Gardening as an allegory for organizational Knowledge Management
1 July 2017
Michal Gil- Peretz
Over a decade ago, we relocated to the US on behalf of my husband's job. We settled down in a nice and quiet suburb of Boston and began to view the local customs. It quickly became clear to us that it was socially requisite to maintain an aesthetically pleasing front-lawn garden. The well-kept gardens stood out as it was quite obvious they were the result of professional gardening. Said gardener would indeed appear once a week bearing pruning, planting, and general gardening equipment. Most gardens also bore a small sign (located at the garden's corner) giving credit to the gardening company which performed this impressive work of landscaping.
You might rightfully ask yourself 'what does this description have anything to do with Knowledge Management'? Well, KM is actually quite similar to gardening. One can maintain a fine garden without requiring the services of a professional gardener; however, any garden will aesthetically benefit from professional treatment.
In organizational terms, who is the "gardener" whose contribution to organizational knowledge is so vital?
Content experts are responsible for distributing professional knowledge and information in their respective fields to all users in their unit/organization, usually via organizational portal.
This position involves a number of activities:
Identifying users' needs- an ongoing activity performed daily in order to address the most needs in the most appropriate time and fashion.
Creating and entering contents- whether the content is actually written by the expert or is composed by another party, its quality is the content expert's full responsibility. This responsibility involves various activities, such as:
Creating and/or editing content according to user needs.
Keeping the content current
Obtaining professional authorization from a professional authority, such as: management, legal consultants, intra-organizational communication, etc.
Entering the content in its relevant location throughout the portal/website.
Advertising and marketing content and receiving feedback.
Writing and editing content according to rules of web writing.
Choosing a dialect suitable for the target audience.
Updating and refreshing content frequently.
Improving data items in light of user feedbacks.
In order to "fertilize" organizational knowledge, multiple gardeners are preferable. These content experts must be enthusiast well-versed in this content.
Returning to our gardening allegory, a content expert can take organizational KM more than a step further not unlike the way a professional gardener transforms a mediocre garden to an outstanding one. Content experts make sure that existing content looks better, is more clearly comprehensible, and by and large generates a positive atmosphere.
In order for content experts to perform optimally, it is highly advised to foster them. Since their position is usually merely a practical addition to their job lacking of any executive authority or additional compensation, it vital that this position is perceived as prestigious.
This can be done in several ways, including:
Content expert forum: formulating a forum that will meet periodically and will serve as the pinnacle of organizational Knowledge Management. This forum will serve as fertile ground (another gardening metaphor) for peer learning and shared professional enrichment which will in turn enable content experts to present their work to their co-workers.
Peer-learning: initiating a learning process which will take place in the aforementioned group. This sort of learning contributes to mutual growth and enhances the content experts' sense of belonging to an elite group which in turn boosts each individual's motivation to excel in his/her respective field.
Professional enrichment: either technological or methodological. This enrichment can involve implementing new methodologies and processes and to invite guest speakers to impart further knowledge on KM activities taking place in other organizations.
Presenting content experts' work: sharing databases and their methods of handling as well as developing the appropriate channels for collaborations.
Technological development: a periodical collection of technological requirements shared by all content experts in order to coordinate further activities with IT.
'Field trips' to similar organizations, thus exposing experts to various KM solutions and introducing them to colleagues in the field of Knowledge Management.
All activities mentioned above contribute to the development of a sense of value and status and provide the content experts with a platform through which they can share the hardships and challenges the position involves, learn from the experience of others, develop their acquaintance with other content experts and create new knowledge. This platform supports both these 'gardeners' feeling that the organization is investing resources in their professional growth and clarifies the precise definition of this position.
If we implement only a fraction of these recommendations, we will surely lead to further professionalization of our 'gardeners' thus upgrading our entire organization's 'garden' which contains organizational-professional knowledge that benefits the entire neighborhood (i.e. the organization).