This blog was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.
With the speed of technology advances and the demanding workloads of our staff, it is becoming increasingly harder to cultivate and harvest reusable knowledge. We run across valuable knowledge almost every day but are too busy to store it for others to use. Thus, we unintentionally hamstring our teams who must take time to relearn what we already knew (and perhaps forgot). We need to build an organizational culture that not only respects knowledge, but is relentless in seeking it, storing it, and sharing it.
If the knowledge is related to how we do something, then it belongs in a Process Asset Library, which contains all processes, procedure, checklists, and other process-related items. If the knowledge is related to how a system or application is configured, it belongs in a System Configuration Library. This library contains all information related to our product and service configurations. Finally, any information that does not fit into the above categories, such as user tips, training, user manuals and general information such as hours, contacts, or services should be placed in a General Information Library. The below figure provides examples of the types of knowledge that each library contains.
So why is it necessary to have these three libraries and not just a general knowledge base? With the Process Asset Library and System Configuration Library we can be proactive in building out their contents based on the processes and configurations we manage. The library owners establish the structure and then coordinate the content development to fill the structure to best capture the current processes and system configurations. Conversely, most knowledge bases are just repositories where we store information on a reactive basis – as someone learns something new or we solve issues and want to store the solution to reduce the occurrence or impact of future issues. These three libraries can be housed in the same knowledge base or may be built in separate knowledge bases that are searchable.
Using a Knowledge Base such as that in SharePoint or ServiceNow, we can add context by categorizing each knowledge article and leveraging the weighting systems to give more weight to text in the title/short description and meta fields. Adding tags is critical in a knowledge culture because users need to be able to find knowledge quickly. For example, some items, such as user manuals, may be related to items in another library and must be tagged accordingly. The tags should follow a well-known taxonomy that is also stored in each library. Users can then perform Google-style searches to retrieve the information.
Building a Sticky Knowledge Culture
Building the tools and libraries is straightforward and should not be difficult. The real challenge is in building an organizational culture to promote knowledge capture, retention, and use. The first step in building this culture is to identify a Knowledge Manager, Process Manager, and Configuration Manager within the organization. For large organizations or programs, these are usually three different people with the primary responsibility of maintaining the quality, currency, and accuracy of information in the three libraries mentioned above. These managers have the responsibility of building out their respective libraries and handling knowledge submissions in their respective areas and providing monthly reports on the status of their libraries.
The knowledge libraries are only as strong as the submissions. To promote user knowledge creation, we recommend using an emerging topic in organizational behavior: gamification. For each knowledge submission that is published, the submitter should be awarded points by the Knowledge Manager. If the knowledge submission is complex, particularly germane to a major issue, or unique (such as portraying a lesson learned), additional points should be awarded. Finally, if a knowledge article is used frequently and/or rated highly, more points should be awarded. A running point total can be displayed on-line or points can be published weekly. The organization can also consider periodic recognition or awards based on points earned. We are currently extending ServiceNow to support the automation of point assignment and tracking of knowledge articles being submitted, published and read.
Ironically, getting staff to use someone else’s knowledge is often more challenging than getting staff to create knowledge. In a true sticky knowledge culture, everyone is expected to utilize the knowledge in the libraries. Managers need to set and reinforce this expectation. If a staff member fails to use the library, then they need to be coached to use it in the future. This culture needs to be enforced across all management levels.
A knowledge-centric culture learns and sticks knowledge across all areas of work. By applying the methods above, it’s possible to build an organizational culture of sharing and using knowledge, not only improving team performance but also developing the talents and worth of team members.
About the Author
David Page is Director of the IT Service Management Innovation Center. David has over 35 years of technical, business, and organizational development experience and brings the expertise and strategic perspective to help Salient CRGT stand out from its competitors. He created and developed CONNECT, a web-based tool to manage and track staffing on large programs and provide complete real-time visibility to customers. Prior to Salient CRGT, David was a vice president at SRA International where he held multiple positions leading complex customer programs, heading new initiatives, and improving organizational effectiveness. David has consulted across numerous federal agencies and led a program of over 200 individuals supporting the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.