Monday, 28 September 2015

4 cases where you don't need knowledge management

I have argued strongly in the past for Knowledge Management to be business-driven, and to be introduced as a solution to specific business needs; for Knowledge Management to be a strategic business support tool. But what if there is no business need? 

  • What if the company is working in a mode of “It works – let’s not mess with it”?
  • What if the inefficiencies of having no KM are a cost the company can well afford to bear?
  • What if knowledge is not a competitive advantage?

In cases like this, Knowledge Management can be a distraction.

Here are a few cases where KM is not necessary

When you have a structural monopoly that will not change

Imagine you are the sole player in a field, with no competitive pressure. This is a great position to be in - no matter what you do, your business is assured. There is no need to learn, no need for change, and no need to manage your knowledge. You can make as many mistakes as you like.  This is a nice position to be in, but difficult to imagine in any non-communist countries.

When your entire staff are manual workers

If you have no knowledge workers in the organisation, then you have no need of knowledge management.  I must admit, it is difficult to think of an organisation like this - maybe a company that does mobile carwashes in supermarket carparks, perhaps? Even then there might be a knowledge worker or two in the organisation somewhere.

When your company is very small and unlikely to grow

If your company is small enough to work in a single office, if you talk together all the time, and if your document filing is very good, you may do enough informal knowledge sharing not to need to formalise it. 

When you are an individual, making a living based on skill

A concert violinist, for example, is unlikely to need knowledge management, beyond having a good mentor and teacher. Musical performance, or solo sport performance is more a question of skill than of knowledge.

I am sure you can challenge each of these cases, and you may be able to suggest other cases where KM is not needed.

For most other organisations, which is to say almost every other organisation in the world, where knowledge is an asset and where there are knowledge workers in the organisation, then  Knowledge Management is a value-adding discipline.

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