Over the past several years, there has been a rise in virtual working teams and a rise in fluid teams. A fluid team is one composed of individuals who work together to complete a project, but once finished, they disperse and go their separate ways to work on different projects, often with different people. This is in contrast to a fixed team, which works together often.
In such a dynamic working environment, knowledge management becomes crucial. To build high performing teams and maintain a high performing organization, it is important people have access to the existing knowledge about company processes. Clearly, recreating the wheel is inefficient. On top of that, learning from mistakes—ideally others’ mistakes—improves quality and saves time.
A bit of background info, knowledge management generally involves three processes: knowledge creation, knowledge retention, and knowledge transfer. Knowledge can be of three types: declarative (knowledge about something), procedural (how something occurs or is performed), and casual (why something happens).
According to the AMR Research (now Gartner) Knowledge Management Spending Report, US companies invested $73 billion in knowledge management system initiatives in 2007. But do these systems work, and if so how?
That is a question Bradley Staats, Melissa Valentine, and Amy Edmondson sought to answer. They recently completed the “first wide-scale evaluation of the objective performance value of an organizational knowledge system using archival data,” Using What We Know: Turning Organizational Knowledge into Team Performance (you can read the full paper at HBS Working Knowledge). They ask:
They focused on codified (as opposed to tacit) knowledge. The conclusions are as follows:
Do you have a divide and conquer strategy or share and share alike strategy in your knowledge management system?