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Knowledge of how to manage

"If you want to build a ship, do not gather your people to ask them to prepare wood and tools and to assign tasks... Simply summon them and poured into their hearts the longing for the infinite sea."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"Competitiveness requires new ways of doing things (products, services, processes, technologies ...) ... new ways to require new knowledge ... ... New knowledge requires new ways of thinking and interacting.
Domingo Rey Peteiro

The Importance of Knowledge

"Knowledge management", the ultimate tool in the changing landscape of management fads, is simply a new label for a concept as old as humanity itself: the ability to learn. Businesses increasingly face environments complex and demanding of great uncertainty and competitive conditions in these organizations can only survive better suited for innovation and improvement. No technology by itself provides a sustainable competitive advantage. You can purchase machines, technologies, systems .. however can not be purchased talented and committed people with values and objectives. Currently, the traditional economic, technological, geographical, socio-political, ... are relegated to second place, displaced by the main factor of competitiveness of organizations: the knowledge of people. In knowledge lies the ability to identify and develop new business opportunities, offering new and better products, faster and cheaper than competitors. It should make people have the information and expertise needed at the right time and are motivated and able to face problems.

Knowledge to optimize the resources of an organization, including (and not) the most important resource: the talent of people. Currently, a company can only succeed by mobilizing the talents and energies of all its staff, namely: managing knowledge. Nobody questions today, that people are the main asset of any organization.

Knowledge, Data and Information

Some authors distinguish the following types of knowledge:

Structural Knowledge:

Information is synonymous. It is a knowledge representation. Documentation management system, computer systems, databases ... are part of the structural knowledge of an organization.

Explicit Knowledge

It is information that is on the minds of people. As such information may be transmitted or translate easily, thus becoming structural knowledge.

Knowledge Tacitus

knowledge is narrowly defined. It is the essence of the ability to solve problems and achieve goals. Tacit knowledge is present in defining strategies, identifying new business opportunities, new technologies, improvement suggestions, ... therefore the information management systems can not handle this knowledge alone. This knowledge can only be transmitted to individuals through learning. Tacit knowledge is a quality acquired through learning. "Learn" from the Latin "apprehendere" (literally translated: possession). It "seizes" the information, assimilate, develop mental models we use to interpret information. Each individual creates their own knowledge through learning.

Tacit knowledge is different from the information (structural knowledge) is not the same to have a knowledge of German grammar to speak and write German.

The following table describes the differences between the two concepts:

Information (Knowledge Structural) Knowledge (tacit knowledge)
DataSet organized (and sometimes synthesized) Ability to interpret and use information to solve problems.
Information can be processed by a computer. Information can be documented. Knowledge can not be processed by a computer or can be documented as such.
Organization may possess information The knowledge resides in people
Information is self-sufficient knowledge can not work in vacuum. Need information.
The information can be transmitted immediately Can transmit knowledge, but requires a learning process and time
The information may reside on systems The knowledge resides in people
The information is additive Knowledge is a synergistic quality: the result of uniting their knowledge is greater than mere arithmetic sum.

Although information is a necessary, not sufficient to improve competitiveness. We must avoid the mistake of managing information instead of managing knowledge. Both are complementary tacit knowledge does not work in vacuum: it requires information. We must also be aware that information and knowledge expire, so it requires systems that allow continuous updating. The information only has value when it is interpreted and used by people. So it is interesting to spread it so take advantage of the intelligence of all people.

Knowledge Management

Manage is to obtain results from resources, Knowledge Management is to improve competitiveness under the knowledge of people. The knowledge management as a process involves the following activities:

1. Identify the knowledge you need an Organization

All processes of an organization are related to knowledge management. However, efforts should focus on the acquisition of essential knowledge. The essential knowledge of an organization depends on what your strategy and key processes. Some organizations seek to manage the knowledge structure and storage all the existing data, previously unidentified type of information is relevant and what are the key knowledge for the deployment of its strategy. It is necessary to predict the ignorance of the future to tap the knowledge of the past. The learning cycle begins by defining what we need to know. What we need to know depends on the strategy.

2. Acquiring the knowledge required

The acquisition of knowledge can be done by learning from others (capturing) or learning from personal experience (generating).

3. Applying this knowledge effectively.

In many organizations there is a serious waste of talented people. This waste can be caused by an inadequate allocation of responsibilities, lack of motivation and commitment, lack of adequate channels for participation and other issues that are discussed in the following paragraphs. Can you really manage knowledge? Are our organizations prepared to manage knowledge? How can the knowledge necessary to identify, capture, generate, disseminate and implement it?

The first difficulty to manage knowledge derives from the fact that resides in the minds of people. Therefore: can not be managed as a material and can not be measured directly (though indirectly, through the results).

Probably Knowledge Management talk too pretentious, maybe not to be managed strictly. But it is possible to generate an environment conducive to their recruitment, development and implementation. What characteristics must meet these environments?

Where Do I Start to Managing Knowledge

Characteristics of organizations that promote knowledge: learning organizations.

