School of Information Systems

Six steps for successful knowledge management plus one

Kiri Nesbitt defines six steps for creating a knowledge management system. These six steps are (Nesbitt, 2002):

  1. Define the business goals the KM system will address.
  2. Perform a knowledge audit to identify any duplication, gaps, and overlaps in an organization’s knowledge base.
  3. Create a visual map which describes units of knowledge and the relationships between them
  4. Develop a KM strategy based on the content management, integration, search mechanisms, information delivery, and collaboration.
  5. Purchase or build appropriate tools for capturing, analyzing, categorizing and distributing knowledge.
  6. Periodically re-asses the value of the KM system and make necessary adjustments

Step 1

Every organization houses valuable intellectual materials in the form of assets and resources, tacit and explicit perspectives and capabilities, data information, knowledge, and maybe wisdom. All of these need to be managed and leveraged for the good of the organization, but not all at once. Peter Drucker states organizations require clear, simple, common objectives that translate into particular actions. Knowledge managers should orient this chaos towards purposeful knowledge creation. Learning from both we see that we need clear, simple, common objectives that orient towards purposeful knowledge creation. Knowledge management systems should capture high value information that relates to a specific task or a recognized business problem that relates to knowledge.

Attacking these problems, identifying their knowledge component, and using the business value of solving them as justification for knowledge efforts are all good ways to get around in managing knowledge. Simply putting your paper documents on-line will weaken your terminological currency, and should you later decide to put some real knowledge into this repository, no one will notice. Any information that does not pertain or relate to the system’s established goal becomes noise and detracts from the system.

Step 2

Much of the interest in knowledge management arises when firms realize that they do not know where to find their own existing knowledge. A knowledge audit should inventory the way people and technology mix to make sure the right information gets to the right people in the right form at the right time. The knowledge audit should include a review of all types of knowledge held within and used by your organization the knowledge audit is about addressing what a company has, where it keeps it and who knows what. Knowledge audits will help an organization discover:

  1. information they currently have, but do not utilize;
  2. information they need but do not have;
  3. the gap between what information is had, and what is needed; and
  4. how information is delivered

Step 3

Knowledge maps help clarify what has been learned, and what needs to be learned, identify knowledge deficits which must be addressed and discrepancies between perception of what is thought to be known and what is actually known

Step 4

During the last step we mapped out how and where knowledge can be found in the organization. In this step we begin thinking of how we are going to capture, store, deliver and find this knowledge once it is captured.

At this stage, we begin to face the challenge of building an organization flexible enough to exploit the idiosyncratic knowledge and unique skills of each individual employee. All knowledge captured by the system should be readily available to the users who require the information, and should provide for easy searches to help cull the information.

Step 5

This step is where most doomed knowledge management initiatives start. The TRADOC Knowledge Network for example purchased five massive servers and a complete suite of Lotus servers to handle its knowledge management initiative. Many companies run great knowledge management systems on these same applications, but by skipping the previous steps TRADOC has given its knowledge management giant clay feet. KM software should be designed around the way people work.

The tools used for capturing, analyzing and distributing knowledge do not have to be very high tech at all. While technology surely facilitates all of these actions, knowledge management should not be undertaken for the sake of technology. Rather the technology should address the needs of the knowledge management system’s goals.

Step 6

Knowledge management initiatives seek to change not only those involved, but also the entire organization’s culture and beliefs. As you will remember, knowledge management utilizes double loop learning. And since Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives. The organization is continuously changing. These changes require the application of knowledge management to keep pace.

Plus one

Employees must know that experimentation and well-intentioned failure are acceptable. There should be no such thing as failure; every perceived failure should be turned into a success, by allowing the organization to learn from it. Senior management needs to set the tone and show support. Day-to-day reinforcement must come from mid-level managers. Success depends on the willingness and ability of the entire senior executive group to address not just their individual function or divisional responsibilities, but also their collective responsibility for the company as a whole.