Knowledge Management is the deliberate act of recognizing, validating, organizing, storing and communicating information relevant to the functioning of an organization, to key employees, to enable them preempt questions, solve problems, make decisions, change or rework strategies and processes in order to prevent obsolescence and maintain their competitive advantage.
You need to constantly review and update the knowledge management process itself to ensure relevance and competitiveness. Best practices from these 5 areas; knowledge collection, incorporation, mapping, resource cultivation and harnessing tech, will help you rethink your processes in a new light.
Look In and Look Out
Creating and adding value by utilizing knowhow, experience, judgment, and learning is a finite process with infinite mines.
These wells and mines of knowledge may exist within an organization, and just as likely, outside, and may need to be ushered in. Learning from competition may come to your mind as an often used quip and just as important may be to learn from any individual, company or industry known for a best practice. If it works for them it most likely will for you as well. So you need to look inwards and outside your company to obtain complete and competitive knowledge.
Your firm cannot rely too long on current knowledge and must strategize to actively acquire knowledge of new markets, technologies, recipes, consumer insight, value addition, and at times even the way the legal and regulatory environment is shaping up in the geographies you operate in.
The potential to learn from many sources, if built into the knowledge management system, will enable you to deliver superior value with your competitive advantage becoming accretive over time.
When you have decided to look outward, make sure the flow of knowledge between the two organizations is smooth and supported by established measures for its implementation. The learning process is smoother if the knowledge resides in a sister concern or joint venture.
Establishing an agreement with a non-compete or joint research clause and agreeing with clear guidelines on which part of the knowledge belongs to which organization and how it can be utilized or patented may be an option you can explore. Poaching expertise may be the last option, including the option of outright purchase of the knowledge, but this could to be an expensive process most of the time.
Digest well Avoid Constipation
It’s easy to constipate on knowledge when you acquire or store it for its own sake. You will suddenly find yourself overwhelmed with the quantity and diffusion of information leading to decision paralysis. For your knowledge management strategy to be successful, the sequence from knowledge creation to dissemination has to marry re-evaluation, re-adjustment, and re-thinking of the processes to entune with the new learning. This leads to optimal processes and working conditions.
The continuous sharpening of knives, in terms of knowledge, skills, technology and in some cases behavior, ultimately gives you the winning edge that differentiates the value offered to your customers versus your competitor.
You need to know what to imbibe. Understanding your company’s value proposition becomes critical here in terms of what exactly contributes to improved organizational outcomes and results. It’s a step too easy to fall into the trap of ascribing more value to apparently valuable information but which is not critical to the fulfillment of your promise to the consumer.
Healthy digestion should naturally lead to healthy assimilation as well. Here you need to chew over the importance of linking all knowledge processes within your organization. Different parts of your value chain generate and use different bits of knowledge. The integration of all into one drives organizational purpose. The process that stores information in a silo will tend to become your weakest link in future.
Map to Understand
Prepare your knowledge map using mapping tools. Mindmap works like magic. Differentiate the focus areas from the lacking areas.
Focus area: To ensure your knowledge management processes are integrated with your business processes, you need to specify the focus areas, which will be your value proposition and business critical knowledge. Map and use this knowledge to realize strategic objectives, e.g., improving manufacturing efficiency, reducing service costs or reducing downtimes.
Organizational priorities need to be linked with knowledge priorities. Specific processes need to be given measurable outcomes e.g. savings. This value chain has to promote full organization’s participation in key management periodically reviewing knowledge needed, available, gap and allocate resources to fill this gap.
Lacking areas: We are in the knowledge era and the future belongs to companies with knowledge management ingrained in their DNA. In order to develop strategies to exploit the knowledge in products, processes, services, practices, and norms, you need to find gaps and plug them by accessing, developing or buying this lacking knowledge. You need to harness technology and use measurable models and analytics to constantly measure this gap or lack. Keeping an eye on the width of this gap will surely be akin to keeping your finger on the pulse of the organization.
