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Knowledge Management in the Digital Age - Book Review

1 January 2022
Dr. Moria Levy

The book "Knowledge Management in the Digital Age: Get the Most from Your Data, Your Device, and Your Employees" is co-authored by Dr. Robert Mayfield in collaboration with Jason Makansi. Although the publication date is not explicitly stated, it appears to have been published in 2020. Contrary to its title, the book primarily focuses on classical and lesser-known innovative aspects of knowledge management rather than solely on the innovative digital age. It also delves into the world of energy. It is peculiar and disappointing that the subject of power is not mentioned in the book's title or subtitle. However, upon reflection, the book applies to knowledge managers in all sectors, as the examples, though predominantly from the energy sector, still provide valuable insights.

 

The main themes of the book are outlined below:
  1. Knowledge Management - Basic Concepts: This section provides an overview of common principles related to knowledge management that are not specific to the energy industry.

  2. Implementation of Knowledge Management in the Organization: This section explores the practical aspects of implementing knowledge management projects within an organization.

  3. Fostering a Culture of Knowledge Management: The book discusses cultivating a culture that values and promotes knowledge management within the organization.

  4. Technologies and Learning: This section examines the role of technology in supporting knowledge management and emphasizes the importance of continuous learning.

 

While there are similarities in knowledge management across different sectors, there are also notable differences based on sector-specific characteristics and overall circumstances. However, it is important to recognize the specific influence of an organization, its leadership, and its commitment to advancing the knowledge management agenda. Overall, the book is worth reading for anyone interested in knowledge management, regardless of their sector.

 

Knowledge Management - Basic Concepts

In his book, Mayfield explores the fundamental concepts of knowledge management. He begins by emphasizing the well-known distinction between information, knowledge, and intelligence:

  1. Information refers to the data or input required to make informed decisions.

  2. Knowledge: It encompasses the context and understanding that enables individuals to think critically and make informed decisions. Knowledge requires familiarity, comprehension, and transferability to be valuable to an organization.

  3. Intelligence signifies the ability to learn, comprehend, and adapt to new situations while effectively applying knowledge within a specific environment.

  4. Applied Intelligence: This refers to the critical and reusable task knowledge that can be leveraged to advance organizational goals and enhance competitive positioning.

  5. Knowledge management encompasses the technological, cultural, and process tools an organization employs to extract greater value from knowledge. This includes identifying, collecting, sharing, and utilizing organizational knowledge and creating, accessing, and developing new knowledge.

  6. Competitive advantage: It represents an organization's ability to adapt and integrate knowledge over time, leading to the creation of valuable strategies that effectively respond to opportunities, challenges, and evolving market realities.

  7. (Competitive intelligence: The gathering and analysis of information about an organization's competitors.)

 

Knowledge management involves capturing and collecting knowledge from databases and systems and fostering communities and a collaborative culture that takes ownership of these knowledge repositories. It encompasses the generation of new knowledge, the mentoring of new employees, and the effective utilization of existing knowledge to create substantial value. Knowledge management addresses both explicit and tacit knowledge within an organization:

  1. Explicit knowledge: This refers to visible knowledge generated through various processes such as policy documents, procedures, checklists, systems, certification programs, training, knowledge audits, event reports, insight repositories, performance evaluations, and benchmarks.

  2. Tacit knowledge: This encompasses latent knowledge developed through processes such as cross-functional training, process improvements, expert systems, on-the-job training, problem-solving, coaching, participation in conferences and exhibitions, feedback, evaluation processes, and advanced learning opportunities.

 

Successful knowledge management initiatives incorporate three fundamental components:

  1. Creation/capture of knowledge.


  2. Sharing/transmission of knowledge.

  3. Integration and utilization of knowledge.

 

The specific approach to knowledge management will vary based on each organization's unique needs and characteristics. It involves developing an enabling knowledge culture, implementing an integrated technological learning system, and strategic planning with measurable outcomes. These components are further explored and detailed in the book's subsequent chapters.

