Good and bad reasons to work on knowledge management
I recently heard about a conversation that took place during a planning meeting of one of our programme teams where a staff member suggested that they should start doing knowledge management work, to which the section chief reportedly responded “do we have to?”
My initial response was incredulity – and disappointment in how we were obviously not being effective at selling the importance of our work. But once I thought of it further I realized it’s not such a bad question to ask after all.
Much as I like to spread the word about the importance of using evidence and knowledge in development work, and the benefits of effective knowledge management – I think we all need to ask ourselves whether what we are doing is needed and whether it adds value (given competing demands on time and resources). In our efforts to get knowledge management more “institutionalized” as part of the way we do business we’ve tried to include it in our regular systems including getting it into our organization’s strategic plan, into our performance assessment system for country offices, into our guidance etc. While this is a good way to get KM on everyone’s radar and to get it systematized, it also has a downside – that people might not realize why we should be doing KM in the first place.
Here are some poor reasons why people work on knowledge management
- It’s trendy right now
- My competitors are doing it
- My peers are doing it
- Senior management talk about it a lot so it must be important
- We have to report on it
- My boss asked me to do it
- We can get some money to work on it (although I haven’t seen this case that often!)
- It saves money
- It saves time
- We don’t keep reinventing the wheel
- We reduce known mistakes and risks
- We invent and spread innovations and new approaches
- We improve the organization’s reputation
- We improve our own reputation
- We improve our own performance
- We improve the organization’s performance
Knowledge Management is not an end in itself – its aim is to make use better at doing whatever it is we are doing as our core business. If it isn’t then while it might be intellectually satisfying – it’s not a good investment of our time and money.
(This blog post was inspired by this post by Nick Milton from Knoco Stories “Business focussed KM revisited”)