A simple approach to KM

Knowledge management (KM) does not have to be a major enterprise effort. But the lack of KM strategy can be a drag on innovation or hamper decision-making in a knowledge intensive organization. While not perfect, a simple approach to KM may be better than none at all, and preferable to a flawed and expensive enterprise-wide approach. At least this model can be implemented with relative ease and no costly software platforms.

A simple approach to KM in the organization is to look at it as three connected but independent levels. The simplest is enterprise KM, which ensures that important decisions are recorded, codified, and easily available for retrieval. This is mostly explicit knowledge that ensures the organizational memory remains clear on what key decisions were taken and why others were not. Over time, this becomes more valuable. Focusing only on decision memories ensures that enterprise KM does require significant resources but does yield useful results.

simple KMThe next level is group KM, which focuses on teams and projects narrating their work to ensure as much common understanding as possible. One critical component of work narration is the capture of how exceptions are handled in order to get this information to anyone who may need it in the future. This does require some type of social sharing platform, but many options are available (e.g. Socialcast, Yammer, WordPress) and most companies today have a social tool available. It is the group’s responsibility to curate exceptions in a format that is accessible to all. Some exceptions can become rules, and may even be important enough to be collected as enterprise KM decision memories.

Finally, personal KM is practiced by all workers. It should focus on anecdotes and observations. This will reflect implicit knowledge more so than the other two levels, and individuals can share their PKM as they see fit. The format should be very loose so it stays personal. The key is to allow and support the practice of PKM so that some knowledge might be shared. Forcing PKM does not work.

I would start by focusing on group KM and the narration of work. The habit of narration will help prepare individuals for their PKM practices. I would then work on PKM skills development. Capturing exceptions should be practiced by groups and then the process can be shared through the enterprise. Establishing a decision memory practice is probably the easiest and requires someone responsible for it as well as solid direction on capturing and sharing decision processes. With a simple plan, about six months of practice, and management support, a simple approach to KM can become reality. Just imagine, an organization could do this without even issuing a request for proposals! If you do not have an organizational KM strategy, this just might be it.

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