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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Boiling frogs, Barons and the need for Knowledge Management

I was at an event last night and was asked following a comment by myself that there were now more knowledge management positions in a variety of firms - why firms have suddenly started to take knowledge management a little more seriously.

I thought that from my experience of law firms, that some of the more progressive ones had realised that they needed to do things and change ahead of the curve. I've compared it to paying a fire insurance premium. If you pay now then it is likely that the costs will be low rather than if you go back after you have had a fire.

I was thinking of some work by Charles Handy that influenced me - which was the boiling frogs syndrome. If as a company you wait to long to attempt transformations when the size of the trouble are obvious then it is highly likely that like the frog you are too late. Great companies know that the best time to change and embrace the hard work required by management to make knowledge management successful is from a position of strength.

However as Handy points out this can be quite dangerous for a chief Executive or a Managing Partner - as they may see a longer way ahead in the distance and know that the status quo is not the alternative and realises that the competitive environment is changing and the company needs to reinvent itself.

Sometimes though there managerial barons don't always recognise or want to recognise the change - as sometime do financial markets which take the short term view and the murmuring starts and sometimes the CEO/MP is forced to resign.

The failure of knowledge management strategies are quite often those that are stymied by a lack of senior managerial support who put obstacles in the way as they don't see why they need to share knowledge and don't let people attend knowledge transfer meetings or more subtly let it be known that the way to get ahead in an organisation is by doing X rather than by sharing knowledge.

The second reason why companies need to understand knowledge management is to help people deal with the infoluenza epidemic stalking organisations where people aren't always short of information - they are deluged with it.

A good knowledge manager working with IT and the Librarians can help people to make sense and identify patterns in information.

By doing this then wise managers can tap their staff for ideas and for identifying those early stirrings of trouble from say customers that can encourage the CEO to create a new vision for the company. By utilising knowledge management techniques, the company can identify without the need for expensive consultants can sharpen it's business acuity. So by encouraging knowledge management in your organisation you can lay the foundations for survival for your company - and more and more companies are realising that the sharing of knowledge means increased profits.

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