Knowledge management and organisational strategy – NetIKX March 2011 seminar

Another lively and thought-provoking NetIKX seminar took place on Thursday 24 March at the British Dental Association which is fast becoming our preferred location as healthy numbers of people continue to support our programme. Flooding at Trafalgar Square, power cuts on the underground and speakers stuck on trains gave us a few hairy moments but in the end nearly 40 participants enjoyed 2 different but very good speakers, Dr Nick Milton (not Wilton as per the feedback sheets!) from Knoco Ltd and Linda Wishart from the Department of Health, followed by syndicate work on Nick’s Boston boxes, Working across cultures, Exit interviews and What is KM all about?. The overriding message was that KM is necessary now more than ever.

Nick offered us a model of knowledge based on competence in 4 different areas – Potential competence (in business terms looking at emerging markets), Competitive competence, Core competence and Others’ competence. The “Others” box led to some interesting discussions during a brief Q & A session at the end of his presentation. Nick’s view was that this led to Outsourcing and Quality assurance but he admitted that his views were likely to change as a result of the debate! It is good to see NetIKX influencing the minds of today!

He then gave us 2 stories – the first on a successful deployment of KM principles leading from Strategy to Activity and Results. Although I never got to understand how Mars chocolate can stop melting in India, the successful outcome was that sales trebled and the profit % doubled. Nick then offered us a cautionary tale when these principles are not followed. It was a sobering scenario about the disaster at Longford refinery in Australia which was caused by a knowledge failure resulting in 2 deaths and 8 people injured as well as a loss of power in the area for 20 days!

Linda’s presentation on the challenge of implementing KM in changing times when central government is heading towards significantly reduced workforce and resources, shared services and no money, Information Assurance and risk management, coupled with the government’s transparency agenda, was all too familiar to colleagues from other government departments. Linda did admit that DH was the first department to be taken to task by the Information Commissioner who had concluded that their FOI requests and record management was not up to scratch. After providing some insight into the myriad of different roles which the DH Knowledge worker will be facing in 2015, Linda shared her strategy of facing up to the KM challenge. This strategy was based around improved technology where possible, improved information access, knowledge capture and transfer, training and awareness, and engagement with workgroups. Linda was unfortunately unable to stay for the syndicate work but she was able to answer a couple of questions. Very similar to Nick’s premise that KM has never been more important, in response to the question “How does FOI impact on people’s willingness to record knowledge?”, the answer was that it is all about managing information properly. So there you are then – Knowledge Management – does it still have a role in organisational strategy? The answer was a resounding yes!

There were lively discussions at the 4 syndicate groups and the report back was interesting and well-received.

Melanie Harris

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