How good is your knowledge management?

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What makes knowledge management effective? If you can answer yes to the following questions, chances are youre on the right track.

1.Do your knowledge management (KM) practices include a social dimension?

When you share knowledge, do you encourage people to talk to each other? Not just in meetings and conference calls, but informally over a coffee or a beer? On the phone? Online?

Social interaction builds trust and adds context to shared knowledge. Tacit knowledge (the valuable insights and experience you find difficult to write down) is more likely to be shared in strong business relationships. Few of us feel comfortable sharing our brilliant new idea with someone we hardly know.

Without a social dimension, youre probably managing information rather than knowledge.

2.Do you focus on knowledge flows rather than knowledge stocks?

KM isnt an exercise in collecting written materials and lessons learned. Neither is it an IT project!

Knowledge doesnt exist without people, so you cant manage it in isolation from knowers. What you can do is encourage knowledge to flow between people.

If you focus on collecting stuff, youve missed the point.

3.Does your KM make a difference?

Good KM helps people do things better (and do better things). Be clear about what your KM is for. It might be to improve efficiency by updating project processes, or it might be to come up with ideas for new products that can generate income in the future.

Whatever youre trying to achieve with your KM, measure the impact of your activities, not the number of hits on a web page or the number of lessons in your database.

4.Do people learn from your KM activities?

Proper KM (as opposed to information management) is indistinguishable in practice from organisational learning. Like OL, KM is a dynamic capability that sustains competitive advantage.

Better understanding including learning about how to learn is a KM goal. Learning is voluntary. Dont try to mandate learning. It wont work!

5.Have you got a knowledge-sharing culture?

A knowledge-sharing culture is one where normal means people share what they know.

You cant change culture it develops on its own. You can do things differently to help it along.

Make it easy to share knowledge by providing technology tools that connect people to people. Give people time for knowledge-sharing, reward people for working together rather than individually, and discuss problems and errors openly.

If you dont tackle these issues directly, you run the risk of inadvertently driving out peoples natural desire to work collaboratively.

6.Are knowledge and learning important to you?

Individuals and organisations that are good at KM recognise the importance of knowledge and learning. Its not an add-on its a fundamental and integral part of what you do.

Look at things through a knowledge lens. Understand the knowledge side of identifying risks, improving processes, and good governance.

Above all, make it clear that knowledge sharing is valued and support this with the message that its good to spend time on learning and knowledge sharing.

How do you measure up to these questions? What stops you from answering yes to any of them? If you have answered yes, what tips would you pass on to others?

Let us know in the comments.

These six questions will be used to discuss two KM case studies at the Knowledge SIG event in Warrington on 25 June.

Judy Payne

Posted by Judy Payne on 3rd Jun 2013

About the Author

Judy works as a management consultant and reluctant academic specialising in knowledge management, collaborative working and learning. Her work is positioned firmly on the boundaries between academia and practice. Not the most comfortable place to be, but there’s such a huge gap between the two that there’s a lot of bridging to be done.

Judy works with public, private and third sector organisations to improve their management of knowledge, with universities to develop and deliver online degree programmes and with master’s students to help them learn how to do management research. At APM, she co-founded the Knowledge SIG and is co-chair of the K SIG committee. She has contributed new knowledge management sections to the sixth edition of the PMBOK® Guide and to P3O® Best Management Practice, and represents the UK as an expert on an ISO Working Group developing a knowledge management standard. She is writing a book on KM in project environments.

Judy is also known for introducing collaborative working and social software to the Henley Knowledge Management Forum and for being a member of the #teatowelclub on Twitter.

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