Monday, April 09, 2007

What is Knowledge Management?

I'm struck again this morning by the question I am asked time and again: What is Knowledge Management? Organizations spend a great amount of time trying to define the term and create the perfect answer.

I think we forget the real question: What is the challenge you are trying to address? Knowledge management is simply a problem solving discipline. If there is no need, why bother?

Sounds simplistic, doesn't it? And perhaps I am over simplifying. However, I think we often focus on the wrong thing. We make things so much more complicated then they actually are.

Knowledge Management is not a silver bullet to handle the fact that your employees are retiring, you have not created the discipline to collaborate and teach each other, or you have grown so fast that you do not take time to document what you do. You might have lost touch with your customers, you might not take time to talk to your colleagues and provide background or context to your questions or answers to their questions.

Knowledge Management can not solve bad behavior, create discipline or stop people from moving on. It is one approach to address organizational issues and it must be part of a well considered multi-faceted strategy to be effective.

What is the challenge you are trying to solve? If your KM effort is successful, what will be different, what will change in your organization? Concentrate on the right questions and don't waste time on eloquent definitions. If you show and communicate value, the question of definition will be solved through your actions instead of your words. Actions and results always speak louder than words.

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