Reflections on choosing knowledge appropriate management strategies… and a li’l project proposal too!

by alison

I’ve been ruminating lately about the best way to encourage a knowledge sharing environment in my workplace. Mostly I’ve been thinking this would take place through a shared space amongst employees and I’ve been trying to determine the benefit of informal/nonformal environment and who would be the best target group to test (likely my unit if nonformal or consultant groups/open to others if informal). I believe that those who work in learning are best suited for this type of project given that our focus is on organisational learning. As I mentioned before, this is a task that will not necessarily be easy because tacit knowledge is rooted in experience and it is not often easy to communicate for others in the organisation to learn and act upon. No matter how I decide to do this it will be a demonstration project of sorts because it will incorporate the idea of knowledge sharing in the learning organisation and will somewhat explore the idea of putting theory to practice amongst a group of individuals working in the field of learning. This is important to me because it seems that the field of Human Resource Development is chock full of theory right now with very few field studies to back up its assertions.

The way I see it, perhaps the most important thing for an organisation to do to encourage knowledge sharing is to establish an environment that is conducive to allowing it to flourish. As I’ve said before, sharing experiential knowledge will help our colleagues, and consequently, the organisation’s ability to change and grow. In the public service this can lead to any number of positive improvements, for example, such as better customer service, more strategic use of public funds in projects or even enhanced public policy. This sort of an environment should theoretically be in place in a learning unit such as ours (and our cohorts across the country).

Right now I’m leaning more towards finding something topical that binds the group together and engages the group but a week ago I was headed towards an informal professional development-style group. I was keeping in mind our presentation from Dr. Schwier about different engagement levels in informal, nonformal and formal online community groups. Subsequent to that, having watched this video by Daniel Pink on motivation, and given how values-driven employees in my workplace tend to be, I want to set up the structure that would seem to help create the most appropriate atmosphere for employees to share and learn from one another (and maybe even innovate!). I think an informal network of sharing journal articles, tools and findings would good but I worry that without having set any sort of cultural precedent of how to share the engagement would not be there at all. Maybe it’s better to start with something that is task or project-driven. Maybe it’s because a discussion I had with one of our consultants at work led me to consider the need for upfront assessment. And this maybe also because of this article, which reminds me of Kevin’s earlier comment that knowledge management (KM) should be ingrained in work practices.

Everybody discusses knowledge management, but how can it be used and how can we successfully apply it?

So… I’ve set out looking for KM strategy models and I’m back to pondering my own unit’s needs because I think I can identify one that was expressed in a recent meeting: lack of knowledge about and experience with our regional Learning, Training & Development (LTD) planning. I have four years of direct experience with planning that both our consultant groups and my fellow coordinators do not and it’s not serving anyone to keep that knowledge with me. But how would we go about this for the upcoming planning process? According to Greiner, Böhmann, & Krcmar (2007), KM strategies should be selected depending on the need. I spoke a couple of posts back about tacit knowledge, which is one part of KM strategies—and possibly the trickiest to capture and share. The other part is explicit knowledge. There are two main ways that KM attempts to capture and share knowledge. According to Greiner et al. (2007), there are a number codification strategies where information—such as team workflows—are captured and stored in places such as databases. Codification is particularly good for capturing processes that are repeated. There are also personalization strategies, which are useful for exchanges of knowledge. Personalization strategies are useful for problem solving and innovation amongst networks of people and often take place through discussion forums or wikis, for example. It is important to note that the approaches are usually blended (see the article for other combinations and their typical uses), and while it’s atypical to blend codification and personalization, it may be possible. As the authors comment, “some KM initiatives with the objective to improve process efficiency mainly relied on the codification strategy and also used instruments like discussion forums or newsgroups to give their employees the opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices directly,” (p. 11). This is good because I’ve identified a need that focusses primarily on two main groups of people that, if I am correct in my assertion, need both codification and personalization as part of the KM strategy for the LTD planning. I think this may even allow room for innovation through dialogue and exchange (by reflecting on what has been improved or could still be improved post-experience, which would be important for a learning organisation). So, with that this is what I propose to weave in with our impending launch of planning:

Target Group:

  1. The consultant/coordinator group in our learning unit (of which I am a part) who facilitate the implementation phase of the LTD planning with our business line clients. I believe they need the resources housed centrally and more importantly, the consultant and coordinator group need to be exposed to enquiries, discussion and other exchanges that take place between our unit and our clients during planning. So far I’m the one with most of this experience.
  2. The business line clients who we work with to gather the needs assessment/planning information accurately. We are using a planning document that will be new to the clients and in the past it hasn’t been easy collaborating with the group effectively in the past. I believe they need resources in a central location as well and they need to be able to seek help and have discussions on their planning through dialogue on a discussion forum.

Tool (for both codification and personalization): SharePoint. Because that’s what is available to me internally and it’s familiar to both us and our clients.

Intended Outcomes:

  1. Increased understanding and knowledge sharing (collaboration amongst the groups) related to our planning process.
  2. Improved data gathered.
  3. Increased knowledge amongst consultant/coordinator learning unit colleagues about facilitating planning and working within the process.

Steps for Implementation:

  1. Pre-implementation survey to determine current knowledge related to the planning process and any additional resources or supports that may be required. I’d like to try to target some tacit & explicit knowledge needs in the questionnaire if possible.
  2. Based on responses to the survey and past experience, load resources in predetermined central location and initiate some discussion topics that are related to surveyed needs.
  3. Provide orientation training to both the consultants/coordinators on how we will use the discussion forum and how resources are found/organised.
  4. Monitor discussion forum and update resources as necessary and rotate monitoring schedule so that as many of the learning unit as possible are exposed to the knowledge sharing and discussion for their own learning and discovery.
  5. Post-planning survey once plans have been received and submitted for national review. This would help to determine how participants have increased their knowledge since their initial self-assessment/survey (Kirkpatrick Level 2).

That was epic! Any thoughts on my plan of action? See any gaps? Have you ever done anything similar in your work? What did you do?