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Knowledge Management: What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You!

Every organization inevitably develops a treasure trove of valuable knowledge, but when you do not transfer it effectively among relevant employees, it becomes like a pirate’s buried chest, forgotten and inaccessible. In a post for Voices on Project Management, Lynda Bourne elaborates on how to effectively implement knowledge management.

A Socratic Process

Knowledge management is a discipline that extends beyond simple lessons learned. Lessons learned are explicit knowledge that can be “transmitted” to other people. However, in order to actually transmit this knowledge, the lessons need to be recorded by the team, validated by subject matter experts, and stored in a system with appropriate cross-referencing and indexing. This entire process is arduous and time-consuming, but definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

If all of these steps are followed, the organization will have the knowledge, but they will still be lacking in the transfer to their actual people. People have a tendency to overestimate their knowledge and rate their ability much higher than it actually is. Conversely, experts tend to rate their own abilities much lower than they actually are. The learning process can inadvertently be summarized in four steps:

  1. Not knowing you know nothing
  2. Knowing that you know nothing
  3. Knowing that you know something
  4. Not knowing how much you know

This model is relatively simple, but it does have its problems. There is the potential for personal bias, errors in knowledge, taboos, or the outright denial of knowledge for various reasons. Because of these factors, effective knowledge management needs to involve:

  1. The availability of knowledge
  2. Ways to encourage learning before problems arise
  3. Ways to make expertise readily available

An organization that lacks the last two elements will have knowledge that they do not know how to use for anything meaningful. The best plan for improving organizational performance is to have some personal interaction. The experts on subjects need to articulate their knowledge into information that can be used by the team. Additionally, those who are not quite experts need to have a person overseeing them to help with any issues that may arise.

Learning does not just happen through reading. There need to be real actions occurring, or the team will not retain any lessons learned. You can read the original post here: http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/17652/

About Danielle Koehler

Profile photo of Danielle Koehler
Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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