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Knowledge Management: HRD has role to play


A recent report in the Times newspaper highlights the difficulty of making the most of flavour-of-the-moment concept Knowledge Management.

The article says that millions have been spent on attempts to improve the flow, availability and use of information in the workplace, but that bottom-line benefits are often elusive. By giving responsibility for Knowledge Management to someone within the IT department and concentrating on implementing IT-based Knowledge Management systems, companies run the danger of neglecting the human aspects of the concept.

Professor Sumantra Ghoshal from the London Business School says that overall, organisations haven't reaped the benefits predicted; "KM budgets were spent on creating large repositories of information in databases or Intranet sites which, largely, missed the point. It ignored the fact that a substantial amount of knowledge is tacit and cannot be written down".

Both the Cranfield School of Management and Henley Management College are currently researching into the benefits of Knowledge Management - Henley have launched a Knowledge Management Forum, a networking programme for organisations wanting to share ideas and explore solutions to related problems.

A recent study by the Cranfield School found that most important factors in Knowledge Management which are least likely to happen are getting people to collaborate, capturing and transferring knowledge, improving customer/supplier relationships, process inefficiency, matching skills, people and tasks and facilitating access to experts.

These areas all call for significant input from training providers, consultants and company training departments if the concept is to be more than just a 'flash in the pan'. Professor Ghoshal notes that BT are already spending a quarter of their Knowledge Management budget on coaching staff, and financial advisory group Skandia are working at ingraining questioning as a part of company culture. A significant culture change is going to be required in many cases to encourage an atmosphere of trust and willingness to share.


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