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The Complete Guide to Knowledge Management - Book Review

1 April 2011

Dr. Moria Levy

"The Complete Guide to Knowledge Management: A Strategic Plan to Leverage Your Company's Intellectual Capital" was authored in 2011 by Dr. Edna Fisher and Dr. Tuvia Ronen. Dr. Pasher, a renowned strategic management consultant, introduced the concept of knowledge management to Israel, while Dr. Ronen serves as the VP at Rafael. Despite being written in English, the book is distinctly situated in Israel. While numerous examples are drawn from Rafael's experiences, the State of Israel is referenced approximately 50 times throughout the book. Alongside illustrations from various Israeli organizations, the authors also incorporate numerous global examples from the 1990s.


The book's narrative style is engaging, adopting a conversational tone where each author is individually acknowledged based on their contribution. Disagreements between the writers are also presented, adding a layer of authenticity to the text. Each chapter includes a summary encapsulating the seven critical points discussed for reader convenience.


The book delves into the following topics:

  1. Initiation and preliminary preparation

  2. Strategy planning

  3. Culture drops

  4. Knowledge Worker Management

  5. Knowledge development and sharing

  6. Capturing existing knowledge

  7. Innovation


While an intricate and comprehensive process, it is also iterative. Each stage may recur, and introducing innovation sparks new needs, requiring the organization's continual motivation, preparation, and adaptation.


This summary outlines the primary points but naturally only encompasses some of the ideas and examples in the book. It serves as an introduction, encouraging readers to explore the full text for a more comprehensive understanding. Happy reading.


Initiation and preliminary preparation

Initiating knowledge management activities within an organization is crucial, given that knowledge stands as the most pivotal resource in contemporary organizations. The impetus for such endeavors often arises from exposure to tactical needs; however, recognizing and emphasizing the strategic benefits is strongly recommended.



Several principles should be acknowledged and adhered to when commencing knowledge management activities:

  1. The responsibility for driving knowledge management lies with every manager at every level rather than solely relying on designated individuals in specific roles (knowledge managers/CKOs).

  2. Even at the starting point, existing knowledge-sharing or management activities within the organization may exist. Identifying, leveraging, and building upon these activities is beneficial rather than disregarding them when formalizing new initiatives.

  3. Various knowledge management methods exist, and exploring and understanding practices from other organizations and those already in place internally is worthwhile. Appropriate knowledge management methods should align with the organization's needs.


Assessing organizational feasibility for knowledge management activities involves evaluating the intellectual capital of the organization and its significance. This evaluation facilitates:

  • Convincing stakeholders of the need to manage and develop this crucial asset.

  • Strategically directing knowledge management activities.

  • Measuring changes in outputs resulting from retrospective knowledge management activity.


Intellectual capital encompasses the training and experience of personnel, R&D investments, operational efficiency, company structure, and customer base. The authors suggest referring to models such as Prof. Baruch Lev, Scandia, or the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) models to assess intellectual capital. Each model defines categories (which may vary) with associated success indicators. For instance, the BSC model measures categories such as Financial, Customers, Internal processes, and Innovation and learning.


While the book initially includes a chapter on measurement, it parallels the tools presented in the preparation and planning stages. Therefore, this summary provides a concentrated overview.


Knowledge management involves identifying and systematically managing knowledge assets to create organizational value. Organizations are motivated to engage in knowledge management by recognizing the importance of these assets and understanding how knowledge management contributes to their development, thereby enhancing the organization's competitive advantage.


Strategy planning

Emphasizing the importance of strategic planning is crucial from the outset. Managers often encounter the tactical aspects of knowledge management without initially recognizing its strategic implications. The primary value of knowledge management lies in its strategic, long-term impact on the organization's development.


Organizations innovate and maintain leadership in the broader business strategy development context. Given that knowledge is a vital organizational resource, especially the core knowledge underpinning the organization's capabilities, it must be integrated into the overall strategic management of the organization.


The roles of knowledge and knowledge management in the organization's strategic planning are threefold:

  1. Resource Planning: Knowledge is a pivotal resource that requires deliberate planning. Utilizing tools like knowledge sharing and collaborative learning is recommended to facilitate the organization's continuous development. Derived strategy components may include managing the organization as an "open laboratory," fostering learning processes, and being open to external knowledge.

  2. Employee Involvement: Involving employees and their knowledge in strategic planning enhances efficiency and effectiveness. Sharing knowledge helps define the best strategy and fosters employee integration in a committed and enthusiastic manner, promoting engagement.

