Knowledge Management Revisited
This article is arguing that Knowledge Management (henceforth KM) is essentially about cultivating a knowledge sharing norm in a given group of people, rather than implementing technological solutions. The basics of KM can be divided into six building blocks, all central to constructing a successful KM strategy.
- Governance - There must be a very close link between the KM strategy and the overall business strategy in the sense that the former should mimic the latter closely. Hence, the normal working processes should not be altered to suit KM but rather that the KM program should be tailored around the existing processes and routines. As for leadership it is of the essence to secure executive support and assign clear ownership of the KM assignment.
- Culture and Behaviour – The key to success is the employees’ willingness and ability to share and contribute knowledge. Their attitude can truly make or break the entire project. Genuine attempts should be made to involve the end users already at the planning state in order to promote knowledge sharing.
- Content – A knowledge map should be formulated such that the work units’ information needs are laid bare. The relevant information should then be gathered and distributed in accordance with the content management process. In addition it is of the essence that the information / knowledge is perpetually updated.
- Technology – To be useful, the technology tools need to fit in with the current IT structure, but also allow for information sharing and discussion e.g. communities and portal solutions.
- Application – where, and how, shall the newfound knowledge be put to use in the organisation? Broadly speaking there are two different areas: first it can be business processes, functions, product categories and so forth. Second it can be groups of workers, e.g. communities with common interests, who need to learn from each other and benefit from discussions, both physical and virtual.
- Evaluation – The value of KM is reputed to be hard to measure. This is not necessarily true provided that the KM strategy has been planned and carried out in accordance with the above. If so, it has been interlaced with the daily processes, as well as the overall goals of the company to the extent that the practical benefits are clear to see. As suggested by Charles P. Seeley and William M. Dietrick it might be helpful to create three categories of outcomes: Application Benefits, e.g. improved communication, Intermediate Benefits, e.g. product innovations and Final outcomes, e.g. increased profitability.
Against this backdrop, it appears reasonable to argue that the heart of KM is made up of soft values. Further to this point, adherence to a stringent methodology can save KM from the alleged onset of early rigor mortis. Although useful, technology is but a means to an end.