Knowledge Management

The Value of Knowledge Management Programs

There is perhaps no greater frustration than having something go wrong and knowing that you knew better because of past experience. The burnt dinner, the forgotten password, and perhaps more poignant, the $113 million dollar Mars Polar Lander you forgot to system test correctly. This post by Joseph Lipari uses that example, among others, to help create the case for strong knowledge management programs. Lipari explains how many companies believe that technology will replace knowledge management processes — something that simply isn’t true: But while advancements in technology have allowed for seemingly limitless data storage and sophisticated software packages to simplify corporate data management, they have not eliminated the problem of executives failing to consider vital archival data while making decisions about product development. By working toward creating a complete and easily accessible design history record and by implementing design validation systems, a company can reduce the likelihood of: 1) not knowing when or how its product design changed, 2) inadvertently reverting back to a product design that was deliberately engineered out, and 3) being unable to identify product failure mechanisms and root causes. Lipari goes on to explain that some knowledge management procedures are required by law, and some are reinforced by best practices as well. However, in order to have a knowledge management program that works within an organization, it must be supported and actively managed by key players within the organization. Team members have to utilize it, managers must enforce it, and executive level decision makers must provide the support and initiatives to make it a success. Furthermore, knowledge management isn’t merely collecting pertinent information from subject matter experts and approved best practices: it’s the ability to retrieve that information rapidly and effectively. If you have the right information but your team members can’t find it, the end result is exactly the same as not having that information at all.

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