THIS is the second and last part of our topic about “Knowledge Management” or simply KM.
Last Tuesday, I mentioned that knowledge management is a process of capturing and making an organization’s collective expertise anywhere in the business – on paper, documents, databases, or in people’s heads. Simply speaking KM is concerned with managing both recorded (i.e explicit) and tacit knowledge.
Knowledge management systems’ objective is to assess on a regular basis the knowledge assets of an organization and its impact.
Peter Drucker undoubtedly the most important guru of modern management practices in the second part of the twentieth century and one of the first people to write about the idea of the “knowledge society” and the “knowledge economy,” believes that knowledge has become the key economic resource and the dominant source of competitive advantage.
However, Drucker disputes the notion that knowledge can be managed. He said that “when employees leave the company, their knowledge goes with them, no matter how much they’ve shared.”
Well, I may say that Peter Drucker belongs more to the old economy while we are now doing business in the modern age of IT based economy.
The real and perhaps the sole source of the development of knowledge management is the importance of information driven by technology. Recent empirical evidence shows that many successful companies today believe that their organizational triumph is attributed to Knowledge Management. This evidence also proved wrong to some social scientists’ perception that knowledge management is just a management fads and fashions that would not last for five years, since it became the latest management topics after Total Quality Management (TQM).
Today knowledge management is increasingly recognized as a crucial organizational resource that gives organizations market leverage.
Here are some examples of successful organizations that practiced knowledge management: Accenture – KM solution provider enables their workers to capture, manage and share information throughout their organizations; General Electric – collected all customer complaints in a database, that supports telephone operators in answering customer calls.
It has programmed 1.5 million potential problems and their solutions into its system; Honda – routinely build "redundancy", people are given information that goes beyond their immediate operational requirements.
This facilitates sharing in responsibilities, creative solutions from unexpected sources and acts a self-control mechanism; Xerox USA – provides convenient places where people can get together routinely.
Called the "distributed coffee pot" these environments encourage cross-functional links; Hewlett-Packard – famous for its overall culture of collaboration, which encourages knowledge sharing and risk taking on all levels. They even support people who try out things that don't work.
Also, they build offices as open spaces with no partitions or partitions at eye level. This increases sharing of tacit knowledge and values; AT&T's – knowledge management system provides instant access for customer service representatives, allowing them to solve a customer's problem in a matter of minutes; IBM – knowledge management is on dual careers. Employees are encouraged to switch between professional and managerial jobs, in order to gain more holistic knowledge about the company.
I believe that before we even embrace a new management concept, there should always be an overwhelming evidence to support it. The successful organizations I mentioned earlier would surely dispel negative notion from naysayer on knowledge management.
In the book Value Based Knowledge Management, the authors advocate that every organization should strive to have six capabilities working together in order to be successful: 1) Produce – apply the right combination of knowledge and systems so that you produce a knowledge based environment; 2) Respond – constantly monitor and respond to the marketplace through an empowered workforce within a decentralized structure; 3) Anticipate – become pro-active by anticipating events and issues based on this new decentralized knowledge based system; 4) Attract – attract people who have a thirst for knowledge, people who clearly demonstrate that they love to learn and share their knowledge opening with others. These so-called knowledge professionals are one of the most significant components of your intellectual capital; 5) Create – provide a strong learning environment for the thirsty knowledge worker. Allow everyone to learn through experiences with customers, competition, etc.; 6) Secure long-term commitments from knowledge professionals. These people are key drivers behind your organization. If they leave, there goes the knowledge
Over time knowledge management changes the way that people work so that their individual knowledge is more effectively harnessed for the benefit of all.
The biggest challenge of today’s organization is that of changing the culture from "knowledge is power" to "knowledge sharing is power."
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