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Eight Pillars of Knowledge Management

Francisco J. Fernandez Ferreras Manager, DMR Consulting


Much has been written about Knowledge Management and the crucial aspects that
must be taken into account when approaching an organisational project of this type.
From my point of view, we must bear in mind what may be called “The 8 Pillars of
Knowledge Management”, which contain the basic points that must guide initiatives of
this type:

Pillar 1: "Knowledge Management involves a cost, but if it is not done, the


opportunity costs are normally greater than that of the infrastructure required to
manage it ".

Many initiatives do not get off the ground because of the difficulty of making the
Investment - profits relationship tangible, normally resulting in a justification based on
costs-results. We must remember that failure to implement knowledge management in a
company involves an opportunity cost, i.e., asacrifice in monetary terms brought about
by not opting for an alternative.

Pillar 2: "Efficient Knowledge Management requires hybrid solutions that take


into account both people and technology"

It is necessary to find the synergies that exist between both elements. Experience tells
us that people (experts, communications, relationships and incentives) are more
important than technology (hardware, software, Intranet) by a ratio of approximately
70:30. Operating procedures must be crystal clear before choosing the systems to
support them, and the decision to implement them must not be taken on the basis of a
technological solution already existing on the market.

Pillar 3: "Knowledge Management has a large political component because


knowledge is power”
That well-known maxim, “Knowledge is Power” can really come true. In general,
knowledge allows an individual to lead work and initiatives, and involves being
successful and being valued more highly, which improves salaries and status and
boosts professional development. The policy of sharing is limited to what is unimportant
or obsolete, making it impossible to shift to a culture of authentic knowledge
management. It will be necessary to gauge the resistance of the status quo in a
company to the changes. This will lead to an authentic cultural transformation.

Pillar 4: "Knowledge Management requires defining and assigning new


responsibilities"

It is very difficult for a project of this nature to go ahead if there is not a series of
objectives and Explicit responsibilities both during its development (promoter, project
manager, implementers) and in the institutionalization of the new way of working
(expert, contents producer, contents approver, Contents manager, collaborator, user).
The roles defined may be grouped into one or severalpeople depending on the volume
of information and the size of the organisation.

Pillar 5: "Knowledge Management requires sharing and reusing knowledge, which


are unnatural acts in organisations ".

The nature of the organisation and the associated culture will favour or impede this
step. It is normally believed, and therefore valued and prized, that it is not natural for
either organization or individuals to share information. Due to the points made in Pillar
3, the tendency is to absorb the maximum possible amount of knowledge in an
organization, conveying the minimum amount possible. To do otherwise is the stuff of
“losers”, which none of us wants to be; we all want to be winners. The reality that must
be conveyed is that the only situation in which both parties win is when the individuals
and the organisation share valuable knowledge.
Pillar 6: "Knowledge Management requires the simultaneous commitment of all
members of the organization”

Leadership should not be one directional only, ie. Vertically from Top Management
down to the rest of the organization (top-down); it must also go in the opposite direction
(bottom-up), and horizontally within the areas and departments of the company. To do
this, it is essential to first identify and encourage internal leaders so that the initiative
turns into a long-lasting commitment, of employees with employees, and with the
organisation as a whole.

Pillar 7: "Knowledge Management is a process of continued improvement, as


knowledge always evolves and changes ".

Changes in the current business environment have made it necessary to adapt


Knowledge Management processes to the growth of the organisation: there are new
communication channels, new external knowledge is required, resources are integrated
into or withdrawn from the organisation, new technologies appear and business
processes are transformed. This implies a dynamic and evolutionary concept of
management. This is a continuous process, and must form part of the daily work of the
company.

Pillar 8: "Knowledge Management must be the legal ownership, use and


management of knowledge in the organization”

What happens when someone leaves the company? How far does confidentiality in the
use of knowledge go? What are the security parameters for information management?
What controls are there on information flows (e-mail, Internet)? Where should we store
the data and what use should we make of it? These are some underlying questions
which require an ethical approach since they seriously affect our employees and their
privacy.