Knowledge Management (KM)

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What Is Knowledge Management?

The term "knowledge management" is used to describe all of the activities within an organization aimed at capturing and leveraging internal and external tacit and explicit knowledge. It includes the collection, classification, storage, retrieval, analysis, distribution, and communication of knowledge.

In addition to these traditional functions, there are also newer knowledge management capabilities such as knowledge mining, which involves identifying patterns, trends, and relationships from large volumes of data using informatics methods.

Knowledge management aims to improve business performance by increasing the effectiveness of employees, customers, partners, and suppliers through better use of information.

Implicit (Tacit) vs. Explicit Knowledge

Implicit Knowledge or Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that is acquired by experience. It is gained through direct observation, experimentation, and practice in the workplace. Tasks requiring tacit knowledge include creative problem solving, technical innovation, and interpersonal skills. This type of knowledge can only be effectively managed by working directly with individuals and groups.

Explicit knowledge is knowledge that can be easily taught to others. This type of knowledge is generally captured in written form and stored electronically. Examples include manuals, procedures, forms, policies, and training programs.

 The current method of managing knowledge is based on the assumption that the most effective way to harness knowledge is to capture it explicitly. However, the tacit knowledge may be difficult or impossible to capture because it does not have a structured representation.

Implicit (or Tacit) knowledge is often referred to as "unconscious competence." The most important asset of any company is its employees' tacit knowledge. However, this knowledge is not easily transferred or shared within an organization.

  • Explicit: (Objective) knowledge that is codified, recorded, or actualized into some form outside of the head
  • Tacit: (Subjective) Knowledge from experience and insight, not in a recorded form, but in our heads, intuition

Why Is Knowledge Management Important?

The benefits associated with implementing a knowledge management strategy include improved customer service, increased productivity, reduced costs, decreased training time, less risk of loss due to employee error or theft, and increased market share.

Creating a Culture of Knowledge Management

A successful knowledge management program requires a change in mindset on behalf of individual employees and senior managers. The end result should be a new way of thinking about knowledge – not only as something to be stored but also as a critical component of decision making. Senior managers must understand what knowledge management is and why it is crucial to achieving this. This will enable them to communicate its value to their people to see it is beneficial to them.

Elements of a Successful Knowledge Management Approach

Some of the critical elements of a successful knowledge management approach include:

• Knowledge identification

• Knowledge capture/collection

• Knowledge classification

• Knowledge storage

• Knowledge retrieval

• Knowledge access

• Knowledge application

 

Lessons Learned Program

A lesson learned is documentation reflecting both the positive and negative experiences of a project or the organization. This process represents the commitment to management towards excellence.

The lessons learned program is a good way for companies to track successes and failures and identify best practices. The results are then used to help improve processes and systems.

In addition, the lessons learned program provides a means to document the successes and failures of projects. It allows organizations to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them in future endeavours. 

Knowledge Sharing Barriers

Several barriers prevent knowledge sharing. These include:

  • Lack of awareness of the importance of knowledge sharing
  • Lack of incentives for knowledge sharing
  • Lack of knowledge management tools
  • Lack of organizational support
  • Lack of leadership commitment
  • Organizational culture
  • Lack of trust

 

Implementing Knowledge Management

Critical Factors for Implementing Knowledge Management

  • Ensure upper management supports and is on board with KM goals
  • Create a team with stakeholders from key areas of the organization
  • Implement the KM to specific pockets of the organization first on a trial basis, then apply to the organization
  • Use incentives
    • "Hall of fame"
    • Public recognition
    • Avoid financial rewards
  • Seed the knowledge base. You might have to make extra effort to add content or knowledge to the database at the initial stage.
  • Address soft issues when implementing Knowledge Management.
    • A culture of sharing
    • Director of Knowledge (Intellectual Capital)
    • Build teams and conduct workshops etc.
    • Performance appraisal measurements to include sharing behaviours
    • Inability to recognize or articulate knowledge; turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge

 

Critical Success Factors in Implementing Knowledge Management

Success factors in implementing knowledge management include:

  • Strong link to business objectives
  • A compelling vision
  • Knowledge leadership
  • The knowledge-creating and sharing culture
  • Continuous learning culture
  • Well developed infrastructure
  • Systematic knowledge processes
  • Clear definition of success criteria
  • Systems and procedures that facilitate effective communication
  • Tools such as intranet, wikis, blogs, discussion forums, email lists etc.
  • Internal champions for knowledge management
  • Training and education programs

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