8 Things You Need to Know About KM and Knowledge Services
1 – Collaboration is the name of the game.
Company success (or organizational success if you don’t work in the corporate sector) is based on how efficiently people find what they need. If employees spend too much time or money looking for information and knowledge, they are wasting the company’s resources and inhibiting the company’s larger success. And finding themselves professionally frustrated.
Success comes when people collaborate, when they share what they know, whether it’s knowledge about a current project or day-to-day information used for established routines. In all cases, workers must have access to what they need, and if they don’t have access, they’ve got to ask someone. And know who that “someone” is.
It’s all part of the now recognized functional structure for companies and organizations: nobody works alone anymore. We work with others. We need them – or the information or knowledge they have – and they need us. We collaborate to enable success.
2 – Management is asking for collaboration, and we information and knowledge professionals are positioned to advise on managing the company’s intellectual capital.
Generally speaking, managers and enterprise leaders are making it clear they want a practical approach to working with intellectual capital across the organization. They’ve learned (from tough experience) that using the company’s knowledge resources doesn’t happen solely through the outputs of discrete functional entities. If too much attention is given to these individual information-focused units (records management departments, for example, or specialized research libraries, corporate archives, staff training and learning units, information technology departments, database design units, or web development units, to name a few), the process is too cumbersome. Management wants it all pulled together, enterprise-wide. It’s our job, as information and knowledge professionals, to lead this effort, to ensure that the company’s information and knowledge is available when it’s needed. Management expects us to provide the answers.
3 – KM/Knowledge Services enables and validates value-add collaboration.
We have the tool for workplace collaboration. We use the combined form of two management constructs that have been around for a while, knowledge management (KM) and knowledge services. We combine them because KM alone sometimes feels sort of remote, not connected to what we do in the workplace, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of “managing” knowledge.
Knowledge services – as a single management methodology – combines the basic principles of KM, information management, and strategic learning, all working together. In combining them, knowledge services sets up a collaborative framework that ensures added value from the collaborating and through the knowledge sharing process. In other words, if we share what we know, not only do we work better, we work smarter, and so do the workers and colleagues with whom we interact.
4 – Knowledge Services: it’s putting KM to work (“the practical side of KM”)
With knowledge services – as a management concept – all knowledge workers engage in knowledge sharing, not just in the usual knowledge-focused units (research management, etc.). All functional units develop, share, and use knowledge, and with knowledge services as the practical methodology for dealing with information, knowledge, and learning, we establish high level efficiency and effectiveness in each business unit, with results benefitting the entire larger enterprise.
So if KM seems a little remote or a little too theoretical (and it can be), we ask some basic questions: how do we converge the three elements of knowledge services with a practical goal in mind? How do we find a mechanism for dealing with (“managing”) our company’s knowledge assets? How do we strengthen needed information- and knowledge-sharing activities (such as faster decision making or accelerated innovation)?
5 – The whole purpose is successful KD/KS/KU.
When the organizational goal – with respect to information, knowledge, and learning – is clearly defined it becomes almost “natural” to look for ways to develop, share, and use knowledge better than we’re doing it now. And defining that goal is pretty straightforward: we just want the knowledge development/knowledge sharing/knowledge utilization process (what we like to refer to as “KD/KS/KU”) to be as good as it can be. Are there benefits? Think in terms of better leverage of resources and capabilities, strengthened service delivery (with higher quality deliverables), strengthened staffing and qualification management, and – in the final analysis – improved customer and staff satisfaction.
6 – “How-to” tips for getting started.
It’s not a hard job to move into a collaborative, KM/knowledge services way of working. There are specific steps every knowledge worker can take:
- Give some thought to situations where sharing breaks down. Can you identify why information and knowledge isn’t shared in those situations?
- Don’t go it alone. Are there other knowledge workers – perhaps in other departments – who are experiencing the same sorts of problems? Talk with them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you and they will come up with solutions for benefitting you both.
- Identify what’s been done already. If a similar problem was resolved in another business unit, can that solution be adapted for your unit? Or built on as a foundation for a customized solution for your unit?
- Conduct a knowledge audit/evaluation. Identify what information and knowledge is required for different knowledge workers. What do they need? How they use it? And how successful are they in obtaining it when it’s needed? Is it easy or difficult?
7 – Making the business case for moving in the KM/knowledge services “direction.”
Understand that everyone in the company doesn’t have your close-at-hand experience with KD/KS/KU. It’s our job to raise awareness about the value of knowledge and how knowledge is used for the benefit of the company.
And since we know that many of company leaders keep up with what’s going on, they hear “about” KM and knowledge services (see # 2 above). They sense that the company should be “doing” KM and knowledge services; they’re just not particularly expert at getting it moving.
We can do it, and when we get the ear of an executive or company leader and establish his or her interest in the value of knowledge and linking the benefits of the company’s intellectual capital to the company’s success, we build the business case:
- Find a sponsor. Figure out a way to establish a relationship with a reliable KM/knowledge services champion or advocate. Hopefully someone in or near the C-suite, the KM/knowledge services sponsor should be a person who understands the risks of approaching KD/KS/KU too casually. Once you have that person’s confidence, make it clear that you can help move a strong KM/knowledge services framework forward. But you’ll need their help.
- Talk about the company’s KD/KS/KU vision with anyone who will listen – and if there isn’t a vision, bring the subject up.
- Identify the company’s information and knowledge gatekeepers. Who “owns” KM/knowledge services? What is the firm leadership’s “take” on KM/knowledge services?
- Ask what future planning is being done with respect to such hot-button topics as information governance, privacy and security, big data (and strategies for dealing with big data), compliance and risk management, and the like. All have to do with the company’s approach to KD/KS/KU, and you have the expertise management needs for ensuring the success of the KD/KS/KU process.
8 – Bringing training and change management into the picture (they are critical).
Read # 7 again.
When calling attention to KM and knowledge services, putting forward a proposition to take advantage – from a competitive perspective – of the company’s intellectual capital, you’re asking fellow employees to think about why and how they use the company’s information, knowledge, and learning. It’s big-picture stuff, and you’re calling for change, change that will enable the company to perform better if it manages itself as a knowledge culture.
It won’t be easy, and you’ll encounter resistance almost from the get-go. At the same time, though, you’re going to find yourself and colleagues on your team with a wide coterie of supporters and enthusiasts. They’ll be saying to you – and to management – “Why did we wait until now? Why haven’t we done this before?”
Take up the change management banner and develop change management and change implementation procedures (and if people gasp when you speak about “change management” call it “transition planning”). Then see that those procedures are coupled with training and strategic learning, just to ensure that everyone affected by the change is given the opportunity to understand what their role is in the new knowledge environment.