A Model of Excellence
for Power Utilities in Africa

frequently asked questions on km portal

 

Strategies and processes designed to identify, capture, structure, value, leverage, and share an organization's intellectual assets to enhance its performance and competitiveness. It is based on two critical activities: (1) capture and documentation of individual explicit and tacit knowledge, and (2) its dissemination within the organization.

  • What are the objectives of KM?

The objectives of KM are:
-To enhance Business Processes
-To enhance internal collaboration
-To Provide e-Learning
-To capture and share Best Practices

A Community of Practice is be a group of practitioners in an organization with a common sense of purpose who agree to work together to solve problems, share knowledge, cultivate best practice and foster innovation. Communities of practice are characterized by the willing participation of members and their ongoing interaction in developing a chosen area of practice.

An Expert Locator is a tool for finding experts in an organization based on their specialties, experience and expertise.

Organizational learning is an area of knowledge within organizational theory that studies models and theories about the way an organization learns and adapts (Vasenska, 2013)

  • What is a Learning Organization?

learning organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.
Learning organizations develop as a result of the pressures facing modern organizations and enables them to remain competitive in the business environment.

A Knowledge Management Portal is a website that integrates information, collaboration, processes and expertise.

An electronic resource is any information source that the library provides access to in an electronic format. The library has purchased subscriptions to many electronic information resources in order to provide you with access to them free of charge.

Policies are an organization’s stated position on a particular internal or external issue They, provide the written basis for an organization’s operations and are secondary to an organization’s legislation and governing document.
Procedure is an established or official way of doing something within the organization.

Whereas a standard is an agreed way of doing something which could be about making a product, managing a process, delivering a service or supplying materials.
Best Practice on the other hand is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has been proven to reliably lead to a desired result.

What are Action Plans
Action plans are a key component of successful project management, helping you summarize how you will achieve objectives and by when. When action planning, aim to break down each of your objectives into detailed tasks. This has two purposes:

  1. After Action Review
    An After Action Review is a short, facilitated meeting of the project team members (and possibly other stakeholders, including the Project Board) to evaluate and capture lessons learned.
    Making these lessons learnt available to the rest of the organisation helps to mitigate against the same mistakes being repeated or ensure that an opportunity spotted or a good practice that emerges in one situation can be used elsewhere. An After Action Review is often used when coming to the end of a project but it may also be used at the transition points between project phases.
  2. Before Action Review
    A Before Action Review is a method for a team starting out on a piece of work to assess what knowledge they already have. This approach may be undertaken during the Discover Stage of the improvement journey.

    A Before Action Review helps a team state their intention just before commencing the project and helps to identify potential challenges and risks by drawing on lessons learned from past experiences.
    Benefits to the approach are encouraging people to share learning with others and avoiding reinventing the wheel.
Ideas Generation

There are a number of tools you can use to generate ideas. The best tool to use will depend on the problems/issues you are faced with. The tools outlined here are:

  • - Brainstorming;
  • - Bullet Proofing;
  • - Edward De Bono's Six Thinking Hats.

Knowledge Cafe

Knowledge cafes can be implemented to stimulate and create 'awakening and engaging collective intelligence through conversations about questions that matter'. A Knowledge cafe can cross-pollinate ideas, and surface new insights into questions or issues that are collectively important. It is a technique to evoke and make visible the collective intelligence of any group.

Lessons Learned Log

Throughout the duration of any project there will be lessons learned. This is often as a result of issues, risks and problems and the steps that were taken to resolve them.
These lessons can lead to improvements or opportunities for the future, the development of best practice, and the creation of new strategies.
In order to exploit the knowledge that has been created it is necessary to capture any lessons learned throughout the project in a Lessons Learned Log. All members of the project team, and where appropriate the Project Board, should contribute to the Lessons Learned Log and the Log should be held by the Project Manager. The Log should be accessible to others in the organization so that it can be used as a planning tool for future projects and the same mistakes can be avoided.

