Sunday, February 27, 2011

Knowledge Management and the Organization

My goal for this blog is not add to the deluge of common issues about Knowledge Management (KM).  Although, I may fail, I hoped my readers would help shed light on topics to guide the direction of the conversations in this blog.  Well... sometimes you get what you pray for!

In my previous post, "Better Knowledge Management for the Knowledge Worker", a reader of my post commented, about a "real-world" issue in the practice of KM in the enterprise.  He commented about how the enterprise environment affects the Knowledge Worker (KW).  He wrote, "I feel its the system which is to be blamed. Usually the most weakest of the employees is given the assignment of KM implementation – this itself shows what’s the priority that the organization gives to this task … How many of the top management gets involved in this effort – they limit their contribution to the max “a lip service here and there”. Buy-in has to come not only from the top management – but also from other stakeholders. Knowledge for any organization, I feel is the collective understanding/ learning’s that the organization has."

Please, please - before you SPAM me - hear me out!  I have to admit, I could identify with his views on this topic, because I have seen this very thing happening in many organizations.  Remember it is never, never and never always, but some of the organizations, some of the time.  I felt the need to research this issue to substantiate how and why this problem exists in the enterprise.

Ikujiro Nonaka articulates one of the reasons for this issue very well in his book “The Knowledge-Creating Company”.  It seems that despite our heightened awareness of "intellectual capital" in Western Management, few managers truly grasp the concept of a knowledge producing company, and how to manage KM.  They simply misunderstand what knowledge is and how their organization can leverage it!  Western Managers have a very narrow view of what knowledge is and what their organization must do to exploit it.  It appears that they hold the belief that the only useful knowledge is quantifiable data.  It has been found that managers at most highly successful Japanese companies tap into the tacit knowledge of all employees and to turn it into explicit knowledge for the organization.  These companies and their managers realize that in a knowledge-creating company, inventing new knowledge is not a specialized activity restricted to the domain of the R&D department, marketing or strategic planning.  It is in fact “a way of being, in which everyone is a knowledge worker – that is to say, an entrepreneur.”

It seems that Western Management can learn a few things from successful Japanese companies to improve how they leverage knowledge.  Executives at these Japanese companies are managing their knowledge treasure to the benefit of the company, its employees, and its customers.

This is just one of the many other reasons knowledge management is an enigma for many executives and ultimately their organization, employees and customers are the losers.  I promise more research and writing about this topic and welcome your opinions.  You can also follow me to get more about this and other KM topics on my micro-blog and learn more about this topic in this short video.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Better Knowledge Management for the Knowledge Worker

How many of you spend lots of time wading through the wikis, blogs and content in your organization trying to find a relevant place to deliver your new big idea?  A more likely scenario is that you add to the Collaboration-SPAM by creating a new wiki, blog or heaven's no - an e-mail!  An even bigger problem is, whom should you target with your new big idea?  Your typical Knowledge Management (KM) solutions is no different that this blog.  What if, I could target the members of this blog who can help me to collaborate and benefit from this post and notify them instantly that I need their input.  In a public blog this is not practical "yet", but why not within the systems of my organization?

Many Knowledge Worker's (KW) are unable to effectively collaborate and contribute to the strategic goals and mission of their organization.  Knowledge Management (KM) systems provide tools to find content and collaborate however many lack the tools a KW needs to know what to contribute to their organizations.  Communicating the goals that drive innovation to everyone is a daunting task for most organizations.  Even when the goals are made known to each employee, they often lack the innovation skills.

KM solutions must provide a "Knowledge Radar" (KR)  dashboard to help employees hone in on the information needed by the organization to accomplish its goals. WSN Insight is a KM solution for SharePoint that pushes the relevant collaboration requests (a.k.a conversations) and content for each employee to their customized KR dashboard.  The dashboard contains many conversation KPIs to help prioritize matters.  The solution also has the ability to find the members of the organization that can contribute to the conversation based on various attributes (skills, projects, experience, customers, etc.) of each employee.  This solves some of the biggest hurdles we face with many KM solutions.

Since it's never all about technology, employees in turn need to hone their innovation skills (I-Skills).  I-Skills help employees to "unleash the mindset, skill-set and tool-set of an innovator".  These I-Skills enable you to anticipate and rise to the challenge your organization faces in a hyper-competitive era.  Robert B. Tucker eloquently makes the case for I-Skills in his book "Innovation is Everybody's Business".