Knowledge management is becoming an increasingly urgent necessity as the world gets more and more interconnected. New technologies are enabling more and more people and organisations to make their information available. A consequence of this situation is that it is becoming harder and harder for an organisation to structure and keep track of the information that it produces but also of other sources of information that are relevant for the work the organisation achieves. This is where knowledge management steps in.
"There are four basic steps any organisation should start with to engage in knowledge management," said knowledge management expert, Steven Warmoes. He has over 30 years of experience in the field and he led the workshop on knowledge management that Caritas Europa organised last 3 October in Belgrade.
Step 1 - Develop networks that are coordinated
What is knowledge about? Knowledge is about asking questions to get answers that will help us to make the right decisions. And the natural first thing we do as human beings is to look for someone who we think can answer our questions. That means that the basic tool we as human beings use is the human network. Therefore, establishing good human networks is vital for any organisation that wants to get good answers to its questions.
A good human network is one composed of people working on a same specific domain, but with a variety of experiences. It will have people who have faced different situations within that domain and have different experiences and approaches to tackle, address, avoid, improve things in the area of work, and could answer to different questions or ask very specific ones that are relevant to keep improving the knowledge we have in the domain.
But networks need some kind of steering to work efficiently and in a structured manner. Therefore the organisation would need a coordinator, who is centric in the network and contributes to its further development. Someone who knows everybody and who can apply the golden "1 dollar rule", which says that if you only have 1 dollar to invest in knowledge management, spend it on connecting two people.
Step 2 - Establish a community of practice
Though pivotal, asking questions to people is not the only way we have to get answers. We also work with other tools, such as trainings, coaches, write and read documents, search for alternative sources of information, store them to be able to get back to them. So, once you have established your coordinated network, you can start assessing who likes to read, who likes to coach, who likes to write, to keep track on documents, and so on. Basically, you are assessing who would be good at taking on a knowledge task. The good news is that as soon as you gather five or ten people in your network, you will realise that the natural preferences for the different knowledge tasks are pretty well distributed. Once it will occur, your human network will become a community of practice.
Step 3 - Open your virtual office
Once you have you have your coordinated network/community of practice, you just need to provide the space for your community members to share the result of their work and research. A virtual office is basically an online space where anyone can access the materials produced or researched, see who is who in the network, and so on.
Step 4 - Your vision
Once you have taken the first three steps, your organisation will have a very good foundation for knowledge management. At this stage, the last thing you will need is to know where you want your organisation to go to assess which knowledge is relevant and useful for the organisation. This means that this vision needs to be acknowledged and shared throughout the organisation, including notably those who make decisions and the funders.
Contact Caritas Europa's Insitutional Development officer Miriam Pikaar if you would like to know more about the work of Caritas Europa in the field of knowledge management.