A great deal of money and effort has been invested in Knowledge Management systems and initiatives.
Yet if you were to ask most executives about the results, don’t expect glowing results, even though most would likely agree that capturing and sharing knowledge is a strategic business imperative. That is the Knowledge Management conundrum.
Since LAC Group consults on KM projects and initiatives, we have seen enough to know that three key pieces of the puzzle are often missing from the big picture. Unless these gaps are addressed, it’s difficult to recognize the value of capturing organizational knowledge.
1. You can’t leverage knowledge that isn’t being shared.
The basic human response to any kind of power—including knowledge—is to hold onto it. Along with the desire for personal power, Dr. David Zweig, an organizational behavior professor at the University of Toronto, has identified the main reasons why employees are reluctant to share information and contribute to KM systems and processes:
- Interpersonal reasons, such as distrust of management or co-workers.
- Lack of confidence in employees who are unsure of themselves and fearful of exposing their weaknesses.
- Organizational cultures and norms that don’t support or encourage sharing and collaboration.
Any or all of these will inhibit active participation and useful knowledge management practices.
2. Sharing knowledge is one thing; putting it to work is something else.
The pool of human knowledge and imagination is essentially limitless, yet converting that capacity into actionable outcomes is always an obstacle. As such, the same mistakes get repeated, efforts continue to be duplicated, and discoveries go unused.
Most law firms and corporations have become quite adept at collecting data. Yet very few are proficient at analyzing what they have, setting priorities or imagining what to do with it. Very few offer formal KM training and coaching to their employees. Very few track progress or measure results of their KM systems and processes.
3. Your most valuable knowledge may be external.
If you surveyed leaders in business and law, you would find agreement on the importance of knowing all they can about two important groups, both external: competitors and customers or clients. How well does your KM system incorporate external sources of information? Are you gathering competitive intelligence on a regular basis to monitor known competitors and identify potential threats? Are your customer relationship management (CRM) systems being used to understand and address needs?
Many firms jumped on the Knowledge Management bandwagon and invested in KM technology, believing it would be accepted and used like other applications. Yet enterprise-wide systems are different. If you want your employees to embrace KM, start with coaching and support, and make sure they know how the system can help them.
If your KM system is not empowering benefits like greater collaboration, more productive teamwork, problem-solving with fewer mistakes and more, you should focus on establishing and promoting a sharing culture. Encourage the right behaviors and attitudes among your people, and set clear priorities and expectations for sharing knowledge and experiences.
Only when your KM systems and processes are viewed as a useful, valuable resource will Knowledge Management be a successful endeavor.