Peer Assist

A Peer Assist, also known as 'Learning before doing', is about a team asking for help: people invited to share their experience, insights and knowledge with the team asking for help. There would tend to be a spirit of reciprocity where people contributing would be able to request help from the others to work on their own team's issues.

Story Telling

Stories convey not just information but meaning and tacit knowledge as the information they contain that is seamlessly incorporated into the story is context. Stories for this reason have been a powerful tool throughout ages to pass on chunks of knowledge as they are easy to make sense of, retain and pass on.
Stories are effective in sparking insights as listeners react to stories differently: although they are told within their own context, listeners make linkages with their own context and interpret the messages that have meaning and insights to their own situations. At the simplest level, consider parables, fables, tales or children's stories that have very clear messages embedded that are aimed to be universally meaningful in different contexts.

OTHER KEY TERMS

Databases organize information so it can be easily accessed, managed and updated. For instance, you might have a database of customers containing their contact information, their orders and preferences.

A data warehouse is a central storage area you might use if you have a variety of business systems or a range of information in different digital formats. Many businesses now use digital asset management to store, manage and retrieve information, and this can be particularly helpful if you sell online. It is, however, a complex area technically and in task management, and you may wish to seek specialist advice from an IT consultant.

Data mining is a process in which all the data you collect is sorted to determine patterns. For instance, it can tell you which products are most popular and whether one type of customer is likely to buy a particular item.

Reporting and querying tools let you create reports interpreting data in a particular way. How many of your sales have been handled by one particular employee, for instance?
Business intelligence portals are websites that bring together all sorts of potentially useful information, such as legal issues or details of new research.

The Internet and search engines - these can be a powerful source of knowledge, although be certain to check the credibility of your information source. Internet newsgroups can be specific sources of business information, but check the authors' other postings before deciding how to view their opinions and claimed facts.

An intranet is a secure internal network for the sole use of your business.

An extranet is similar to an intranet but can be extended to customers and suppliers.

Customer relationship management software helps you build up a profile of your customer database and enables you to target them through e-mail, telephone or postal marketing campaigns.

Call-Centre systems otherwise known as service desk enable you to serve large numbers of customers if you sell by telephone.

Website log-file analysis helps you to analyze how customers use your website so you can improve its effectiveness.

Systems to analyze and file customer letters, suggestions, emails, and call centre responses, which will enable you to spot trends, improve customer service and develop new products, services and systems.

What is Knowledge Management?
There are many definitions of Knowledge Management, but the one we prefer is the simplest - "Knowledge Management is the way you manage your organisation, when you understand the value of your knowledge". In other words, it is the management framework (of Roles and Accountabilities, Processes, Technologies and Governance) that you put in place to maximize the value and application of your knowledge, and which provide a managed approach to building, developing and retaining know-how, in service of business goals.

What is Knowledge?
Knowledge is the ability to make effective decisions, and take effective action (based on a definition by Peter Senge).

It is capacity for effective action. Examples of knowledge assets (intellectual capital) are those factors that help a team do its job well, such as expertise or skills, intranet, computer with all needed functionalities, professional magazine, manual, network of stakeholders, membership in a professional association, office equipment, etc.

Part of the confusion between Knowledge Management and Information Management is almost certainly the lack, in the English language, of any distinction between Know-How, and Know-What. We use the word "knowledge" for both of these forms of knowing. However Knowledge management has always delivered its real value when applied to "Know-How" - to improving the competence of the organisation by giving people access to the knowledge they need to make the correct decisions.
The implication of this definition, is that it allows you to align Knowledge Management with Decision Support. At a recent KM planning workshop, for example, the project leader asked that the KM plan be focused entirely in the upcoming decision to select the project concept. We then had a great discussion as a team about "what do we need to know, to make an effective decision on concept selection?" The knowledge needs inventory that emerged from this discussion was then used to plan the project learning actions.

