The 8 pillars of a knowledge management strategy
Most organisations don’t have any kind of knowledge management strategy. They will have storage and collaboration platforms, and often there’s a learning and development plan, but that’s about it. Knowledge management is much broader than even having a knowledge base that’s up to date and serving the needs of employees and customers. Knowledge management, when it’s truly effective, is the strategic director of many activities to do with mobilising knowledge throughout an organisation and between the business and its partners and customers. It might help to visualise it as a model. The best definition I’ve seen for knowledge management (KM) comes from APQC’s Carla O’Dell and Cindy Hubert. They describe knowledge management as:
A collection of systematic approaches to help knowledge flow to and between the right people at the right time (in the right format at the right cost) so they can act more efficiently and effectively to create value for the organization.
The case for strong leadership
Any KM strategy should be connected to the overall strategy of the business, and any knowledge management activities a business unit commits to should align with the specific contributions they are making to achieve the goals of the organisation.
Organisations with a Director of Knowledge Management, such as Shopify, or a Chief Knowledge Officer, such as Woods Bagot, have much greater success with guaranteeing resources and coordinating efforts across teams and functions. Representation at a senior leadership level, is the only way to drive the kind of high-impact improvements to efficiency and innovation that knowledge management can provide. Knowledge managers are obsessed with reducing the friction in knowledge capture and sharing, and are constantly on the lookout for ways to reuse and improve the relevancy of organisational knowhow, thereby increasing the value of every knowledge asset.
The 8 Pillars of an effective knowledge management strategy
Knowledge managers have a number of tools, methods and tactics at their disposal to establish knowledge-sharing cultures that embrace learning and collaboration, and making the exhaust—insights, ideas, and explicit knowledge in the form of content—discoverable and reusable by the audiences who will benefit from it. I think of knowledge management as an overarching capability with the knowledge manager as coach and facilitator, nudging teams and individuals towards improving their KM capabilities.
- Knowledge auditing – know where your silos and repositories are and what the knowledge flow currently looks like. Who are the experts and where are the risky dependencies? What are the domains of knowledge that are critical to the business and are there gaps? A single organisation may have dozens of locations where knowledge is stored or transferred—look for duplication across systems, and processes where knowledge leaks out because a problem-solving conversation hasn’t been captured anywhere.
- Document management (or content management) – consider the information architecture for your explicit knowledge early on. It’s much easier to manage when content is located is centralised in one location and is routinely maintained.
- Learning & Development – Map staff development with business goals and employee’s own interests, (possibly by using a framework such as SFIA or a methodology like Intelligent Swarming), to embed a culture of learning throughout your team and improve employee engagement.
- Knowledge operations – This is the part concerned with that mobilisation of knowledge. What methods will you employ to make sure knowledge gets to where it needs to go? Maybe KCS for those business functions like HR, customer support, finance and legal, that address repetitive issues. Maybe it’s a mobile-first intranet with an effective search engine for those teams that are out in the field working on-site.
- Social network analysis – Know who your hubs and influencers are, so you can more easily enact organisation-wide changes and identify team members who may be great mentors or coaches.
- Co-creation & facilitation – Uncover tacit knowledge and develop group ownership of problem solving.
- Coaching & mentoring – Great for transferring niche skills, explaining organisational quirks to new hires, and for building individual confidence and team performance in a strategic capability.
- Community management – Drive more effective collaboration and elicit group participation to make high-value reusable content more discoverable in large-scale enterprise social and customer support networks.
For a quick reference guide to a more effective KM strategy, click on the infographic and save the 8 Pillars of Knowledge Management. For some advice on your strategy, book a Diagnostic Session today.