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«Freely extracted from the NHS National Library for Health at by Géraud Servin Creator: NHS National ...»

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ABC of Knowledge Management

Freely extracted from the NHS National Library for Health at http://www.library.nhs.uk/knowledgemanagement/

by Géraud Servin

Creator: NHS National Library for Health: Knowledge Management Specialist Library

Contributor: Caroline De Brún

Publication Date: July 2005

Table of Contents

1 WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT?

1.1 What is knowledge management?

1.2 What is knowledge?

1.3 Why do we need knowledge management?

1.4 What does knowledge management involve?

1.5 Some “textbook” definitions of knowledge management

2 PRINCIPLES AND PROCESSES OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT

2.1 Right knowledge, right place, right time

2.2 Types of knowledge: explicit and tacit

2.3 Types of knowledge: old and new

2.4 Ways with knowledge: collecting and connecting

2.5 Ways with knowledge: people, processes and technology

3 GENERAL CONCEPTS

3.1 A brief history of knowledge management

3.2 The “knowledge economy”

3.3 Knowledge management in the public sector

4 GETTING STARTED

4.2 KM toolbox – inventory of tools and techniques

4.3 After Action Reviews

4.4 Communities of Practice

4.5 Conducting a knowledge audit

4.6 Developing a knowledge management strategy

4.7 Exit interviews

4.8 Identifying and sharing best practices

4.9 Knowledge centres

4.10 Knowledge harvesting

4.11 Peer assists

4.12 Social Network Analysis

4.13 Storytelling

4.14 White Pages

5 DEVELOPING THE KM ENVIRONMENT

5.1 People

5.2 KM Processes

5.3 KM Technology

6 MEASURING THE EFFECTS OF KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT

6.1 Why measure?

6.2 What to measure? Common measurement approaches

6.3 How to measure?

7 KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT GLOSSARY OF TERMS

1 What is knowledge management?

1 WHAT IS KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT?

Knowledge management is based on the idea that an organisation’s most valuable resource is the knowledge of its people. Therefore, the extent to which an organisation performs well, will depend, among other things, on how effectively its people can create new knowledge, share knowledge around the organisation, and use that knowledge to best effect.

If you have read any of the huge array of knowledge management books and articles that are currently available, you are possibly feeling slightly bewildered. Perhaps you are wondering whether knowledge management is just the latest fad and hoping that if you ignore it, it will eventually go away. Let’s be honest – knowledge management is surrounded by a great deal of hype. But if you can put the hype to one side, you will find that many of the tools, techniques and processes of knowledge management actually make a great deal of common sense, are already part of what you do, and can greatly help you in your job.

1.1 What is knowledge management?

Many of us simply do not think in terms of managing knowledge, but we all do it. Each of us is a personal store of knowledge with training, experiences, and informal networks of friends and colleagues, whom we seek out when we want to solve a problem or explore an opportunity. Essentially, we get things done and succeed by knowing an answer or knowing someone who does.

Fundamentally, knowledge management is about applying the collective knowledge of the entire workforce to achieve specific organisational goals. The aim of knowledge management is not necessarily to manage all knowledge, just the knowledge that is most important to the organisation. It is about ensuring that people have the knowledge they need, where they need it, when they need it – the right knowledge, in the right place, at the right time.

Knowledge management is unfortunately a misleading term – knowledge resides in people’s heads and managing it is not really possible or desirable. What we can do, and what the ideas behind knowledge management are all about, is to establish an environment in which people are encouraged to create, learn, share, and use knowledge together for the benefit of the organisation, the people who work in it, and the organisation’s customers (or in the case of the NHS, patients).

1.2 What is knowledge?

Academics have debated the meaning of “knowledge” since the word was invented, but let’s not get into that here. A dictionary definition is “the facts, feelings or experiences known by a person or group of people” (Collins English Dictionary). Knowledge is derived from information but it is richer and more meaningful than information. It includes familiarity, awareness and understanding gained through experience or study, and results from making comparisons, identifying consequences, and making connections. Some experts include wisdom and insight in their definitions of knowledge. In organisational terms, knowledge is generally thought of as being “know how”, or “applied action”. The last point is an important one. Today’s organisations contain a vast amount of knowledge and the NHS is certainly no exception. However, in applying knowledge management principles and practices in our organisation, knowledge is not our end, but the means for further action. What we are trying to do is to use our knowledge to get better at doing what we do, i.e. health care and health care improvement.





1.3 Why do we need knowledge management?

Knowledge management is based on the idea that an organisation’s most valuable resource is the knowledge of its people. This is not a new idea – organisations have been managing “human resources” for years. What is new is the focus on knowledge. This focus is being driven by the accelerated rate of change in today’s organisations and in society as a whole. Knowledge management recognises that today nearly all jobs involve “knowledge work” and so all staff are “knowledge workers” to some degree or another – meaning that their job depends more on their knowledge than their manual skills. This means that creating, sharing and using knowledge are among the most important activities of nearly every person in every organisation.

