“In high-performance organizations, employees share knowledge with their colleagues at a rate four times greater than that of workers in lower-performing firms. That communication is supported by rewarding workers for learning, providing tools for creating and sharing learning content, and making knowledge sharing a performance expectation at all organizational levels.” — ATD Research
Retiring workforce, keeping pace in a highly competitive work world, building upon existing organizational knowledge capital are some of the reasons clients have asked me about knowledge management. Here are a few things that I typically recommend that they keep in mind:
There are really 2 different strategies for knowledge management and an organization must choose and support only one for success. Some organizations use both, but one strategy must be the focus and the second must be in more of a supporting role. Which strategy an organization chooses is based on what the company does, and how it works with clients.
Re-use Strategy – Knowledge is captured and stored in a database. It can be accessed by anyone in the company. Basically, the knowledge is captured, separated from the person, and made reusable. What types of organizations should consider this strategy? Those that:
- build standardized products
- deal with the same problems repeatedly
- have mature products and have a process with well-defined tasks for developing and selling those products that leverages explicit knowledge
Personalization strategy – Knowledge is shared via direct person-to-person contact from the person that developed the knowledge, to the person needing it. The focus isn’t really on storing knowledge, it is to help foster dialogue between individuals so knowledge can be accessed and communicated. Knowledge is shared through one-on-one dialogue. Often, individuals with the knowledge and experience that is being sought takes on the role of project advisor. What types of organizations should consider this strategy? Those that:
- don’t have set solutions, but rather create custom solutions for their clients that solve unique problems and needs
- focus on product innovation need to share information in a way that isn’t easily supported by capturing and reusing
- use tacit knowledge acquired through personal experience to solve problems
Audit & Curate
Organizations must have a knowledge management strategy that includes curating the content to ensure that it is easily accessed, relevant, and accurate. The strategy must include identifying, auditing, validating for accuracy, quantifying its importance, tagging, and managing. Without a solid audit and curation strategy, vast amounts of knowledge and information float around the organization, some good, some bad, all difficult and frustrating to find.
Complete Support From All Levels
Successful implementation of knowledge requires the complete support of senior leadership. Only full by-in by senior leaders can overcome any resistance within the organization to the knowledge management strategy. Additionally, real incentives for participation by the workforce is critical. The level and quality of information shared by employees must be measured and analyzed. Results should be included as part of the performance review process and made part of annual compensation.
Of course a prerequisite for all of the above is a strong learning culture. A quote from Nigel Paine, former Head of Training and Development at the BBC sums it up nicely: “A strong learning culture fosters the ability and desire to move information around the organization fast, and create opportunities for staff to learn from one another.”