A key theme of Knowledge Management is that knowledge is both ‘Within the Flow’ and ‘Outside the Flow’ of business processes. Knowledge Management activities ‘Within the Flow’ integrate directly into the day-to-day business operations; whereas Knowledge Management activities ‘Outside the Flow’ operate outside the day-to-day business process. In most organizations, Knowledge Management is practiced in both forms.
Most Knowledge Management initiatives that fail to achieve stakeholder buy-in or miss participation goals fall into the “Outside the Flow” category. Not surprising, since such initiatives require participants to perform additional steps, typically at the completion of a process, which they perceive as extra work. With such a mindset, it is less likely that the extra steps will be executed consistently.
However, when knowledge sharing is managed as an integral part of the business process, ‘within its flow’, acceptance and participation come closer to management goals. Knowledge gains are recorded while they are fresh in the one’s mind and very relevant, and as such, are more easily documented than when dredged up later, after the fact.
This begs the question:” If knowledge sharing is timely and most impactful when executed ‘Within the Flow’, why is ‘Outside the Flow’ still the common practice in more than 90% of organizations?”
The answer is simple. Historically, knowledge sharing has not been a key consideration while analyzing and problem solving. Operating ‘Within the Flow’ requires a culture shift and a management objective that treats knowledge sharing as a required outcome as important as the completion of the transaction itself.
Let’s consider a simplified example of a Contract Management solution. Whereas the Legal and Purchasing teams attempted to standardize the current contract generation process, line of business teams sought to enhance future decision making by leveraging their knowledge of past contracting successes and failures. How could the new solution address both of these needs?
To tackle this question, workshops were held with the line of business teams that focused on their specific needs. Their requirements were considered and prioritized just as highly as the solution's transactional requirements and, as a result, solution design was heavily influenced to achieve dual outcomes. Ultimately, knowledge sharing 'within the flow' became embedded within the new contract creation process satisfying all parties.
So ‘within the flow’ knowledge sharing is achievable. The answer lies not in the technology, but in the focus on knowledge sharing as an outcome, from the start.