What is the difference between information management and knowledge management?
Nick Milton talks about Data, Information and Knowledge
There is a subtle, but very significant difference between knowledge management and information management, linked to the differences between knowledge, information and data.
Information management is "the provision of the right information to the right people at the right time". Knowledge management goes beyond this, and provides not just information, but insight, guidance, experience and know-how, for the purpose of decision support and effective action. Knowledge management is as much about connecting people than connecting PCs, more about building communities than building databases, and more about reflection and analysis than about architectures and taxonomies. Knowledge is a lot harder to manage than information, as it is mainly stored in heads rather than hard disks. However knowledge management needs to be built on a foundation of good data management and information management.

Is it about Intranets and databases? An Intranet is one of the technologies which can assist in knowledge management. However knowledge management is much more than IT systems and applications. Because knowledge lives in people's heads, and loses value when it is written down, it can't be treated like data or information. Knowledge Management needs a complete

Is it about social media?
Knowledge Management technology needs a social site and several of the technologies that fall under the "social media" umbrella have a role to play in Knowledge Management. However social media technologies are still technologies, and still need to be combined with People, Process and Governance issues as discussed below.

Is there a systematic way to manage knowledge?
Knowledge management is simple to apply, and very effective if it is done systematically. Through an extensive program of pilot testing, we have developed a systematic approach which has delivered value wherever applied. Aspects of this approach are discussed under

What is a Knowledge Management Framework?
Nick Milton discusses People Process and technology in KM
A Knowledge Management framework is a complete system of People, Process, Technology and governance, which ensures that Knowledge management is applied systematically and effectively to improve business results.

People
: knowledge management roles have to be established in the business, communities need to be set up to share and reuse tacit knowledge, behaviors such as seeking for and sharing knowledge need to be incentivised, and to become 'the way we work'.
KM Processes: there has to be a tried-and-tested process for capturing, distilling, validating, storing, applying and reusing knowledge, and also for innovating.
KM Technologies: the people and the process need to be supported by enabling technology, which allows knowledge to be found and accessed wherever it resides (in databases, on the Intranet, in people's heads). IT plays an important role in KM, by providing the technology to allow people to communicate.
KM Governance: without a governance system that promotes and recognizes sharing and the re-use of knowledge, any attempts to introduce KM are going to be a hard struggle.

What are the biggest barriers to Knowledge Management?
Knowledge is power. Too often people see knowledge hoarding as a way to personal power. However by the same argument, knowledge sharing is empowerment.
People need to move from Building empires to building new relationships.
The Individual work bias of the past ("I have to solve this all by myself") is shifting to a teamwork and a collaborative bias.
Local focus is often a perceived barrier to knowledge management, which can be converted to a network focus by the establishment of communities of practice.
"Not invented here" can be a real barrier to the import of knowledge, if the relationship of trust is missing. Trust will grow with face-to-face knowledge sharing, and few people resist a request for help.
People are often afraid that Errors will be Penalized, and are therefore unwilling to share what they may see as failures. That is why techniques such as Retrospects accentuate learning from success
People feel they are Not paid to share. Knowledge management is often seen as not part of normal business. Preserving the value of our knowledge assets is not seen as core business.
People feel they have No time to share. This is a very real barrier; most people are 'maxed out' at the moment. So we need to make knowledge sharing as quick and efficient as we can, because really we have no time NOT to share.

What behaviors are needed?
We need federal behaviors; the recognition that our loyalties and linkages lie wider than just our own team. We need to recognize our dual citizenship; that we are members of our local business team, and also of communities of practice which span the federation. We need the behavior of reflection; the habit of stopping to think about what we have achieved, and how we achieved it, in order to learn. We need openness to the ideas of others; a willingness to look for help. We need the generosity to offer our help when it is requested

Why should we implement KM?
Knowledge is one of your key assets. Like your staff, your money, your customers, your brand. It is one of your more valuable assets too - just imagine how your organisation would perform if you had no knowledge, and your staff had no knowledge! It is good practice to manage your valuable assets. You almost certainly have implemented financial management, people management, customer relationship management, brand management. So it makes sound business sense to implement knowledge management too; to derive maximum business benefit from the invisible asset which is the operational knowledge held in the heads of your employees

