Part One: Benefits of Knowledge Management
To sell knowledge management to your stakeholders, you first need to become a KM expert yourself. This involves developing a very clear understanding of KM’s benefits to your unique organization. Please read on for seven of the major benefits of having a successful knowledge management program, drawn from my new book, Proven Practices for Promoting Knowledge Management Program
In this post I’ll list 7 typical benefits of knowledge management; you may be able to develop others even more relevant to your organization—hopefully these will jumpstart the process.
Better and faster decision-making
A KM-focused environment provides the basis for making good decisions by delivering relevant information at the time of need through structure, search, subscription, syndication, and support. Collaboration brings to bear the power of large numbers, diverse opinions, and varied experience when decisions need to be made. Reusing knowledge ensures decisions are based on actual experience, large sample sizes, and practical lessons learned.
Users can easily find relevant information and resources
When faced with a need—to respond to a customer, solve a problem, analyze trends, assess markets, benchmark against peers, understand competition, create new offerings, plan strategy, or think critically—people typically look for information and resources to support these activities. If it is easy and fast to find what they need when they need it, they can perform all these tasks efficiently.
Ideas, documents, and expertise can be reused
Once you have developed an effective process, you should ensure that others use it each time a similar requirement arises. If someone has written a document or created a presentation that addresses a recurring need, it should be used in all future similar situations. When members of your organization have figured out how to solve a common problem, know how to deliver a recurring service, or have invented a new product, it’s most effective to replicate the same solution, service, and product as often as possible. Just as the recycling of materials is good for the environment, knowledge reuse is good for organizations because it minimizes rework, prevents problems, saves time, and accelerates progress.
No duplication of effort
No one likes spending time doing something over again—but they do so all the time, for a variety of reasons. Avoiding duplication of effort saves time and money, keeps employee morale up, and streamlines work. By not spending time reinventing the wheel, people have more time to invent something new.
Mistakes aren’t repeated
George Santayana said, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we will experience them over and over again. Knowledge management allows us to share lessons learned—not only about successes, but also about failures. To do so, we must have a culture of trust, openness, and reward for willingness to talk about what we have done wrong. The potential benefits are enormous. If NASA learns why a space shuttle exploded, it can prevent recurrences and save lives. If FEMA learns what went wrong in responding to Hurricane Katrina, it can reduce the losses caused by future disasters. If engineers learn why highways and buildings collapsed during an earthquake, they can design new ones to better withstand future earthquakes. If you learn that your last bid was underestimated by 50%, you can make the next one more accurate, and thus earn a healthy profit instead of incurring a large loss.
Existing expertise and experience can be leveraged
Teams benefit from the individual skills and knowledge of each member. The more complementary the expertise of the team members, the greater the power of the team. In large organizations, there are people with widely varying capabilities and backgrounds, and benefits should be derived from this. But as the number of people increases, it becomes more difficult for each individual to know about everyone else. So even though there are people with knowledge who could help other people, they don’t know about each other. The late Lew Platt, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, is widely quoted as saying “If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.” Knowing what others know is very helpful at a time of need, when people learn from others’ experience and apply it to current requirements.
Important information gets communicated widely and quickly
Almost everyone today is an information worker, either completely or partially. We all need information to do our jobs effectively, but we also suffer from information overload due to the increasing quantity and variety of sources. How can we get information that is targeted, useful, and timely without drowning in a sea of email, having to visit hundreds of websites, or reading through tons of printed material? Knowledge management helps address this problem through personalized portals, targeted subscriptions, RSS feeds, tagging, and specialized search engines.
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