Tuesday 30 May 2017

Dealing with the important urgent knowledge first

We often say that "Knowledge Management must be focused on the critical business knowledge", but how do we identify what that critical knowledge is?

There are actually two dimensions to identifying the criticality of a Knowledge Topic (at least in terms of steering your KM program). These are
  • Importance, and
  • Urgency

I have already blogged about how to identify the important knowledge - to start with your business strategy, identify the activities needed to deliver that strategy, then identify the knowledge needed to deliver the activities. These could be activities (and knowledge) at all levels in the organisation 
  • knowledge of how to enter new markets as well, as knowledge of how to sell products
  • knowledge of how to set production forecasts, as well as knowledge of how to operate a plant
  • knowledge of how to interact with host government environmental agencies, as well as knowledge of how to avoid pollution at your chemical plant

The knowledge can be new knowledge which needs to be acquired, cutting edge knowledge which forms your competitive advantage, or core knowledge which is needed to keep your income stream alive, and to fulfil your commitments. It can even be knowledge which is supplied by your partners and contractors, but which is still vital to your business. You identify the important knowledge through conversation with senior managers.

What about the urgent knowledge? This is the knowledge which needs urgent attention from knowledge management. There are at least four cases where knowledge can be in need of urgent attention. These are as follows.

  1. When knowledge is important to the company, but we don't have it (or we don't have enough of it). Here the focus will be on the acquisition and development of knowledge - on innovation, knowledge creation, research and action learning.
  2. Where knowledge exists widely in the company, but is siloed, and not shared, or otherwise not properly managed. Here knowledge is used inefficiently - advances in one part of the business are not shared and learned from, in other parts of the business. Multiple, and inefficient, solutions exist, where one or two solutions would be better. Here the focus will be on the elements of knowledge sharing, and knowledge improvement, such as communities of practice, lessons learned, and development of knowledge assets, best practices, and standardisation.
  3. Where important knowledge is at risk of loss (perhaps through the retirement of key members of staff). Here the focus must be on developing and deploying a Retention strategy.
  4. When critical knowledge is held by a contractor, partner or supplier, and they don't have knowledge Management. Here the focus is on defining a Knowledge Management Framework for them to apply, to keep your knowledge safe.
How do you identify the urgent knowledge? You need to do a Knowledge Scan of the important topics, and shortlist the ones in most need to attention.

Those important and urgent knowledge issues are the ones that should drive your knowledge management strategy, tackling them one by one.

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