Friday 11 July 2014

What Knowledge do you want to manage?

"What knowledge do we need to manage?" is one of the fundamental questions to get right in your Knowledge Management strategy.

As consultants, one of the greatest Knowledge Management insights we bring to client organisations is this - You don’t have to manage it all; just manage the 20% that makes 80% of the difference.

Why is this a great piece of news? We frequently find that when people start thinking about Knowledge Management implementation, they start thinking about the solution first. They may research technology, they may seek out some excellent processes, they may (if they are smart) think about the roles and accountabilities the company will need, and they may contemplate the use of communities of practice, global task forces, virtual teams, blogs, wikis, and any other of the trendy solutions that are popular in the market place.

This is all great thinking, and if they have done well, they may come up with a holistic solution, of Processes, Accountabilities and Technologies, which provides an excellent framework through which Knowledge will flow around the organisation. They have sorted out the How question.

However the question that is often not asked, is the What question.

What knowledge needs to be managed?

Exactly what knowledge do we need to flow around the organisation? What’s the high value stuff? What’s the knowledge that will give us a competitive edge? What is the knowledge that will give us “first learner advantage?

If you focus your effort proactively on the knowledge of highest business value - the business-critical knowledge areas -  then your KM efforts will not only be easier, they will deliver far higher benefit.

Focused KM systems add maximum value. By focusing on the 20% of the knowledge that delivers the 80% of the value, it maximises the rate of return on your KM investment. People are busy, time is precious, and so it makes sense to focus your precious time on the highest-value knowledge. Yesterdays blog post explained how the Ecopetrol Knowledge Management strategy was focused around the question “What knowledge do we need at Ecopetrol that we don’t have?”

So before you get to far with your KM implementation, ask yourself

"What knowledge do we actually need to manage?"

And if you want to know how to determine what the critical knowledge is, see this blog post for advice, also this one.

Generally you find the What by starting from the Why. That leads you to the How. Don't start from the How - that is the wrong end of the chain.

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