It was about ten years ago that those of us working in KM began to realize that we needed something less amorphous and vague than the term “knowledge management.”
As I noted in the last post, “knowledge management” just caused too much confusion when we tried to describe our work. As we tried to convey the principles and functions related to KM, we found ourselves spending a great deal of time not only working with clients in helping them deal with knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer and enterprise-wide change management. We also were spending much time and effort describing KM as an organizational function and how KM – when successful – impacts organizational effectiveness. We were struggling to spell it all out for all levels of organizational staff, but especially – strangely enough – for management, especially for senior management. No matter how hard they tried, many executives just couldn’t seem to get their arms around the concept of managing knowledge (especially when a consulting firm specializing in KM was pitching a project!).
And complicating the issue further, at about the same time or perhaps a little later there began to be confusion about information management, about the role of IT departments (and IT professionals) and their work in providing the electronic underpinnings for the digitized information that would transform into knowledge.
So we moved to knowledge services, a management and service-delivery methodology – a way to work – that converges information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning into a single over-arching operational function. As a management methodology, knowledge services recognizes that the most critical asset of any group or environment is what its people know. This knowledge – this intellectual capital – is the organization’s most competitive asset.
By moving to this broader concept of knowledge services, organizations and companies could be provided with tools their people need for ensuring that intellectual assets are captured, organized, analyzed, interpreted, and customized for maximum return to the institution. As we saw it, knowledge services – as a workplace discipline – was the practical side of KM, the company’s tool for putting KM to work (and, not so coincidentally, for putting the company on the way to operating as a knowledge culture or, if a knowledge culture was already in place, to strengthening that role at the enterprise-wide level).
As a practical tool for putting KM to work, this merging of information management, KM, and strategic learning into knowledge services brings three distinctive impacts to those companies that take the leap, that decide to make a more-or-less formal commitment to knowledge services as a management methodology. They combine, in most companies, into a three-part practical and measurable framework, with knowledge services strengthening the company by:
1. Transitioning information, knowledge, and strategic learning into strategic knowledge,
2. Enabling contextual decision-making, accelerated innovation, strengthened research, and excellence in knowledge-asset management, and
3. Supporting an enterprise-wide knowledge culture which, in and of itself, impacts and supports organizational effectiveness.
It’s a very powerful paradigm, this corporate move from stand-alone KM to knowledge services. For those companies that bring knowledge services into the corporate management structure, it is an exciting and easily described approach to managing the organization’s internal – and (when appropriate) external – knowledge sharing process.