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
"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
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
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corporate memories of out-of-date know-how.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- Is out-of-date information getting in the way of capturing
Use a diagnostic route map to plan improvement
- Establish the business context, need and case for action.
- See where teams are dependent on the sharing of knowledge.
- Clarify the range of current practice, good and bad.
- Identify the scope and opportunities for improvement.
- Specify who and what are the carriers of dysfunctional organisation
- Identify obstacles and plot what is holding back change.
- Identify exemplars inside the organisation.
- Pinpoint and map success stories, replicate and broadcast
- See what can be learnt from external benchmarks of best
- Check the effect of the organisation's shadow side (politics,
- See how HR policies (rewards, job rotation, exiting, etc)
help or hinder.
- Realign values behind the business's need for knowledge
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
- 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
- Build a culture that learns new things and also forgets