Knowledge Management for the sake of Knowledge Management

Sharing knowledge, creating new knowledge, I think it’s safe to say the corporate world agrees that knowledge management is a good idea. What surprises me though, is that knowledge management is treated as a separate process and more often than not, without any clear goals. We say that having a good knowledge management process in place will reduce errors during task handovers, or reduce average time to solve problems, or reduces the risk of “re-inventing the wheel”. That’s all well and good. However, what are we actually measuring?

Do we report on, for instance, the amount of reduced average time to solve problems? More importantly, can we link that reduction back to the implementation of the knowledge management process? Because implementing knowledge management is seldom the only change that occurs in any organisation.

What I see is organisations actually don’t report on these goals as a result of knowledge management. Instead, they report on the usual knowledge management activities such as knowledge articles created, modified, viewed. We want people to solve problems using knowledge articles, so we measure problem records linked to knowledge articles. What’s worse, we tend to set goals on these measurements. Because we require knowledge articles to be added in the system, and knowledge articles to be viewed and linked to solve issues.

The result? Instead of allowing knowledge workers to focus on achieving organisational goals, the focus shifts to doing the activity. And shortcuts to achieve these activity-based goals. It leads to people gaming the process, whether intentional or not. Ask someone to deliver 10 knowledge articles by the end of the week, and you will receive 10 knowledge articles by the end of the week. But what good are those if nobody uses them?

Have a look at your organisation’s knowledge management process design and find the part where the strategy for knowledge management is defined. Is it defined? And if yes, does it align with the organisational strategy and even company strategy? If you want your knowledge management process to have a real, measurable contribution, the answer to these questions should be a resounding yes.

Having a strategy will help you decide which measurements you need to put in place. More importantly, it will help you decide which measurements should have goals and which you want to track for trends. Doing knowledge management to contribute to strategic goals is good. Doing knowledge management for the sake of knowledge management, not so much.
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