Making The Case For Publishing Knowledge

Employees frequently see knowledge management initiatives as a way to siphon off their knowledge in favor of a cheaper / automated / whatever option (“you want us to document everything we know so that you can fire us and send our jobs to …”).  It is not an easy discussion for managers to win, and to even stand a chance must be presented in a positive rather than negative manner.

The series of charts below came to life in support of this goal. They attempt to open the discussion by presenting the personal benefit for employees to participate in a knowledge management scheme and publish what they know.

The premise behind these charts is that employee pay is determined by their top level skill. However, those same employees spend only a fraction of their time at that performance level and the majority of it at lower levels. This situation is bad for all parties.  Bad for employees since they do not get to exercise their most critical skills frequently enough and therefore can’t expand their abilities and knowledge. It is bad for the company since it is paying for skills it does not fully utilize and will likely be too busy doing other things when needed.

When we ask employees to think about their skills, they usually tend to think about their top skill – “I am a system administrator with 20 years experience”.  This skill determines their pay and organizational status.  When we look at each employee skill we can draw a continuum from zero to maximum skill:

Now, to determine whether the company is receiving the full benefit from what it pays its employees, and whether employees are utilizing their top skills we need to determine what keeps our employees busy and where they spend their time.  We are likely to see a distribution similar to this:

Clearly this is not an ideal situation.  A far more desirable situation would be shifting the organization to spend much more of its time at the top end of their performance level. It is good for the employees as well as the company since this is where they generate most value for the company as well as themselves. The chart, therefore, would shift to look like the green section in the figure below:

This chart shows that some of the lower skilled work (marked in red) is either eliminated through collaboration with engineering, or, more likely, handed off to to entities down the value chain. For example, self service plays well into this scheme, as do reseller training and enablement, further training and empowerment of the call center team, and so on.

What’s your experience in driving cooperation with knowledge management initiatives? What worked? What did not?

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