  3. Communication: Employees should be disseminated and informed about the organization's strategy, including its vision, mission, and strategies for realization. This ensures that employees understand expectations and how to align their actions with the organizational strategy.


Moreover, conducting focused strategic planning for knowledge management is advisable before initiating the activity. Recommendations for a knowledge management strategy include:

  1. Intellectual Asset Management Principles: Adopting principles of intellectual asset management in the organizational knowledge management strategy.

  2. Innovation Focus: Prioritizing innovation in the knowledge management strategy.

  3. Integration into Organizational Culture: Integrating knowledge management is integral to organizational culture, processes, and information systems.

  4. Assessment and Measurement: Conducting a preliminary knowledge assessment and concluding with a measurement of change.

  5. Gradual Growth: Starting small with pilots and growing gradually.

  6. Appointment of Responsibility: Appointing someone responsible for promoting the issue; in large organizations, appointing a knowledge manager (CKO).

  7. Consultant Involvement: Seeking help from consultants, recognizing their role as catalysts and providers of tried-and-tested methods and solutions. However, it's essential to acknowledge that the organization, particularly knowledge workers, is responsible for managing knowledge.


Insight: Knowledge management is not just integrated into the organizational strategy or requires its strategy; it is a significant tool for enhancing the overall process of building an organizational strategy.


Culture drops

Success in a knowledge management initiative hinges on establishing a foundational knowledge management culture—specific positive values and conduct norms. Initiating knowledge management activities is deemed impractical without this baseline knowledge management culture.


It's essential to recognize that a uniform culture for knowledge management cannot be universally defined for all organizations. Instead, each organization must tailor its culture to facilitate knowledge sharing, foster learning, and effectively leverage individual knowledge.


Consider the following examples that guide managers in cultivating a culture conducive to knowledge management:

  1. Shared Vision and Goals: Develop shared vision and goals that infuse work and employee efforts with meaning.

  2. Operational Management Style: Embrace an operational management style that emphasizes authority and encourages openness.

  3. Allocation of Time and Resources: Dedicate time and resources to allow employees to share knowledge.

  4. Tolerance for Trial and Error: Foster a culture that embraces trial and error, which is especially crucial in innovation.

  5. Degree of Independence: Afford employees a degree of independence to encourage autonomy.

  6. Active Listening: Cultivate active listening habits among managers, setting an example as individuals sharing knowledge and engaging in continuous learning.

  7. Trust: Establish a foundation of trust within the organizational culture.


These examples serve as guiding principles for managers aiming to shape a culture that facilitates, encourages, and nurtures knowledge management initiatives.


Knowledge Worker Management

Numerous definitions of a "knowledge worker" exist, and the book explores several. One particularly innovative yet informal definition characterizes a knowledge worker as an employee who needs to operate as a "big head" to succeed.


Upon analyzing processes, especially during the crises of the early 2000s and late 2000s, the book puts forth several recommendations for effectively managing knowledge workers:

  1. Recognition of Temporary Commitment: Acknowledge that employees join organizations indefinitely, not necessarily for their careers. The organization should focus on their advancement, reward them, and provide ongoing support at every stage, considering that employees expect reciprocity for contributing their knowledge.

  2. Proactive Remuneration: Proactively encourage the organization to initiate remuneration, including salary increases. The organization should initiate modest salary increments rather than having employees request higher increases.

  3. Continuous Employee Satisfaction Monitoring: Ensure that managers consistently monitor the well-being and satisfaction of their employees. This ongoing activity is crucial and should be performed frequently.

  4. Strategic Recruitment and Retention: Emphasize the recruitment of knowledge workers and carefully consider decisions about terminating their employment. Recruiting knowledge workers is worthwhile even during financial challenges due to their long-term value.

  5. Intellectual Challenge: Find ways to challenge knowledge workers to keep them engaged and motivated intellectually.

  6. Diversified Career Paths: Establish promotion tracks that encompass managerial roles and professional development. Recognize that only some employees are suited for managerial positions, and emphasize the significance of overall growth for each individual.

  7. Meaningful Task Assignment: Infuse interest and meaning into every task to enhance employee engagement and satisfaction, key factors influencing knowledge worker contentment and organizational retention.

