Knowledge Management 101
What is knowledge management? Many organisations have been in existence long before Kenya got her independence in 1963 and have a lot of information within their archives. Some if not all these organisations think that knowledge management is arranging this information chronologically and in a neat room/server historically.
What is the point of knowing so much yet not putting it to good use? It is said that Knowledge is power, I add, only when properly harnessed. Unused knowledge is useless. It is much worse when no one even knows it exists in the first place!
So, what really is knowledge management? Simply put, it is a continuous process where organisational information is collected & organised, distributed and used effectively by an organisation. There are more complicated definitions of knowledge management such as one by the Gartner Group that states: “Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual worker”.
Why is Knowledge management important?
The essence of knowledge management is to capture this knowledge and techniques then make them available for use within the organisation to directly affect the bottom line positively. Organisations, just like any living organism, go through various stages of growth & development. In the beginning, there are a lot of lessons that are learnt. Most of these form the basis of policy documents and the organisational culture at this stage. Business norms are inculcated and strategies formulated to grow the organisation and propel it to the next level.
The next stage is growth. Here the organisation has leant hard lessons from mistakes in the formation stage and is ready to expand. Expansion brings about very many challenges and more lessons are learnt. Enforcement of policies and organisation culture across all the new branches teaches the organisation how to grow towards one goal.
All this information must be collected, all documentation captured and stored historically. This information will be used in the future to prevent the organisation from making similar or even more fateful mistakes.
Key categories in knowledge management
There are three characterizations of knowledge management; explicit, implicit & tacit. Explicit information is knowledge that is in a tangible form. Manuals, recorded conversations, emails and other forms of recorded data that captures knowledge.
On the other hand, implicit information is that which is not in a tangible form but could be made explicit. Memories imprinted in the minds of long serving members of staff that can be written down & verified for learning purposes.
Then there is tacit information. This is information that is very difficult to set out in a tangible form. Inborn know how that is very difficult to explain & elaborate or teach to new members of staff.
The biggest task in knowledge management is in collecting and verifying the information held by the organisation. This is especially difficult if there has been no previous attempt to gather this information from the formative stages. The next is to retain the information especially in cases where the persons involved are retiring or have already left the organisation.
The latter problem calls for consistent updating of the knowledge management data bases that ensures they are all up to date on a monthly or quarterly basis. This reduces the amount of knowledge lost when the said persons exit.
Therefore if your organisation is yet to invest in knowledge management, they could easily lose out on new opportunities that have their roots in their very midst. Hoarding information is counterproductive to the organisation and it is important to properly manage knowledge for the good of the organisation.
(Article by Josephine Wanja)