…So this morning I read part 2 of a great working group summary on knowledge management. The working group took placed in March of 2014, and was hosted by American Express at its New York head-quarters. Attending companies included Chevron, Johnson & Johnson, Eaton, GE, IBM, Shell, and Verizon. The summary of the discussion(s) had at the working group can be found here. I highly recommend checking it out.
With that said, one theme I took from reading the summary was that culture often plays a deeply integral role in the efficacy (or even existence) of knowledge transfer initiatives and processes. From the summary report:
“…Regardless of specific business case, all participants agreed that there must be a strong culture that supports KM and coveys its importance to the success of the company. Putting systems in place is important, but participants noted that you need people to engage in knowledge sharing behaviors. ~”
“…KM is being used is being used across many companies as a means of connecting people in order to drive innovation. The goal is to bring together different perspectives and ideas that together lead to something new. As one participant stated, “People can hold on to their thing. But, we want to encourage them to get together with other people and their thing, to create a new thing. ~”
“For the knowledge to be accessed, employees must first contribute knowledge to the systems, and that can itself be a challenge. Often employees have a tendency to share their knowledge and solve problems privately, in one-on-one or small group discussions. For KM systems to work, you need to create the discipline whereby people post/share their knowledge publicly. ~”
The anecdotes and insights shared here resonated with me as I thought about stories shared over the years by friends and colleagues recounting duplicated efforts within the same function, valuable information walking out of the door with the departure of a few key employees, failed internal social networks, and information hoarding within departments. Sometimes the primary inhibitor to knowledge transfer is a lack of collaboration, sometimes it’s a lack of access, and sometimes it’s even a lack of interest. The list goes on and on…
…But culture almost always lies at the center.
To be fair, getting people bought into the value of contributing to knowledge transfer efforts if they have never done so is not easy. This is because the idea that individual success is directly tied to continued, collective organizational excellence is not necessarily intuitive. As such, to gain said buy-in around this idea leaders must help people understand their role in the KM process, how engaging in it helps them, and finally requires providing tools and training to help them understand how to contribute. It also requires key influencers to lead the charge, and a few brave ‘first followers’ to engage with those leading the charge.
…But is this all easier said than done?
What has your organization done to facilitate and optimize the knowledge transfer process? What challenges has it faced in trying to do so? Has it found success on a departmental, functional, or even enterprise level? How?
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.