Wednesday, 17 July 2019

But what knowledge do you need to manage?

When beginning with KM, don't start with the How; start with the What.


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 do we need to manage?" 

This is one of the fundamental questions to get right in your Knowledge Management strategy (this blog post is not about the Why question, which of course is the other fundamental question, and even more important). 

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

Find out;

  • 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?
  • What knowledge do our people need, to help them make teh decisions that will drive growth, prosperity and customer satisfaction?


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.

So before you get too far with your KM implementation, ask yourself two questions -


  • Why do we need to manage knowledge better?
  • "What knowledge do we actually need to manage?"


The ISO KM standard (ISO 30401:2018) requires you to ask these two questions, plus a third one about stakeholders (the Who question) before you get anywhere near the question of How.

If you want to know how to determine what this critical knowledge is, read this newsletter and see this blog post for advice, also this one. Start with the strategy of the organisation, ask what do we need to do to deliver that strategy, then ask what do we need to know, to be able to do these things. And once you understand the critical knowledge, find out where it lies and who currently holds it, and then determine what tools, processes and roles you need to make it more widely available to the people who need it.

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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