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2 Ways To Empower Teams Through Knowledge Management

by Jessica Zartler / May 19, 2016

How does your organization handle knowledge? Is it easy for everyone to get answers to the questions they need to do their jobs?

These are the questions that need to be a part of your business culture if you are to make gains on the bottom line, stay ahead of the competition, empower teams, keep employees and inspire innovation.

Knowledge management (KM) -  the practice of organizing, storing, and sharing vital information, so that everyone can benefit from its use.

KM is becoming increasingly important as technology changes and the ability to create and share knowledge is becoming a new currency for organizations. The ability to adapt, innovate and survive depends on how well a company manages knowledge.

In our previous article, we explored the concept of The Knowledge-Creating Company from Japanese knowledge management experts Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi. In the book, Nonaka and Takeuchi showed how not only information, but experiential knowledge, could be shared, expounded upon and re-shared through a spiraling process of culture, creativity and innovation. Through these practices and real life example from successful Japanese companies like Canon, Matsushita and Honda, they showed how the interplay of knowledge can mean the difference between failure and raging success.

As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” - and neither is a culture of knowledge management. In this article, we delve into the best and most simple ways to begin the process - how to plant the seeds of KM that will grow into the fruits of substantial savings to the bottom line, better customer relationships and more productive teams.

We all know that philosophy and concepts are one thing, and reality is another. However, there are two ways to practically manage knowledge within an organization: Soft Systems and Technology-based systems. Both are important to secure the flow of knowledge “in the middle, up and down the organization” (to borrow from Nonaka and Takeuchi).

1.  Developing Soft Systems of KM

Soft systems are the meetings and specific actions that help employees connect and share knowledge with one another. This is the socialization aspect of knowledge sharing that can spread the tacit knowledge - experiential knowledge - from one employee to another. Tacit knowledge can only turn into shareable and usable knowledge through these soft systems.

Here are some methods you can use to create soft systems:

-Shadowing and mentoring

-Cross-training & Retirement Planning

-After action reviews after significant events or project completion

-Voluntary groups for community practice where team members doing the same thing in different areas can meet and share information

2.  Technology-Based Knowledge Management

KM experts urge the importance of access to information, not only give teams the independence and information to innovate, but also to make the process accessible to everyone.

This is evident in research from The Access Group showing that the biggest project management challenges revolve around access to knowledge and information:

Having project management software like Taskworld, where everyone can add and edit information, is the best way to build and share an organizational library of explicit knowledge.

Using Taskworld, you can upload project reports and documents, set due dates and view them on a calendar for greater clarity, see a robust overview of project progress, use chat and task comments to track communications and share information and updates - all in real-time. According to KM experts Nonaka and Takeuchi, this central source of project and company information, or “knowledge center,” is what allows the knowledge spiral to flourish, and as a result, innovation and success.

If more companies utilized social technologies like PM software, it could add between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion in annual value across commercial sectors – and that’s just in the U.S (The McKinsey Global Institute). According to the Project Management Institute, organizations lose $109 million for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs. Knowledge management is a huge part of this difference. An issue that can be solved with a technology-based knowledge center.

The 87 percent of high-performing companies who use PM software saw these aspects improve in their business:

Tips for KM Culture Building

It is best to begin knowledge sharing initiatives with a small team. Starting with a brainstorming session in one department and growing from there can help you determine how you would like to organize information.

It is also important to do your best to make team members feel comfortable sharing information. Remember, you are asking them to share their hard earned knowledge - what makes them valuable to the company. Consider bringing knowledge sharing into your formal performance reviews, so that people are rewarded for sharing information freely.

Implementing both soft systems of knowledge management along with technology-based solutions is the best and easiest way to begin taking the philosophy of knowledge management, and applying it to your business practices. KM is a crucial tool for your organization to stay ahead of competition, foster innovation, keep employees motivated and additions to the bottom line certainly won’t hurt.

The ability to create and share knowledge remains one of the biggest challenges in project management, but starting a knowledge sharing initiative and employing a technology-based knowledge center like Taskworld can set teams up for success, allowing them to complete more projects on time and under budget.

Empower your teams with a knowledge center - sign up for your free trial of Taskworld

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