  8. Recognition for Knowledge Contribution: Explicitly reward the creation and sharing of knowledge.


Above all, managers are urged to take a personal interest in their employees during their tenure within the organization and, if appropriate, even after they depart. This personalized approach contributes significantly to building solid relationships and sustaining employee loyalty.


Knowledge development and sharing

In both formal and informal settings, the interfaces among knowledge workers serve as the primary and central means for sharing and developing knowledge. These meetings are significant for two main reasons:

  1. Collaborative Knowledge Creation: New knowledge emerges through collaborative processes, as illustrated by the membership stage of the Nonaka model and others.

  2. Tacit Knowledge Sharing: Encounters between individuals are essential for sharing and developing tacit knowledge.


Several examples of potential meetings are outlined below, emphasizing the need for a reasonable organizational balance between the frequency of these meetings and individual employee work:

  • Professional Knowledge Communities

  • Team Collaboration

  • Management of Organizational Yellow Pages: Facilitating connections between knowledgeable employees.

  • Regular Thinking and Learning Sessions

  • Lessons Learned Discussions (After Action Review)

  • Peer Learning: Presenting activities to colleagues for feedback.

  • Professional Surveys on Project Milestones (Design Reviews)

  • Mentorship Programs


Recommendations for managing these interfaces include:

  • Employee Guidance: These interfaces can be led by employees, not exclusively by managers.

  • Encouraging and Relaxed Physical Environment

  • Knowledge Coffee Sessions: Utilize round tables and small groups and emphasize the voice of the field to foster sharing.

  • Virtual Sharing Through Technology: Utilizing technological tools for virtual sharing as a complement to, not a substitute for, in-person encounters.


An additional recommendation emphasizes the importance of learning from customers with valuable knowledge that can be leveraged on various levels.


Capturing existing knowledge

Capturing, structuring, and documenting knowledge is imperative for any organization, ensuring that knowledge is preserved and utilized in the future. Various methods can be employed for capturing knowledge, including:

  • Documentation

  • Mentoring and Mentorship Programs

  • Workshops

  • Lectures

  • Integrated Knowledge Courses


Documentation is often met with resistance in many organizations due to a perceived lack of value and cost concerns. The book provides recommendations for focusing the documentation process, emphasizing core knowledge, and suggesting specific methods for adequate documentation:

  1. Usage of Knowledge Maps

  2. Utilization of Templates

  3. Implementation of Supporting Computing Technologies to facilitate technical and perceptual aspects of documentation.


For lectures and workshops, the authors offer suggestions to enhance their effectiveness:

  1. Ensure Valuable and Relevant Content: The content should be valuable, unique, and relevant if possible.

  2. Interactive Session Delivery

  3. Prior Professional Preparation


Managers utilizing knowledge should encourage its use and foster new applications and the continuous development of knowledge, thus promoting innovation and saving investment where unnecessary.


The takeaway is to approach documentation thoughtfully, avoid sanctification, and consider the most effective methods and contexts for knowledge management processes.


Innovation

Successful knowledge organizations thrive on a culture of continuous renewal, encompassing products, work methods, and technologies. The imperative for innovation is critical for their sustained success. Here are recommendations for implementing innovation within an enterprise:

  1. Consider the Model for Innovation: Evaluate whether an independent R&D body or a more decentralized approach throughout the organization is appropriate.

  2. Maintain R&D Investments: Resist the temptation to reduce R&D investments during economic difficulties.

  3. Diversify Innovation Levels: Beyond technological and product innovation, explore innovation in services, work processes, and management. Organizational restructuring can serve as a tool for fostering innovation.

  4. Reduce Time Scales for Regeneration: Move from periodic activities every few years to more frequent cycles, even every few months.

  5. Foster Diverse Perspectives: Encourage an environment where individuals with different backgrounds, education, and roles express opinions on the same subject. Consider bringing in external perspectives for a fresh outlook.

  6. Promote a Culture of Innovation: Encourage people to innovate and consider introducing innovation awards.

  7. Allocate Time for Innovation Activities: Dedicate specific time for innovation-related initiatives.

  8. Define Innovation as a Requirement: Managers should articulate that innovation is a prerequisite for units or positions. Demonstrate that innovation is highly valued.


Knowledge management plays a crucial role in enabling innovation, as it involves the development of innovative ideas, which are essential knowledge, tried and implemented. In this context, innovation can be viewed as the second generation of knowledge management, focusing on knowledge development. Recognizing the symbiotic relationship, innovation is fundamental to survival and success, making knowledge management a key driver of progress.

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