The Knowledge Management (KM) process has been identified and mapped in a variety of nuanced ways. The net–net, condensed version can be summarized in three basic steps: (drum roll please) Collect, Codify and Share.
Yet rather than offering another article or diagram on these three steps or any others, we’re going to talk about a different kind of three: The top considerations that go beyond the KM process itself for maximizing the return on your Knowledge Management investments.
1. Understand the flow of knowledge in your organization.
Knowledge Management incorporates the flow of information from collection to codification to sharing, but before you jump into that process, make sure you understand how knowledge flows (and where it doesn’t) within the people and teams in your organization.
Consider the following to get started:
- Identify your critical knowledge – What is it, and in what departments, functions and locations and with whom does it reside?
- Map out critical business activities and decision points and the information that gets collected and produced within them.
- Isolate gaps, silos, information overload or other problems that block the flow of information.
2. Understand that KM technology is 1 piece of the puzzle.
Suitable KM technology is one of the critical success factors, especially as the systems have become more sophisticated. Yet time and again we find ourselves reminding clients that Knowledge Management and KM technology platforms are not synonymous. Technology is a tool and enabling platform and nothing more, no matter how many bells and whistles.
Knowledge Management as a process involves many other components that are much bigger and more important:
- People – First and foremost, Knowledge Management is about tapping into the insights of people for sharing, learning and leveraging with other people across the organization.
- Other Practices and Processes – The Knowledge Management process takes place in relation to other practices, processes and flows of work and information within the organization. Our own KM expert and Senior Director Nina Platt says, “Most firms that have had KM programs in place for a while have been working at embedding the collection step of the process within the workflow of their organizations.”
- Culture – How the organization does (or does not) embody, encourage and support active participation and sharing will determine whether or not the technology is leveraged and optimized, or remains largely idle and untapped.
3. Understand and address the Critical Success Factors.
Various components go along with KM processes and technology to create an entire Knowledge Management system. Each of them must be present, fully functional and interconnected for success. If any are missing or lacking, even the most well-defined process or sophisticated technology will be ineffective.
Following are just a few of the most common issues we see getting in the way of KM success:
- Goals and objectives that are poorly defined, poorly communicated and lacking in participation and input from all stakeholder groups. Nina says that failure to tie Knowledge Management initiatives to business goals and objectives is the biggest problem she sees.
- Lack of metadata, poorly-designed user interfaces and other missing features that empower users to find what they need and enable managers to maintain the system over time.
- Lack of change management initiatives that would help develop and promote a knowledge-driven culture.
A nice diagram of the Knowledge Management process is great for presentations and helpful for planning and project management. We’re more interested in looking at the process for each client both holistically (from soup to nuts) and synergistically (knowing that the combined effect is greater than the sum of the parts). In doing so, we can better help them maximize their efforts and improve their outcomes.