Definitely a world of knowledge out there
Over the course of this year, I have been faced with several tools and techniques aimed at continuously improving organisations as a pathway to achieving sustainable excellence. Looking back, I cannot say that either of these have one specific focus, but they are all, individually, an integration of a broad spectrum of considerations. They all take into account several aspects related to a wide range of stakeholders. This, in effect, needs to be converted from an external view to the internal operations of the company, and is where I believe the topic of knowledge management must be appreciated. The most effective use of any tool or technique is when an entire group of people is knowledgeable, be it specialist or basic, to one strategic objective or vision. This will involve the generation of knowledge, the sharing of knowledge, the distribution of knowledge, and the application of knowledge. These are the founding principles of knowledge management, and should therefore be found at the heart of the organisation. How scarce this is in the real world out there. All the knowledge is available - take it, and make the most of it.
Looking back at some of the tools, such as QFD, I constantly hear one phrase - “the voice of the customer”. I came across a similar topic under the branch of knowledge management which involves generation of knowledge about the customer, the target market, and through the process of feedback, customer preference. This relates to the production process, but can be applied to both service and manufacturing industries, and is what essentially a business is out there to achieve, and how it aims to survive. The sale of a particular service or product will only be rewarding if this customer knowledge has been passed through the knowledge cycle. This is a perfect example of how external views from stakeholders, in this context the customers, are converted into the product design.
I often come across the question of how knowledge management practices fit into the business strategy, and whether they are really useful or just perceived to be a waste of time. As in the example above, the same principles can be extended to: the processes of the business, the outgoing products of the business and the whole NPD cycle, the people who make up the organisation, and the assets of the organisation. With all these areas, knowledge is the key focus, without which, none of the business operations would happen, without which none of the businesses strategic objectives would be met. Without knowledge of the processes, core business functions may end up being dysfunctional, leading to several losses being incurred. Without knowledge of the product/service, customer’s needs will not be met, and the product may be classed as a fail. The knowledge embedded within the people of the organisation must be exploited in order for the business to function at maximum capacity and capability (the intellectual capital of the organisation). Which will then facilitate knowledge generation on the asset capability of the organisation, leading to better utilisation of all assets for greater rewards (not only financially, but who doesn’t like to know that the bank account is getting larger!)