In a learning organization:

  • People are aware of the importance of knowledge and are willing to share. There is consensus on the need to document and share individual knowledge.
  • It recognizes and rewards people for their performance and their ability to provide value to the organization and not by seniority, status or his obedience to the rules imposed arbitrarily. Do not confuse knowledge and experience with seniority. Nor does much people treasure knowledge if they are willing to share and implement them. People are not only in organizations to accomplish their work but to add value. This is not to be (and look) more busy but providing value. Ability is useless without the right attitude, because the application of knowledge depends on the motivation of individuals. If people who possess knowledge are not committed, not be implemented nor shared.
  • There are no taboos, no sacred cows, myths, and prejudices challenged. The first requirement for learning is to put into question any premise and recognize what is unknown.
  • People feel they have the opportunity to perform the work personally, they feel respected and valued for what they do.
  • There is a climate of trust and transparency. Is the information shared at all levels. There are fears of losing power by providing information, or that others can take advantage of it for personal gain.
  • There is awareness of a shared common destiny, which facilitates coordination and teamwork. All in the same boat rowing in the same direction, the success of all depends on the ability of the team, rather than individualism.
  • Leaders lead by example formally declared values. Impera a leadership style based on knowledge and values.
  • Decisions are made by consensus, avoiding the imposition of arbitrary hierarchical power.
  • Measured and constantly improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization. There are indicators that measure not only the economic and financial results, but others who really are the root of success or failure of the organization: customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, workplace accidents, absenteeism, staff versatility, defects, complaints, time limits service, breakdowns, housekeeping, security indices, non-quality costs, ratios of consumption, waste discharges, emissions, etc..

Knowledge management is a set of different disciplines without a body of doctrine standard. The multiple views of knowledge offer different concepts and methodologies. There are three approaches to address knowledge management:

Cultural and Sociological Approach: focuses on values, attitudes and beliefs of the people (specialists in Human Resources Management)

Technology Focus : Focused on information infrastructures (Specialist in Information Systems)

Organizational Approach : Focus on the Structure and Process (Management Specialist)

Do not fall into the trap of trying to manage knowledge with a unique approach: many such projects fail for this reason, and face cultural constraints, structural or technological.

Improvements in information systems (intranets, databases, ...), organizational change (process reengineering, systems, suggestions for improvement, teamwork, empowerment, etc ...) and the cultural and sociological (vision, mission, values, performance evaluation, emotional intelligence, etc. ...) are interdependent. Any change (sociological, technological and organizational) will be valid provided that actions are coherent and complementary.

Changes Infrastructure

In many organizations there are large gaps in the availability of relevant, current and accessible for all people in need. In these cases, to adopt solutions such as: control systems of the documentation, intranets, databases and application of statistical analysis techniques. However, knowledge management can not be limited to information management and much unless the installation of a software solution for all ills. Implement a system of information management is not just about installing a computer system.

Changes in Structure and Process

Ideas do not respect the hierarchy. Knowledge does not flourish in the charts. Flatter organizational structures facilitate communication, exchange of information and involvement of people. It must share the responsibility and authority with the lowest possible levels (empowerment). The mobilization of talent begins with a vision and shared values, but the action occurs when the responsibility and authority are taken at all levels.

The results of improved knowledge management through structural changes and processes may also conditioned by an inadequate culture.



Cultural change is the most difficult to manage, but also the most effective and lasting, because directly influences the attitudes of people. Knowledge can only be developed, shared and applied when people are engaged and motivated. Consequently, the direction of an organization must establish a culture that permits release the intelligence of people to benefit the organization. The culture requires continuing care as crops: put the ground, pay, planting, pruning, weed control, harvesting at the right time ... without this care, values and negative attitudes (weeds and diseases ) just turning the barren land organizations for knowledge.

Unless the culture supports and encourages trust, respect, teamwork, do not remove barriers that impede the recruitment, transfer and application of knowledge. Managers should consider one of the following actions to enable a culture to proliferate knowledge:

  • Make people work for clients, not for the Chiefs

Some overly hierarchical and bureaucratic organizations, it kills the initiative and commitment of people and loss of customer orientation by the rigidity imposed by the rules and obey the command line. The authority based on hierarchy reduces the ability of firms to react to market demands. An organization seeking to promote knowledge should provide scope for initiative and capabilities of people, replacing the target orders and power of authority by the power of values and knowledge.

  • "Knowledge (shared) is Power"

Only useful knowledge is shared and transmitted among individuals. The rivalry only far from promoting improvements originate inefficiencies, wasted resources and lost business opportunities.

  • Generate a climate of mutual trust and Openness

The first requirement for learning is to acknowledge ignorance. You can not learn unless you are willing to unlearn what is no longer valid. Organizations that seek to manage the culture can not "punish" or "censor" the mistakes or ignorance. The errors are sometimes unavoidable trance-learning. When people have mutual trust can acknowledge mistakes and limitations without fear it might harm them.

  • Recognition of Knowledge

Organizations should establish performance appraisal systems to quantify and recognize the value contributed by each person in the organization. Only through such recognition can overcome resistance to sharing knowledge to keep power.

  • Promote the Development of People

While staff of the organizations is simply considered as an expense rather than as a key asset of the company, not give the right conditions to develop their full potential. Human beings have an innate tendency to learn, therefore, organizations that promote learning will be more attractive to people. It should eliminate the distinction between those who believe and those who execute. If we do not allow people who work with their hands contribute their knowledge, and under-utilize their talents, disrespect them. Provide training to people, information and media company allowed to develop in the same way that they can do in other social settings (family, school, ...)

  • Leadership and Commitment

Idea generation and exchange of information and knowledge can not be imposed by decree. Only when you get the commitment of people, these show the leadership necessary to deliver value. This commitment requires leaders who communicate the vision of the organization, to promote attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and values needed to build the unity of action. Lead these behaviors should be leading by example

© Domingo Rey Peteiro
Sinapsys Business Solutions