Thursday evening saw me back at the Crown Tavern, Clerkenwall for another very enjoyable LIKE event, which had been sold out for ages beforehand - What is Knowledge Management Really?
The four speakers were set a very challenging target of 3 minutes each to give us their answers to the question, and each approached it in a very different way.
First up was Matthew Walsh, knowledge manager at the Medical Defence Union. He gave a rapid fire description of the 5 key principals the MDU uses, and mentioned that they’ve adopted Sharepoint for their implementation:
1. All users must be able to add content in an intuitive place
2. Collective responsibility for information added to the system
3. Information should be shared wherever possible
4. Information must be current and accurate to enable decision making
5. Information should be easy to retrieve
Next to speak was Linda Woodcraft, from Hay Group. Linda said that promoting KM is hard to do, when consultants have better things to do with their time, especially if there is little top down approval / promotion of KM efforts. She said they try and do KM ‘by stealth’, for example by embedding KM processes into daily workflows. She then described one such tool, a knowledge exchange called ‘ask the experts’, where responses to questions asked are tagged and published across the firm. They receive around 4-8 questions per day onto this system. Linda finished by saying that connecting people to content is OK, but connecting people to other people is ‘real KM’ and is harder!
Third to take the floor was James Andrews, Knowledge & Information Manager at the British Red Cross. James described their three-pronged approach to KM, with a strategy taking into account People, Processes and Technology. He said that they felt the people element was unordered (collaboration, networks, etc) while the process side was ordered (compliance, structured data, records management, etc), and that the technology element straddled across both and acted as an enabler.
Last but not least to speak was Katharine Schopflin , Head of Knowledge at the House of Commons. Katharine admitted to being sceptical about KM when it first came to prominence, but said she has become a convert over the years. She described the distinction between IM and KM as being “if information management is ensuring people can find data and information in a system, knowledge management is enabling people to find ‘stuff’ that’s never been written down.” Katharine said that in her experience informal methods have worked best, for example a staff forum. She also emphasises that there is an ongoing need to define and explain KM and demonstrate how it helps organisations to work better.
The rest of us were then given a rather more generous 20 minutes to discuss the ideas raised by the speakers and come up with our own answer(s) to the initial question – but it flew by and seemed like we’d only just started when time was called! After pooling all our feedback it was time for the meal and a second glass of wine, along with such pleasant networking that I didn’t leave until gone 9pm.
- Nicola Franklin