Why is Knowledge Management important?
Stephen Bounds — Tue, 12/05/2009 - 15:03
UPDATE Nov 2015: If you are interested in an ongoing conversation about Knowledge Management and how to apply it, please check out our newly launched online magazine RealKM!
(Editor's Note: This document is based on an internal explanatory document developed for my employer's intranet. Comments and feedback on appropriateness and accuracy are welcomed.)
Knowledge Management (KM) is a discipline that improves the ability of organisations to solve problems better, adapt, evolve to meet changing business requirements, and survive disruptive changes such as staff turnover.
Knowledge Management recognises that organisations are a complex system made up of both the people that work for the organisation, and the processes, procedures and information systems that drive our actions.
The revolution in communications over the past 50 years (email, internet, telephone and fax) now allows people to talk directly to each other without the use of intermediaries such as managers or team leaders. This allows organisations to be more efficient by bringing together needed expertise and knowledge on demand.
However, with this new approach, knowledge gained and lessons learned are not always shared across the organisation. In other words, some people may know the solution to a particular problem, but the organisation as a whole may not be aware. This can lead to loss of critical knowledge when staff leave, and for inefficient practices to remain despite better solutions being available.
Modern organisations need to build a new culture that promotes knowledge sharing and constant learning while preserving and recording appropriate information. This is essential in order for corporate knowledge to be effectively retained and enhanced.
The key objective of Knowledge Management is to enhance knowledge processing. Organisations will have realised this objective when they:
- correctly identify problems that need solving as they occur
- have robust information location and retrieval channels to enhance individual decision making
- embrace effective knowledge creation processes
- ensure that created knowledge is shared with and integrated across the whole of the organisation
Methods that can help to achieve these goals include:
- making better use of collaboration and communication tools
- creating and promoting internal communities of practice
- fostering the identity of virtual teams
- using KM techniques such as Before Action Reviews (BAR), After Actions Reviews (AAR), pre-mortems, and retrospects during change activities
- encouraging the use of a common language (eg corporate glossary, classification and/or taxonomies)
Benefits of implementing effective Knowledge Management include:
- fully and accurately informed employees, clients, and stakeholders
- improved team effectiveness and delivery of outcomes
- an organisational culture devoted to continuous improvement
- an organisation that is resilient and adaptable in the face of change
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