Knowledge management is about storing and sharing the wisdom, understanding and expertise accumulated in an organization about its processes, techniques and operations. It treats knowledge as a key resource.
Knowledge management is defined as ‘any process or practice of creating, acquiring, capturing, sharing and using knowledge, wherever it resides, to enhance learning and performance in organizations’ (Scarborough et al, 1999).
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
‘Knowledge has become a direct competitive advantage for companies selling ideas and relationships.’
CONCERNS OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
The development of firm-specific knowledge and skills that are the result of organizational learning processes
Stocks of knowledge, including expertise and encoded knowledge in computer systems.
Flows of knowledge – the ways in which knowledge is transferred from people to people or from people to a knowledge database.
Transforming knowledge resources by identifying relevant information and then disseminating it so that learning can take place.
THE CONCEPT OF KNOWLEDGE
Knowledge is either explicit or tacit. Explicit knowledge can be codified – it is recorded and available and is held in databases, in corporate Intranets and intellectual property portfolios. Tacit knowledge exists in people’s minds. It is difficult to articulate in writing and is acquired through personal experience. The main challenge in knowledge management is how to turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
Knowledge can be stored in databanks and found in presentations, reports, libraries, policy documents and manuals. It can be moved around the organization through information systems and by traditional methods such as workshops, seminars, courses, publications, videos, tapes and the Intranet.
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
The codification strategy knowledge is carefully codified and stored in databases where it can be accessed and used easily by anyone in the organization. Knowledge is explicit and is codified using a ‘people-to-document’ approach. This strategy is therefore document driven. Knowledge is extracted from the person who developed it, made independent of that person and
re-used for various purposes.
The personalisation strategy knowledge is closely tied to the person who has developed it and is shared mainly through direct person to person contacts. This is a ‘person-to-person’ approach, which involves sharing tacit knowledge. The exchange is achieved by creating networks and encouraging face to face communication between individuals and teams by means of informal conferences, workshops, ‘communities of interest’, brainstorming and one-to-one sessions.
The codification strategy is the most common. But the personalization strategy is just as important and is often neglected.
HOW HR CAN CONTRIBUTE TO KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
The ten ways in which HR can contribute to knowledge management are set out below:
Help to develop an open culture in which the values and norms emphasize the importance of sharing knowledge.
Promote a climate of commitment and trust.
Advise on the design and development of organizations that facilitate knowledge sharing through networks and communities of practice (groups of people who share common concerns about aspects of their work), and teamwork.
Advise on resourcing policies and provide resourcing services which ensure that valued employees who can contribute to knowledge creation and sharing are attracted and retained
Advise on methods of motivating people to share knowledge and rewarding those who do so.
Help in the development of performance management processes that focus on the development and sharing of knowledge.
Develop processes of organizational and individual learning that will generate and assist in disseminating knowledge.
Set up and organize workshops, conferences, seminars and symposium that enable knowledge to be shared on a person-to-person basis.
In conjunction with IT, develop systems for capturing and, as far as possible, codifying explicit and tacit knowledge.
Generally, promote the cause of knowledge management with senior managers to encourage them to exert leadership and support knowledge management initiatives.