What They Didnt Tell You About Knowledge Management

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Without proper knowledge management, your team members can easily lose sight of where they want to be headed and may not know how to get there when they figure it out. But, with KM acting as both a compass and a roadmap for your employees, your team will always know which way they should be going—and the best way to get there. When a valued employee retires or moves on from your company, they tend to leave a pretty big hole within the organization.

Finally—and perhaps worst of all—you lose the tacit, intangible knowledge your former employee had accumulated throughout their tenure with your company. While these problems will always exist on some level when losing an employee, effective knowledge management can help minimize the damage they do to your business. With regard to workflow gaps, your team will have access to all documentation related to the empty position.

With this clear insight into the duties and best practices of the position, your team will be better equipped to fill any workflow gaps left by the previous employee. KM also aides the process of employee onboarding, as it ensures new hires have everything they need to start being productive from Day One.

With proper knowledge management processes in place, your new employees should always know their next steps. An effective approach to knowledge management also benefits your customers—in two key ways. For one thing, management of customer-facing knowledge involves creating and delivering content for self-service purposes.

This allows them to navigate the use of your products or services complete with any troubles they may face along the way without needing to reach out to your team for assistance. Because your customers can solve smaller issues on their own, your team will likely experience fewer support tickets for said issues. Basically, the more knowledge-focused your organization, the more focused on growth your team will inherently be. More than just using their collected knowledge in various ways, KM-focused teams also continually look to improve the knowledge they hold, as well. As we said earlier on, knowledge management is a systematic process to be undertaken by your organization.

In order for your knowledge management initiative to be successful, it must be approached intentionally. This means developing KM-related processes, procedures, and protocols for your team to follow. Still, in the interest of keeping your KM-related initiatives headed to your true north, your efforts must be intentional from the get-go. As we discuss in our article on knowledge management systems , knowledge can be presented in a variety of formats, on a variety of platforms. While creating a robust text-based library of knowledge is a good start, creating multimedia content can put your organization way ahead of your competition in this regard:.

It just makes sense:. Earlier, we talked about how introducing knowledge management into your organization can help maintain and enhance alignment throughout your organization. This alignment must at least be somewhat in place before you try to get your KM-related initiatives off the ground.

There will always be more for your team to learn. Your organization will always encounter new experiences—both good and bad. Your audience, competition, and industry will always be evolving in some way.


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Each new piece of information that trickles through your organization provides an opportunity for growth. Knowledge management is about ensuring your team takes full advantage of these opportunities not just as they come to them—but as they actively work to discover them, as well. This first step is pretty straightforward, and can be done by answering a single question:. You might be aiming to create a comprehensive database of knowledge for your internal teams to pull from as they go about their duties.

Or, you may want to create a customer-facing knowledge management system that allows your audience to quickly find the information they need to accomplish their goals. Moreover, you also want to define your rationale for undertaking such an intensive initiative in the first place. These roles can include:.

The concept is by no means limited to the military. Larry Prusak maintains that in the corporate world the most common cause of KM implementation failure is that so often the project team is disbanded and the team members almost immediately reassigned elsewhere before there is any debriefing or after-action report assembled. Any organization where work is often centered on projects or teams needs to pay very close attention to this issue and set up an after-action mechanism with clearly delineated responsibility for its implementation.

What Process Management and Knowledge Management Have in Common

A particularly instructive example of a "lesson learned" is one recounted by Mark Mazzie , a well known KM consultant. The story comes from his experience in the KM department at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Wyeth had recently introduced a new pharmaceutical agent intended primarily for pediatric use.

Wyeth expected it to be a notable success because, unlike its morning, noon, and night competitors, it needed to be administered only once a day, and that would make it much easier for the caregiver to ensure that the child followed the drug regimen, and it would be less onerous for the child.

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Sales of the drug commenced well but soon flagged. One sales rep what the pharmaceutical industry used to call detail men , however, by chatting with her customers, discovered the reason for the disappointing sales and also recognized the solution. The problem was that kids objected strenuously to the taste of the drug, and caregivers were reporting to prescribing physicians that they couldn't get their kid to continue taking the drug, so the old stand-by would be substituted. The simple solution was orange juice, a swig of which quite effectively masked the offensive taste. If the sales rep were to explain to the physician that the therapy should be conveyed to the caregiver as the pill and a glass of orange juice taken simultaneously at breakfast, then there was no dissatisfaction and sales were fine.

What They Didn't Tell You about Knowledge Management

The obvious question that arises is what is there to encourage the sales rep to share this knowledge? The sales rep is compensated based on salary small , and bonus large. If she shares the knowledge, she jeopardizes the size of her bonus, which is based on her comparative performance. This raises the issue, discussed below, that KM is much more than content management. The implementation of a lessons learned system is complex both politically and operationally. Many of the questions surrounding such a system are difficult to answer.

Are employees free to submit to the system un-vetted? Who, if anyone, is to decide what constitutes a worthwhile lesson learned?

Knowledge Management LB11 - Knowledge Management Cycle

Most successful lessons learned implementations have concluded that such a system needs to be monitored and that there needs to be a vetting and approval mechanism for items that are posted as lessons learned. How long do items stay in the system? Who decides when an item is no longer salient and timely? Most successful lessons learned systems have an active weeding or stratification process. Without a clearly designed process for weeding, the proportion of new and crisp items inevitably declines, the system begins to look stale, and usage and utility falls.

Deletion, of course, is not necessarily loss and destruction.


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Using carefully designed stratification principles, items removed from the foreground can be archived and moved to the background but still made available. However, this procedure needs to be in place before things start to look stale, and a good taxonomically based retrieval system needs to be created.

What They Didn't Tell You About Knowledge Management -

These questions need to be carefully thought out and resolved, and the mechanisms designed and put in place, before a lessons-learned system is launched. Inattention can easily lead to failure and the creation of a bad reputation that will tar subsequent efforts. Communities of practice emphasize, build upon, and take advantage of the social nature of learning within or across organizations.

In small organizations, conversations around the water cooler are often taken for granted, but in larger, geographically distributed organizations, the water cooler needs to become virtual. Similarly, organizations find that when workers relinquish a dedicated company office to work online from home or on the road, the natural knowledge sharing that occurs in social spaces needs to be replicated virtually.

In the context of KM, CoPs are generally understood to mean electronically linked communities. Electronic linkage is not essential, of course, but since KM arose in the consulting community from the awareness of the potential of intranets to link geographically dispersed organizations, this orientation is understandable.

A classic example of the deployment of CoPs comes from the World Bank. Subscribe to: Post Comments Atom. If you like this, please click to retweet Tweet. My latest book. Search This Blog. Popular Posts What is a Lesson Learned? Nick Milton Nick Milton I am a director for Knoco, the international firm of knowledge management consultants, offering a range of knowledge management services, including knowledge management strategy, knowledge management framework development, and knowledge management implementation services. I also have an interest in Lessons Learned View my complete profile. Follow by Email.

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