Organizational culture significantly impacts how an organization processes, consumes and maintains knowledge within its boundary. Today, corporations adopt the KM model to improve organizational memory, efficiency and to save knowledge within the organization. Every organization has policies that standardize the KM process across different verticals and departments. The primary aim is to enable learning within the organization while building a learning culture. Adopting the KM model ensures that specialized knowledge does not leave the organization with employees and remains available within organizational memory.
In today’s hyper-competitive world, knowledge is considered as power and data as the new oil. The knowledge workers are getting paid very well compared to their counterparts from traditional sectors like mining and banking. Therefore, the organization that holds the knowledge holds the power to disrupt the industry. I am blessed to be a part of an organization that embraces the ‘knowledge is power’ concept and practices it. Currently, my organization uses Wiki, Confluence, JIRA, and Slack as tools to maintain knowledge repositories. This is done by different team members whenever time permits.
I have seen how knowledge repositories are maintained in my organization, and based on my observations, I am sharing the strategy and details that I would recommend to my manager.
Take a structured approach. It is essential to understand the organization’s goals and how KM activities fit into them. The organization charges clients to offer expert opinions (consulting), and therefore knowledge is the organization’s primary product that it sells. If a knowledgeable person moves out of the organization because of retirement, casualties, or resignation, the knowledge also moves out, which is a disaster for my organization. Hence, codifying knowledge is an utmost priority. The organization does take some actions to get knowledge codified. However, these efforts are undocumented and unscheduled. Hence, getting all the KM activities documented and structured is very important.
Leadership buy-in and their role. Having support from leadership is extremely important as KM activities are time and resource-consuming. An organization starting from scratch can consider taking up to 3 to 5 years to get their knowledge codified and bring a cultural change in the organization. If leadership fails to support the people involved in KM activities, these efforts can collapse and may never be able to deliver results.
Find the gaps and knowledge audit. Though the organization is trying to maintain a knowledge repository, it is important to bring different stakeholders together and define an ideal state of KM activities. When an ideal state is compared with the current state, one can find the gaps in the KM. Finding, documenting, and acting on these gaps is significant. This, followed by auditing the existing knowledge, shall give a good understanding of where we stand as an organization in KM activities. Knowledge audits should consider intangible assets like patents, intellectual property rights, brand value, trademarks, and goodwill. I want to reiterate the importance of documentation at this stage. A good technical infrastructure is needed to maintain all the knowledge repositories, and make them searchable and sharable.
Identify technology and experts. Wiki is used as its technical backbone, complemented by other tools like Confluence, JIRA, and Slack. The team members update the Wiki as and when time permits. This means there is no responsibility assigned that ensures that the Wiki is up to date. This means the task of maintaining a knowledge management portal is deprioritized over the client’s deliverables. This is unacceptable. Therefore, the team needs a dedicated resource to work with other team members and keep the KM portal up to date. Or every individual shall be allotted dedicated time for KM activities. Crowdsourcing is the best way forward to maintain a knowledge repository.
Spread the word, and socialize with the KM. With experts in place and knowledge getting documented, employees of the organization should know about the KM portal. The KM portal needs to be publicized and shared with all the employees. Employees shall be encouraged to use the KM portal over asking questions to colleagues. Content that is missing in the KM portal shall be reported, and respective team members should update the content so that the KM is enriched with knowledge pieces over time.
Integrate AI, NLP, and Social. Over time the content will increase by many folds, and it will become incrementally tricky to find the right content piece at the right time. Therefore, it is very important to introduce advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and widgets that make content sharing easy. For example, suppose the system knows that the person accessing the KM portal belongs to the engineering team. In that case, it makes little sense to show recruitment-related article pieces to that individual on the home page. Instead, the content can be curated and targeted using AI and NLP techniques making the KM portal user-friendly. If a person can quickly share the content with other colleagues from the same or different teams, it will help to increase content awareness within the organization. Such techniques should be introduced without fail.
In my organization, which believes knowledge is power, I would suggest the above KM strategies to my manager.
Dalkir, K., (2017). Knowledge management in theory and practice. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Paul H.J. Hendriks. Assessing the role of culture in knowledge sharing, University of Nijmegen.