It is easy to see the importance of knowledge in the health sector. As clinicians, managers and other practitioners, we all rely on what we know to do our jobs effectively. But....

–  –  –

Do we know everything we need to know or are there gaps in our knowledge? Of course there are. Medical advances are being made all the time so there is always new knowledge to be learned. Government policies are constantly evolving, as are management practices. The current modernisation programme requires us to let go of what we knew and to learn and apply new knowledge. Changing doctor-patient relationships are requiring us to revisit our whole approach to the provision of health care. And of course, every new patient that comes through our door brings a potential new learning opportunity.

Do we share what we know? The NHS is made up of over a million individuals in hundreds of organisations, each of which have their own knowledge. Is the knowledge of individuals available to the whole organisation? Is the knowledge or organisations available to the whole NHS? Not at present. How many times have we lost valuable knowledge and expertise when a staff member moves on? How many times have we “reinvented the wheel” when we could have learned from someone else’s experience? How many times have patients suffered as a result of the “postcode lottery”?

Do we use what we know to best effect? Not always. In the NHS Plan, the NHS was described as “a 1940s infrastructure operating in the 21st century”. Clearly our knowledge has not always been applied to best effect, and we have fallen behind the times. How many times have we had an idea about how a process or an activity could be improved, but felt we lacked the time or resources to do anything about it? How many times have we had an idea that might help our colleagues, but we keep quiet because our colleagues might not appreciate us “telling them how to do their job”? How many times have we implemented a new initiative, only to find we reverted back to the “old way” a few months later? Perhaps we have had insights about how our patients” needs could be better met, but there was no forum for us to share and explore those insights so we just forgot about it.

These are just a few examples.

Almost everything we do in the NHS is based on our knowledge. If we do not constantly update and renew our knowledge, share our knowledge, and then use that knowledge to do things differently and better, then our people, our organisations, our patients and the general public will ultimately suffer. We know this because it has already happened. As The NHS Plan (2000) affirms, in spite of our many achievements, the NHS has failed to keep pace with changes in our society. What can transform that, along with the current investment and modernisation programme, is harnessing the vast collective knowledge of the people working in the NHS, and using it to best effect. That is why we need knowledge management.

1.4 What does knowledge management involve?

Knowledge management is essentially about facilitating the processes by which knowledge is created, shared and used in organisations. It is not about setting up a new department or getting in a new computer system. It is about making small changes to the way everyone in the organisation works. There are many ways of looking at knowledge management and different organisations will take different approaches. Generally speaking, creating a knowledge environment usually requires changing organisational values and culture, changing people’s behaviours and work patterns, and providing people with easy access to each other and to relevant information resources.

In terms of how that is done, the processes of knowledge management are many and varied. As knowledge management is a relatively new concept, organisations are still finding their way and so there is no single agreed way forward or best practice. This is a time of much trial and error. Similarly, to simply copy the practices of another organisation would probably not work because each organisation faces a different set of knowledge management problems and challenges. Knowledge management is essentially about people – how they create, share and use knowledge, and so no knowledge management tool will work if it is not applied in a manner that is sensitive to the ways people think and behave.

That being said, there are of course a whole raft of options in terms of tools and techniques, many of which are not new. Many of the processes that currently fall under the banner of knowledge management have been around for a long time, but as part of functions such as training, human resources, internal communications, information technology, librarianship, records management and marketing to name a few. And some of those

processes can be very simple, such as:

providing induction packs full of “know how” to new staff;

conducting exit interviews when staff leave so that their knowledge is not lost to the organisation;

creating databases of all publications produced by an organisation so that staff can access them from their desk;

–  –  –

providing ongoing learning so that people can constantly update their knowledge;

encouraging people with a common interest to network with each other;

creating electronic filing systems that can be searched in a number of ways, making the information much easier to find;

redesigning offices to be open plan so that staff and managers are more visible and talk to each other more;

putting staff directories online so that people can easily find out who does what and where they are;

creating intranets so that staff can access all kinds of organisational information and knowledge that might otherwise take a great deal of time and energy to find.

1.5 Some “textbook” definitions of knowledge management

Here are a few definitions:

“Clinical knowledge management means enhancing the identification, dissemination, awareness and application of the results of research relevant to clinical practice in health and social care.” Jeremy Wyatt “The creation and subsequent management of an environment, which encourages knowledge to be created, shared, learnt, enhanced, organised and utilized for the benefit of the organisation and its customers.” Abell & Oxbrow, tfpl Ltd, 2001 “Knowledge management is a process that emphasises generating, capturing and sharing information know how and integrating these into business practices and decision making for greater organisational benefit.” Maggie Haines, NHS Acting Director of KM “The capabilities by which communities within an organisation capture the knowledge that is critical to them, constantly improve it, and make it available in the most effective manner to those people who need it, so that they can exploit it creatively to add value as a normal part of their work.” BSI’s A Guide to Good Practice in KM “Knowledge is power, which is why people who had it in the past often tried to make a secret of it.



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