Knowledge Management in times of crisis
1 June 2020
Michal Gil- Peretz
I have been involved in recent years in managing the knowledge of a central department in one of the large government offices in Israel. This last march, due to the coronavirus's unfortunate breakout in Israel, I saw management being forced into an emergency routine. This move was made in order to retain a certain routine in accordance with the new situation. It was meant to enhance all parties' resilience and ability to cope with the special conditions. The new emergency routine required a quick set up and required a daily checkup on the ever-changing settings, then adapting the department's conduct accordingly.
This new work routine required the office to set a policy aligned to the new situation, writing detailed instructions to the field, dealing with publicity and propaganda, as well as managing the knowledge accumulated in this field. Furthermore, as to government instructions, the office was required to document all aspects of its activity during the crisis.
So, how was this performed?
The first step was identifying the need for the quick distribution of a large amount of data and information to all parties in the field. The main challenge this crisis presents is coping with data and information overload. It was therefore vital to concentrate the most updated info on the various subjects. Collaboratively thinking with the customers, we decided to send updates via WhatsApp. These updates all featured a uniform template, with only the info being updated every few days.
This solution answered some basic KM requirements:
Structuring knowledge in templates, making KM and its application accessible, comprehendible and user friendly
Developing new knowledge accessible via cellphone, placing the data (quite literally) in the users' palms, thus saving the effort and time otherwise spent searching other sources for data
Sharing knowledge created in office headquarters with field parties, focusing on implementing.
We started with office notifications, links to existing documents posted on the office's professional portals.
A major channel which was widely utilized included updates on wide social media networks: YouTube, and Facebook. We mainly relied on visual means such as pictures and videos, coupled with concise posts and references to simultaneously prepared content pages. By fitting the content to the channel through which it was distributed, we contributed to the quick flow of information to various target audiences.
Furthermore, distributing the information through the office's internet sites was given top priority. Content pages were prepared quickly, focusing policy documents on conduct in the field. The content was published according to the portals' target audiences so that new various users could consume it independently as well as be 'pushed' the newest update.
The second step had to do with documenting the information in the office's file management system. This step featured several challenges:
Analyzing the work environment this task requires
Appointing to each unit a documentation manager
Formulating a work procedure that regulates knowledge sharing with the units' respective documentation managers to enable the latter to optimally document the information.
Monitoring the documentation process
The documentation is still in progress, during which we are repeatedly witnessing the importance of knowledge management and organization, not only in times of crisis. Actually, this crisis only highlighted the importance of organizing and managing knowledge regularly so that when crisis occurs our workers are already accustomed to methodical documentation and only need to keep implementing their usual routines.
While this crisis has yet to pass, we can already gather our accumulated lessons learned and gain some insights that may be of service to the organization, and not only in times of crisis:
When we are required to publish information on the internet it is best to appoint a single worker being in charge for all communications approved for publication. This worker will hopefully prevent several versions of the same document being released to the virtual channels.
When publications on the internet must be followed, it is best to prepare a rolling file in advance and feed each update into it right after it is published. Thus, regular work processes do not consume much time while the required data may be retrieved with ease at any time.
When publishing data via digital channels (Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook) organization procedures must be adhered to enable quick and effective distribution of said data.
In conclusion, remember: every crisis presents an opportunity to develop, evolve and come up with out-of-the-box solutions.