Paul Gebel

The Application of Good Knowledge Management in Business

This is the third and final post in a short series on Knowledge Management (KM) in organizations. I prefaced this with an introduction to Madanmohan Rao’s framework, expanded on Nancy M. Dixon’s knowledge transfer channels, explained the “8Cs Audit” of KM, and in this post we’ll wrap up the series with a summary of why this all matters in the first place.

There are four primary areas where the health of an organization’s KM primarily manifests, and the success or failure on each of these aspects can be largely influenced by KM best practices. First of all, a high 8C-scoring organization would likely have really well designed products or services. In a company where the employees trust one another and cooperate, there is also likely to be efficient divisions of labor and ease of institutional knowledge transfer for efficiencies. Secondly, these KM champion companies will also have state-of-the-art CRM tools and practices in place as well. Customer service will thrive under good KM practices due to (among other things) the time that employees are freed up to spend making customers happy! Thirdly, as employees begin to develop KM habits around good 8C principles, the company becomes an easier place to lead and manage. Since duplication and re-work is minimized, employees can grow along career pathing lines in which they desire. Last but not least, the firm’s ability to conduct business analysis, both internally and externally, will flourish under good KM practices. Nowhere will an unhealthy KM system be more visible than in a firm’s ability (or lack thereof) to identify profit centers or peg KPIs through rigorous business analysis.

So there you have it. We examined how knowledge is actually communicated, how to determine the efficiency by which it is communicated , and finally why bother setting up KM practices in business at all? In conclusion, if a firm were to desire good design in its work, highly satisfied customers, well managed employees and a good sense of the internal and external market… it seems like implementing a well thought out KM strategy would be an excellent place to start.

If you are interested in a KM assessment at your firm, please feel free to contact me for further discussion.

The main source for this post comes from a framework by Madanmohan Rao (@madanrao) in the book Knowledge Management in Practice: Connections and Context.

The “8 Cs” Audit of Knowledge Management

This is the second of a three part series on Knowledge Management in organizations. I kicked it off introducing you to Madanmahon Rao’s KM best practices overview, and in the first main post I examined the five channels of knowledge transfer, discovered by Nancy M. Dixon. In this post, I’ll take a look at a high-level survey of eight attributes of the state of KM within an organization. As a snapshot poll, this survey could be structured as a simple 1-10, or more likely a 1-5 performance scale. Or if an organization were to sample a set of knowledge superusers, this audit could also solicit unstructured, free-form responses for more qualitative feedback. Any way it is administered, the feedback gained from this audit is foundational to developing action items for KM improvement based on the goals of the organization.

  1. Connectivity – What connectivity devices, bandwidths, interfaces, technologies, and tools do your knowledge workers have when they are in the office of on the road?
  2. Content – What knowledge assets are relevant to the content of your workflow, and what are your strategies for codification, classification, archival, retrieval, usage and tracking?
  3. Community – What are the core communities of practice aligned with your business, and what organizational support do you have for identifying, nurturing, and harnessing them?
  4. Culture – Does your organization have a culture of learning where your employees thirst for knowledge, trust one another, and have visible support from their management?
  5. Capacity – What are your strategies for building knowledge-centric capacity in your employees, for instance via workshops, white papers, mentoring, and e-learning?
  6. Cooperation – Do you employees have a spirit of open cooperation, and does your organizations cooperate on the KM front with business partners, industry consortia, and universities?
  7. Commerce – What commercial and other incentives do you use to promote your KM practice? How are you “pricing” the contribution, acceptance, and usage of knowledge assets?
  8. Capital – What percentage and amount of your revenues are invested in your KM practices, and how are you measuring their usage and benefits in monetary and qualitative terms?

Similar to the five channels of knowledge transfer, it’s striking upon reading it. This audit, compiled by an internationally respected expert in KM, never mentions ISO standards or file naming conventions. The health and wellbeing of KM within organizations has more to do with people than it does technology. So lay out your goals for improving KM for effective growth towards your goals, and see where your areas of improvement lie. Have you conducted an 8Cs audit within your firm before? If you need a hand getting started, I would love to help your business grow.

The main source for this post comes from a framework by Madanmohan Rao (@madanrao) in the book Knowledge Management in Practice: Connections and Context.

Knowledge Transfer Within Organizations

This is the first of a three part series on Knowledge Management in IT (or any organization for that matter). I introduced the series describing the influence Madanmahon Rao’s work has had on this exploration, and in compiling the best KM practices in the industry, he begins with an operational look at how knowledge passes between people within organizations. It is important to put this in context, because without contextualizing the means of transfer, you will not be able to tell what channels are working effectively or not. Rao first cites GWU professor Nancy M. Dixon’s framework for the channels for knowledge transfer in order to flesh this out. She articulated the five methods of knowledge transfer thus:

Serial Transfer: The knowledge a team has gained from doing its task in one setting is transferred to the next time that team does the task in a different setting.
Near Transfer: Explicit knowledge a team has gained from doing a frequent and repeated task is reused by other teams doing similar work.
Far Transfer: Tacit knowledge a team has gained from doing a nonroutine task is made available to other teams doing similar work in another part of the organization.
Strategic Transfer: The collective knowledge of the organization is needed to accomplish a strategic task that occurs infrequently but is critical to the whole organization.
Expert Transfer: A team facing a technical question beyond the scope of its own knowledge seeks the expertise of others in the organization.

It seems so simple! Reading through the list, I imagine how each one of those channels place a role in the communication and workflow of my organization on a daily basis. Upon reading these listed out so succinctly, I’m reminded of an analogy in how the brain responds to an optical illusion. That is, when presented with the classic image of an old woman or a rabbit, our brains know that two “images” exist in front of us, but we can only visualize one at a time. Similarly, there are five main channels of knowledge transfer, and we know that they all exist simultaneously as methodologies – tacit or explicit – but our teams and employees can only really focus on one at a time. When solving our company’s biggest problems, sometimes just knowing what we’re not seeing is as important as knowing what we are.

The main source for this post comes from a framework by Madanmohan Rao (@madanrao) in the book Knowledge Management in Practice: Connections and Context.

Knowledge Management in Organizations

Knowledge management (KM), as an art, could be said to have reached its true potential in the IT sector. Of course, KM has been around as long as people have been telling stories and passing them down to the next generation. But true systematic KM involves the collection of information through rigorous data analysis, so that values and context can be applied for decision making. KM stands at the point between information (in the form of analyzed data) and wisdom. In other words, a person or an organization’s approach to KM determines how well they are able to achieve the goals and implement their values. KM is a critical tactic in any decision-making framework needed to implement business or personal strategy.

Well wonderful! So how do you know if you’re “doing” KM well or not? First it’s important to define our terms before getting to any practical exercise. We may be dealing with a preponderance of information but little useful knowledge. Or we may have a culture of knowledge management, but lack the connectivity to implement its effective use. In doing so, an organization may become “information rich by knowledge poor,” says Madanmahon Rao. In the next post, I’ll explore the five channels of knowledge transfer within organizations. After dealing with the media through with knowledge is communicated, we’ll examine Rao’s “8 Cs Audit”, which you can easily plug into any organization for a first-hand look at your KM scorecard. Finally, in the third and final post in this KM series, we’ll put all the pieces together and examine what the actual business case for KM is.

The main source for this post comes from a framework by Madanmohan Rao (@madanrao) in the book Knowledge Management in Practice: Connections and Context.