Knowledge Management Definition and Solutions

Knowledge Management (KM) topics covering definition, systems, benefits, and challenges.

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What are the challenges of KM?

Getting Employees on Board

The major problems that occur in KM usually result because companies ignore the people and cultural issues. In an environment where an individual's knowledge is valued and rewarded, establishing a culture that recognizes tacit knowledge and encourages employees to share it is critical. The need to sell the KM concept to employees shouldn't be underestimated; after all, in many cases employees are being asked to surrender their knowledge and experience — the very traits that make them valuable as individuals.

KM Requires Ongoing Maintenance

As with many physical assets, the value of knowledge can erode over time. Since knowledge can get stale fast, the content in a KM program should be constantly updated, amended and deleted. What’s more, the relevance of knowledge at any given time changes, as do the skills of employees. Therefore, there is no endpoint to a KM program. Like product development, marketing and R&D, KM is a constantly evolving business practices.

Dealing with a Data Deluge

Companies diligently need to be on the lookout for information overload. Quantity rarely equals quality, and KM is no exception. Indeed, the point of a KM program is to identify and disseminate knowledge gems from a sea of information.

How can I gain support for my KM effort and get people to use the systems and processes we’re putting in place to facilitate KM?

One tried-and-true way to build support for KM is to pilot the project among employees who have the most to gain and would be the most open to sharing their knowledge. This will vary depending on the organization. It’s also a good idea to involve in the pilot a select group of influencers—employees who are well-respected by their peers and whose opinions are highly regarded in the organization. If both groups have good things to say about the KM effort, their positive attitudes will go along way toward convincing others of the merits of KM.

To get people to participate in the KM effort, you have to bake knowledge collection and dissemination into employees’ everyday jobs. In other words, you have to make it as easy for them to participate as possible. A lot of early KM efforts failed because they added cumbersome steps to the jobs of already overworked employees. So when things got busy, workers just didn't bother with the extra steps. And since most people are already stretched so thin these days, they can’t contemplate adding another layer onto their daily routine. The best KM efforts don’t seem like an effort.

Linking KM directly to job performance, creating a safe climate for people to share ideas and recognizing people who contribute to the KM effort (especially those people whose contributions impact the bottom line) are also critical tactics for getting people to make KM a part of their day to day.

Finally, many companies create incentive programs to motivate employees to share their knowledge. This can work, but the danger with incentive programs is that employees will participate solely to earn incentives, without regard to the quality or relevance of the information they contribute. Ideally, participation in KM should be its own reward. If KM doesn't make life easier for employees, it will fail.

Our story, How To Create A Know-It-All Company is chock full of practical advice on how to get the most resistant organizations to embrace KM.

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