Paul Medley - Problem Solver

Knowledge Management FAQ

What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management has often been treated by companies as brainstorming session, formal meetings, informal discussions, presentations, and all kind of data gathering and accumulation sessions. 

But with the evolution of time and technology, knowledge management should be defined as a well-organized system which can endurably and universally collect and re-use human wisdom.

The object of management in a KM system is knowledge, not information. Therefore, in this age of information explosion there is a need to extract knowledge after organizing and categorizing the information.

Gartner Group defines KM as the following: “ KM is a system through cooperation and integration to create, capture, organize, access, and use corporate resources which includes data and documents, and most importantly implicit technology and individual experiences”.

As an end result Knowledge Management should allow:

Improvement in the communication channel and knowledge sharing. 

Store, forever, the company’s invisible invaluable intellectual property: Knowledge.

The purpose of knowledge management is through knowledge sharing and re-utilization, to continuously accumulate success stories and experiences in order to stay competitive.

To use the knowledge to continually improve.

 

What is the difference between knowledge management and file management?

The major difference in between KM and traditional file management lies in the “preservation of intellectual capital”. The ultimate goal of KM is to “minimize mistakes through knowledge interaction, and to stimulate innovation”. Therefore KM system should be a platform for communication and interaction between employees. 

KM should be a process of mutual interaction. It is not only passively collecting the information (like collecting a bunch of files), but also being able to convert that information into an enterprise culture which encourages people to focus more on information exchange.

With the mutual exchange of information, the information then produces value. For example, provide an open discussion arena by using an electronic conference environment. One which allows the employees to repeatedly and freely discuss and argue their thinking and it will stimulate more ideas and innovations. 
 

Will implementing KM bring immediate benefits for the organization?

Implementing KM will encounter quite a few obstacles. But the high ROI (Return of Investment) of implementing KM will be beneficial to everyone.

Stimulate innovations –

People with similar experiences can accumulate their ideas and knowledge in order to stimulate more thinking to avoid reinventing the whole wheel or repeat mistakes.

Improve decision making –

Good decisions should be based on good information. During the decision making process, if you have sufficient data, information and experience, it will result in a better decision.

More flexibility –

When we face new challenges, we will have more of an ability to respond to market changes and demands if we can overcome the limitations of the current guidelines and avoid single minded or small group activities.

What is the most difficult part of managing knowledge?

During the introduction of knowledge management, a lot of problems will be caused by people.

Knowledge represents power and privilege --

Most of the people are reluctant to share their knowledge and working experience. How you provide initiatives to attract people to have them share their knowledge and experience is a very important task.

Knowledge is fluid –

A company will lose important information when employees leave their job or they may even forget. It is very important to build a knowledge base system to capture that hidden knowledge from the employees.

Knowledge spreads everywhere –

Most of the companies have branch companies with workers located in many different geographic areas. This can make it very difficult to share experience and knowledge among different organizations.

It is very important to build an effective communication network which allows different working teams to understand each other’s working conditions and to effectively utilize the company’s internal knowledge and resources.

During the introduction of Knowledge Management (KM), can resistance from the organization and workers be avoided and is there a solution to resolve this if it becomes a problem?

It might be necessary to simultaneously persuade upper management in addition to the introduction of KM for the whole company. There are several key important points regarding seeking the internal support within an organization. 


An appropriate project manager must be willing to aggressively communicate with upper management regarding KM concepts and the necessity of implementation.


Utilizing the influence from outside sources in order to strengthen the understanding of the KM importance.
Due to the abstract nature of KM system, even trying to provide a prototype system might not be easily manifested.
In order to acquire strong support from upper management, it is very important to let them clearly understand the effects and benefits of a KM system.


Introduce groups into brainstorming sessions and ask questions like:


Are we likely to see productivity improvement without KM?
Can we keep knowledge in the company when an employee leaves without KM?
If we know about KM, so does our competition. What are they doing in regards to KM?

Does every company need knowledge management? Is there any special industry or types of company needing KM most?

There are several types of organizations which needs KM most.