What are the benefits to my business?
In today's knowledge-intensive world, what matters is 'What you know, Using what you know, and How fast you can know something new'". There is no other sustainable business advantage, according to Larry Prusak of IBM. The value of Knowledge Management is delivered in three areas;
Better and faster decisions; by tapping into the experience of your Peers around the globe, you can avoid their pitfalls, apply their solutions, and make the right decision first time
A step change in productivity; by building a full knowledge of our own part of the business, we can reduce costs & minimize new resources to meet growth targets
New Products & Services; re-use of knowledge fuels innovation Knowledge management will reduce costs and time in the short term, and at the same time provide an inventory of experience & expertise for the future, allowing a flexible, fast-paced response to access activities

Is there a conflict between re-use of knowledge and innovation?
There is no conflict. You can only innovate effectively from a position of full knowledge. Find out what your company knows already, and then see how much you have to innovate, based on that knowledge. Who knows; there may be an off-the-shelf answer to your question that will save you having to innovate at all!

How much value will Knowledge Management deliver?
Again this is a difficult question to answer, without knowing the details of ones business. However, companies are increasingly coming to realize that their operational knowledge is one of their most powerful assets, and often least managed, assets. Knowledge Management is a way to unlock the value of 'the things you know'. Just think how valuable your knowledge is to you. How well do you look after it? Imagine your company with no knowledge. Imagine your premises, your plant, your staff, but with no knowledge or experience of the business, the processes or the customers. Think how poorly you would perform, and the value that you would lose. That value is the current value of your knowledge, in an unmanaged state. Imagine if your finances were as unmanaged as your knowledge! Think how much more value you could derive;
if you never made the same mistake twice if you never re-invented a wheel or duplicated an effort if all successes were repeatable and sustainable if you cut out the learning curve, in anything you did
if every decision, at every level, was made in the light of the full knowledge base of the organization
All these are achievable, through the application of a systematic and holistic KM process. So ask yourself:
- How much value would be generated if all parts of your business operated at the internal benchmark standard?
- How much value would be generated if there was no learning curve in anything you did?
- How much value could be generated if each employee had constant access to the knowledge and experience of the entire company?

What is the difference between information and knowledge?
Information is “know what” while knowledge is “know-how.” Information is “what is” while knowledge is “what works.” Information that helps perform an action better is knowledge. To a doctor, most of the contents of a typical daily newspaper is simply information – interesting but not useful for effective action as a doctor; however, an article from a medical journal in her field of specialization that improves her ability to diagnose or detect a newly discovered disease is knowledge.
If a knowledge worker answers “yes” to the question, “does this help me do my job better?” then it is knowledge.

What is Tacit and Explicit Knowledge?
Knowledge that is not recognized, articulated, documented or encoded is called tacit knowledge. The most common example is your expertise. Another is a proven work process that has not been documented. Knowledge that is documented in print or audio-visual material or encoded in databases is explicit knowledge. In general, the amount of tacit knowledge in any organization or individual exceeds that of explicit knowledge. What enables a surgeon to do good surgery, namely his skills and accumulated experience of what works best, is much more than can be obtained from mere reading of a book on surgery?

What is “Knowledge Management”?
Knowledge management (KM) is sourcing and deploying knowledge assets for better work performance. It includes providing the knowledge worker the right information she needs at the right time so that she can do her job well. A portal she can search with a search engine and a community of practitioners (CoP) she can ask professional questions are examples of KM tools for this purpose. A community of practice is a formal or informal grouping among workers involved in the same profession or practice, through which members socialize and benefit from sharing/exchange of knowledge in the form of latest gadgets and findings, “tricks of the trade,” new “tips” about what works, etc.

