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Basic Tools of Knowledge Management

27/ 01/ 2017

Author: Victoria Oleshko, consultant, business trainer, chief editor ofSix Sigma Online.ru, expert in Knowledge Management and Lean Six Sigma, more than 10 years of experience in Lean Six Sigma projects

In the last years problems of knowledge amnesia and transferring knowledge between employees get much more pressing. How to preserve expert’s knowledge inside a company? How to involve employees in knowledge sharing? How to learn lessons from crisis situations and projects effectively? Knowledge management gives the answers.

Knowledge management includes numbers of tools which enable to create, organize, store, share and use knowledge more effectively. All tools which you apply in your company make your own unique knowledge management system. Which ones to choose? It depends on your strategy. Knowledge management strategy should give you the answers to three questions:

1. Where is your company now?
2. Where do you want to be?
3. How to get from point A to point B?

Knowledge audit helps to assess your current situation. The result of audit is a knowledge map: which crucial expertise have your company got? Who of your employees have this expertise? There are different types of knowledge maps. One of them is Knowledge Silo Matrix (The picture has been taken from stevetrautman.com):

Knowledge Silo Matrix

Your task is to decide how to prevent crucial knowledge leaks using some of knowledge management tools such as mentoring, knowledge bases, final interview etc.

If your company has many subsidiaries, there are different levels of competencies in different units with high probability. Somebody knows something better than others. Diagrams “River” and “Ladder” will help you to identify units which could share their knowledge with others:

Diagram “River”

Diagram “Ladder”

Now think of your business strategy objectives. Which knowledge does your company need to gain your points? Choose and implement those tools which help you to get/create, transfer and preserve this knowledge: peer assist, after action review, retrospective, storytelling, best practices book, bank of ideas, communities of practitioners etc. Some of them need special IT-platforms when others need only your wish and some facilitating skills.

There is the basic framework of knowledge management: Learning Before – Learning in Process – Learning After. If your team starts a difficult project, arrange a peer assist before planning the project. Let experts help you to gather best practices and solve some problems which you think will be in project. So your project plan will be much more accurate.

Finish each project stage with after action review (AAR). It helps your team get more effective in process. There are four simple questions which your team has to answer during AAR:

1. What did we set out to do?
2. What has been happened?
3. Why does reality differ from plan?
4. What can we learn?

When your project is over, it is time to arrange retrospective. It is your Learning After stage. Questions for retrospective are quite similar to AAR but you have to delve into causes of your success and failures. What went well? Why was it so? What went wrong and why? Plenty of root cause analysis tools could be useful on this stage. And then you have to formulate Lessons Learned: what have to be done in another way in your next project.

All of these three tools (peer assist, AAR, retrospective) need participation of facilitator – a person who will help your group to discuss effectively. His tasks are:

  • to set up comfortable environment for communication;
  • to get talking silent participants;
  • to structure and fix results of discussion;
  • to break the deadlocks of group discussion;
  • to be a timekeeper.

It is only a small part of available knowledge management tools. Start where you are now and step-by-step add new tools. Don’t hurry: you need time to create knowledge culture in your company. Trust underlies this culture. There is no any knowledge sharing without trust between employees. You can’t build trust culture rapidly.

And the last one. Start the cycle again. Implementing of knowledge management isn’t a project with a finishing point. It’s a lifelong learning journey for your company: you’ve got a start point but your voyage never ends.

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