Implementing a Knowledge Management Strategy for your Organization
by Jay Donaldson
Brighton Business Review
How do you identify the knowledge that exists in your organization? Do you have a way of capturing that
knowledge or does it get lost, buried in paperwork, project files, or in employees heads as they walk out
the door or retire. Losing hard won information due to the lack of a Knowledge Management System can
seriously degrade the performance of your company, organization, and individual contributors. Setting
up a system to keep track of your best practices and retaining that knowledge should be a priority for
Over my twenty years in business I’ve heard a common refrain several times.
“If we lost him we don’t know what we would do.”
While some performers just seem to have a natural ability to shine and deliver top performance at will
you don’t have to lose that employees knowledge and abilities when they leave. Capturing the information
and processes that your star employee possesses is easily done. I’ve helped organizations implement KM
systems that were simple libraries of documents to database driven enterprise wide web based systems. The
key point is not the tool that you choose to use but the fact that you are working to retain as much
knowledge as possible.
Capturing past knowledge about past project successes, failures, and research that your teams have performed
can lead to a strategic advantage in the marketplace. Think about the amount of time you will save in training
alone if you had a central repository of your best information. You should try to put all types of information
into your KM including project plans, current processes, phone lists, preferred vendors list, and anything
you feel will give your business a competitive advantage.
The lists of benefits of a KM system are many but some of them may actually surprise you. They have been
shown to help employee retention rates by identifying key employees and top performers. Once recognized for
their contributions these top performers often receive raises or bonuses. Rewarding your top employees not
only helps keep them around it improves your KM system as they add new information and processes to the system.
The ideas that they put into the system can also be mined for new projects, products, or ways to streamline
Setting up a KM system is relatively easy and there are many knowledge management tools on the market that
can help capture your information. Follow the five basic steps to get your organization up and running.
Step 1 – Determine your Organization’s Needs
What are your trying to accomplish? How will implementing a KM help our organization reach it goals.
Think about these questions before deciding on a tool or strategy going forward.
Step 2 – Locate Knowledge Sources
This shouldn’t be too hard. Find your best employees, team leaders, or people who work with a process or
product every day. Think of somebody you couldn’t afford to lose. Get them together and prepare them for
the knowledge management process.
Step 3 – Choose a System to House your Information
This is the time when you actually want to pick what tool you are going to use. You should have a pretty
good idea on what type of information you are capturing from step 1 and step 2. The system doesn’t necessarily
have to be complicated or complex. You may find that setting up some shared folders on a network hard
drive and sharing Microsoft Word documents will be sufficient to capture your organizations knowledge.
If you don’t have a budget for something new this is a great way to get started.
Step 4 – Compile the Knowledge
This will be an ongoing process that you will repeat over and over. I find it useful to have a
knowledge management review meeting at least once a year. Get all of your stakeholders involved and
make sure the system is living up to its stated goals. If it isn’t look for ways to improve it.
Step 5 – Maintain the System
Now that you have a system up and running you will need to maintain it. If your organization is
large enough you may need to hire somebody to maintain it. Otherwise assign somebody to be the “Champion” of
the system. This is an important task that can’t be overlooked. If nobody maintains the system you run
the risk of losing the knowledge that you worked so hard to obtain.
The very definition of a Knowledge Management System is a system that identifies useful knowledge and
makes it available to others to utilize and build upon. Set one up for your organization and keep that
knowledge from walking out the door.