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first_imgAlthoughknowledge management is a key issue for organisations, it means differentthings in different parts of the world. Which will win out- the IT-led USapproach or the more human European model? By Deborah SwallowEveryoneseems to agree that today’s organisational wealth lies in the value of theknowledge that resides in people’s heads, and that knowledge creation should bethe core competence of any organisation.Yetthe US and Europe are poles apart when grappling with the challenge of managingknowledge because there is no common consensus on the definition.InAmerica, much of the knowledge management debate has been centred aroundtechnology. The US approach has been to consider knowledge as an “informationvalue chain”. According to Yogesh Malhotra, a leading researcher into knowledgemanagement, “The information value chain considers technological systems as keycomponents guiding the organisation’s business processes, while treating humansas relatively passive processors that implement‚ best practices archived ininformation databases.”Indeed,the technology thrust has been so strong that most English-speaking peoplebelieve that knowledge management is only about information systems anddatabases. HijackedArecent electronic survey with 5,000 respondents, conducted by Professor PeterWoolliams from Anglia University in the UK, showed that the overwhelmingmajority thought of knowledge management in terms of data capture, storage andretrieval systems. “Clearly, the IT world has hijacked the phrase,” he says.Theresults of an extensive new study conducted by International Data Corps suggestthat worldwide spending on knowledge management services, including consulting,implementation, software, support, outsourcing and training, will grow from$776m in 1998 to more than $8bn by 2003.Interestingly,the same survey highlights the need to relate KM programs to the organisation’speople and culture. The findings suggest the main barriers to implementationare the absence of an organisational culture that promotes sharing andemployees’ lack of knowledge management understanding.Accordingto Peter Woolliams, evidence suggests that IT programs have only attractedmarginal success in spite of the billions of dollars invested in them.Woolliams believes that the major reason for this failure is that managersoverlook the fact that knowledge is a people issue and that knowledge creationoccurs during social interaction. “There hasn’t yet been a business problemdiscovered, that isn’t somehow a people problem,” he comments.ValuechainEuropeans,on the other hand, have approached knowledge management from the perspective ofpeople in a “knowledge value chain”.Theknowledge value chain treats people systems as key components that engage incontinuous assessment of information archived in the technical systems.“Itis all about respect for the individual,” says Lynn Rutter, HR communicationsdirector for Finnish telecommunications company Nokia.“Peoplereadily ask for help and extend it to those whom they know and trust.”Whentechnology is the focus of the knowledge programme some workers see only asuction process. They suspect that the point of the KM program is to suck outwhat they know and then discard them. Job security becomes a key issue andresistance and opposition set in.“Ourknowledge management system is there to reflect our core values such as respectfor the individual,” explains Rutter. “But this doesn’t mean they can do whatthey like. It means an obligation to act responsibly and with care.”Researchinto knowledge sharing shows that workers find it difficult to adopt practicesand suggestions from co-workers with whom they do not have any personalcontact.ClustersManyfirms have opted to begin knowledge management programmes by creating knowledgeinitiatives in small clusters of the organisation. These can be marketingdepartments or a research group, but most commonly the priority lies withknowledge sharing of the sales team.IBMhas successfully implemented its Relationship Management Tool (RMT), sharingknowledge of customer relationships. Yellow Pages has begun a similar programmeof building a customer knowledge warehouse. Although employees on thefront-line may initially be averse to sharing their experiences, they do have agood understanding of what it means to have the right data at the right timeand support for these projects comes through when the benefits begin to rollout.ShellOil has established knowledge communities of employees sharing commoninterests. One group of engineers shares information on best practice via thecompany intranet and occasional face-to-face meetings. Coming from 11refineries across the US, they have found that working in a small targetedgroup has helped them create a pool of knowledge that they are all eager to useand add to. They know and trust their colleagues.Bottom-upThedanger of this bottom-up approach to KM is that it could fragment the company’sknowledge assets and unnecessarily duplicate infrastructure and resources. ShellOil overcomes this problem by allowing its business units to devise their ownKM systems, but the 27 different managers of the initiatives meet every sixweeks to discuss issues related to KM and shared interests.Justas television is more than a radio with pictures, knowledge management is morethan a collection of databases and knowledge sharing. Knowledge managementsolutions must take a leap beyond documentation, applied learning, new softwareand collecting information from various domain experts. CompetitiveedgeTechnologyalone cannot guarantee success in the knowledge economy. Even the besttechnologies will not necessarily ensure the creativity and innovation which isnecessary for organisations to develop a competitive edge. Unlesspeople meet, trust decays. So knowledge managers should focus their efforts onthe natural way that knowledge is managed in communities of practice.DrLeenamaija Otala, a KM guru from Finland who has advised organisations such asthe World Bank, Nokia, and the US Army, believes organisations should approachthe subject with creativity. “Knowledge management is an attitude not aprocess,” she says.Thetime has come for HR managers to embrace the concept of knowledge management inits broadest sense. It cannot be a separate function characterised by aseparate KM department or a KM process. It has more to do with anthropologythan technology. It is the coming together of people, systems and processeswhich creates the fizz and the bubbles, the innovation and the added-value inan organisation. It is enhanced by technology but subservient to culture.Knowledgemanagement is about managing the fizz and ensuring the bubbles don’t evaporate.Now is the time for “people knowledge management” to come of age. AsPeter Woolliams warns, “Unless we begin to scream that knowledge managementmust have soul there is a danger that KM will drown in technology.”Promotingcreativity HowEuropean firms encourage creativity and knowledge sharing:–British Airways has created indoor “street cafes” within its new Watersidecomplex.–A London advertising agency has bought an indoor lawn complete with swing andpositioned these in the middle of the office.–A Finnish software house has built a fireplace in the office with cosy chairsaround it.–A Swedish furniture manufacturer holds product think tanks in the sauna.CaseStudyIntegrating knowledge management and corporate values“Wedon’t want contented employees. We want them to challenge us,” says Nokia’s HRcommunications director Lynn Rutter.“Wewant them to acquire new knowledge and ask us what we are doing about it. Wewant them networking, listening and thinking outside of their box; which theywon’t do if they feel they are a unit of production. This is why Nokia is sosuccessful. It’s all about the values.”Nokiaviews knowledge management as an important HR issue. It is the embracing ofNokia’s core values which makes successful knowledge management possible, notonly in Finland but all over the world. So, the values and the KM go hand inhand:CorecompetenciesNokiamust have mastery of certain technologies, judged to be company-level corecompetencies. –What core skills are needed currently to support these competencies? –For the future? –What have we actually got? –Where is it? –What do we need to train? –Who, when, how?  –Job profiles are created and specific skills that people need are identified. –What is sustainable in the company?ValuesRespectfor the individual. An obligation to act responsibly and with care. Encouragepeople to acquire new knowledge for their own self-esteem and for the good ofthe company. The act of knowledge sharing is part of everybody’s job.Continuous process of learning and unlearning.Careermaps and development path to skills setsEmpoweringpeople to upskill and move around the company. Employees are able to see whatskills and qualifications are required for which jobs, and to compare withthemselves. They know what they need to achieve and where/how they can gettraining to advance themselves, sponsored by the company.SocialinteractionNetworking,story telling and socialising  are partof the culture. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Manage the fizzOn 1 May 2000 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more