On February 7, 2017 I had the honor and privilege of speaking with students in an MBA course at Urbana University. The topic of the course is Knowledge Management and is led by Kelly Evans-Wilson, Director of Assessment and Academic Quality at Urbana University.
Wikipedia includes a definition of Knowledge Management (KM) as follows: The process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization. It refers to a multi-disciplinary approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.
I’ve a simpler definition. KM is how you get stuff out of your head and on to some form of media that can be easily accessed, shared and controlled.
Of course this topic fit very nicely with Business is ART (the book and the process) and the Plan Canvas business planning tool based on it because at its core, it is all about getting your vision, goals, objectives, etc. out of your head, where it rattles around, bumping up against other thoughts and stimuli, never to come to fruition.
2 Types of Knowledge
There are 2 primary types of knowledge: tacit and explicit. Of course there are all kinds of sub-categories of each of these such as “Wow, that’s really useful” and “Seriously…who gives a crap?” But that’s a topic for another day.
Tacit knowledge is exactly that stuff in your head. Additional characteristics include:
- It’s intangible
- It’s shared thru learning
- It’s hard to replicate
- It’s naturally “secure”
By contrast, explicit knowledge is:
- Articulated & codified
- Easily shared
- Security is a consideration
Online and Social Apps Are Changing Knowledge Management
We used to think of KM in terms of big repositories or electronic filing cabinets. Then came enterprise type solutions like Salesforce and SharePoint. The advent of online and social apps like Google Drive, Evernote and Dropbox have dramatically changed how we think of KM. They provide opportunities and new challenges.
Trello is a popular solution I actually use a lot. It offers some level of security and makes it simple to manage “knowledge” and messages. It also works with a large cadre of other tools (like Drive and Evernote).
Even platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be important components to your KM strategy/plan.
There are now so many free, inexpensive and expensive options out there, how do you know what to use?
What is Your Over-arching Strategy?
My advice to this MBA class was to develop a KM strategy that aligns with the over-arching strategy of the business or organization. If it doesn’t exist, develop it first – THEN develop the KM Strategy as a strategic initiative within, or component of, your Strategic Plan.
Otherwise, you run the risk of developing a fantastic KM program that doesn’t benefit the business.
When is It Time for a Knowledge Management Program?
There are multiple reasons for defining a formal KM Program. Some of them include:
- When it saves money
- When it makes processes more efficient
- When it saves time
- When it protects or is necessary from a legal perspective
But a KM Program may represent cultural change in your organization and as we all know, change is often difficult to implement (unless we absolutely HAVE to do it…which is usually too late).
That said, the best time to introduce a KM Program is when the boss says it is. How do you get the boss to support it? Show the boss that the KM Program directly supports the overall strategy of the business or organization.
If it helps them to realize their vision, how can they say “no”?
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