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For enterprise, what an organisation ‘knows’ defines the standard of its operations. Capturing and having open access to organisational knowledge can create sustained competitive advantages by driving both performance and innovation.
If managed correctly, knowledge can become a company’s most valuable asset. It can be shared, retrieved, added to and utilised in perpetuity.
In our three-part article series, Foundations of Knowledge Management, our experts provide practical tips that can be applied in your business.
Our three-part series covers:
In the first two articles of this foundations series, we examined how to harness the value of information and five ways that capturing knowledge can bring value to your organisation. Now we discuss some of the most important attributes of a successful knowledge management process.
Knowledge is potential; action is power – Tony Robbins
Knowledge Management is a formal, structured initiative to create effective processes for knowledge capture, storage and retrieval. Capturing knowledge involves assessing what information is produced by your business and applying analysis and interpretation to this information to give it meaning. It also involves identifying what experiential knowledge already resides in the minds of employees and codifying it.
These processes allow the knowledge to be stored and accessed by other individuals in the organisation. They help to facilitate data-driven decision making, to shorten learning curves for employees and to drive new product and service innovation.
But like any important organisational change, a knowledge management process must be implemented with ownership and commitment. Without the correct processes in place, businesses risk a scenario where they not only lose the opportunity to extract value from organisational knowledge, but create additional cost (e.g. for KM tools) without commensurate payoff.
To ensure your organisation is extracting maximum value from its knowledge, follow a structured process based on the following four stages:
1. Knowledge Creation – Conducting a knowledge audit
Organisations create a vast amount of information, not all of which is valuable. Performing an internal knowledge audit is a practical way to determine what knowledge is important to your organisation. At a minimum, a knowledge audit should ask the following questions:
a. What information is being created by the organisation?
b. What knowledge is key to optimising the operation of the organisation?
c. Where is this knowledge being generated (i.e. is it produced from raw data or does it reside in the heads of employees as tacit knowledge)?
d. Who needs access to what knowledge?
This a strategic step that will inform the scope and focus of the organisation’s knowledge management strategy.
2. Knowledge Preservation – Preserving important knowledge
Once you understand what knowledge is important to your organisation, the next step is to preserve this knowledge. This involves implementing processes to ensure raw data is properly interpreted and analysed and that tacit knowledge residing in the heads of employees is codified into explicit knowledge.
There is a general assumption that knowledge preservation equates to recording knowledge in an electronic format. However, knowledge preservation strategies can also include internal meetings, mentoring programs and on the job training programs. These strategies can be particularly useful to preserve tacit knowledge, which due to its experiential nature, can be difficult to codify.
3. Knowledge Distribution – Getting the right knowledge to the right people
Knowledge distribution is all about ensuring that the right people have access to the right knowledge. At this stage, it’s vital to recognise that just because knowledge is accessible does not mean it will be used effectively.
Optimising knowledge distribution involves optimising the interaction between hard tools (i.e. knowledge databases, file storing software, etc.) and soft tools (i.e. cultivating an organisational culture that values sharing information and insights within the organisation). This is a key stage where a knowledge management process can fail and requires significant planning for successful execution.
4. Knowledge Use – Measuring and ensuring effective use
Now that the knowledge is available, your organisation should make sure that the knowledge is being used to its greatest advantage.
Collecting data and metrics about who is accessing and sharing what information within the organisation can be used as an effective feedback mechanism to critically analyse the operation of the first three steps and to evaluate if any changes should be made.
These four steps provide a strong foundation for an effective knowledge management strategy to enable your organisation to fully extract the value from its knowledge. As part of the feedback process, it is necessary to continually assess your organisation’s knowledge needs and evaluate knowledge management processes implementation.
Interested in what you’ve read? Follow our Knowledge Management experts for more insights or contact our Knowledge Management team to find how we can help you leverage knowledge inside your organisation.
Contributing authors: Matt McLean and Amy Jackson