Organizational Memory

Organizations of all types, strive to proactively, manage, develop and enhance its knowledge management processes to create an advantage, whether that is through using and leveraging existing knowledge assets or creating knowledge assets to address identified gaps.

One common misconception, is that it is all about tools.  Find the right IT tool, and you will address your issues.  The approach rarely works,when in fact the approach should be to identify 1) What knowledge you have 2) What knowledge you need and then identify the tool(s) that best serves.  You may be surprised and find that the tools that already exist can best the serve the needs.

An important approach is to undertake a knowledge audit.  This provides focus to the organization and identifies what is currently working and what is not.  This consists of the following steps:

1. Assess the knowledge needs.  What knowledge is needed to meet the strategic intent of the organization?  What strategy is in place to acquire new knowledge?

2. Undertake a knowledge inventory.  Identify what knowledge assets exists and where they are stored.  Who is the knowledge owner? Identify the state of the asset and ask , “are they fit for purpose still?”

a. How much of the knowledge is tacit – in the minds of experts and knowledge that is difficult to articulate.  For example, how to’s

b. How much of the knowledge is explicit – knowledge that can be codified and shared with others.  For example, design procedures.  What state is the explicit knowledge – is it kept up to date and is there a custodian who looks after it?

3. Analyze the knowledge flow.  How does knowledge flow around the organization and how does this involve people, processes and technology.  How is the knowledge actually used (for decision-making, putting people in touch with each other (knowledge experts); developing new services, etc.)

4. Knowledge management recommendations. What activities are required to improve the KM practices such that they are aligned with the strategic goals?  A pragmatic approach is to assess the “low hanging fruit” – i.e. what are the quick wins, that can achieved within a reasonable time frame.  The fear is that too much is desired, too soon, and in fact, no one ends up with any long-term benefits.