We’ve already discussed how you can improve knowledge retention, access, and cross-functional collaboration within your organization. All of these practices should lead to the ultimate goal of any knowledge management strategy: driving action from knowledge.
On a day-to-day level, action is tied to efficiency. Team members access and leverage your organization’s collective knowledge to do their jobs, whether they are relaying information to a customer, walking through a new internal process, or anything in between.
On a big picture level, action is tied to decision-making. People at all levels within your organization must be able to use knowledge and insights to make informed decisions that support company goals and drive growth. Being able to tap into the wealth of knowledge within your organization means that your people are armed with the resources they need to tackle every aspect of work with their best thinking.
Making knowledge actionable isn’t just a lofty goal for businesses to pursue when the economy is thriving. It’s an always-on practice that drives meaningful growth and separates leading businesses from their competition regardless of the economic climate. In fact, research from Forrester found that knowledge- and insights-driven businesses are 2.8 times more likely to report year-over-year double digit growth than their less mature peers.
What Operations Leaders Can Do to Drive Action From Knowledge
Driving action from knowledge starts with establishing a knowledge-centric culture. Team members should always:
- Know where to go to find the right information at the right time.
- Feel empowered to share their knowledge.
- Feel confident when leveraging shared knowledge to do their jobs and make decisions.
A knowledge-centric culture requires participation at all levels of the business, but as a cross-functional leader, you are in a strong position to champion this culture across the organization.
Lead by Example
By building knowledge sharing and collaboration into your own role, you’ll demonstrate the importance (and impact) of these practices to the rest of the organization. One way to do this is by being an active participant in your company’s knowledge management platform. Document the knowledge you possess that will benefit others in your organization: this could be anything from key learnings from a recent conference to a write-up on a new operational change to an article on market trends from an industry publication.
You should also look for meaningful ways to engage with the knowledge your colleagues are sharing in the platform. For example, you might ask a question or comment on a piece of content, starting a dialogue and allowing your organization to build on its existing knowledge. You should also let knowledge contributors know when you (or any other decision-makers in your organization) leverage something they have shared when making a business decision. Consider sharing knowledge win stories in company meetings or an internal newsletter so team members can see the tangible impact of a knowledge-centric culture.
Advocate for a Mindset Shift
Sam Schneider, COO of Bloomfire, believes an outdated mindset is one of the biggest barriers to becoming a knowledge-driven business. “Most companies still see knowledge management as a bureaucratic exercise,” she says. She argues that operations leaders should regularly communicate and demonstrate that knowledge is a strategic asset–and that preserving and using knowledge is a competitive advantage, not just a check-the-box activity.
She suggests that rather than just stating that team members should share their knowledge, ops leaders communicate the “why” behind knowledge management. This could include sharing key metrics and successes tied to your organization’s knowledge management initiative.
“Once you see a successful knowledge program firing on all cylinders, that’s where you see the program grow the collective intelligence of the company and it turns into its competitive advantage,” says Schneider.
Establish a Dedicated Knowledge Management Team
Another barrier Schenider sees to becoming a knowledge-driven business is ambiguity around ownership. At many companies, no one department sees knowledge management as their responsibility, and there’s no incentive to ensure that knowledge is captured, distributed, and used.
As a COO, you might not have any plans to pivot into a Chief Knowledge Officer role, but you can serve as an executive sponsor for your company’s knowledge management initiative and advocate for establishing a dedicated KM team. This team might start small and could include dedicated knowledge managers or team members from different departments who are interested in taking on KM responsibilities as part of their career growth path. What’s most important is having a team that is responsible for owning and continually building upon your company’s knowledge program.
“If you invest resources and time into your knowledge strategy, you’ll experience a flywheel effect,” says Schneider. “You’ll be able to continue optimizing your knowledge management program, which allows you to create standard processes to drive consistent experiences, increase efficiency through alignment of information across the company, and improve the employee and customer experience.”
When navigating economic uncertainty, the idea of resilience is often top of mind for business leaders. Companies must adapt to changes (internally and externally), maximize the value of their existing resources, and focus on operating efficiently so they can survive.
However, businesses with mature knowledge management programs have an opportunity to focus on more than just survival–they have an opportunity to pull away from their competitors and get back to growth faster.
Knowledge is your business’s biggest strategic advantage. When successfully preserved, shared, and leveraged, it improves efficiency, drives collaboration, and enables your organization to make smart business decisions in good times and bad.
For operations leaders, making knowledge management a key focus is a critical step to future-proofing your business.
Capturing knowledge in its many forms is hard.
Building a knowledge-centric culture is even harder.
But nothing will have a bigger impact on your organization’s future success or failure.