Results published today from a study by management school Roffey Park Institute highlight the low priority many organisations are giving to the challenge of harnessing corporate knowledge, writes Paul Donovan
The study found that knowledge management is linked to key results areas in only 45% of participating organisations and just 23%, have an executive officer with overall responsibility for the subject.
Of the organisations surveyed, only 15% have a chief knowledge officer.
Christina Evans, an associate of Roffey Park Institute and author of the report, Developing a Knowledge Creating Culture, identifies the need to prioritise staff ahead of systems, to create an environment that encourages knowledge sharing.
"There is a tendency to address knowledge management via systems, processes and people when in reality those priorities need to be reversed," she says.
"Whenever knowledge management is mentioned, people jump into the technology side, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The priorities need to be people, processes and systems, in that order."
Research found that some companies were aiming to create more informal spaces, so that people can meet, swap ideas and generally interact.
"Knowledge creation is a social process and thus it requires 'social spaces' where individuals can meet in a relaxed environment to exchange ideas, insights and share problems," says Evans.
At document company Xerox, the senior management team regularly hold round-table discussions with employees at all levels to exchange information and ideas about where the business is going.
"There needs to be human interaction and the development of relationships based on trust for knowledge sharing to take place," Evans explains.
The study found that a commitment from the top is required in order to create a successful management strategy, while the process for implementation must be strictly bottom-up.
The commitment from the top translates into senior management at board level considering the issue to be important enough to be prioritised. Evans believes that to create such knowledge culture there is a need for chief knowledge officers, knowledge sponsors, knowledge editors and librarians.
The bottom-up implementation means, as in the case of Xerox, an inclusive process that brings a buy-in at every level of the organisation, and which rewards employees at all levels for their contribution to the knowledge management process.
The report states, that initially creating a small catalyst team that draws people in with a variety of backgrounds from different business areas can start the bottom-up process.
In order for knowledge management to be accepted and prioritised, the study identifies the need to createa separate culture.