What is Knowledge Management (KM)?
My preferred definition is that “Knowledge Management is the practice of making the right information available to the right person in their time of need.”
There are many KM tools and techniques available to us, some are freely available, others are paid-for products and services, but they all fit into some broad categories. To truly succeed in KM, you need to address all of these categories:
- Sharing what we can easily record and keep up to date.
- Knowing who to speak to for help.
- Learning from both positive and negative lessons.
Each of those categories has People, Process and Technology aspects. Technology is needed, but not the most important concern; Processes will really make your KM programme run; But none of it will work if you can’t establish the buy-in and ownership of knowledge sharing by the people of the organisation.
Here are some examples of where good knowledge management could have helped:
- 2 teams in the same company doing the same task for different clients, but neither knew what the other was doing. KM could have saved time, effort and money here.
- A team embarks upon a new piece of work, without realising that it had been done before.
- You search the corporate systems for some information, which you know exists, but you don’t get the results you were hoping for.
- You’re pretty sure that the information that you need is out there, but you don’t have access to all of the repositories and you don’t know who to ask for access, or what to ask for access to.
- You need help with a particular technique/tool, and you’re sure someone must know something about it, but who?
- A real-life example – A consultant has negotiated a great deal for the company, but has since left. We need to check the details of the agreement but we can’t find it anywhere. It was probably on the consultant’s laptop which has been wiped clean. We have no choice but to go to the client, apologise and ask for a new copy.
Don’t forget, only data and information can always be recorded. Knowledge is not always so simple. For example, could you write a sufficiently detailed explanation of how to balance on a bicycle for someone who has never ridden one before? Probably not, but it’s fairly likely that you could show them and help them to do it. I could easily describe how a bicycle works, and I could easily demonstrate how to use a bicycle. This is the difference between information and knowledge.