Thursday 19 September 2019

What is the core objective of Knowledge Management?

What is the purpose of KM? Why do we do it? What is it's core objective?

This is a subject worth exploring. If we are 100% sure about why we need, or why we do, KM, then we can be clearer about what sort of KM we need, and what knowledge most needs our attention.

I would like to explore the subject using the 5 Why's to dig down to underlying objectives |(although I think I got to the real reason after the fourth Why, so I stopped there).

Why do we need knowledge management?

We need KM because knowledge needs to be "managed" better. I put "managed" in quotes because knowledge is not an item to be managed directly; it is instead "managed" through creating the conditions by which knowledge will be generated, flow, and be applied. Follow the links for discussions about whether KM is an oxymoron, and the meaning of the "Management" word in "Knowledge Management"

Why does knowledge need to be managed better?

Because knowledge workers need knowledge to do their work, and because in many organisations the knowledge does not reach the knowledge workers easily, efficiently, effectively, or securely.  Maybe the knowledge remains in the heads of individuals, maybe it does not cross organisational silos, maybe it is at risk of loss, or maybe it is shared, but is very poor quality. This blog often uses the metaphor of KM as a Supply Chain, supplying knowledge to those who need it in their work. KM is a way to build the supply chain, and make it effective, efficient and lean.

Why do knowledge workers need knowledge?

They need knowledge to make better decisions and take better actions. One useful definition of a knowledge worker is someone who makes judgments and decisions for a living, and better access to knowledge allows better decision making and better actions. Peter Senge tells us that Knowledge is the ability to make effective decisions, and the new ISO standard 30401:2018 tells us that knowledge is "human or organizational asset enabling effective decisions and action in context".

Therefore the more knowledge, and the better knowledge, you can supply through the supply chain, the better the decisions your knowledge workers make. They make fewer mistakes, they follow better practices, they innovate where innovation is needed and follow standards when standards are appropriate.

Why do we need knowledge workers to make better decisions?

Here, on the 4th Why, we can no longer give a generic answer, because this answer will be different for each organisation. Maybe we want people to be more efficient in order to eliminate wasted cost. Maybe we want them to be more effective in selling services and closing deals. Perhaps we want happier or more prosperous customers, or we need to save lives and protect property. The answer to this question will depend if you work in a legal firm, an engineering company, a public utility or a fire service. Or even if you are doing personal knowledge for your own benefit. However you answer it, this final step links knowledge Management to the strategic goals of the organisation or individual that is applying it. 

So we can summarise the core objective of KM as follows:

By providing a more efficient and effective supply of knowledge to the knowledge workers, KM supports better decisions and more effective actions in service of the goals and objectives of the organisation.

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