 

 

Implementation of Knowledge Management in the Organization

 Knowledge Management Project

0. Starting Point: Organizations do not own their human assets, and when employees leave, they take with them valuable knowledge, experience, skills, and creativity. Therefore, organizations must focus on recruiting and retaining talented employees while ensuring that knowledge remains within the organization even after these employees depart. Mayfield lists key factors necessary for successful organizational knowledge management activities.

 

Creating a Knowledge-Facilitating Culture:

  • Integrating knowledge and culture management.

  • Implementing knowledge management throughout the organization.

  • Developing a knowledge management vision and its practical applications.

  • Fostering mutual trust and respect.

  • Promoting cross-functional and business teams.

  • Empowering and motivating employees through coaching and guidance.

  • Recognizing and rewarding achievements.

  • Embracing the principles of Kaizen (continuous improvement).

 

Utilizing Technologies and Facilitating Learning:

  • Establishing effective communication networks.

  • Identifying knowledge related to mission-critical tasks.

  • Defining computing processes, roles, and responsibilities.

  • Establishing policies and procedures for the knowledge base.

  • Utilizing web-based interactive learning methods.

  • Capturing, sharing, and transferring knowledge.

  • Identifying insights, benchmarking, and lessons learned.

  • Managing permissions and privacy.

  • Effectively capturing and encoding knowledge.

 

Strategic Planning and Continuous Learning:

  • Developing motivating strategies for knowledge management.

  • Establishing a unified information infrastructure for employees and processes.

  • Removing barriers that hinder the flow of knowledge.

  • Leveraging competitive advantage and improving organizational performance.

  • Incorporating personal and organizational feedback.

  • Applying key performance indicators (KPIs), Six Sigma, and other relevant methodologies.

  • Providing customer access to enterprise knowledge bases from anywhere.

  • Harnessing knowledge capture from smartphones and iPads.

  • Nurturing creativity and entrepreneurship.

 

Mayfield analyzes three approaches to the project life cycle stages. However, it is important to note that there is no definitive recommendation for a single approach as it depends on the specific organization and context.

 

1. Initiating a Project:

  • Defining the problem.

  • Identifying premises.

  • Developing an initial activity plan.

  • Establishing the project's goals.

  • Allocating appropriate staff members.

  • Identifying a sponsor.

  • Recognizing constraints.

  • Aligning the team's orientations.

  • Analyzing existing infrastructure.

 

Mayfield also suggests creating a comprehensive strategy document for the organization that encompasses the management of digital assets and organizational intelligence. This strategy should holistically integrate people, processes, and technology into the organization's operations.

 

2. Alignment between Knowledge Management Activities, Digital Transformation, and Business Strategy in the Organization:

Ensure that knowledge management activities are aligned with the organization's digital transformation efforts and overall business strategy.

 

3. Designing the Knowledge Management Architecture:

Develop the framework for the knowledge management architecture, including the formation of technological platforms on which the knowledge management activities will be based.

 

4. Assessment of Existing Knowledge Management Assets and Systems:

Evaluate the organization's current knowledge management assets and systems, identifying any gaps in information and knowledge, instances of duplication, and issues related to knowledge flow. Assess how these factors contribute to the organization's business goals, considering both overt and covert knowledge.

 

5. Team Building:

Form a dedicated knowledge management team comprising individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to bridge information and knowledge silos and facilitate the cross-sharing of knowledge.

 

6. Implementation of the Knowledge Management Solution:

Develop and implement the knowledge management system, encompassing both technology and content. Build upon existing resources while also aspiring to advance to the next stage. It is important to include a program for preserving knowledge and facilitating its transfer from generation to generation.

 

7. Leadership and Culture:

Adapt the organizational culture and establish compensation mechanisms that motivate employees to share knowledge and contribute to knowledge management efforts actively.

 

8. Measurement:

Establish a robust measurement system to track the progress of the knowledge management program. Utilize Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with a specific emphasis on business, considering relevant examples from the energy sector. Measure the impact of knowledge management on the organization and its overall success, focusing on significant metrics.

 

Mayfield emphasizes the significance of addressing tacit knowledge through various methods, including:

  • Conducting interviews with individuals.

  • Encouraging subject matter experts to express their solutions verbally.

  • Utilizing storytelling as a means of knowledge transfer.

  • Learning from guests and engaging in benchmarking activities.

