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A Few Common Mistakes Committed by Knowledge Managers

Many times we may be putting all our efforts but still, find that we are not successful. We get frustrated and start blaming management for not taking up KM. Probably we are barking up the wrong tree. A classic case is of the low adoption level of content from repositories. I have also heard many practitioners cribbing about employees depending on internet when they have the best of knowledge captured in organizational repositories.

We may have to clean our lenses or reorient our thinking about Knowledge Management.

Employees are not key to KM:

Well, that statement may surprise you, but let me tell you, the failure of KM has been because it is employee-oriented and dependent on employees. It is a very reactive approach to ensuring best practices are adopted or knowledge is reused. Knowledge Managers have lived their professional life hearing success stories of how best practices have helped in saving millions and those stories guide them in their KM implementation. However these success stories have one negative part, and that is it is dependent on an employee for the adoption of Knowledge. That may be the reason why they are still success stories and not industry-wide practice. KM practitioners laboriously aggregate/document content, provide a taxonomy and then evangelize the same across to the employees hoping that they use it. This ‘hoping’ gives the ‘key’ to KM success to the employees, with an expectation that they will use the knowledge and benefit from it. It is the hope that they use and benefit from it and based on the improvement in the way they work, the organization benefits. We are making benefits of KM – whose benefits are considered to be intangible – even more intangible.

All employees need not be socially connected:

Enterprise social networking (ESN) is 10% technology and 90% change management and hence practitioners should be prudent enough on where to spend their effort promoting social networking so that it benefits the organization.  Employees working on complex tasks are benefitted the most through social networking. An employee who is doing the routine, the non-complex task does not need to be extensively connected. It will be wastage of time and effort of KM. However, in ESN implementations the ‘knowledge need’ of an employee is not generally taken into consideration and mostly evangelizations are limited to mailers and sessions on the importance of being connected. Interventions should be customized and the networks that help the most should be grown. For example, the culture of sharing and collaboration should be made strong in works that require high complexity, or where the technology is dynamic etc.

Ignoring processes:

KM interventions are carried out through employees, process and technology. In this process is always mistook as KM processes. One should note that processes can be KM processes and organizational processes. Organizational processes are used to perform different tasks of an organization, while KM processes are used to perform KM tasks. The focus of KM interventions should be on Organizational processes also. They should leverage organizational processes to institutionalize the practice of KM. Instead of allowing best practices to remain idle in the repository, it should be embedded into the processes of the organization, so that reuse of the best practices is not left to whims and fancies of the employees. What we are looking towards is an approach where new knowledge is regularly embedded into the processes and tasks performed in the organization.

Impact of knowledge management is not direct. Is that assumption correct? Think about it. Probably that is another common mistake and it is because of the assumptions that we carry in our mind.

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