as everybody cannot know what the organization as a whole knows. Knowledge in the brain is useful to only one and can be lost or forgotten but the same document can be useful to many saving efforts for a lifetime.
Analyzing information also reveals various patterns and relationships that can miss even a trained eye. This can be very useful in choosing between difficult alternatives and key decision makers.
Many a time this improves accuracy, reduces wasteful expenditure, retain or expand market share and ensures success in a highly competitive marketplace where being first time right is very valuable to an organization.
Analyzing the captured knowledge can also reveal learnings that can then be systematically transformed into concepts that eventually influence the work culture and content and the way we perform.
Experts then transfer this new understanding into their training programs to ensure dissemination at the right levels and times. Sometimes this is what makes the employee different from another in a similar role in a different organization.
What did the famous seer, Nostradamus see? What did he want to convey? What do we hence need to do? What should we be prepared for?
Although the internet is rife with various interpretations of his prophecies, the language used by Nostradamus in the writing of his scrolls and the intention of secrecy does not leave much on the table for the seeker.
Though current knowledge management practices have far evolved from the scroll times, we still grapple with the same issues of unwillingness to share valuable information, piracy, and storage in an unintelligible manner.
If people looking for your information are likely to miss it all together, misinterpret it or miss the point you’re trying to make, then an opposite effect of information for information’s sake leading to overload and apathy can overtake and ruin your knowledge management process.
A culture of reward and recognition for knowledge created should be followed by the recognition given to the employee for sharing this knowledge through all possible channels, like mentorship of other employees, documenting the knowledge within the company’s system and circulating the learnings through expert networks.
This can build peer pressure to goad even low performers towards continuous improvement which cannot happen without continuous learning.
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