This post originally ran May 28, 2016.
When organizations do knowledge management well, it is usually because territorial battles waged. Someone with authority at the top made decisions and roles of responsibility in the training department realigned. That is why it is critical for organizations to have a chief learning officer sitting in the C-suite. Territorial battles need referees who have the big picture and no entrenched interests in preserving an individual fiefdom in the kingdom that is your corporation.
Knowing which knowledge to capture, retain or discard requires trainers to be part of the inner circle of business leaders in an organization. It becomes the role of the training expert to also understand business in general as well as their organizations and industries specifically so they can be at the helm with other executives to assist them in making these decisions. We are beginning to see Chief Learning Officers (CLO) alongside the CEO, CFO, CIO and, in medical organizations, CMO. As we think about successful businesses as learning organizations, it follows logically that the training department is an essential member of the team that determines the direction of the organization.
This critical role at the big kids’ table requires trainers to learn the business of business, as well as the industry in which they work. Without industry knowledge, programs lack context and this contributes to the fact that training programs often wind up as shelfware, never used or cast aside after a brief time. If the instructional designer has little knowledge of the business or industry in which they work, how can their programs have context or relevance to the enterprise? The answer, of course, is that they can’t.
The subject of knowledge management is now as much part of an organization’s success strategy as its sales, R&D and marketing strategies.
Here are 5 steps to guide your organization’s critical knowledge capture requiring a champion in the C-suite
1. Funnel all training and knowledge management through one pathway in the organization that ends at the top
2. Identify the expertise you need to capture by doing a matrix walk-through
3. Create a plan for working with your critical subject matter experts and conduct interviews that result in capturing critical information for your training programs
4. Develop a logical single system for storing and retrieving critical knowledge
5. Establish a review process to assess the ongoing relevancy and accuracy of critical knowledge stored in your organization
The final arbiter of the value of existing knowledge and its relevance going forward must be someone who has the widest possible vantage point in the organization. That person needs to have as few attachments to the way things are done as possible because it is their job to envision the way things need to be. CLOs, or someone in a similar high-level, above-the-fray capacity, needs to be able to make the tough calls regarding which training is most effective and which consultants are adding value.