Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management
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Author’s interview

Interview with the author




Interview with the author

Understand and implement 2nd generation KM. 

Q1 Knowledge Management (KM) enables enterprises to enter the Knowledge Society. Can you tell us what the Knowledge Society is ?

The knowledge society

My book presents two major characteristic of the Knowledge Society :

- When knowledge is fully integrated in corporate processes, tools and organizations, it becomes a factor of development and profitability ; it is also at play when you think about enterprise competitiveness : innovation is the result of exchange of ideas, and the ability to execute on them, and to nurture creativity within the enterprise.

- Knowledge based organization shows a greater level of synergy : this is what networked or extended enterprise is all about, participative management, networked organization and self learning working groups, professional communities and autonomous local production systems.

Shared knowledge, result of spirits synergies, is a key building block of knowledge capitalism and, as is, it’s a major factor for a more durable and more humanist development of our society.

Knowledge Management is a tool box with concepts, methods, and technologies, behavioral and economical analysis, which enables the enterprise to enter this new paradigm.

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Q2 As an enterprise, what is the main challenge of a KM approach ?

KM challenges

Based on 10 years of experience within a broad variety of organizations, I believe that challenges and goals of KM, as the enterprises generally see it, can be classified in four categories :

- optimizing business processes, enterprise productivity and corporate efficiency. Streamline production delays, raise the quality level and reduce costs. This is done through better reutilization of existing knowledge, including capitalizing on best practices, avoiding the most frequent errors, and so on.

- making better decisions with transverse expert knowledge exchange, enabling the enterprise to meet more accurately its customers’ needs and to anticipate them ;

- managing corporate competencies as an asset ; the enterprise is not only a production tool but a powerfull combination of competencies ;

- innovating, being able to identify new ideas anywhere in the enterprise, and to analyze these ideas and transform them into a real industrial project.

Each of these categories is related to a specific Knowledge Management system, with its own methods, tools and project management tips.

Using real world examples, my book analyzes them one by one, in separate chapters.

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Q3 Is it difficult to implement ?

Project complexity

A KM project is not complex if you think to the concrete action. There are many ways to implement simple projects, with concrete and easy to reach results.

However, if the goal is to coordinate these nich projects so that they are part of an overall corporate change strategy, the implementation is a bit more difficult because you will have to face cultural and group barriers within organizations. And most of theses barriers come from the midrange management.

This is why we hold to a simple but efficient phylosophy, implementing KM the way it is described in this book : Think Global, Act local.

On one hand, it is required that the enterprise board fully supports the Knowlegde Management project as part of the corporate strategy. On the other hand, you have to relie on niches projects, very concrete and local, which will motivate local players to participate and spread the good results from working group to working group like water lilies spread on a lake.

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Q4 Is KM bringing significant changes in management methods ?

Management modes

Within an organization, the midrange management tends to feel more easily threatened by transverse information flows ; professional communities generally avoid to the midrange management scope of influence. Additionally, professional communities’ members usually ask for more autonomy and the right to initiative. They also want to be recognized at a corporate level for their specific competencies.

However, the midrange management is about to be the master piece of the future knowledge society.

But it requires it changes its management methods : hierarchical approaches and authority based management should be replaced by a more complex role of revealing and motivating. This new breed of manager is more a coach, a trainer. He is communicating and he is the gate keeper of reliance within his team.

He is the one that gives sense to action

Significant parts of my book are devoted to this topic : how the management should evolve, team-building tools, and the key role of reliance...

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Q5 Which barriers one may face, implementing a KM project within an enterprise ?

Barriers to KM

We’ve performed a large number of surveys amongst our customers’ employees. We share and analyze theses results in the book.

Beyond the classic « knowledge is power », we’ve seen several significant barriers such as :

- time constraint (short term and operation pressure) ;
- lack of visibility on benefits (peoples fail to understand KM mechanisms, or there’s a very low personal motivation) ;
- the NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome : each group tends to reinvent its own solution to a problem rather than to exploit existing processes or methods....

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Q6 Amongst the large panel of Knowledge Tools you describe in your book, do you find that some of them are more important than the others ?

KM tools

The answer is no because KM tools it is more efficient to classify KM tools based on how their ability to match users’ expectations and requirements, rather than trying to formalize some kind of rating.

My book showcases an innovative model that starts from professional community development, analyze the needs to finds out the best collaborative processes. It is far much easier to select the right tool from that point than guessing the ideal tool amongst the broad variety of offerings available on the market.

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Q7 Are IT technologies only the working components of a KM system or the very core of the Knowledge Management concept and of the Knowledge Society youve described to us ?

IT technologies and Knowledge Management

To me, IT technologies are revealing and catalyst of a Knowledge Management project.

At first it is revealing because, it is likely, in large enterprises, that knowledge is managed already. But peoples do not formalize things this way. That said, IT technologies have emphasized the critical need to better manage information flows, because IT brings along transverse communication capabilities as well as a growing flow of information. And that brings KM on the forefront.

IT technologies also act as catalyst because it is a breakthrough and it has influence, and sometimes completely change several processes in the enterprise. This is not the first time we experience that. We’ve seen tremendous changes when phones, PC & word processors, email have entered the enterprise. And there’s more to come with new technologies such as knowledge mapping.

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Q8 How would you describe a 2nd generation KM approach ?

2nd generation of KM

This is based on an extensive analysis of the success and the failures of 1st generation KM projects. I found out that it was possible to streamline the KM implementation to make it more concrete, more efficient, and less based on theory.

To me there are two key elements that defines 2nd generation of KM :

the overall goal of the KM project, that is, the answer to the question « what do you want to do with KM ? » ; we’ve already talked about it ;

and, second element, the kind of professional community to be targeted. I think it’s important to analyze first several key factors, including corporate strategy to establish a relation between KM and business objectives, the organization, the technologies and human factors such as corporate culture, individual behaviors and commitment.

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Q9 Beyond its key role in enterprise development, you say that KM is one of the most innovative ways leading to durable development. Can you tell us what KM brings in a field as broad as durable development ?

Durable development

Durable development is not only about environment protection and earth’s future safeguarding.

Although this remain a primary goal, the ability to access to knowledge is key to durable development as well.

Education is the way we can solve a large variety of problems we’re facing today, including poverty. Wolfenson, the Chairman of World Bank agrees on that when he says that “poverty is not only having less money, but lacking knowledge”.

World crisis we see today are revealing how much classic powers, from government and politic to the economy, are practically ruled by a 4th power : information. KM approach, as a philosophy, is ideally suited to deal with today’s critical issues such as territories management : how to get people together, how to stimulate employment within an area or within a group of professional, how to help citizens to focus on specific issues. These local actions are all parts of a global strategy for durable development.

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By Mathilde Divisia, DUNOD Editor

Le Manuel du Knowledge Management, Jean-Yves Prax ?
Publisher : DUNOD
Collection Stratégies et Management - 155 x 240 mm - 496 pages - 2003
ISBN : 2100047175 - Code : 44717

Price : ¬ 45,00 (French only)

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