There is a belief out there in industry and in the Department of Defense that if I have SharePoint or some other system (KMS or Information Management System) that they are doing Knowledge Management. Or the person that is doing their portal site is the Knowledge Manager for their organization. That may or may not be the case depending on the individual. The tool does not manage the Organizations Knowledge nor should it. The tool manages information within the organization so that the individual who is reading or analyzing the information can use their knowledge to make decisions based on the information provided.
Some businesses out there will try to sell you a KMS (Knowledge Management System) which in reality is either a document repository, a lessons learned repository, a collaboration space, or records management system. I am not saying that these are bad things to have for any organization. Even with infusion of an AI system or chatbot with these systems your are not truly preforming Knowledge Management for the organization. This is information management the 1’s and 0’s are stored and that is only 1/3 of the entire organizational knowledge. 2/3s of any organizational knowledge reside within the minds of the people who work there.
Knowledge Management has four main pillars:
- Organizational Culture
- Tools (Digital and Non-Digital)
Each of these pillars are important to any organization and the ROI is actually higher when one focuses on the first three pillars rather than socking funds into a Information Management System.
People are the most important part of any organization. Without it why does the organization exist in the first place. Ensuring that you have the right people working for you in the organization that understand the mission and vision and can preform at the position assigned is key to a successful organization. Being able to keep good people who are excited to work will bend over backwards for the organization. That includes giving them opportunities to grow personally and professionally.
An organizations processes can make change management and innovation management difficult to do if every time a change or innovation needs to take place the “red tape” makes it too difficult for change to take place. Reviewing processes, policies, and procedures can improve how the organization is run and the ability for your employees to actually do the work they were hired to accomplish. These processes can also help assist in developing courses of action for the decision-makers to make sound and timely decisions based on the current environment. It can also create white-space in the staff and decision-makers calendars to be able to focus on developing accurate analysis of data and information coming into the organization.
Culture is one of the hardest things to change within any organization that is past the Start-up phase of development. When a company is first developing through the seed and start-up phases everything seems to be fast and flowing smoothly then when the organization gets establish that is where culture starts to set in. The need to get out of habits of “we have always done it this way” or “we cannot do that because…” the organization is a living breathing thing that has a vision and mission. Organizations need to embrace change and learning ways to improve their product or services. If you do not some other company who has embraced this mindset will over take your foothold and even poach your employees.
Tools (Digital and Non-Digital)
So tools, you noticed that I placed digital and non-digital tools here. Tools should be only 5-10% of the organizational focus when it comes to Knowledge Management. But I know that most people in any organization see the tool as the football and everyone is running to it. Because that is what everyone can see and interact with on a daily basis. Knowledge Management ≠ Portal or SharePoint. Tools can be a map board, a butcherblock paper on the corner of the conference room, it can be the whiteboard hanging on the wall. It can even be PostIt notes to remind you of that 14:00 appointment with the doctor.
Do not get me wrong, tools are important to store documents, input data, maintain records, and visualize the Key Preforming Indicators for the organization. All of those things are important but they are not the end all be all for your Knowledge Management program.