Knowledge strategists frequently face a recurring challenge. We don’t mind speaking about knowledge services when there is an opportunity to apply the discipline in organizations, groups, and communities in which knowledge services is already practiced. At the same time, when the opportunity presents itself, we are more than willing to offer our advice about knowledge services in those situations in which we recognize that knowledge services should be practiced, but isn’t.
In situations like these, it’s still the knowledge strategist who provides useful advice. The knowledge strategist understands knowledge services as a management practice and can with ease relate their work to the principles and values associated with knowledge services.
There are two helpful techniques we can turn to, techniques that continue to be relevant regardless of the specifics of what is being considered. As knowledge strategists, it’s our job to support the organization as a knowledge culture, and we understand that in doing so, certain ideas and concepts are continually kept in mind.
What’s the Why?
A first idea, as we speak about connecting with knowledge services, is to bring up an almost universally acknowledged first step. We go back to Simon Sinek and his famous “why?” We define the situation and, when we’ve done that, we try to come to an understanding of what the situation is all about. We give some thought to the background, and we ask: how did this problem come up?
Once we have the answer to that question, we can articulate what we need to do (or what our colleagues need to do, if we’re helping someone else dealing with a knowledge-sharing issue). And before we go any further, we require a purpose for taking any action. We ask why this situation must be addressed. For us – as knowledge strategists – our first obligation is to work with our colleagues to understand why something must be done. How did the situation come about? And what’s the purpose for “fixing” the situation?
Assess and Evaluate
The second step takes a serious look at what’s expected in the organization, group, or community. And as an aside, it’s important to remember that the environment in which the situation is being experienced doesn’t matter. If the goal is to move forward with a new and productive healthcare initiative, for example, or to design a practical legal, political, or administrative framework for an identified organization, or to provide a non-profit agency with a revised plan for acquiring additional volunteers, knowledge services and the resulting improvement in knowledge sharing provide the framework.
In establishing what’s expected, the knowledge strategist recommends a study of what has gone before, seeking to come up with information and facts that provide a clear understanding of how knowledge sharing was done in the past, in order to determine how that activity affected success in the organization. How did the situation currently under consideration come about? Was there a problem that is demonstrably causing setbacks and losses to organizational efficiency?
These questions are answered through the development of a background document, a study that pulls together the effects of various influences that support (or detract from) organizational success. In knowledge services, the tool used for this effort is called the “knowledge services audit” (or “knowledge audit”). And while the term “audit” is often associated with banking and other financial services, as used in knowledge services the term means something quite different. And if there is some awkwardness using the term “audit” in this way in your specific work environment, simply switch keys and refer to the effort as a “knowledge services assessment,” a “background study,” a “needs assessment,” “working document,” or simply as a “review and assessment.”
However the exercise is phrased, it’s purpose is clear: the knowledge services audit asks what resources and services people require to do their work, and in doing so, determines how resources and services are actually used. Putting it all together, the findings of the audit become a specific knowledge services tool, establishing how knowledge assets are produced, by whom, and how they are acquired for the user population. It provides a very straightforward why, telling us how the problem being considered became a problem and giving us a purpose for moving forward.