The Knowledge Management Process: What It Is, and How to Develop One

Andy Cook
January 11, 2022

We’ve already discussed the importance of knowledge management, and how it can greatly benefit your organization in the long term.

But in order to build and compile a knowledge base, it’s necessary to understand the process by which that knowledge is collected. This is done through the knowledge management process.

What is the Knowledge Management Process?

The knowledge management process is the procedure by which the various knowledge assets that make up the organization are discovered, captured, and organized.

Because there are different types of knowledge, it can be a challenge to document and store each one accurately. The knowledge management process helps by outlining the steps needed to collect the various knowledge sets scattered across the many departments and team members that comprise the organization.

The 5 Steps of the Knowledge Management Process

  1. Discovery

The first step is to pinpoint the knowledge that is useful to the company’s goals, operations and bottomline. Like separating wheat from chaff, this can be a mammoth task for several reasons:

  • Not all stored information is a knowledge asset, and extraneous data needs to be filtered out.
  • It can be easy to overlook critical knowledge, such as highly specialized routines, or uncommonly used procedures.
  • Management and team leaders need to define what comprises knowledge in their respective domains in the first place.

Because knowledge is scattered throughout the body of the organization, discovery is best done by dividing it into three levels:

Individual level

This is the personal knowledge possessed by each team member. Such knowledge can be tacit, such as know-how, or it can be explicit, if recorded in a manual or handbook.

Group level

This is the knowledge built on the team or department level. It can consist of values, procedures, working relationships, and practical learnings compiled over the years working as a group.

Structural level

This is the embedded knowledge found on the macro or organizational level. It can be the company’s values, culture, business processes, and proprietary pieces of knowledge accumulated through application and repetition.

The discovery stage thus involves all levels of the organization, from individual team members to the enterprise as a whole. 

The discovery process can be helped by looking at:

✔ The hierarchical structure, and all roles relevant to the knowledge base

✔ Existing repositories of knowledge, such as employee handbooks or reference manuals

✔ Training and development resources

  1. Knowledge Capture

Once the knowledge to be collected has been defined and pinpointed, the next challenge is collection.

The different types of knowledge have their own documentation procedure. Examples include:

Explicit knowledge – The easiest to collect, since the information already comes from  recorded media, such as documents, files, or hard copies. 

Implicit knowledge – This refers to the organization’s processes, routines and culture. It may already be recorded in employee handbooks, or transcribed in department manuals.

Tacit knowledge – These are lessons acquired through practice and experience, and thus the most challenging to capture. 

  1. Indexing

After the knowledge acquisition comes organization. The collected knowledge assets will need to be transcribed, categorized and indexed for easy navigation and retrieval.

This is where knowledge management systems come in. Specialized tools or software help build a “Wiki” style database of company knowledge, so that it can be easily accessed and shared by all members. Such systems are designed for documenting knowledge, and retrieving them for reference, training, or collaboration.

It should be noted that not all knowledge management systems are equal. They vary in terms of interface, features, security, and reporting / analytics functions. Some platforms also make users replicate the data, while others allow them to reference data sets where it already exists to avoid excessive clutter and redundancy. Tettra takes the latter approach.

  1. Knowledge Assessment

Once the knowledge base has been organized, it needs to be vetted before rollout. This means reviewing the stored knowledge, validating the information is correct and up-to-date, and extraneous information has been filtered out. 

Often, some of the issues that need to be assessed are:

  • Incorrect or outdated knowledge
  • Redundant entries that conflict with each other
  • Incomplete information
  • Knowledge gaps in departments, procedures, or routines

  1. Distribution

Once the knowledge base is organized and vetted, it should be easy and convenient to access and share. This helps facilitate learning and when necessary, updating.

Some factors to consider are:

  • Ease of access – The interface should be user-friendly and intuitive so that users don’t revert back to old methods of finding knowledge
  • Shareable – Members should be able to collaborate
  • Security – The database should be secured from external threats and tampering. This is especially important in the age of coronavirus and remote working, as more members access the knowledge base outside the network safety of the office.
  • Access levels – Sensitive knowledge should be restricted on a position level or need-to-know basis.
  • Upkeep – There should be systems in place for maintaining the accuracy of the captured knowledge over time

Next:

How to Implement Knowledge Management

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