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Knowledge Management

Some ways of supporting a cross-functional organization are to blend top-down and bottom-up orientations, develop a cross-functional culture, and use appropriate communication. But having these structures in place isn’t enough — systems that support cross-functional business operations are also crucial. A knowledge management system is one such tool.

Knowledge management can be thought of in a number of ways:

  • structuring what the organization knows — Knowledge management is a way of structuring what the organization knows so that the organization’s knowledge can be used to teach, learn, and create value for the organization, its employees, and its customers.
  • creating the right environment — Knowledge management should be about creating and sustaining an environment that enables the creation, dissemination, and uptake of the organization’s knowledge.
  • designing processes for collecting and using knowledge — Knowledge management is about designing processes that collect, format, and structure knowledge so that it’s available for reuse throughout the organization.

There’s no standard method for knowledge management. Depending on your organization’s requirements, you need to work out a framework involving the three elements: knowledge categories, knowledge processes, and knowledge enablers.

Knowledge categories — Three categories of knowledge include tacit knowledge, defined as knowledge that’s difficult to transfer to another person; explicit knowledge, defined as knowledge that can be easily recorded, transmitted, and understood; and cultural knowledge, defined as knowledge gained from experience.

Knowledge processes — Three types of knowledge processes include knowledge creation, which is achieved through experience; knowledge sharing, which involves the dissemination of knowledge to benefit others; and knowledge use, defined as knowledge that must be put to work to generate wealth.

Knowledge enablers — Three types of knowledge enablers include a clearly defined vision and strategy that encourages knowledge management to promote the creation, sharing, and use of knowledge; clearly defined roles and skills to help create, share, and use knowledge; and policies, processes, tools, and platforms that are put in place to standardize and streamline knowledge dissemination and uptake.

The Value of Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is a valuable tool in furthering cross-functional strategies. When implemented in cross- functional organizations, knowledge management systems can improve performance in terms of cost, time, and quality.

Knowledge management can further cross-functionality in five ways:

  • helps to overcome organizational silos — It does this by aligning all systems to enable the free flow of information up, down, and between functions.
  • enables people to work across functions — It does this by providing information in a collective setting. This is a setting where people can communicate the status of work items, identify patterns in data, and share lessons learned.
  • fosters solutions that benefit the entire organization — Knowledge management helps people share the information needed to develop a complete understanding of the organization and its goals. It can supply on-demand information that can be shared across boundaries. This enables the organization to deal with and remedy problems.
  • supports the sharing of knowledge and expertise — By doing this, it enables collaboration across functions and locations. Data about the organization, its market, its customers, and its competition needs to be dispersed to create value. Most important are the patterns in this data, which need to be revealed so that accurate predictions can be made.
  • encourages the organization to unify around common goals — Knowledge management helps drive a single objective across the organization. This avoids the pitfall of having people in each function placing focus on that function and losing sight of the overall objective. With a knowledge management system, people can make strategic decisions with the overall objective in mind.