What is the difference between Knowledge Management and Information Management?
KM focuses on information that is useful for effective action. KM is concerned with both explicit and tacit knowledge, while information management deals largely with explicit knowledge. While information management largely uses information/communication technologies (ICT), KM uses both behavioural/social tools and ICT.

What is the advantage of Knowledge Management over Information Management?
KM is a management perspective that is broader than information management because it pays more attention to tacit knowledge. Computer Associates estimates that only about 5% of total knowledge in an organization is captured in (explicit)
ICT-mediated repositories; the rest is tacit knowledge in the heads of employees and executives that cannot be reached by information management.

How do we know we are doing good Knowledge Management?
If the result is greater efficiency, effectiveness and/or innovation then you are doing good KM.

Who started Knowledge Management and how did it evolve?
KM started in the 1980s in US and Scandinavian countries where earliest KM practitioners noted that private companies’ market value or capacity to generate income is increasingly due to their (intangible) intellectual capital (knowledge assets) more than their tangible assets (book value or net worth). Something is tangible if it is entered in the accounting system of an organization, or, it is measured in money units and traded in the market. Among the earliest KM practitioners is Karl Erik Sveiby from Sweden. At around the same time, organizational learning as a discipline started in New England in the US by people like Peter Senge and Chris Argyris. When personal computers appeared in the early 1980s, ICT as a tool of KM evolved rapidly. The people side of KM was recognized more through the work on tacit knowledge by Ikujiro Nonaka of Japan. The push towards KM gained momentum with the growing realization that knowledge is the most important factor for value creation in the global knowledge economy. Three-fourths of Gross World Product is produced by intangible assets.

What is Organizational Learning?
Organizational learning is the set of individual, team and organizational processes and skills for creating new knowledge (e.g. work improvement, improvisation, process or product innovation) at all levels and units in an organization and for sharing or transferring knowledge across an organization to those who need it.

Is KM suited for a particular type of organization?
KM is suited more to organizations that rely or use knowledge resources heavily. As a general rule, organizations in the services sector (such as government) are more suited for KM but any organization can strive to improve its learning and knowledge transfer processes. Learning process thrive better, as a general rule, in horizontal or egalitarian organizations (such as NGO networks and professional associations) than in vertical or authoritarian organizations (such as ideological or religious organizations). However, the fact remains that practically all organizations use knowledge, and use a mix of horizontal and vertical organizational configurations.

What is a Knowledge Worker?
A worker who uses expert judgment and tacit knowledge more than muscular effort or routine actions to perform his or her work is a knowledge worker.

 

 

What is the benefit from KM?
Good internal KM helps knowledge workers perform their job better; good external
KM enables customers or stakeholders to perform desirable actions. The primary beneficiaries of KM are the organization and its members, and eventually, the customers or stakeholders served by the organization.

How will KM improve work performance?
One of the purposes of a KM assessment is to identify knowledge assets most needed by a division, office or work team that are short in availability and quality. Sourcing and promptly supplying the right knowledge assets would improve performance.

How does KM translate into savings/expenses for the organization?
Improving work performance translates to savings. As an illustration, a responsive intranet can reduce the time wasted by the average knowledge worker in hunting for needed information. If the time saved is equivalent to one month, the financial impact is equivalent to one month payroll plus the extra productivity gained from one additional month of productive work.

Where do you start in applying KM?
Some organizations start with small KM initiatives with likely positive impacts based on other organization’s experiences; thus the most popular KM initiatives are: exchange of best practices, set up of an intranet and organizing a CoP. Other organizations start systematically by conducting a KM audit or assessment as input to designing a KM system.

Is KM better implemented bottoms-up or top-down?
KM is basically an organizational perspective with organizational applications therefore it is better started top-down, that is, with resource as well as policy support from the top (executive sponsorship). It can also be started from the upper-middle management provided there is support from the top. However, because KM basically involves people, it is difficult to sustain if KM does not successfully engage and recruit the interest and participation from the rank and file.

