Misconceptions about Knowledge Management

Guest post by Ido Namir

Why Knowledge Management? 

Many people ask us about knowledge management and why they should implement a knowledge management process in their organizations. Our answer is that by deploying a successful KM process, organizations will reduce costs, enhance productivity, and improve knowledge sharing processes among managers and employees.

Two definitions of knowledge management

In 1994, Thomas Davenport, an American academic and author specializing in knowledge management and analytics, defined knowledge management as "a process of capturing, distributing and effectively using knowledge".

A few years later Bryant Duhon introduced one of the most widely accepted definitions for knowledge management:

"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 workers.”

Knowledge management vs. Common misconceptions

One of the misconceptions about KM is that it's a stand-alone program or project. But as one can notice from both definitions, knowledge management refers to the explicit and tacit information life-cycle that runs throughout the entire organization, and as such it can’t be a stand-alone program. 

A successful implementation of KM process demands an alignment between the strategic objectives of the organization and the process itself.

KM focuses on managing business critical knowledge and, as a result, it helps improve efficiency and productivity throughout all work stages and managerial levels.

Since knowledge management processes are based on capturing and sharing ‘un-captured expertise and experience in the individual worker’, it cannot be as often misconceived, 'an off the shelf product or program that can be copied from one organization to another'. On the contrary, it must be customized according to the structure, products, services and organizational process that are unique to each organization.

Another misconception is that knowledge management is 'just about getting information and document management'. True, document management is part of KM, and it refers to the process of capturing and organizing documented information and rendering it into explicit knowledge.

However, KM has a much larger impact on systems, process and people, than document management. Successful implementation of a KM process influences organizational culture, as it leads to a change in employee's behavior and attitudes.

In addition, an effective KM process in the organization enables employees to identify and share business critical knowledge much more easily and efficiently, and it doesn't, as some may think, overload people with information.

KM framework incorporates six dimensions, and we have already mentioned the importance of strategic alignment, work processes, information life cycle, the importance of people and culture. These dimensions illustrate why KM can't be 'purely a technology solution.'

KM must be connected and integrated in daily activities, processes and culture, and it can't rely on technology alone.

It should be linked to performance management reviews and supervised by a governing body with the objective of getting the most from the intellectual capital of the entire organization, and not to create additional workload which will not add value, as occasionally KM is misunderstood.

KM is about people. KM is about integrating processes and people's expertise, experience and intelligence in a way that will enable employees to get the most out of their work in an efficient and effective way.

KM needs technology as an enabler, a support, an integrated platform for many teams. But only by aligning KM to the strategic objectives and connecting it to the organizational culture, sometimes also leading to a change in the culture itself, will it creates an impact that matters.

Ido Namir is the Partner/Head of Deloitte knowledge management advisory services


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