– Thoughts on Strategy and Management

More benefits from knowledge management

Knowledge management is an important approach for organizations to manage their insights and experiences. Hence it can play a vital role in the strategic management of a firm, in particular in the area of maintaining and developing competitive advantages. In my news box I found these interesting figures and statements today.

According to a new report by University of Greenwich Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas organizations are capturing and sharing the wrong sort of knowledge. Based upon a five-year investigation, the report Transforming Knowledge Management sets out a more affordable route to high performance organizations. “Knowledge management initiatives have been excessively general and overly complex, and they have not delivered hoped for results,” claims Coulson-Thomas. He continues “A more focused and flexible approach is required that can quickly impact upon performance, achieve multiple objectives and provide clear benefits to both people and organizations.”

According to Coulson-Thomas, “Many organizations just load material onto a corporate intranet. What is captured and shared is often ‘commodity knowledge’ that is available to others. It does not differentiate or represent a source of competitive advantage.” Coulson-Thomas argues we need to distinguish between ‘knowledge about things’ and ‘knowledge of how best to do things’. He explains: “There are people who know a great deal about the theory of accounting who I would not ask to prepare a set of accounts.”

The new 223 page evidence-based and A4 sized report questions ‘traditional’ approaches to knowledge management and sets out a more affordable route to greater returns on investment and achieving multiple objectives. The report contains mini-case studies that illustrate a successful response to a generic challenge facing organizations. Each mini-case study briefly presents the problem addressed, what was done, the results achieved and subsequent situation, what made difference and main learning points.

Coulson-Thomas captures and shares what high achievers do differently. He believes “We need to step up from information management to knowledge-based performance support that helps key work groups to excel. Personalized help relevant to a particular job, issue or situation should be accessible 24/7 wherever people are, including when on the move.” He continues: “Knowledge management needs to re-focus upon helping key work groups to adopt the superior approaches of high performers. Re-focused it can enable us to create high performance organizations and teams that remain current, competitive and vital.” Many corporate initiatives promise jam tomorrow rather than measurable impact today. Coulson-Thomas believes “We need to shift the emphasis from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’. Performance support can have a quick and direct impact on performance by focusing on knowledge of how to do things and – in particular – how to excel at difficult jobs.”

The new report shows how the benefits of knowledge-based performance support can include higher productivity, bespoke responses, reduced stress and evidenced compliance. The Professor concludes “It may be possible to simultaneously improve quality, cut costs and save time. Crucially we can do all this with existing people, cultures and structures.”

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