The topic selected for this analysis is knowledge management (KM) because it is a critical factor for enhanced organizational efficiency, survival, and sustained competitive strength in today’s business environment. To compete effectively in the global markets, learning organizations maintain, develop, consolidate, and use employees’ collective capabilities in strategic plans.
Conceptually, KM is an integrated process of acquiring, storing, and sharing knowledge to support business objectives. KM is relevant since it increases the efficiency of a firm’s decision-making capacity, which is crucial in gaining a competitive advantage.
Knowledge gives organizations the power and agility to thrive in unpredictable and complex environments. Koenig (2018) defines KM as an integrated approach to “identifying, capturing, evaluating, and sharing” an organization’s information assets (para. 9). These resources are databases, guidelines, expertise, and experiences in both internal and external environments. The idea is to harness the information and people with knowledge from different internal and external systems (departments) using technology to support key business objectives (Berry, 2018). KM has grown exponentially in management consulting over the past few years, but it is still a confusing concept. Therefore, this analysis was selected to understand what is meant by KM and its importance. In the subsequent sections, the benefits and limitations of KM are discussed. Additionally, corporate examples of its use, a personal perspective on the topic, and recommendations are provided.
Benefits or Pros
KM primarily entails the training or learning in an enterprise to maximize the effectiveness of knowledge assets. It comprises three main aspects: accumulating, storing, and sharing knowledge (Valamis Group, 2021). The aim is to create a learning culture that supports the transfer of expertise and experiences. The knowledge acquired, stored, and shared can be either tacit (intuitive) or explicit (codified or taught). Effective KM harnesses employees’ expertise to enhance efficiencies through “situational awareness, best practices, lessons learned, and communities of practice” (Knoco, 2020, para. 12). Thus, KM is useful for developing a set of competencies required to provide competitive services or products.
A key benefit of KM to organizations is that it enhances workplace efficiencies by expanding an enterprise’s decision-making ability. It creates a smarter workforce that makes sound and timely strategic decisions beneficial to the organization (Valamis Group, 2021). KM fosters employee engagement and retention through training and knowledge transfer. Other benefits to the organization include enhancing collaboration, driving innovation, and supporting instruction to meet an enterprise’s HR needs. Additionally, KM advances innovation, which benefits customers and society through quality services or products. It equips the working population with resources, skills, and capacity to share knowledge and use it in daily tasks within the community, contributing to overall societal effectiveness.
The unique features of KM are the operational components of the knowledge management system. The first element is content management, which entails accessing, mining, and processing an organization’s information resources using technology. The second feature is an expertise locator system that identifies people in the enterprise with the required knowledge or skills (Valamis Group, 2021). It is achieved by searching employees’ resumes, conducting self-identification, and analyzing their exchanges online. A third feature includes lessons learned in databases containing “how to do it” knowledge shared by experienced staff for use by other employees (Koenig, 2018, para. 17). Communities of Practice (CoPs) constitute another critical feature of KM systems. They are virtually linked groups or forums that share expertise or discuss issues and best practices in a field within or outside an organization.
KM initiatives positively impact organizational outcomes and performance in multiple ways. KM is a useful approach to spurring innovation and agility within a firm (Knoco, 2020). Employee knowledge-based capability also contributes to product and service improvement that ultimately benefits the customers. KM leads to staff improvement and engagement, which reduces turnover that is costly to the organization. Thus, KM can be viewed as a prerequisite for increased organizational efficiency, output, and competitive strength in the industry.
Issues or Limitations
A potential problem with KM is that knowledge acquisition requires not only talent but also time and practice. According to Berry (2018), to attain proficiency in a skill, individuals must perform diverse tasks, challenging skill development. Additionally, information is also stored in silos – multiple systems or departments, making it potentially difficult to acquire knowledge. Current training programs do not consider differences in knowledge and experience levels, limiting people’s ability to develop more expertise.
