Organizational barriers to Knowledge Management
Linda Raftree just put up an excellent post on her blog entitled “Organizational Barriers to ICT4D“. In it she highlights a number of ways in which organizational rules and practices make it difficult for them to carry out ICT4D work (Information and Communication Technology for Development).
Many of the problems she highlights apply equally to Knowledge Management work too, and there are also some other specific ones, so here is my KM related version of her list – and I’m not just talking about my own experience but that of most people I encounter trying to do KM work in the public/not for profit sector :
1. There often isn’t a sufficient incentive for staff to make use of knowledge in their work due to other work pressures (see creating a demand for knowledge)
2. There is often a reluctance to share valuable knowledge externally (see sharing: it’s good enough for me but not good enough to you)
3. We have a reluctance to admit and thus learn from failure – in part because of the need to compete for funds (see failure without borders)
4. Our IT systems, policies and tools are often not geared towards knowledge management. Although I’ve not come across the outright blocking of social media sites too often in the not-for profit sector (compared to the corporate sector where it seems commonplace), it’s still often the case that organizations lack adequate guidelines and training in use of social media, and that there is a reluctance to allow staff to use external non IT- supported tools for knowledge sharing (of which there are very many – see a few examples here), at the same time as a lack of budget/expertise/priority to set up the kind of tools that are needed for in house use that offer the same type of functionality.
5. We need to prove the “value” of what we do before we have even gotten started. It’s notoriously hard to measure the impact of KM work, and the actual value will vary a lot on organizational context and the level of support from senior management, which is hard to get without being able to prove results in the first place (Catch-22 anyone?).
Part of the reason I took up blogging was to write about some of these problems, and to share and discuss ideas to overcome them. There are a number of practical ways to deal with some of these on an operational level – but at the same time I think organizations need to ask themselves – if they want to become knowledge organizations, with knowledge workers, that use knowledge as an asset then they need to take a look at how some of their existing ways of working are hampering their ability to achieve their goals – and to take a leap of faith in the value of knowledge in their work and do something about them.
Bonus: David Gurteen has a nice short list on organizational barriers to knowledge sharing here.