Knowledge Management



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Considering the dimensions of Knowledge Management within an organization – it is not surprising at all to read of different ways of defining Knowledge Management or KM as it is referred to.

Before proceeding, it would be imperative to define the word “knowledge” within itself. Knowledge basically refers to “a collection/ or a body of information”. This could mean that the information is embedded in the form of theories, processes, and systems, or it could be voiced in form of opinions, theories and analysis.

When discussing Knowledge Management within an organizational context – it would mean managing the collective information expertise in the form of employees and the organizational processes. This would encompass knowledge as an explicit business activity that reflects in the organization’s business strategy, policy and practice at all the levels.

Keeping in view the aforementioned, we define Knowledge Management as business activity that attempts to build a direct connection between an organization’s intellectual assets - be they in the form of employees (tacit) or in the form of record (explicit). Thus, Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of an organization trying to adapt itself, survive and competence in face of increasingly sporadic environmental changes. Essentially, it means encompassing organizational processes that seek a synergy among a combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of it employees.

Hence in practice, Knowledge Management covers identifying and mapping intellectual assets within an organization, generating up-to-date expertise for competitive advantage, making vast amounts of corporate information accessible, sharing of best practices, and technology that enables managing all of the above including groupware and intranets. All this is crucial, because one of the most integral business activities is that of applying knowledge management at work.

Exploring Knowledge Management
As we further progress with the facets of Knowledge Management, highlighting a few well known management strategies serves as a better comprehending factor;
• Business Process Reengineering
• Change Management
• Benchmarking
• Risk Management
• Employee Recommitment Management

There seems to be a common thread among these and many other recent business strategies and an acknowledgment that information and knowledge are corporate assets, and that the businesses need strategies, policies, and tools to manage those assets. The need to manage knowledge is obvious, as discussions on intellectual capital have burgeoned.

Because knowledge has become the single most important factor of production and survival, managing intellectual assets has become the single most important task of business.

Knowledge Management: An Organizational Necessity
Knowledge management is a framework within which an organization views all its processes as knowledge processes. In this view, all business processes involve creating, disseminating, renewing, and applying knowledge toward organizational sustenance and survival. In essence, it means that Knowledge management focuses on 'doing the right thing' instead of 'doing things right’. The underlying premise is that 'best practices' of yesterday may not be taken for granted as 'best practices' of today or tomorrow. Hence, double loop learning, unlearning and relearning processes need to be designed into the organizational business processes Knowledge management is necessary for companies because what worked yesterday may or may not work tomorrow. To remain aligned with the dynamically changing needs of the business environment, organizations need to continuously re-assess their internal procedures of business for ongoing effectiveness.

Importance of Knowledge Management
Considering the management dynamics today – the onus of managing knowledge requires utmost focus as most of the work is information based. Secondly, it is an undisputed fact that organizations compete on the basis of knowledge, since products and services are becoming increasingly complex. Hence the requirement for a life-long learning has become an unavoidable reality and thus Knowledge Management has become important because;
• Marketplaces are increasingly competitive and the rate of innovation is rising
• Downsizing staff creates a need to replace informal knowledge with formal methods.
• Competitive pressures reduce the size of the work force that holds valuable business knowledge.
• The amount of time available to experience and acquire knowledge has diminished.
• Early retirements and increasing mobility of the work force lead to loss of knowledge.
• There is a need to manage increasing complexity as small operating companies are trans-national sourcing operations.
• Changes in strategic direction may result in the loss of knowledge in a specific area.

In brief, knowledge and information have become the medium in which business problems occur. As a result, managing knowledge represents the primary opportunity for achieving substantial savings, significant improvements in human performance, and competitive advantage.

Organizational Responsibility: Ensuring Knowledge Management
Organizations that are competitively conscious need to effectively implement knowledge management systems. This includes enforcing a linkage between the archived organizational 'best practices' and the actions taken by organizational members based on that information. Parallel to this also includes unraveling linkage between actions taken by organizational members that serve as a continuous check and balance for renewing the archived 'best practices.' This is where the intellectual organizational creativity and innovation comes into the picture.