Is Knowledge Management the key?

There are two types of knowledge management often being discussed, Personal Knowledge Management and Enterprise Knowledge Management.  In simple, digestible terms, Personal Knowledge Management refers to the personal responsibility to share, to learn, connect and share personal insights.  Enterprise Knowledge Management is an organization’s concern with strategy, process and technologies to acquire, store, share and secure organizational understanding, insights and core distinctions and is closely tied to competitive advantage, innovation and agility.  Can we afford either of these to be absent?  I propose that they both must be present and that Enterprise Knowledge Management cannot exist without Personal Knowledge Management.

Knowledge management is increasingly becoming THE topic in the higher education community as budgets shrink and resources are stretched.  While knowledge management has been an established discipline for quite some time, we often do not know that this topic is what we are referring to in more casual conversations.  Often when reviewing shared business processes with a client I am told such things as – “Well, in our office we do it this way but I hear in the office across the hall, they do it differently”. Why? I asked them.  Many times the answers are:  We learned on our own. We had a different trainer.  Our offices don’t get along that well so the other employees do not share their knowledge with us.  We just don’t have enough time.

These are all symptoms that leadership is not paying enough attention to knowledge management.  Organizations form countless committees, list serves, portal sites of information containing newsletters, updates and now have developed internal blogs, become members of social networking sites and services and yet knowledge management often remains an issue.  This especially is true in government assisted, tightly budgeted organizations such as colleges and universities where sharing knowledge formally and consistently across functional areas is the first paramount step to their success of leveraging resources.  Enterprise Knowledge Management often times appears absent.

An ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, by definition, should be one component to a larger prescription aimed at acquiring an optimal level of Enterprise Knowledge Management. ERP systems are designed, implemented, and maintained by people. The ERP system development company can help you with this. They require constant attention and team knowledge building to understand and manage them.  So, I propose that Personal Knowledge Management must exist before Enterprise Knowledge Management can be achieved successfully.  This catches many clients off guard who are entering our world of completely integrated systems for the first time.  No longer are canned prescriptive approaches to general knowledge management effective and able to take organizations to the next level of innovation, competitiveness and efficiency.  The very nature of an organization’s characteristics will dictate the complexity of strategy at which knowledge management should be addressed.  Large complex organizations acquiring ERP systems should be prepared to respond to the diversity of the human resources it serves.  Learning styles and methods of instruction should both be considered in developing a comprehensive strategy for training, cross training and continuous knowledge sharing efforts across the organization.

How do we further achieve our goals of Enterprise Knowledge Management? There are things an organization can do from an operational perspective that will be in support of our knowledge management goals.  Successful knowledge management is observed in organizations where the culture and hiring process promotes the highest standards of Personal Knowledge Management.  It can only be assumed that those people who believe that hoarding knowledge is counter-productive to organizational success and their own personal development, will be the most receptive to sharing what they know, be eager to help others, receptive to participating in efforts to respond to a rapidly changing technological environment and are closest to achieving Personal Knowledge Management.

As consultants, many times informally, we are charged with beginning the general personal knowledge management learning curve with regard to ERP systems.  We start conversations between groups who have not truly spoken to or interacted with each other in years and we espouse the value of integration and how all parts of an administrative system can be interdependent.  At the end of the day, clients who feel important are more likely to be a willing participant in all knowledge management efforts, less likely to participate in reinventing the wheel and are more productive.   That feeling of importance in the workplace comes many times from a feeling of possessing knowledge power.  Let’s help our clients achieve their Enterprise Knowledge Management goals by first making them feel like they are the most important piece of the knowledge management puzzle.