Common types of KM systems have some limitations in practice. Tutoring, CoPs, and expertise location are time-consuming to develop or sustain, creating documentation challenges and encouraging knowledge loss through turnover (Valamis Group, 2021). KM documentation and guidelines also need much time to develop and undertake regular updates. In contrast, online collaborative forums or intranets can be chaotic, and the knowledge shared is neither vetted nor archived. Some downsides of KM are that tools used may be complicated for employees to understand and use correctly, decreasing an organization’s operational efficiency. They are also prone to risks of cultural resistance and loss of knowledge to competitors.
Examples of Use
KM has been implemented in some organizations to bolster their competitive strength. One example is Ford, an automaker with sound KM best practices. It has integrated KM principles into its product development through an online knowledge-based system that ensures consistent quality (Scalco, 2020). Another excellent example of firms using KM is General Electric (GE). Its corporate council includes GE’s managers across all levels who exchange ideas and share experiences through regular meetings. In contrast, Amazon applies user-experience principles to meet staff needs. A single interface is provided for all users, making it easier to index and locate different products. A global aerospace maker, Pratt & Whitney, uses a different approach to KM – it established a centralized system to capture and preserve the knowledge held by retiring engineers. The World Bank has also invested in empowerment programs for its clients to foster the sharing of explicit and implicit knowledge.
From these examples, the different perspectives of KM depend on company needs. The knowledge and expertise can be shared through web-based software (Ford), collaborative forums such as corporate councils (GE), or a single-user interface (Amazon). It can also be accomplished using centralized systems for capturing the knowledge of retirees and empowerment programs or training. KM is pertinent to organizational strategy, as it provides the unique capabilities that drive business growth. It is used to encourage sharing of knowledge between groups after a merger or acquisition, capture the expertise of retiring employees, and support new staff’s training needs (Valamis Group, 2021). Alternative views on KM emphasize using indexing technology to ensure contextual access to information by employees and customers and anchoring it in ISO 30401 as a quality framework.
KM is a useful tool for managing knowledge resources crucial to organizational productivity. Companies use different approaches to KM based on specific needs. However, in my view, a cultural change is critical to effective knowledge management. Building an organizational culture of learning and sharing information would foster access to crucial knowledge and prepare the firm for new macro-economic challenges, such as COVID-19. Another critical consideration is that KM systems should be aligned with remote working by allowing information access from off-site locations. In my view, this approach would ensure that the knowledge is contextually relevant and timely.
Summary and Recommendations
KM is a critical success factor in a changing business environment with strong competitive pressures. Since KM entails acquiring, storing, and sharing knowledge and expertise, it improves efficiencies, retention, innovation, and productivity in organizations and society. KM systems have limitations such as higher time investment and documentation difficulties. They have been adopted in many organizations, including Ford and GE.
While implementing effective KM systems may seem complicated, firms can achieve seamless knowledge sharing through the following steps. The first recommendation is to reduce information silos – differing departmental objectives – to foster collaboration in KM. The automation of knowledge-sharing processes is also recommended to support mining and conversion of knowledge into business insight. Mentorship programs would ensure that retiring employees transfer their knowledge before leaving the organization.
KM is a useful tool for an enterprise that needs to grow its bottom line and competitive strength. Successful KM adds many benefits to the organization, including enhanced innovation, efficiency, productivity, and retention. It supports improved situational awareness and knowledge-based capabilities that lead to better outcomes. As KM relates to company strategy, it is essential for organizational survival in a changing business environment.
Berry, D. (2018). The future of knowledge management and access. Wired. Web.
Knoco. (2020). Knowledge management in a post-Covid world. Knoco Newsletter. Web.
Koenig, M. E. D. (2018). What is KM? Knowledge management explained. KMWorld. Web.
Scalco, D. (2020). 5 companies examples with A+ knowledge management skills. ProProfs Knowledge Base. Web.
Valamis Group. (2021). Knowledge management. Web.