Who owns knowledge management?

Basic RGBIT owning knowledge management is like the stadium builder coaching the basketball team.

I was working with a disability and life insurance company a few years ago, and was talking to their director of knowledge management. She was livid. “You’re not going to believe what the IT director just told me,” she said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“He came into my office with a big smile in his face. Then he said, ‘We did something for you last week. We heard that there were complaints that the knowledge base search function wasn’t really useable, so we fixed it! It used to be if you searched for life plus VT plus individual you would get 700 hits. Now you get over 2,000!’”

“I can’t believe it,” she added. “The reason we got complaints was the wild number of false positives. Who can work with 700 hits? Now he tripled it? And, of course, being IT they didn’t ask us what the problem was – they simply assumed in their infinite wisdom that they knew better than anyone else and went ahead and fixed it.”

Imagine that a builder gets the contract to build your city’s new stadium and does a fantastic job! And your city council immediately turns to him and says “You know you built us one fine stadium. The basketball facilities inside it are great. In fact they are so good, we’d like you to coach the basketball team.

That would seem pretty silly, wouldn’t it. Yet this exact thing happens in knowledge management with distressing frequency. If you believe, as I do, that knowledge management and learning and integrally connected, then the people who organize the organization’s knowledge, provide it to workers in the form of performance support, explicate tacit knowledge, and facilitate knowledge sharing need to be the same folks who are accountable for employees learning the skills they need to do their jobs.

This is why, in several organizations with which we work, L&D is called the Knowledge and Learning department.

Abstracted from Speed to Proficiency: Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage. In press.   (c) Bill Bruck, Ph.D., 2015

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