Thursday, 14 January 2016

The role of Technical Writing in Knowledge Management

If knowledge sometimes has to be codified, then the skills of codification are important in KM.  

Writing? Yeah.
Writing? Yeah! by Caleb Roenigk on Flickr
We talk about the two components of KM being Connect and Collect, or about Conversation and Content.

Sometimes the conversations become content, and the tacit knowledge needs to be codified. Sometimes knowledge has to be transferred in writing or in a recorded form. Sometimes you need to create a written or recorded Knowledge Asset in order to be able to store knowledge, and to be able to broadcast it widely.

In cases such as this, where knowledge is to be transferred effectively in text, then one of the core skills required within KM is the skill of effective communication through technical writing.

Not many organisations select people for their writing skills.

Engineering organisations, sales organisations, manufacturing organisations select for people with engineering skills, sales skills or manufacturing experience, and do not necessarily select or recruit for skills of journalism, or text-based explanation. Many of the most skilled engineers or salesmen or operators can be fantastic experts, they can have huge quantities of knowledge, but they can lack the skills to pass it onwards effectively in text form. When they write it down, the value can be lost.

I recall Nancy Dixon coming to review KM at BP a few years ago, for example, and concluding that what BP needed to support KM was more Technical Writers.

If transferring knowledge in writing is an important part of your KM framework, then you either need to develop technical writing skills through training and coaching, or your KM team needs to provide technical writing services, almost like in-house journalists, to be able to help transform tacit knowledge into writing without loss of value.  


Stephanie Barnes said...

Hi Nick,

I did a presentation on this issue a few years ago, slides are on SlideShare

Best Regards,

tonyjoyce said...

In varied engineering fields draftsmen provided this function, though they seem to by dying out.

Thomas Burke said...

As a Knowledge Manager with 20+ years experience as a Technical Author / Writer I agree the need for TW/TA's is vital. SME's often do not posses the skills to write clearly or, consistently or have the time to do so. The 2nd/new set of eyes on the process and procedures often enables the innovation of new (improved, more efficient) ways of working in addition to the discovery of gaps in the processes.

Tim said...

I actually helped develop a writing component for the pre-screening of employee candidates in the Client Services/Service Desk department of our organization (of course we had one in Knowledge Management as well). You would be amazed how this has helped the Service Desk team in finding employees with higher quality troubleshooting ability (some correlation might exist here between customer service ability and writing ability??). This has also contributed to better documentation within support tickets, having documented work more readable and usable by all those reviewing the tickets/troubleshooting work done. Thus, enabling teams to get clients up and running more quickly.

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