I was listening to a business report on how a very well known manufacturer had sold their business. On the surface it wasn’t a particularly unusual event, but what made it interesting from my perspective was that the company had fallen from being number one in it’s field to stopping manufacture altogether, quite a tumble. I wondered if focusing on the wrong knowledge had been part of the problem.
We frequently get requests from companies to help them with their knowledge retention programs. The trigger can be things like;
- Someone about to retire
- Someone about to move to another location
- Realisation that knowledge is not being retained
- Desire to make it more readily available to others
Whatever the reason, they tend to focus on existing or historic knowledge. A typical scenario is when someone with extensive experience in the company is about to retire and they ‘want to retain their knowledge’. If that is the case then the first question must be “What of all the knowledge that the person has, do you want to retain?” because some knowledge has a limited shelf life whereas others will be of little or no value to the company in the future.
It’s not always technology that makes knowledge obsolete, sometimes the business environment changes and existing knowledge on topics such as procurement and contracting is no longer viable. I can think of at least one instance in which the regulatory environment changed that made all existing non technical knowledge in that industry obsolete.
The need to be able to identify what knowledge to retain for the future, lead in part to us developing the Knoco knowledge scan tool. The tool provides guidance on what knowledge needs to be retained for the future but also indicates what new knowledge will be required to meet the business objectives of the organisation. It isn’t unusual to find even when a company has a knowledge retention strategy that it is focused on historical knowledge and that when the knowledge scan is conducted it highlights knowledge gaps in the organisation's approach to delivering the business strategy.
The environment within which businesses and government’s operate change over time and so it is advisable to run the knowledge scan tool at periodic intervals to ensure that the company is managing the correct knowledge. There is no commercial gain in managing the knowledge of how to be the very best at manufacturing buggy whips if nobody buys them because they are now using motor cars!
Focus on the knowledge that is appropriate to the business strategy or government objectives but be aware that sometimes that the knowledge will be new knowledge and you need a tool such as the knowledge scan to assist you to identify it.