What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge Management Consultant, Chris Collison defines knowledge management, and explains the breadth of tools and techniques which underpin this discipline.



What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management is a set of tools, techniques, methods, ways of working, and desired behaviours which help an organization to be more effective.

It is different from other improvement toolkits and management movements like Six Sigma or LEAN Manufacturing because it focuses much more on “know how” and the “know who”.

How do you put that to work more effectively in an organization?
How do you share the key points, nuggets and “rules of thumb”?
How do you ensure that the right contacts are made such that people have the right conversations they need to have at the beginning of the project, before everyone gets into action?

This is why Knowledge Management is quite a “broad church” of techniques and approaches – and is getting broader every year.

So what kind of activities might I become involved with if I’m a Knowledge manager?

You could find yourself exploring tools to identify and support the networks in an organization; networks or communities of practice; ways of mapping how people are connected, ways of improving these connections, looking for who talks to who, who trusts who and how you can optimize that.

You could look at how good an organization is at learning before activities, learning after activities. How do you ensure that the lessons you capture after the projects are meaningful, are full of recommendations, useful action points for somebody?

You may need to encourage teams to learn continuously, during activities rather than waiting until the end of a major project before they take the time to pause and reflect and learn.

It could equally well be about how to capture knowledge such the value can be multiplied. How do you take a “nugget” or insight and capture it in such a way the people are intrigued, interested and want to get in touch with the person who wrote it? How do you package in a way it doesn’t destroy all of the emotion, all of the context, but seems to carry it with it? This will involve the increased use of multimedia, much more use of connections to some of the social media so that you’re only ever one click away from a conversation.

Finally it has a lot to do with the way that we behave, the way that we work, the culture which we establish and support and nurture – or come against, as leaders in an organisation. You may need to confront a “not invented here” culture, to support and make it safe for people to share their experiences (failures as well as successes) and desirable to learn from those of others.

Knowledge management encompasses all of these areas: behaviours, processes, technologies, learning and networks. This is what makes it an exciting and constantly evolving discipline.