  • Observing and learning from experts in action.

  • Participating in conferences to gain insights and knowledge.

 

Fostering a Culture of Knowledge Management

Organizational culture plays a significant role in the creation, sharing, transfer, and preservation of knowledge within an organization. Organizations with a well-developed culture recognize the importance of knowledge management and have mechanisms to support it. Several cultural elements contribute to competitive advantage and are closely linked to knowledge management, including:

  1. Recognition and appreciation of individual knowledge.

  2. Encouragement and provision of opportunities and systems for creating new knowledge, sharing existing knowledge, and integrating knowledge through applied intelligence within the organization.

  3. Continuous evaluation of the internal and external organizational environments and integration of available knowledge to adapt to changing realities.

  4. Utilizing applied intelligence internally and externally to achieve business goals and gain a competitive advantage.

 

Organizational culture primarily stems from three sources:

  1. The organization's founders' beliefs, values, and assumptions.

  2. The ongoing learning and experiences of the organization's employees.

  3. The introduction of new beliefs, values, and assumptions through the entry of new members and leaders.

 

Mayfield presents a set of characteristics for truly knowledge-based organizations, which serve as the foundation for cultural cultivation programs. These characteristics include outstanding performance, customer orientation, a focus on learning, entrepreneurship, flexibility, adaptability, high levels of expertise and knowledge, proactivity, appreciation for internships, a focus on improvement, self-management, excellence orientation, and shared knowledge. These characteristics can promote continuous learning, encourage entrepreneurship, and more.

 

The process of change management, as outlined by Mayfield, involves mapping the existing culture, fostering the desire for change, providing leadership to motivate employees, developing a change management plan encompassing structures, strategies, and processes, addressing obstacles related to vision, leaders, and employees, and celebrating successes. The change management program includes various aspects such as communication channels, pilot programs, meetings and encounters, identification and interviews with experts, changes in the assessment system, and removing barriers.

 

Mayfield presents four prototypes of organizational cultures: hierarchical, teamwork, entrepreneurial, and market-oriented. However, his focus lies primarily on organizations with a teamwork-based culture. These organizations are characterized by minimal management hierarchies, an informal atmosphere, work teams, a collaborative approach to problem-solving, limited internal competition, a low occurrence of personal aggression among employees, an appreciation for loyalty and tradition, and a focus on leveraging employee commitment.

 

Technologies and Learning

Mayfield underscores the intrinsic connection between technology and learning, which may take time to become apparent. He makes several assumptions:

  1. no single technology serves as the ultimate solution for knowledge management.

  2. Technology is not knowledge management; it acts as a support system.

  3. Technologies, including knowledge management technologies, are rapidly evolving and must be updated. Regular maintenance and replacement are essential.

  4. User-friendliness is paramount for employees to utilize knowledge management technologies effectively.


Mayfield presents a comprehensive list of technologies relevant to the energy sector, which should be considered in knowledge management activities at both strategic and operational levels. He emphasizes the significance of integrating knowledge management into factory data command and control centers, offering detailed insights into this integration.

 

Mayfield proposes the creation of learning environments that are intertwined with knowledge environments on multiple levels:

  1. Knowledge bases: These encompass documents, articles, lists, and technical manuals.

  2. Distance learning entails training modules, video conferences, and webcasts.

  3. Online collaboration: This facilitates interactive peer learning.

  4. Computer-based team simulations.

  5. Tailored programs and workshops.

 

In addition to managing critical knowledge, learning should focus on creating and disseminating knowledge. Knowledge and learning systems should prioritize:

  1. Knowledge of mission-critical tasks.

  2. Support for knowledge development.

  3. knowledge capture and transfer facilitation, encompassing explicit and tacit knowledge.

 

Mayfield delves into specific technologies prevalent in energy organizations, particularly control centers, while emphasizing how knowledge management integrates with and supports these systems. Monitoring, measurement, and control are vital across all organizations, with energy centers playing a significant role in facility management. Knowledge management can contribute to diagnosing and enhancing the performance of controllers. It is crucial to combine traditional solutions with innovative ones, such as visualization and artificial intelligence, while also appreciating the professionals' expertise.


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