Prometheus Consulting - Organisation Development and Strategic Human Resource Consultancy

 Knowledge Management 

 Concepts, competence and connections 

 Fad it may be, but knowledge management is crucial:

"Knowledge management means finding radical and fundamental ways of creating, retaining, sharing, accounting for and leveraging knowledge in people and organisations." (Andrew Strathdee)

"Knowledge has become the key economic resource, and perhaps the only source of competitive advantage", argues Peter Drucker, the father of modern management. In the age of the 'knowledge economy', the value of intangible assets such as business relationships, brands and know-how, accounts for more and more of the company's total worth.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard's professor of business administration, the most important assets of world-class companies are "concepts, competence and connections". It's the value of information that people carry around in their heads, and the transfer of raw ideas into products and services. Companies fail to maximise the relationship with their customers and suppliers because their knowledge isn't spread throughout the organisation. They need "the ability to share knowledge and develop it and use it and constantly update it". Failure to handle knowledge effectively is costing UK business £17bn pa, according to new research.

Progressive companies know what they know. They also clear their corporate memories of out-of-date know-how. By contrast, reactionary companies learn nothing and forget nothing. Learn how to become the former and not the latter.

 What is your current state of health? 

Try these questions:

  • Do you find things out too late?
  • How often does your organisation reinvent things?
  • Are you forever repeating mistakes?
  • Do people take their know-how with them when they leave?
  • Are ideas played close to individuals' chests?
  • Are you on top of what the competition is up to?
  • Do you have plenty of facts, but not know what was learnt?
  • How dependent are you on a few people's expertise and goodwill?
  • Have you too much information, but don't know what counts?
  • Is out-of-date information getting in the way of capturing new?

 Use a diagnostic route map to plan improvement 

  1. Establish the business context, need and case for action.
  2. See where teams are dependent on the sharing of knowledge.
  3. Clarify the range of current practice, good and bad.
  4. Identify the scope and opportunities for improvement.
  5. Specify who and what are the carriers of dysfunctional organisation norms.
  6. Identify obstacles and plot what is holding back change.
  7. Identify exemplars inside the organisation.
  8. Pinpoint and map success stories, replicate and broadcast them.
  9. See what can be learnt from external benchmarks of best practice.
  10. Check the effect of the organisation's shadow side (politics, power, etc.).
  11. See how HR policies (rewards, job rotation, exiting, etc) help or hinder.
  12. Realign values behind the business's need for knowledge management.

 Solutions - technology or culture? 

Actually, both. Technology - such as Lotus Notes, intranets and e-mail - can make the process of capturing and sharing information easier. But it still won't happen if the will isn't there. 'Can-do' capability needs bolstering with 'choose-to-do' and 'allowed-to-do'. The organisation's culture and systems that surround people at work hold the key to unlocking motivation and removing barriers.

 Many more things you can do 

  • Appoint a project champion.
  • Identify, promote and laud exemplars.
  • Realign systems and HR policies and practices.
  • Provide a 'yellow pages', so people know whom to approach.
  • Exploit intranet technology imaginatively.
  • Use the reward system to reinforce desirable behaviour.
  • Apply sanctions against turf wars and not-invented-here syndrome.
  • Change structures and jobs to undo chimney mentality.
  • Use building features to promote networks and serendipity.
  • Distinguish between factual knowledge, and insights, intuition and hunches, etc.
  • Make such tacit knowledge more explicit and accessible.
  • Speak non-judgementally to meet people's needs and release contributions.
  • Build a culture that learns new things and also forgets old things.