Knowledge Creation without the Aggravation

Knowledge management systems drive me crazy! They are often so convoluted and contrived that you require a PHD in just about everything to extract information / knowledge. The context of the information is often wrong or the information is so sparse that is it useless.

You can however create some basic building blocks that will ensure your organisation uses it’s information and knowledge constructively. In order to do this you need to break down all the barriers that are often in place when it comes to managing knowledge. Many of these are barriers are a reflection of our own inability or reluctance to share knowledge.

The first, and what I believe the most damaging, fallacy is the idea that “Knowledge is Power.” Somehow, through a process of broken telephone, the message has been misinterpreted. I believe the original truth was “The proper use of knowledge is powerful.”

create-knowledgeThis is followed very closely by the notion of scarcity of knowledge. If we keep knowledge to ourselves, we become as valuable as the knowledge has become. This idea was corrupted from the skills revolution where, if you had a specific skill, you were in more demand than a person who didn’t have this skill. Built into this skill was a set of specific knowledge that enabled you to have this skill. What has been lost is that your specific use of the knowledge made you valuable – not the knowledge itself.

With the vastness of the Internet most things are known – I mean things like how to bake a chocolate cake, make a car, design a logo or paint a masterpiece, yet many of us can do none of these or do all of them very poorly. Clearly the knowledge is not at fault as all people have access to this knowledge. It must be the way we use the knowledge that creates the ‘special me’ that is valuable.

So in order to encourage innovation and skills excellence you need readily available information and knowledge. This knowledge must not only be accessible but it must be dynamic enough to change as required within you organisation. This is where most electronic systems, with their security to protect and classify information and subsequent knowledge do the most damage. To date I have only found two types of data capturing tools that allow for the human condition viz. spreadsheets and wikis. Spreadsheets are the realm of daredevils and maniacs (in my humble opinion) as they have no built in mechanism to restore or compare inaccuracies. They also contain many hidden ways in which to manipulate information that goes beyond us mere mortals.

Wikis on the other hand are an interesting choice of information and knowledge repository. They are dynamic enough to capture anything, they can be changed by just about anyone and they keep a constant automatic record of all revision of the document in question. They get my vote as the first bit of technology you should use to start documenting your organisation knowledge.

As time goes by you will find that you will outgrow your wiki – but the process of doing that would have instilled some amazing discipline, process awareness and most importantly – you would have captured much of the tacit knowledge in your organisation and made it available and explicit. This in turn will allow your employees and leaders to be able to be innovative, creative and grow your organisation within the boundaries of your objectives – a very safe way to manage knowledge I would say.

Nurturing Talent Directly Related to Job Descriptions

If you have a terrible job description your chances of developing talent are zero! Okay, so that might not be exactly true but when have you been the happiest at work? I have always been happy when life seemed simpler. On closer inspection I find that simpler does not actually mean without complexity, challenges or rewards.

Simpler means that I have a defined set of boundaries, a defined set of resources and a defined scope of outcomes that I can need to achieve. That’s it – a job decent job description – I told you.

resumeNot convinced just yet, I thought not. Let me try and come at it from another angle – the poor job description. The “jobvert” is the worst job description as it is really a grouping of some characteristics with a list of ALL the possible activities that you need to be able to perform. How often have you discovered your job description is merely the jobvert on a letterhead?

The more sophisticated job description goes into some great length describing your job, the activities you need to be doing and many even detail the outcomes that you need to achieve. The all important caveat is also always there – “and anything else we think you should be doing to help us achieve our goals.”

The best job description I ever came cross was the one that has prompted me to write this article. It was a very simple one-page document which introduced the candidate to the company’s formal name, explained who they talk to about human resource issues and then in one line said the following: “We expect you to perform the activities of “specific role” outlined in our organisation’s processes, whilst continually improving such activities to ensure the desired outcome of each process is achieved.”

But wait, that is so vague. It is vague, when it is read without the organisation’s processes. When you look at the organisation’s processes and more specifically the activities that the specific role must do and improve, the job description is the delegation of authority to go and do a job and do it well, improve it and mould it to make our organisation better at achieving it’s objectives.

The key therefore is in your processes – if you have terrible or ill defined processes your job description will be full of waffle, caveats and other nonsense just in case you miss a trick. If your processes are well defined, or even ‘just’ defined, the improvement of them will always improve your organisation as long as the outcomes are aligned with your strategic goals.

Are we saying that job descriptions are reliant on decent strategic goals – in a word – YES. The cynical amongst us may say that this is obvious especially as everything is dependent on a decent strategic goal. My challenge to you is looking at a job description you have for anyone in your organisation, can you see how they are helping you achieve you strategic goal – is there even a link? If the link is not obvious then you need to rethink that job description and at the same time understand what your goals are.