Recent posts have suggested “tweaking” some of our definitions of knowledge services (see Nov 5 and Nov 12). But are we just talking to ourselves? A conversation with a colleague reminded me that much of our content is directed to people who know what knowledge services is all about.
But what about those situations when we have the opportunity to explain knowledge services to someone who is not one-of-us? If we’re speaking with a friend, a newcomer to knowledge work, even (wow!) a potential client, how do we talk about knowledge services?
I gave the idea some thought and came up with the following. Would this approach work if you’re speaking to someone not familiar with knowledge services? Would this language or this framework convey what you want that person to know?
Let me know what you think. — GStC
Who Knows What?
Use Knowledge Services to Manage Intellectual Capital
Every business and every organization runs into snags in managing what its people know. It doesn’t matter whether the enterprise is for-profit, not-for-profit, or non-profit. Identifying the organization’s intellectual capital and then building a knowledge-sharing structure to see that it is shared and utilized is an ongoing challenge.
The best way to meet this challenge is to utilize knowledge services, the management and service-delivery methodology that converges and blends information management (including technology management), knowledge management (KM), and strategic learning.
Knowledge services is a practical solution for knowledge sharing, and its three elements are easy to describe:
- Information management: acquiring information, maintaining it, distributing it to those who need it, and ultimately disposing of the information, through archiving or deletion.
- KM: working with the organization’s intellectual capital — the combined knowledge of all organizational stakeholders — KM is the knowledge services element that enables the capture, development, sharing, and utilization of organizational knowledge for the benefit of the organization.
- Strategic learning: training and learning — in any format, formal or informal — that when acquired leads to better performance in the workplace, in support of the organizational mission.
How does knowledge services work? The process is relatively simple:
- A knowledge-sharing problem or a proposed knowledge-sharing innovation is identified. Here’s what you do:
a. Define the problem or articulate the proposed innovation
b. Describe the background — how did the subject come up?
c. Focus on the “why?” — Why solve the problem or undertake the innovation? What will be the benefit?
- Conduct a knowledge audit/evaluation/assessment. Among the points to be addressed:
a. Whose work is affected by the problem or would be affected by the proposed innovation? How?
b. Identify knowledge-sharing gaps.
c. Identify related procedures that are working well — can these be replicated to solve the problem or to implement the innovation?
d. Use the audit findings to establish recommendations.
- Develop a knowledge services strategy. Use these steps as your strategy development road map:
a. Establish how each knowledge services element (information management, KM, and strategic learning) contributes to the solution or supports the proposed innovation.
b. Determine how each knowledge services element affects the removal (or lessens the impact) of identified barriers or impediments?
c. Will change is required? If so, will change management be accepted and the change implemented?
d. Likewise, determine if the solution to the problem or the implementation of the innovation requires training/strategic learning; if so, how will the training/strategic learning process be managed?
e. Create a feedback loop by assigning metrics to enable the organization to measure the efficacy of the implemented knowledge services solution or the proposed innovation.
- Devise an implementation plan for your knowledge services strategy; your responses to these questions provide your deliverable:
a. What recommended actions will be proposed?
b. What is a reasonable timeline for completing these actions?
c. What resources will be required (staff time, new staff, financial resources, etc.)?
d. Who owns the strategy? Who has implementation responsibility and oversight?
Examples of situations in which a knowledge services strategy can provide a solution might include:
- In a multi-office public relations firm, the open-access (for all authorized employees) repository for project reports has no controlled, specific findability standards; tagging is informal and usually the responsibility of newer employees with limited knowledge-sharing experience and/or training.
- In a company active in petroleum exploration, knowledge sharing is seriously impacted by a rash of retirements and transfers; senior management has appointed a working group to devise an expertise database to be part of the onboarding process, to capture skills, specific project contributions, etc., to be maintained throughout each employees’ tenure in order to provide knowledge-sharing when the employee leaves company.
- A large multi-national development organization — responsible to a board of directors composed of political leaders of several countries — is required to operate with separate and free-standing research units in each field office; the research units are not connected and oversight is the responsibility of individual managers in the field offices.
- Enterprise leadership in a limited-partnership healthcare organization recently conducted an environmental scan focused on the role of knowledge use, KM, and knowledge services in the organization; the findings of the environmental scan are not available for the organization’s chief strategy officer and her planning team’s consideration.
— December 1, 2015
Mark Schreyer says
“Who knows what?”, is the question that keeps getting asked when change/improvements are sought. Thank you for the framework to
answer the question(s) and mapping a path forward. Regards,
Guy St. Clair says
Thanks, Mark. Appreciate your comment. Best, Guy
Barbara Fillip says
“Every business and every organization runs into snags in managing what its people know.”
That may be true but every business/organization also sees itself as somewhat unique and the manifestation of knowledge-related problems will be somewhat unique to the organizational culture. While you, as a KM professional with a wide range of experience looking at different organizations, will see recognizable patterns and nothing particularly unique, the people within the organization will not necessarily see that.
It’s probably cliche to say that you need to tailor the knowledge services sales pitch to the customer, but until you can speak their language, the message may not go through.
Your examples at the end are what came closest to trying to connect to real problems. The organization may not see its challenges as knowledge-related. For example, they may see themselves as having an employee retention problem, characterizing it as an HR issue and not fully realizing the knowledge impact.
So, my answer to your original question would be, don’t try to explain knowledge services until they’ve told you what they think their major challenges are. Then don’t try to solve all their challenges with knowledge services, just the ones that have an obvious connection… (though eventually they all do! 😉
Guy St. Clair says
Thank you, Barbara, for this very thoughtful response. Yes, you’re right on target: every organization is unique and we must consider that. All the best, Guy