Companies that have many local working teams or branches –

Due to the geographic difference among the organization, working results and experience sharing becomes very difficult. This results in the waste of organization resources and higher communication costs.

In order to reduce communication costs and to "bring" teams together, implement a knowledge management system to gather all the information located in different locations and put it into one common location. Set it up so it can be accessed by a user-friendly graphic user interface which allows the users to easily retrieve the information. This will result in better communication and higher productivity.

Company generates huge amount of data which needs to be analyzed carefully –

For example, semiconductor FAB generates huge amount of raw data from each SPC station and testing area. If we do not have an effective knowledge management system, people will waste a lot of time searching and retrieving information. The invaluable precious experience and knowledge kept in the system can’t be utilized efficiently.

Company keeps its competitiveness advantage by innovation and personal experience –

In the high-end technology environment, knowledge represents competitive advantage and power. It is quite difficult to collect knowledge since they exist in daily activities, researchers’ thinking and the process of project planning. We need to setup initiatives and incentives to get people to share their experience throughout the organization.

The most common problem encountered in organizations is the loss of knowledge due to the loss of employees.

What are the advantages of using a Knowledge Management system in the semiconductor manufacturing environment?

Improve the communication channel and knowledge sharing. 

Store, forever, the company’s invisible invaluable intellectual property: Knowledge.

The purpose of knowledge management is through knowledge sharing and re-utilization, to continuously accumulate success stories and experiences in order to increase your competitive capability.

To use the knowledge to continually improve.
 

What kind of organization initiatives do we need to implement in order to effectively deploy a knowledge management system within a company?

First of all, we need to change the organization culture in which an environment of sharing knowledge becomes a common practice. We can talk about this from two different aspects:

Motivate employees to share their experience –

Provide an appropriate reward system and initiatives that promote the benefits of knowledge management systems and the sharing of knowledge.

Build a knowledge sharing environment which allows the knowledge to flow freely within the organization –

Evaluate available knowledge management tools which have good network infrastructure, user friendly conference facilities and clear knowledge categorization.

“There’s no best software but software that best fits your company needs.”

Select an appropriate KM system which will create an overall good sharing environment to increase productivity and reduce the pain of KM deployment.

What is the very first step of implementing Knowledge Management system?

Declaration - 

Make a strategic announcement. Let the company know that you intend to collect, accumulate and store knowledge within each of the organizations. And that the stored knowledge can be easily accessed by anyone in the company. That the knowledge will be used to strategically align the organizations with their respective customers.

Build working groups -

Form working groups of people within the organization with similar interests and experience based on the customer alignment strategies. This can be accomplished by employee voluntarily signing up or be organized by an experienced person (Project Manager) who has a clear understanding of the whole company's strategies and structure.

Knowledge blueprint -

After the formation of working group, there must be common agreements among group members. What are the information everyone needs to know? What is the usefulness of those information? We call these common agreements: "Knowledge Blueprint". Knowledge is not just a black and white document. It consists of discussions among group members, all kinds of research results and different kind of media display. If all the employees have the common agreements toward the use of knowledge and the knowledge itself, they can naturally contribute more useful knowledge and can further utilize the knowledge more effectively.

Beware of one of the major pitfalls: Cross-functional managing.

Agreements must also be made with the individuals managers that they buy into allowing their people to be a member of these working groups and that they agree to "Share" these people. If a manager isn't willing to "Let Go" of the employee for this project, the project and the team will suffer and you may lose a customer.

How can we have an environment to fully link up work and knowledge?

In proliferating KM the predominant problem is more often not in system technology but rather lies in the fact that it is difficult to change the work habits of employees. If KM system is not tightly integrated with workflow it actually increases the workload of employee because they need to do extra work to satisfy KM requirements; for company as a whole it is a waste of time and resources.

Furthermore, a KM system without considering employee cooperation can only preserve the explicit knowledge in a company. Implicit knowledge such as the how and the when of carrying out tasks which often is embedded in the process of work or even stays in knowledge workers’ mind is impossible for such KM system to handle.

Therefore in evaluating a KM system one should also consider whether a KM system provides links between knowledge flow and employee work routine as well as helps improve cooperation of knowledge workers.

