Today I’d like to touch on something that’s crucial for all businesses but often handled poorly – knowledge management (KM).
In a nutshell, KM is about making the right knowledge available to the right people when they need it. It’s about making sure that the organisation can learn and then retrieve and use that knowledge to gain benefits and, hopefully, competitive advantage!
Throughout human history people have passed their knowledge of crafts and trades on to apprentices, and family businesses have passed on their accumulated knowledge to the next generation. However, knowledge management as we now understand it really began to take off in the 1980 and 90s.
Astute CEOs recognised that intellectual property was a huge asset, and that, carefully categorised, stored, made accessible and used effectively, it could drive major bottom line improvements. Management consultancies, for whom knowledge is undoubtedly a core asset, were among the first companies to join the rush to aggregate their knowledge. Rapid engagement with new information technology enabled them to gain easy access to their wealth of accumulated knowledge and drive value.
Nowadays knowledge management is a familiar buzz term in most mid-size to large businesses, but as I have seen across a wide range of industries around the world, it’s often ineffective.
In recent projects in chemical manufacturing in Asia, public transport in New Zealand and telecommunications in the UK, we’ve encountered similar issues with the clients’ KM programmes. These have included a lack of attention to categorisation, poor accessibility, incorrect and missing data and, crucially, inability to use the huge amount of data that is available to any beneficial effect.
Truly effective KM provides systematic management of an organisation’s knowledge assets, creating value and meeting tactical and strategic requirements. It encompasses all the initiatives, relevant processes, strategies and systems that sustain and enhance the storage, assessment, sharing, refinement and creation of knowledge.
If you suspect you’re not getting knowledge management right within your organisation, it’s a good idea to go back to basics. Here are some key points to consider:
1. Where and in what forms knowledge exists within your organisation
2. How best to generate or acquire new relevant knowledge
3. How to promote a culture conducive to learning and sharing knowledge
4. How to make the right knowledge available to the right people at the right time
5. How to manage these factors to enhance performance, considering your organisation’s strategic goals and short-term opportunities and threats
At Renoir we have a wealth of experience in KM projects across the globe and a substantial and effective internal KM programme of our own. This puts us in a strong position to help you realise the potential contained within your organisation’s knowledge.
By putting the right tools, structures, processes and culture in place, we can enable your organisation to understand the value in its embodied knowledge and how to use it for maximum impact.
We’ll help you work out the best way of storing this knowledge and making it readily available to the right people at the right time. Then we’ll show you how to continuously assess, refine and edit it, keeping your knowledge base bang up to date.