The management of knowledge is the single most valuable effort your organization can undertake. It’s as simple as that. If you fail at managing organizational knowledge, innovation and even day-to-day operation grinds to a halt as soon as an expert leaves the company. With that in mind, Suchitra Mishra provides five considerations to help make knowledge management as efficient as possible. The considerations themselves point to knowing why you’re working on knowledge management, how to do it, and how to keep the efficiency alive. They include:
- Identify the key drivers for Knowledge Management
- Focus on what values KM can add
- Define clear objectives of KM
- Ensure data accuracy and completeness
- Earn a strong fan base to drive KM acceptance
The article features a rather startling statistic: according to Deallogic, U.S. companies have spent $219 billion dollars on mergers and acquisitions. Why is this startling? Consider how much changes during a merger—how many positions are either eliminated, combined, or expanded based on need and practicality. All of that shifting can lead to a marked loss in organizational knowledge, and this knowledge attrition is often not avoided through intelligent and efficient knowledge transfer practices. This is one of the points brought up under “Identify key drivers.”
On the opposite side of losing resources is gaining resources—as seen through globalization. Virtual teams are making up more and more of the world’s business, and this adds a level of complexity, naturally, to how information is shared, stored, and understood later. However, the expansion of globalization has also created internet-based tools (such as e-learning) to combat knowledge gaps and attrition, perhaps creating the remedy out of the very problem of geographically dispersed teams.
Outside of managing knowledge during the shrinking and expanding of teams, knowledge management can help decrease response times to customers (if the system is up to date and efficient, team members can find answers faster), innovation can be shared, and communication throughout an organization can happen more readily. Even if your organization is not experiencing the tectonic shifting of a merger or the challenges of virtual teams, making customers happy and organizations more productive can still help inspire a more robust and effective knowledge management program.
Once an efficient knowledge management program is in place, you’ve got to keep it, and that power is within your team. As the article explains, without the support of all levels within the company, knowledge management will not succeed nearly as well. The challenge here, as it turns out, might just be that people aren't willing to give up the information they have:
The main factor that contributes to the volatility is the fact that technology is breaking the barriers and conventional hierarchy is losing its influence. People take the “knowledge is power” adage too seriously and hoard the knowledge sometimes – thinking that sharing the knowledge would result in loss of their control or influence. KM is all about bringing cultural change. Hence it is important to define the objectives and build the awareness and enthusiasm around these to make people more comfortable to become active participants of the KM initiative.
Metrics, when applied properly, will show all stakeholders the value of a knowledge management program, and this helps knowledge management become an integrated part of overall organizational process. A team that can see how much faster they are answering customer questions or completing projects is much more likely to care about the benefits of knowledge management compared to one that is simply told knowledge management is beneficial. Likewise, upper management is more likely to dedicate money and effort into a knowledge management initiative if they can readily see the benefits and return on investment.