Linking work and KM to enable users to “leave” experiences and knowledge behind in their daily routine is the best way of accumulating knowledge promptly and efficiently. KM provides a more efficient and more convenient environment for employees to cooperate and innovate. By saving routine data during work process experiences and knowledge are already stored in the system when work is done.

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Paul Medley

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WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT?

An emerging academic discipline and management process that addresses how people, workgroups, and organizations use knowledge principles, processes, technologies, and training to leverage intellectual capital by increasing knowledge flow, organizational learning, innovation, and performance 

Knowledge management caters to the critical issues of organizational adaptation, survival, and competence in the face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change. 

 

“Today’s KM processes are contingency planning for tomorrow’s decisions.”    
 - Alex Bennet, Chief Information Officer for Enterprise Integration for the Department of Navy

KM IN AN ORGANIZATION

KM in a organization is concerned with strategy, processes and technologies to acquire, store, share and secure organizational understanding, insights and core distinctions.

Knowledge management gives priority to the way in which people construct and use knowledge.

Managing knowledge consists of deciding with whom to share, what is to be shared, how it is to be shared, and ultimately sharing and using it.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT vs. INFORMATION MANAGEMENT

We can quibble endlessly over what makes "information" different from "knowledge," but the important point is that we should always be trying to add value to what we have by turning data into information and information into knowledge

Managing knowledge is ultimately everyone's job. Virtually every industry today is becoming knowledge-intensive. What your organization knows is clearly one of its only sustainable competitive advantages. 

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN KNOWLEDGE & INFORMATION MANAGEMENT 

Working with objects (data or information) is Information Management and working with people is Knowledge Management.

SOME COMMON KM ISSUES:

 

THE BRAIN DRAIN - LOSS OF INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE

Do you remember this ?

NEWS FLASH! NASA LOSES PLANS TO SATURN 5 ROCKET

The knowledge drain from the boomer retirement wave already has had some far-reaching consequences. As author David DeLong reports in his book, Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce (Oxford Univ. Press, 2004), NASA lost the plans for the Saturn 5 rocket, which was used to launch the lunar landing craft.  No one knows where the plans are. DeLong writes:

In an era of cost-cutting and downsizing, the engineers who designed the huge Saturn 5 rocket ... were encouraged to take early retirement from the space program. With them went years of experience and expertise about the design trade-offs that had been made in building the Saturn rockets.  Also lost were what appear to be the last set of critical blueprints for the Saturn booster, which was the only rocket ever built with enough thrust to launch a manned lunar payload. 

BUSINESS RESPONSE TO THE BRAIN DRAIN

An article in Management Issues – September 2007 stated that research by online recruiter Monster suggests that a mere one in five American companies have a formal strategy in place to capture critical knowledge and experience from older employees approaching retirement and transfer this knowledge to newer employees.  To make matters worse, only 12 percent of human resource managers said that knowledge retention was seen as high priority within their organizations - despite the fact that a third of them acknowledge that 20 per cent or more of their workforce will be eligible for retirement over the next few years. 

The study suggests that while HR managers may recognize the looming issue of losing institutional knowledge due to retirement, many face barriers to establishing strategies and tactics that could help to pre-empt the problem.  The article further stated that concrete steps organizations can take to help mitigate the affects of brain drain include appointing a Chief Knowledge Officer responsible for organizational knowledge.  

 

DO SIMULAR ISSUES EXIST IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?  IF SO, YOU SHOULD PUT THE "X-FACTOR" TO WORK FOR YOU.  YOU MAY CONSIDER . . .


Implementing programs to identify knowledge assets, sources, and offering knowledge-sharing incentives for employees and incorporate standards in performance reviews.  Employing other tactics including leveraging technology – using things like blogs and wikkis to enable employees to redistribute and access organizational knowledge.  There are many remedies, and one size does not fit all.  

Although the brain drain is a looming problem for employers, it also presents an excellent opportunity for innovative companies to position themselves for better competitive advantage. 

 

Paul Medley© 2010 All rights reserved.

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