Saturday, September 10, 2005

Why do we need Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management System and short run business returns have often been linked by senior Managers against new KM inititaives.Essentially Top Managemnt feels that knowledge sharing is a top-down approach rather than bottom-down or peer to peer networking excercise.Dave Pollard comments in his latest posting on the importance of Knowledge Management.
Things are the way they are for a reason, and this 'appreciation gap' in the value of KM is not that hard to explain. Just as progressives and conservatives can talk themselves blue in the face, futilely trying to explain their point of view to the other side, so too are the frames of reference of those in the corner offices of large corporations are very different from those of KM leaders and their 'customers', the front-line workers:

Business leaders must take a short-term focus, to meet the demands of shareholders, while KM leaders often feel that investment in knowledge, learning and technology needs longer to pay off.

Business leaders are accustomed to knowledge being transferred top-down (instruction and formal training programs) and information for decision-making being polled from the front lines. KM leaders believe that critical knowledge transfers are more often peer-to-peer sharing, coaching and facilitation.

Business leaders see their leadership role as critical to the organization's success; their frame of understanding is hierarchical -- they tend to believe that knowledge and value increases with experience and that rewards should go disproportionately to identified superstars and up-and-coming leadership candidates. KM leaders see contribution to organizational success as more egalitarian, and are more likely to believe (as Drucker says) that almost every employee today knows how to do his/her particular job better than anyone else (including the boss) -- they may see large wage and reward disparities as demotivating and unwarranted.

Business leaders tend to see value in centralized repositories of 'best practices' and SOPs, and the reuse of knowledge collateral. KM leaders are more likely to see the value in context-rich conversations between peers, 'pointers to people', mining the content of front line people's desktops, and tools that enhance collaboration and innovation.

Business leaders are likely to perceive the major 'knowledge problem' in organizations as being inefficiencies: 'reinventing the wheel' and underusing available knowledge 'on the shelf', and hence the perceived poor ROI in investment in knowledge, learning and technology. KM leaders are more likely to see the major knowledge problem as ineffectiveness: time wasted trying to find appropriate experts and knowledge (often on their own desktops), and 'the cost of not knowing'.

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