So what is Knowledge Management?
There is much academic literature written about ‘managing knowledge’. A quick search for “Knowledge Management” on Amazon books results in over 20,000 searches.
This huge number of resources might be a reflection of the value that businesses put on KM. But in a corporate environment, what does it mean exactly? In a layman’s summary of the definition given in www.knowledge-management-tools.net, knowledge management is the processing and utilization of tacit and/or explicit knowledge to achieve some sort of competitive advantage, strategic planning, for better decision-making.
Personally, as an employee of a corporate super-giant, and as such it has become apparent to me that ‘Knowledge Management’ is very much front of mind for our executive team. With a strict ’hire to retire’ policy, there is a constant battle in ensuring that the experience and tenure of the employees is made transferable to the new employees rising up the ranks.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it is more important than ever to gain and maintain a competitive edge. This a difficult to achieve without employees who are either experienced, or have access to the appropriate tools. It can become incredibly costly to a business when they lose experienced employees. A huge amount of time is invested into establishing relationships and navigating the marketplace.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
― Peter F. Drucker
Being able to effectively harness KM means that an organisation has better access to resources that can be used for competitive advantage, decision-making and strategic planning.
How is Knowledge Management used?
As mentioned earlier, Knowledge Management is used to draw on competitive advantages, strategic planning and decision-making. It is also important to mention that any organisation using KM needs to be very clear about what they are using it for, and how best to you use it for those reasons.
What are the most significant issues that concern KM?
There are a number of areas to focus on in regards to potential issues around Knowledge Management in the workplace.
Organisational issues: can be a result of misguidance, lack of experience or lack of direction. It is tough to try and implement KM into these environments because without a firm direction and objective, time, energy and resource is wasted in the effort to seek out tacit and explicit knowledge.
Knowledge issues: can be present in a few areas. Namely the quality of the knowledge – how can we be certain this particular information is correct or relevant. Also the value of the knowledge – if it is tacit knowledge, and is specialised in such a way that it is hard to translate into explicit knowledge, then why would that individual want to give that information away? If this knowledge effectively makes them more valuable, then understandably there is a reluctance to share. This sort of attitude can turn into a liability for a business, and a lot of effort needs to be made to ensure businesses have access to that knowledge.
Trust issues: similar to the above, trust issues can be made apparent in situations where the employee may not feel like their job is safe. For example, an experienced sign maker may be reluctant to pass on his tacit knowledge to another sign maker, as it would then lesser their bargaining position in pay discussions, or ultimately make him ‘less valuable’.