The Knowledge Management (KM) process has been identified and mapped in a variety of nuanced ways, but it can be summarized in three basic steps: Collect, Codify and Share.
Rather than offering another article or diagram on these three steps, we’re going to talk about a different set of three. Let’s take a step back to look at the top 3 considerations when developing or revising your Knowledge Management strategy and plans. They will set you on the right path to maximize your investments and resources.
1. Understand the flow of knowledge in your organization
Knowledge Management incorporates the flow of information from collection to codification to sharing, but before you jump into that process, make sure you understand how knowledge flows (and where it gets trapped or diverted) within the people and teams in your organization. Consider the following to get started:
- Determine your most critically important knowledge – What is it, and in what departments, functions, locations and people does it reside?
- Map out critical business activities – Mark the decision points and the information that gets collected and produced within them.
- Identify and isolate blockages – Figure out where you have gaps, silos or lack of participation, information overload, worker overwhelm and any other problems that need fixing.
2. Understand that KM technology is only one component
KM technology is one of the critical success factors, especially as systems have become more sophisticated and prevalent. Yet time and again we find ourselves reminding our clients that “Knowledge Management” and KM technology systems are not synonymous. Technology is a tool and enabling platform and nothing more, no matter how many bells and whistles, many of which go underutilized anyway.
Knowledge Management as a process involves many other components that are much bigger and more important:
- People – First and foremost, Knowledge Management is about tapping into the insights of people for sharing, learning and leveraging with other people across the organization.
- Other Practices and Processes – The Knowledge Management process takes place in relation to other practices, processes and flows of work and information within the organization
- Culture – How the organization does (or does not) embody, encourage and support active participation and sharing will determine whether or not the technology is leveraged and optimized, or remains largely idle and untapped.
3. Understand and address your critical success factors
Various components must come together to create a complete, cohesive Knowledge Management system. Each of them must be present, fully functional and interconnected for success. If any are missing or lacking, even the most well-defined process or sophisticated technology will be ineffective.
Common issues that get in the way of KM success:
Across the many Knowledge Management projects we have been involved in, following are the top issues we find that undermine outcomes and results:
- Goals and objectives that are poorly defined, poorly communicated and lacking in participation and input from all stakeholder groups. Failure to tie Knowledge Management initiatives to business goals and objectives is the biggest problem we see.
- Lack of metadata, poorly-designed user interfaces and other missing features that empower users to find what they need, quickly and easily, and enable managers to maintain the system over time.
- Lack of change management initiatives that would help develop, promote and sustain a knowledge-driven culture.
A diagram of the Knowledge Management process is great for presentations and helpful for planning and project management. We’re interested in looking at the process both holistically (from soup to nuts) and synergistically (knowing that the combined effect is greater than the sum of the parts). In doing so, we can help our clients streamline their efforts and improve their outcomes.