Overcoming Knowledge Management Barriers
Whether your organization has already embraced the KM movement, has hired a CKO and began rolling out new initiatives, or this is the first time you've ever heard of Knowledge Management, the best practices listed below will apply to you and can greatly improve your overall teamwork skills.
Capture knowledge before, during and after a project or task. Formalize this process by scheduling three phases for all your projects. The first is research (obviously done before you tackle something new). The second is to journal throughout the project or task to capture those lessons you learn "on-the-fly." Finally, schedule a project debriefing or "post-mortem" to reflect on what worked, what didn't work, and what additional information needs to be codified for future attempts.
BP has developed a project review process called "retrospect." The retrospect lasts from a couple of hours to a couple of days. An outsider facilitates it. It focuses on specific, repeatable advice and it is positioned as a celebration (very important).
Connect and Collect
Explicit knowledge can be codified or documented into manuals, databases or some other tool. Tacit knowledge is harder to share because it "lives between the cracks." An easily-understood comparison is the difference between cooking a meal from a recipe, and then cooking a meal that you've made 20 or 30 times. Which one would you rather eat?
Companies (or individuals) can focus their energy on collecting explicit knowledge and connecting experts with those seeking tacit knowledge. No two companies share the same ratio of tacit/explicit knowledge. McDonald's can train employees in a couple of hours with a video and a manual. Charles Schwab's financial consultants take quite a bit longer to absorb the necessary tacit knowledge. Make sure your focus matches the structure of knowledge inherit to your company.
Yes it's important to warehouse knowledge; but you must warehouse important knowledge. If your coworkers have to sift through huge binders, 5,000-field databases, or a labyrithian intranet, they might just decide that it's not worth the search. Be choosy about the information you capture, how long you retain it and how you provide access to it.
The Technology Panacea
Email, blogs, bulletin boards, databases, phone mail, videoconferencing...we have so many tools available in Knowledge Management efforts, but if you don't have good interpersonal relationships on your team, they're worthless.
We share information with others, not because it's easy, or the user-interface is friendly, but because we genuinely care about the people who want the information. We want them to succeed--to know what we've learned. Don't underestimate the importance of social capital.
Manage Your Email
Probably the most commonly-used, Knowledge Management tool, email provides a breeding ground for time wasters, inefficiencies, and other productivity-killers. In the March 2007 issue of T+D, they offer some great advice on how to get a grip on your email: send less, don't over-cc, think before you send, be polite, strengthen subject lines, choose to see people in person, store purposefully and file smart.
More articles about Teamwork Skills.