People bring to organizations their experiences, values, information and intuition which cumulatively comprise a huge resource of knowledge. This knowledge is referred to the organizational knowledge assets.
Capturing, distributing, retaining and effectively using organizational knowledge consciously and comprehensively is crucial. It cannot be left to ad hoc practices. It has to done systematically so that overall knowledge acquired is shared, retained and replenished as required. This is necessary in order to enable employees to organize and locate relevant knowledge and expertise as and when needed.
For instance, an engineer may be spending a lot of time trying to solve a technical problem that has already been solved in the past. However, this engineer may have no access to how this technical problem was solved. A project manager may encounter an event that delays a project from being completed in time. This event was not captured as a risk as the relevant people were not involved when the risk register was developed. A company may have plans to invest in another business but do have access to the right expertise to guide them along on what exactly are the pitfalls they have to avoid.
The situations above typify difficulties associated with the ability to systemize the knowledge base within and from other an organizations or people. Hence it is necessary to be clear on what tools have to be used to gather, organize, refine and disseminate knowledge? Where does relevant knowledge originate from and where is it destined for? What knowledge is critical to an organization? How is this knowledge organized, shared and retained?
Coming to grips with the above requires a relook at how knowledge is being managed in an organization. It calls for a comprehensive reassessment of the key resource people brings to an organization, their knowledge and developing mechanisms to optimize this resource to stay ahead of the competition.
What is needed is a framework for managing knowledge. Such a framework should be developed after due consideration is given to the business and operational needs of the organization.
Developing a framework involves six steps. They include:
1. Establish the desired outcome
2. Clarify the scope in terms of where to focus and the approach to be adopted
3. Specify the main focus, overall approach and timeframe required
4. Identify the issues and stakeholders involved
5. Analyze areas for improvement, areas of strength and existing limitations
6. Recommend proposed immediate, short term and long term action plans based on the analysis carried out
Adopting this six-step approach simplifies the process of developing a framework that is customized and adapted to suit the immediate needs of an organization. It also provides focus on what is really important at the point in time the knowledge management initiatives are being introduced.
Developing and enhancing a knowledge management framework must be an essential, routinized activity that underlies all other activities. To do so, an organization should start building a strong awareness and understanding among employees on what is knowledge management all about and why it is so important.
In conclusion, managing knowledge assets is central to the continued success of any organization. Knowledge assets that exist will only yield positive results if they are managed systematically and formally. Developing a knowledge management framework that is customized to meet the needs of the organization is an important first step. Leveraging on that framework is what makes the real difference between companies that merely survive and those that succeed.
Dr Rumesh Kumar
Sharma Management International