posted 30 Jun 2011 in Volume 14 Issue 9
White spots and black holes
Hans Van Hege details a new approach to knowledge management Is knowledge management (KM) really that important? My answer to this is yes. In fact, it is not just important, it’s urgent
An ageing population means that more people are retiring than young people entering the economy, leading to huge shortages in senior level, experienced talent.
Even big multi-nationals are no longer capable of retaining all the internal expertise they require. The increasing popularity of flexible working, virtual teams and collaborative working also present their own challenges. Knowledge economy is the talk of the town but few know what it really is, how it affects their organisation, or whether it is a necessity. Perhaps it is an intermediate result, rather than a real objective.
White spots and black holes
What you must remember is that KM is an instrument to achieve strategic business objectives.
We have to exploit, re-use and obtain real value from the expertise inside our organisation
Knowledge exposure is important in our competitive economy but knowledge leakage represents a threat.
KM provides a better understanding of the complete and complex picture – a framework. As such, this gives a face to the theory and provides a pragmatic way forward to becoming a knowledge-centric organisation.
The framework enables you put the information into practice. No manager or director will decide on implementing a project without a clear view on realistic results. KM enables you to measure progress through key performance indicators.
Have you ever heard of white spots and black holes in your knowledge? You should have. You need to know what you’re missing – what your expertise and your knowledge risks are. This requires reflection tiome.
Knowledge about knowledge
The CMM [capability maturity model] for KM is a framework that enables you to evaluate where you are as a knowledge organisation and where you want to be in another four years. The framework addresses the following:
Human competences – How, if at all, does your organisation distinguish between technical competencies, management skills, and so on?
Knowledge sources – do you have a clear overview of the internal and external knowledge sources needed by the various departments of your organisation?
Knowledge logistics – lnowledge goes through a logistic process of creation, storage, management, communication, use, maintenance and recycling.
Parameters for success – typical mistakes with regard to KM are usually situated in the human or organisational area. Have these been sufficiently addressed?
Knowledge domains – which knowledge domains are relevant for your organisation today, tomorrow, or the day after that? Who are the ‘champions’ for each of these domains?
KM risks – your KM strategy will entail a number of changes and may have consequences that (certain) members of the management will not be happy about. For example, shielding off information and knowledge becomes visible; missing knowledge and expertise becomes visible. Potentially, there is less space for ‘irrelevant’ sidesteps. This can lead to resistance or, in some cases, even to sabotage and will need addressing in due course.
The new approach
What is clear is that KM is not an isolated phenomenon, but the most important cornerstone of our knowledge economy. It fosters sustained entrepreneurship, intellectual challenges, good management and innovation. What is also apparent is that the ‘old’ approach to KM (securing and sharing, and communities) is largely unsuccessful.
Organisations now need to focus on a new, innovative approach to KM, which is easier to implement and provides faster returns.
Traditional KM initiatives often fail because of their emphasis on the knowledge organisation.
Knowledge, however, starts with and depends on your knowledge workers. The best motivator for change is the support an individual receives, which facilitates their ability to work effectively and to the best of their ability. That is the secret of successful KM
Hans Van Hege is a strategy advisor and author of the new book, Knowledge Centric Management. For more information visit www.knowledge-centric-management.com