posted 30 Mar 2005 in Volume 8 Issue 6
Thought leader: Flexible working
By Steve Ellis, founder and managing director of the Knowledge Doctor Consultancy (www.knowledgedoctor.com)
Commentators on the knowledge-management field generally recognise that the discipline has two chief bedfellows. On the one hand, as KM is ultimately about people and behaviours, it is often seen as an extension of the HR function. On the other hand, because so much of the practical side of knowledge management lies in the ITC systems that enable reporting, sorting, storing, sharing and the subsequent development of knowledge, some believe KM really belongs to IT.
For my money, while both of these worthy functions may have the room and desire to house KM, they generally do not offer the right stabling conditions. KM, as many CKOs will testify from experience, is a highly temperamental beast that needs careful handling.
Another option is to see KM as an internal ‘independent trader’, troubleshooting organisational knowledge problems, roping in appropriate functional areas as required to manage and improve knowledge-based working on a project-by-project basis. The problems I have encountered with this approach centre around the perceived distance of KM from real business needs and over-rigid structures, resulting in turf wars over who provides the resources to make KM happen.
There is, however, a new game in town that really makes this whole question somewhat redundant. KM as we know it is facing a legitimate challenge from an important organisational-development issue: flexible working. What does flexible working have to do with knowledge management? Quite a lot, actually.
· Knowledge workers are ideally situated to take advantage of flexible working.
· Citing a widespread desire to improve the work/life balance, countless surveys have identified a strong desire for flexible working among both organisations and individual employees.
· Flexible working is high on the government agenda, backed by legislation to establish rights to flexible working in the
· There is a general consensus that organisational competitiveness in the knowledge-based economy can be improved through flexible working.
· Job enrichment, career enhancement, diversity and participation rates can all be improved by flexible working, while stress can be reduced.
Effective knowledge management is without a doubt a powerful enabler of flexible working, as it offers a means to bring work to the workers. The KM movement has an open invitation to become the overseer of this transition from traditional to flexible working. The challenge we face is no longer about where to locate KM in an organisational context, but rather how to use knowledge management to create the maximum degree of flexibility within an enterprise.
Steve Ellis is the author of Flexible Working (CIPD, May 2005). The book is available to readers of Inside Knowledge magazine at the reduced price of £25 (usual price £29.99) directly from the publisher. Please call 0870 800 3366 and quote RO/001. Offer closes 1 April 2005.