Knowledge management is about getting the right information to the right people at the right time, so they can take action and create value. According to Carla Oï¿½Dell and C. Jackson Grayson in ï¿½If Only We Knew What We Know,ï¿½ the reasons to transfer knowledge and best practices through knowledge management vary by company, but typically fall into three basic categories: customer intimacy, product-to-market excellence or operational excellence. Understanding which of these three value propositions you are striving for will enable your organization to better focus its knowledge management efforts. And when employees understand the overall goal, they are more likely to buy in to sharing knowledge.
Staying focused on the business reason behind your knowledge management effort will ensure that the right knowledge is captured and transferred. It also shapes the systems and processes you put in place for knowledge management, making sure you get maximum value out of the money and resources you invest. In the case of seeking funding for your project, it helps senior management see the direct connection between knowledge management and the bottom line.
The University of Toyotaï¿½s knowledge management initiative centers on operational excellence. This value proposition focuses on transferring best practices to improve overall performance, reduce expenses and increase revenues:
- Knowledge Management Vision: Connecting people through knowledge sharing so that Toyota functions as one mind.
- Knowledge Management Statement of Purpose: Instill, grow, nurture and maintain a knowledge culture throughout the organization to achieve better efficiencies and business results.
Oï¿½Dell and Grayson also discuss the four enablers of knowledge management: culture, technology, infrastructure and measurement.
Having an organizational culture that is supportive of knowledge management is imperative for it to take root and succeed. The hallmarks of a culture that is inclined to share include: learning through teaching and sharing, communal understanding through storytelling, continuous exchange and creation of new knowledge, common areas of interest and expertise, common issues and problems, strong professional ethics and meaningful personal relationships.
The growth of the Internet and intranets within organizations is a catalyst for knowledge sharing. However, without the other enablers, technology alone is not enough to sustain knowledge management. Just because you build a database or buy a knowledge management tool, that does not mean people will use it.
Leadership support is essential for any knowledge management effort. For long-term success, knowledge management must be institutionalized within an organization through new support systems, performance metrics, job descriptions, team charters and formalized networking.
In addition, many organizations appoint a specific knowledge management champion or chief learning officer to lead the effort. The CLO plays a role in leading both the organizational and technological efforts required for knowledge management.
Measuring the progress and success of your knowledge management efforts helps you perpetuate and correct your system. Measurement provides feedback to teams and individuals to encourage continued participation. It shows senior management how their investment is contributing to the bottom line. Measurement shows what is working and what isnï¿½t, which provides a road map for continuous improvement of the knowledge management system and processes.
University of Toyotaï¿½s School of Retail Professional Development attempts to share and capture the wealth of knowledge within the organization to enhance operational excellence. Without knowledge management systems, intellectual capital is lost each time someone leaves. University of Toyota wants to be able to build upon past successes and failures to continuously improve. By capturing and sharing best practices generated from in-dealership interventions, the School of Retail Professional Development can improve what it does and also generate value for dealers.
If you focus on the business goal behind your knowledge management efforts, you will achieve higher levels of success. Let the business goal shape the technology, infrastructure, culture and metrics of your knowledge management initiative.
Chuck Oï¿½Keefe is national manager, associate dean for the University of Toyota, responsible for the schoolï¿½s skills-based curriculum development, operations, strategic alliances, research, measurement and evaluation, quality management and e-learning for a student body of more than 100,000 Toyota dealer associates. Chuck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Filed under: Measurement, Technology