In my upcoming book on promoting knowledge management initiatives within the corporate world, I share a number of tips on how to identify organizational barriers to knowledge sharing, and how to overcome them as you build the necessary culture for KM to thrive.
The culture of an organization has a profound effect on what can be accomplished, regardless of corporate strategies, executive wishes, or employee performance management. As you build your knowledge management strategy, start by identifying the current culture and values of your organization, and try to understand why people may not wish to share what they know. Then work on getting people to share their knowledge, working out loud, overcoming reluctance, and increasing trust.
To help create a culture dominated by positive elements, get your senior executive to endorse, communicate, and exemplify the following credo:
- I will practice and reward caring, sharing, and daring – caring for others, sharing what I know, and daring to try new ideas.
- I will insist on trust, truth, and transparency in all dealings – earning and respecting the trust of others, communicating truthfully and openly, and demonstrating and expecting accountability.
- I will look for opportunities to help, thank, and praise others.
- I will eliminate criticism, blame, and ridicule in all interactions with others.
Mindtree Consulting launched an effort to establish five dominant organizational values. The focus on values helped facilitate the implementation of knowledge management:
- Caring: requires empathy, trust; needed to enable sharing and individual push of knowledge
- Learning: required for individual pull of knowledge
- Achieving: high performance requires resourcefulness and heavy reliance on knowledge
- Sharing: active cooperation; requires fair process, openness, transparency
- Social Responsibility: an outward extension of all the above values
A knowledge sharing culture includes three elements:
- Knowledge reuse is valued over reinvention.
- Sharing knowledge helps you advance in your career.
- In the process of innovating, failure is encouraged—as long as the lessons learned are shared so that similar failures are prevented.
To help instill a knowledge sharing culture, create a vision of how things should work in the organization. Specify how sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning should be done. Have the senior executive and the leadership team communicate the vision widely and regularly.
Here is one vision of people, process, and technology elements in a successful knowledge sharing culture.
- Managers regularly inspect, talk about, and directly participate in knowledge sharing and reuse
- All employees belong to and regularly participate in at least one community
- Desired knowledge behaviors are rewarded significantly, regularly, consistently, and visibly
- Time is allowed for knowledge management tasks
- Employee promotions require demonstrated knowledge sharing, and everyone knows this
- All project teams reuse standard, institutionalized knowledge from previous, similar projects
- All project teams submit reusable content to the appropriate repositories at standard milestones
- Knowledge management processes are integrated with standard business processes in a way that is transparent to users
- Proven practices are replicated
- All reusable content is checked for quality, scrubbed to remove confidential data, and provided in standard formats
- It is easy for any question to be asked or any problem to be posed such that a useful answer or solution is provided rapidly, regardless of the location of the requestor, the time of day, or the nature of the request.
- Useful information is delivered to users when they need it based on the work that they are doing.
- Information flows are automated between all systems and tools so that no data needs to be re-entered.
- Users can access the knowledge they need even if they are not connected to the network.
- All teams collaborate using team spaces.
Lucidea will be publishing my latest book, Proven Practices for Promoting a Knowledge Management Program, and I hope you will find it compelling and relevant, with useful advice and insights drawn from my career as a KM practitioner. Please stay tuned; we’ll let you know when it’s available for purchase via Amazon!
Céline Schillinger is a change activist and social collaboration leader specializing in international engagement, mobilization, and community building
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