Knowledge Management in Six Easy Steps


Good morning, class.

Yesterday someone asked me the question, “What is the difference between knowledge transfer and knowledge management?” I figure if a veteran in the training industry asked this question, lots of people would appreciate this clarification.

Quickly, we’ll review the concept of knowledge management and how transfer of your internal expertise is a critical part of a valid knowledge management plan but it is not the whole magilla. Today, the best corporations consider themselves learning organizations. Learning organizations are built around knowledge management plans. So to be top drawer today, you need to be thinking about this process.

  1. Identify what your employees need to know and fill in knowledge gaps.
  2. Prioritize what you will spend valuable corporate resources to collect – is this important enough to spend time and money on?
  3. If the answer is yes, collect it. This is the part where you may discover that you need to call in experts to fill in your knowledge gaps.
  4. Store that information in a way that is easy to retrieve using the most appropriate technology to the task.
  5. Then you transfer that knowledge to workers who need it, and we often call this training. Whether it is formal training or not, in some way, take the important information that you have documented and make sure it gets passed on to other people so you keep the best practices going forward.
  6. Finally, maintain this documentation in a way that others can find it, use it, update it and keep it relevant.

“We Need More Training” (e.g. Knowledge Transfer)

Or do you?

A story that circulates in industry is that when a company has a problem, the answer is “training”. In response, training professionals are called in and their job is to do a needs analysis to determine if, indeed, the answer to the identified problem is training. Often, the training professional will find that the real solution isn’t more training, but some other issue that screams for correction. The other issue is often cloaked as a lack of knowledge, but the real problem may be a poorly structured employee incentive program (you get paid for doing it wrong or docked for doing it right) or a more systemic issue of a poisonous company culture of non-excellence that rewards mediocrity or outright incompetence.

When you’ve transferred the knowledge and you still don’t get the performance that you want, check your incentive plan and look at the culture.

A valid knowledge management plan is one that keeps information current and moving through your organization to the people who need it and use it to advance your business. If you think your knowledge management plan is breaking down at the knowledge transfer part of the cycle, then after you’ve trained your people, make sure they are incentivized to do their jobs right the first time in a culture that supports excellence.

Reading assignment for extra credit: In Pursuit of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. A classic on business quality practices.

Class dismissed.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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