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Retaining Knowledge in the Organization

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Let me start with a joke:

CFO : What if we invest in our people and they leave? CEO : What if we don’t and they stay?

So, this was good practice #1.

So knowledge management is about keeping know-how in house. Make working for you attractive and your knowledge stays. But sooner or later retirement kicks in, so you need a strategy to absorb knowledge as a organization. How do you do that?

Knowledge Management was a big thing in the nineties but it never became real. Do you know why? Because when things get tough in a company (and every X years things get tough) it’s the first short time costs you can cut without feeling it in the short term results. And don’t be fooled, managing knowledge costs money. It’s something you have to do actively.

There are two ways scholars talked about knowledge management; Codified and Personalized knowledge. In short: Codify is when you store “knowledge” in documents, systems and procedures. Personalized is when you have a structure where people gives internal seminars, workshops and show each other what they know and share it. It had consensus that you have to choose (good practice #2) between codify or personalize. Because both cost money, two ways is confusing and keeps you from a clear strategy and strategy trumps tactics. Generally codify is used when processes are mature and most products / services are commoditized or pretty standard. Personalized sharing of knowledge is done when processes are more abstract or “high level”.

Contents

[edit] Involve C Level Management

Of course, this is over simplification. I do believe that every company will benefit from implementing a knowledge strategy. Also, I believe complex working systems are always evolved from simple working systems. So when deciding what strategy suits you, start small and see what works. Also involve C level management into the strategy (good practice #3) because most people shuns sharing or storing knowledge and most people are too lazy to consume knowledge.

I am 50% owner of a company who creates a smart digital learning environment as a service. So sharing knowledge is in our DNA. It’s used for on-boarding (get knowledge into new employees), safety instructions on plants (get knowledge into contractors), sales (get to know your products), keeping the level of technical knowledge high on resellers (let you partners understand your product) , compliance (do your employees know and understand the code of conduct), etc. I can write books about it.

Because we deliver the software and create the content there’s lots of knowledge I like to absorb in our company. How to do good voice-overs instructions, how to animate, how to model processes, make story boards, work agile, work in other languages and cultures, etc.

[edit] Encourage Every Employee to invest in new knowledge

One of the practices is that every employee will constantly invest in their knowledge (good practice #4). I let every employee chose on what they want to learn next. Make a personalized plan depending on their level and home situation and buy online subscriptions to sites like Khan Academy, Udemy, PluralSight, Lynda.com, etc. I believe in online learning and I learnt my knowledge and skills from books & internet. Online courses are not enough, it has to be aligned with the daily jobs of people (good practice #5). I believe the people working for me love it because of this constant learning. Also I delegate different tasks to different people (good practice #6). This gives me more redundancy to my organization and “forces” people to ask each other. This is a form of personalized knowledge retention strategy.

[edit] Summary

So, here’s the wrap up. Is my knowledge strategy personalized or codified? I don’t know. Each time we do something new we learn and yes we store it in Google Drive document structure. That’s clearly codifying. Switching tasks, work agile is clearly personalized. So choosing one strategy is a simplification. But I do know people stay because of the constant learning. It’s fun and fulfilling and by doing it, it doesn’t feel like “management” but more as a natural thing, it became our DNA….=Related Best Practices==

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[edit] Author

The author of this page is Henri Koppen.

Henri Koppen: Philosopher, earning money with creating software. Quora author.


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