What are the difficulties or challenges of KM?
KM involves a new and different management perspective, and requires understanding of new concepts and terminologies. The more common managerial mind set is focused on ICT. ICT is a good starting point but the shift from ICT to KM among managers’ mind sets can be slow, or worse, some may wrongly think that KM is the same as ICT/information management.

What will ensure the success of KM in an organization?
Many factors can ensure success of KM in an organization. Firstly, technical appreciation, policy and budget support, and personal encouragement from top managers are important. Training of middle-level managers is needed for the planning and execution of KM initiatives to be successful. Early successes, no matter how small, that demonstrate that KM is beneficial and doable can reinforce the sustainability of a KM initiative. The presence and recruitment of internal “KM champions” from upper managerial levels can also help.

 

What is the “Knowledge Cycle”?
The following steps constitute the knowledge cycle or knowledge value chain internal and external sensing à knowledge creation (innovation) or capture à organizing and storing knowledge à tracking and measuring knowledge and its impacts à retrieving, transferring and sharing knowledge à and using/reusing and applying knowledge.

What are some KM tools and techniques?

 

ICT/technically-oriented
tools

Behaviourally-oriented tools

Internal and
external sensing

Market analysis, KM audit,
competitive intelligence,
surveys

Complaints desk, social
network analysis, FGD,
interview

Creation or
capture

Data mining, R&D, work
templates, buy IPR

CoP, team learning,
documentation, mentoring

Organize and
store

Portal, intranet

Expertise locator, Who Knows
Who Directory

Track and
measure

Balanced Scorecard,
intellectual capital accounting

Learning history, process
documentation

Retrieve, transfer
and share

Search engine, e-group, e-learning

CoP, transfer of best practice,
cross-visit, story telling

Use/reuse or
apply

Role-based portal, work
templates

Help desk, action learning

What is “Knowledge Translation”?
Knowledge translation is the last two stages of the knowledge cycle: transferring and using knowledge. It usually includes the transformation of knowledge into more usable form. This is needed if the institutional and cultural context of the knowledge source is different from that of the knowledge user.

Is transfer of knowledge (such as feedback conferences, reports, training, etc.) KM?
Knowledge transfer is part of KM, although people managing conferences, preparing reports and conducting trainings may not be aware they are doing KM. Conscious
KM implies the knowledge transfer is managed in such a way that it deliberately results in more effective action by the receiver.

How is KM related to information filing or resource centre?
Organizing and storing knowledge is part of the knowledge cycle. As indicated consciously doing KM means information is prioritized according to what is needed for more effective action by the user(s).

Does going into KM means/needs being techy and computer savvy?
KM without computers can be done (see last column above), but KM with computers is better. The best KM is one that is “both high-tech and high-touch.”

Is there any personal benefit from KM?
Good KM entails paying attention to what works well or what works better (performance improvement, improvisation, creativity and work innovation) and to continuously reflecting about and learning from work (self-improvement, continuous learning and professional advancement). If a person values productivity, innovation and learning, then he or she will derive personal satisfaction from organizational KM. Using any KM tool that shortens work time or learning curves, reduces chances of mistakes, or enhances quality and productivity of work outputs can be personally satisfying.

Will KM disrupt my normal work process and habits?
The effort of designing and setting up new KM systems, such as a portal or a resource centre, distracts from normal work processes and habits. But done correctly and well, the subsequent benefit of KM systems is easier and faster performance of work. Abraham Lincoln said, “if I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I will spend the first six sharpening my axe.”

What is the link between personal learning and organizational learning?
Personal learning is part of organizational learning. An organization that had adopted policies and procedures towards organizational learning will develop a culture and various habits of personal learning. The initial stages of learning new habits can be personally challenging and demanding. As an organizational learning culture set in, the personal habits of examining what went wrong, accepting and learning from mistakes, suspending judgement and listening, open inquiry to re-examine personal and group assumptions, disclosing doubts and one’s ladder of inference, etc. – are worthwhile personal skills and attitudes that can serve the knowledge worker well in his/her personal career.