Convert People to Resources
If you are in the same industry, chances are, you are competing with the same resources.
How effectively you are utilizing these resources is a function of your embedded processes and standard work practices, management practices, stage of evolution of the organization, complexities within the organizational culture, environment and social fabric, skills and know how that exists that the firm is able to pay for and retain and finally pools of cumulative experience.
Every one of these factors is directly affected by knowledge embedding over time and like the proverbial elephant can be valuable resources or degenerate into redundancy and liability.
If your business is knowledge intensive, you need to first locate stakeholders of highly valued activities. The next step is to establish resources and recipients of critical knowledge and identify the assets needed in each step of the process in order to create an inventory of explicit and tacit knowledge used and needed.
In a resource based organization, the knowledge within becomes the center of its competitiveness. This is particularly true in certain technology intensive and new generation organizations.
The cultivation, development, and retention of these resources hence become its primary need.
How valuable are your employees to you?
Imagine for a minute half of them working for your key competitor.
How much do you lose?
Learning in this context becomes a more complex issue and has a value attached to it and every employee with tacit knowledge will have a quantifiable replacement value.
Alliances and collaborations with external partners enable firms to learn from each other and thus accelerate the movement of knowledge.
Cultivating resources necessitates an ambient organizational culture, objective setting and reward system.
When knowledge capture and sharing are enumerated in the objectives, resistance is reduced. Motivation can be built around incentives for sharing. Recognition as an expert within the organization and open recognition through awards and promotions go a long way.
More and more in our networked society, with every bit of new knowledge making a difference to millions of lives instantaneously, e.g., through publications, blogs, lectures at conferences, or sharing in knowledge communities, an employee’s recognition externally is gaining in importance.
Tech the Trouble
Technology has vast applications in knowledge management and can be adapted to capture, store and use knowledge. While software tends to be complicated, the tools themselves need to be designed such that the user is prompted to the right place.
Different groups of workers, focused at different types of activities, at different locations in the company have different requirements and levels of knowledge use and generation. All IT systems need to be integrated into the knowledge management system to ensure communication and crosstalk to be seamless and connecting processes throughout the organization.
Every activity involves learning and boredom, the more repetitive the activity the more the latter. Tasks that have been specialized to the extent where thought and learning are not required, have been quickly replaced by technology.
We are today in the robotic age where the focus is entirely on maximizing the scope of tasks that can be mechanized. A crucial element that will be missing in future generations will, therefore, be the little nuggets of learning that smoothen the wheels of operation on a daily basis.
Can you be replaced by a robot?
The answer to this question leads you to think of the judgement and refinement your experience brings into decision making that the robot will not be able to.
Have you asked yourself as to what extent technology should be an enabler in your firm and where should you draw the line?
On a final note,
Vastly different are the knowledge management issues in small vs big organizations and in the manufacturing/product vs the service industry. You first need to know what business critical knowledge is and isolate methods for its capture.
Start by looking within your organization, but like an antivirus update, you periodically need to download or import to fill your knowledge gaps that will keep on arising. Make sure this gap doesn’t go too wide especially if you are in the newer economy. Learning and implementation have to be done by the staff and competency management here are essential.
By recruiting the right hands, you can delay redundancies.
New knowledge will be wasted if not immediately incorporated in renewing your systems, refurbishing your products or changing your processes and employee commitment tends to get reduced subsequently if they think its just routine knowledge capture.
Invest in your people through training to maintain productivity, or soon you will find they can all be replaced by robots. Strong leadership commitment is the backbone of any successful knowledge management system or process.
As Peter F Drucker, the American management guru once said, “The single greatest challenge facing managers in the developed countries of the word is to raise the productivity of knowledge and service workers” which brings to focus the importance of the manner in which knowledge is handled within an organization.
Knowledge Bases are essential for any organization focussed on improving their Knowledge Management. Do check out our own Helpie WordPress Knowledge Base Plugin to take your organization’s Knowledge Management to the next level.